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Letters to the Editor

Observations from a lifetime Laguna resident

I am neither pro, nor anti-development, though I strongly oppose large scale, soulless projects. Instead, I consider myself Pro-Laguna. This quirky little hamlet of ours spans the socio-economic, political and lifestyle spectrums. And yet we have always peacefully coexisted by virtue of our collective and loving commitment to this remarkable gem we’re lucky enough to call home. To ensure Laguna continues to thrive while maintaining her unique small-town vibe, we need to be pulling the rope in the same direction. 

That is why I’m voting No on Measure Q.

Most locals (including myself) were shellshocked at the thought of a few overzealous projects that have been proposed recently. That is why “Saving Laguna from Over-Development” resonates within each of us. Thankfully, we already have the most restrictive building and zoning codes in the county and multiple layers of scrutinous public review in place to ensure nothing remotely resembling those proposals is ever built. 

Measure Q will actually jeopardize Laguna’s continued character.

Unfortunately, the “Cumulative Effect” language in Q (25.60.02(e)) could foreseeably discourage the very small and funky businesses we love “WITHIN ONE-HALF MILE” of “DEVELOPMENTS SUBMITTED TO BE REVIEWED” (25.60.02(f)2) FOR A PERIOD OF 8 YEARS. The “Museum Hotel” submittal, which had a Planning Commission review, is a block-long behemoth that could by itself (per the language of the Measure) trigger this “cumulative effect” and potentially force a vote on anything deemed “intensification” (with rare exception) over an area which includes all of Downtown and most of North Laguna. Fresh concept small storefronts and/or food offerings, the kind we want to encourage, will get caught in the crossfire. 

As with any magic elixir, carefully read the ingredients and beware the possible side effects.

I understand what motivated the folks behind Measure Q, many of whom have been friends since I was a Founding Board Member of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy decades ago. And I don’t believe they’re trying to “fool” us. They simply looked to the north and south and saw what can happen when you don’t have restrictive codes like Laguna’s EXISTING safeguards. We all want to ensure Laguna’s unique character survives. To that end I’ve devoted much of my life, time and resources through business, schools and non-profits trying to preserve the delicate fabric of Laguna for my family, friends and for future generations. 

Measure Q is unnecessary and may very well end up doing the exact opposite of what it seeks to accomplish. 

Normally, I avoid writing letters and I hope that taking a No on Q stance won’t cost me a few friendships. But Measure Q is simply too consequential to watch from the sidelines and the people who really know me will recognize that I only want what is best for Laguna. And after reading the language of Measure Q carefully I’m convinced that it would be a mistake we would ultimately live to regret. 

If you really want to Save Laguna, Please Vote No on Measure Q.

Mark Christy

Laguna Beach

Letter demeaning Rounaghi’s age is inappropriate

Unbelievable. Just when political discourse seems to be at its lowest, Village Laguna’s Johanna Felder finds a new low in insulting Alex Rounaghi. She belittles Alex’s age, claiming that one must be at least 34 years old to run for City Council, as she points out that Alex wasn’t even born by the 1989s Walk the Canyon. 

Worse still, she straight up asserts that Alex’s brain has not matured. Seriously, Ms. Felder, you just had to go there? When young adults are often cynical regarding politics, Alex should be encouraged, not belittled or insulted. He also deserves an apology.

James M. Lawson, AICP

Laguna Beach

Best Reason To Vote No On Q is No On Q

Read Q for yourself in your Voters Guide. 

Supporters say it’s only about “Major Developments.” But Q obliquely states Major Developments aren’t only large projects. It lists a number of factors that would cause the smallest project to be swept into the definition of Major Developments. Why didn’t the writers say what they meant? They don’t want change even if it doesn’t expand a site by an inch. That’s what Q says.

Q says schools are exempt from a public vote. But it also says they’re only exempt if the project is solely a school. We need more facilities for our kids, so if a school and a park are proposed the project would need to go to a public vote.

