Culture King

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Local visionary Shaheen Sadeghi, founder and creator of The Lab, The Camp, The Anaheim Packing district and more, shares his favorite aspects of the OC, how to expand our cultural footprint and his take on the future landscape—from restaurant and retail industries to community living.

By Tess Hezlep

Shaheen Sadeghi at the Anaheim Packing House Photo: Justine Amodeo

Like the rest of us, Shaheen Sadeghi has spent a considerable portion of this past year at home. He’s adapted to pandemic living by dining and unwinding in his North Laguna backyard, writing and making music and taking a lot of walks and bicycle rides in Crystal Cove.

    Sadeghi moved to Orange County from Brooklyn in the ’70s, a place where he says “a neighborhood was a real neighborhood. People dropped in at my place [in Brooklyn] and hung out or stopped by for a casual dinner. Neighbors looked out for each other. It was the same way in Michigan where I grew up. I always joke how in Orange County, no neighbor has ever brought me a pie. But in other places, the local culture is different.” His solution? “It would be great for communities to make more of an effort to connect, have a bonfire, share life, and take care of each other. Everyone here lives behind gates and in the isolation of big giant homes. It’s hard to create the love.”

When the world isn’t in the midst of a pandemic, I’m … on a race to get to indigenous places around the world before Starbucks and international chains get there and the authentic culture is compromised.

Good design creates … love and quality of life. It should bring people happiness and inspiration. This is not limited to buildings, but to all aspects of our lives. It can be food, or furniture or anything else that we live with, such as our iPhones. Why settle for mediocrity if it can be fantastic and make your life more joyful?

My favorite building is … The Anaheim Packing House, which is now on the national registry.

If I could change something about Orange County, I’d … focus on diversity and creative freedom to combat our vanilla reputation. Years of overregulation and policy has had a significant impact on the quality of life here. Why can’t we have 50 restaurants on the beach and on the sand? Why do we have to go to Italy or Greece for this? The only place we can dine on the sand is owned by the county. Our building codes and regulations are from the past and therefore, obsolete, yet they have reshaped architecture and the way we shape the environment around us. The results have not only deprived people of simple enjoyments but have also given way to the notable monotony that has shaped our communities.

Building a viable and abundant life has … become impossible for the next generation of young people due to affordability. The old guard has a grip on creativity and responsible growth. The mentality that “I built mine, but you don’t get to build yours” has to change. If this community grip loosened its binds, new generations of entrepreneurs would bolster our culture with new design, art and business ventures.

Local leaders should … do a better job connecting our businesses and leaders together to create a greater impact in our communities. Each city [in OC] works in isolation, when we should all be one community in order to have more influence in Sacramento and better policy outcomes.

Post COVID-19 I see … the integration of life and the way we live. Our home, work space and retail to business space will be one. There will be a consolidation of the traditional division and formats. These changes will bring friends and family together and improve quality of life. There are many positive aspects about COVID, and bringing people and families together is for sure a significant one.

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