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Questions and answers about Laguna Residents First ballot initiative

I have been gathering signatures for the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative and have received a number of questions.

Wouldn’t we be having frequent elections?

Hopefully not. If projects follow existing ordinances, and impacts are adequately mitigated, the Ballot Initiative would not be triggered and no vote by the people would be required. 

If the initiative had been enacted five years (ago), only a couple of projects would have triggered a vote by the people, the Dornin Canyon Apartment Building and, perhaps, Coast Inn. 

The fear is that there may be more in the future as Mo Honarkar has proposed a Museum Hotel and a Cleo Hotel built on land by demolishing the existing structures. Hopefully, with the initiative as City law, the city council and developers will moderate their plans realizing that they will need a majority support of the voters.

Don’t existing ordinances specifying maximum height of buildings adequately protect us?

No, there is an overall 36-foot height limit ordinance, however, exemptions can be granted by a majority of the City Council. Note: That existing law requires a much lower height, 12-foot in many very visible parts of downtown, including most property near the beach. 

Thirty six-foot high buildings on lower Forest Avenue and Ocean Avenue would transform the Laguna Beach look into Huntington Beach or what Dana Point is becoming. After all, it was the duly elected Laguna Beach City Council that pushed for and approved the Surf & Sand hotel expansion years ago. How many other Surf & Sand exceptions do you want in Laguna? 

The ballot initiative simply preserves the entire height restrictions that are currently in place; everything from the overall 36-foot height limits including the specified lower limits in place. Ballot Initiative provisions such as this can only be changed by a vote of the residents, not the whims of the current City Council. So, we would be better protected.

Isn’t this one more obstacle to prevent business owners from repairing and improving their buildings?

No. The initiative does not impact businesses in town that desire to repair or refurbish their existing buildings. 

Learn about the ballot initiative, detail information is online at, including Frequently Asked Questions and a Summary of the Ballot Initiative.

Gene Felder

Laguna Beach

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