Q supporters state, “…buildings that retain their size, height and kind...” are exempt from a public vote. What is this “kind” stuff? Why hide what they really meant. If the proposed use is different from what it had been, the project will likely need a vote. Clothing store converted to a coffee shop – wait up to two years and risk a public vote after the two years it took to get through the city.

Then there’s the requirement of a majority of the Electorate voting Yes for a project’s approval – not a majority of those voting. Example – if 60% of 18,000 people eligible, actually vote, it would mean 10,800 people voted. Therefore 9,000 of the 10,800 voters would be needed to approve a project. Nothing will ever pass.

The writers of Q say this is not what they meant. Why didn’t they write what they meant…unless they really meant what they wrote. Unfortunately, if Q is approved, any change, even one word would require another public vote...and a majority of the Electorate could be needed to change it. Q will only change if a court mandates change.

There’s more but this will give you a start of what to look for when you read Q. 

But, what’s the problem with a public vote?

1. No small business can wait up to two years after the city’s lengthy process gambling that an expensive public vote will go their way. Small businesses won’t come and locals wanting to expand, won’t. These are the lifeblood of our business neighborhoods.

2. Winning a vote isn’t a slam dunk. Businesses that don’t want new competition will lobby against a project. For projects like the new South Laguna fire station, neighbors who say NIMBY and fiscal conservatives who won’t want to spend city funds will vote No.

3. The only ones willing to risk a vote will be deep pocket developers, just the opposite of what Q says it’s about. Simply another unintended consequence of Q. Large developers will acquire the empty stores actually caused by Q and gamble on a vote. Think about the ads we’re seeing for ballot measures and propositions. That’s what ballots for projects will be like.

4. Voters will be asked to consider environmental impact reports, traffic studies and other complex information intended for trained planners. Imagine, if Q were in place, there would have been more than 30 proposals requiring a public vote in the past five years. Almost all were small.

These are just a few of the issues buried in Q’s 10 pages. If it were only about keeping the 36’ height limit or avoiding block long developments, count me in. But the 36’ is a trojan horse hiding the Q provisions that stop the smallest projects we locals want and will drive this town to further unmitigated aging.

Q is a disaster that we simply can’t let happen. 

Joe Hanauer

Laguna Beach

Good slogans; bad policy

The proponents of Measure Q certainly have catchy slogans – stop overdevelopment and put Laguna residents first. We agree with those sentiments. But catchy slogans do not make good policy and Measure Q is a decidedly bad land use policy for Laguna. We strongly urge you to vote NO on Measure Q.

Good policy measures are the product of a sound first draft followed by a robust public debate and then revisions to address public input, missing concepts, oversights, inconsistent provisions and unintended consequences of the initial draft. Unfortunately, Measure Q was drafted by a small group of individuals without input at public hearings or a chance for others with differing viewpoints to suggest revisions and improvements to it. 

We each served four years on the Planning Commission and have a combined 14 years on the City Council. Neither of us can recall a single city land use ordinance going through the process without revisions. So, it is not surprising that Measure Q, without the benefit of a robust public discussion and revisions to reflect those discussions, has flaws which are too numerous to ignore.    

The key flaws are an overly broad definition of the projects that will have to go to a public vote, a failure to exempt city projects from its provisions, and the hurdles it creates for senior and affordable housing projects. 

The first section of Measure Q, Section 25.060.01(a), states that its purpose is “to ensure that large new development projects do not exceed height, density and parking requirements to preserve the existing scale and atmosphere” along and adjacent to Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road. Had the proponents remained true to this stated and limited purpose, we would likely not be writing this column opposing Measure Q.

But rather than focusing on its stated purpose, Measure Q spreads its wings to encompass a broad range of projects with a six-part definition of “Major Development Project” which require a vote. Only part one of the definition focuses on the size of a project. The other five parts of the definition focus on a variety of other factors. 

The most troubling part of the definition is part six which sweeps in any project that causes a “Cumulative Effect.” It is complicated but this provision will subject many small projects of the type that we want in Laguna to a vote. To calculate whether the Cumulative Effect provision is triggered, you aggregate over an eight-year period all projects more than 3,000 sq. ft. of gross floor area for which a building permit was issued or for which an application was submitted, unless the permit or the review process has been terminated. Once the Cumulative Effect provision is triggered, all projects within the affected area (a half-mile radius) will have to go to a vote unless they meet the definition of the term “Minor Modification of a Major Development Project,” which most will not. If Measure Q is approved, the Cumulative Effect provision will immediately take effect in North Laguna and Downtown, subjecting small projects to public votes. 

Another troubling provision of Measure Q is its failure to exempt city public safety projects from its provisions. Why would it exempt “a public or private K-12 school, hospital, museum, or house of worship” of any size but not a city public safety project? We can’t think of a good reason. 

Please join us in voting NO on Measure Q and urge your friends to do the same. We don’t need it to maintain Laguna’s character. In fact, it will undermine it.     

Sue Kempf and Bob Whalen

Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem

City of Laguna Beach

Who’s behind the flyer supporting Blake but attacking Flores?

I have been the recipient of multiple Peter Blake for City Council campaign flyers over the past days. The flyer attacking CC candidate Ruben Flores is a particularly disgraceful, cheap shot. Enough has been said as to how “unfit” Peter Blake is to serve on the City Council of Laguna Beach and I hope that the voters in our community have had enough of him and we should remove him from office. 

However, the reason for my letter is this, note who is paying for these pro- Blake “Flyers”: “Paid for by Laguna 2022. Supporting Peter Blake and Opposing Ruben Flores for Laguna Beach City Council 2022.” 

So, who is this Paid for Laguna 2022 entity and where are they from? And, what do they do? And, most importantly how much did they invest in Peter Blake’s campaign chest? These are the questions that we need to ask.      

Who: Michael D. Ray

Where are they from: 312 Clay Street, Oakland, California, Suite 300, 94607

What do they do: Real Estate Developer * Sanderson J Ray Development

How much was their contribution: $ 19,850.00

Source: California Form 497 Contribution Report * Report # 093022 * 09/30/2022 * 

When you see those Peter Blake signs think of who is funding CC Blake, who will CC Blake be beholden to. Please vote to remove him on 11/08/2022. 

Claude Morgan

Laguna Beach

The best election money can buy

I want to talk about money in politics – Laguna politics.

The headline in Tuesday’s New York Times reads: “Most voters say, US democracy is under threat.”

This year‘s Laguna Beach election is shaping up to look like “the best election money can buy.”

There are now at least 15 PACs in Laguna Beach – Political Action Committees.

The latest data I can find by searching public filings indicates that the 10 most active PACs have raised more than $1,825,000 in this election cycle – all aimed at Laguna Beach elections.

That’s $175 per Laguna household.

The Big Kahuna is the hotel PAC which has raised a staggering $1,370,000 to fight the hotel union PAC.

But even setting that whopper aside, the next nine PACs have raised more than $450,000 which is still mind-boggling for a small-town election.

That’s a lot of BIG money trying to impact our little town’s election.

Recognize that unlike the rules that limit what individual voters like you and me can contribute to candidates’ campaigns, contributions to PACs are essentially unlimited.

And that’s exactly what’s happening.

BIG dollars from corporations, other PACs, out of town organizations, in chunks of $10,000 or $25,000 and in one case – well over $ 1,000,000.

This is big money versus ordinary voters.

In many cases profit over people. 

Revenue over residents.

While some of the stuff being poured out is merely deceptive, or misleading, or inaccurate – and sometimes worse than that – in all cases there is a reason someone is putting so much cash into trying to get the voters to do something they want you to do. 

And, you can bet that too often, the motive is something other than what is truly in your best interest.

So, I’m encouraging people to apply some critical thinking. 

Ask questions. 

Use your common sense. 

Think about where the money is coming from. 

Who is behind the ad? 

Why do they want you to do what they want you to do? 

What’s in it for them? 

And is that really in your best interest?

Remember Watergate – “Follow the Money.”

John Thomas

Laguna Beach

 

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