Lagunans want to preserve open space so Measure CC sounds like a good idea. But Measure CC is not needed.
Laguna has a local coastal plan that designates undeveloped parcels as “residential hillside”, “open space conservation” or “passive open space” and infers that these properties are unlikely to be developed. If the initiative is passed, it will force the city to amend the local coast plan and seek approval of the changes from the state Coastal Commission.
Measure CC prohibits the use of acquired property for anything but open space conservation, “trail maintenance and fire safety”. Other public uses, such as improved hiking trails, emergency evacuation, community gardens, public parks, bike paths, are prohibited. Currently, our elected officials, with public input, can acquire parcels and determine the best public use. This law will place an unreasonable “straight jacket” on our city government.
The tax ends in 20 years after over $30 million has been placed in a “separate account”. But the law and the Citizens Committee to govern it never end. The committee can use 0.5% of the balance for “expenses”. But expenses for buying land will be much higher than 0.5%. The law imposes a cap of 4% for perpetual maintenance. The city will be stuck with the inevitable overruns. If the committee can’t find “willing sellers”, the balance cannot be refunded to the taxpayers.
I surveyed the parcels based on the city’s on-line records. I found large parcels totaling over 400 acres, matching the proponents’ estimates. The Driftwood land accounts for over half. The Athens Group offered to donate this land to the city, which declined citing unacceptable environmental and other risks. Another 40% is already designated open space conservation or residential hillside and is under the jurisdiction of the Coastal Commission. It is highly unlikely any of these parcels will be developed.
The remaining 40 acres designated residential hillside use in not under commission jurisdiction. For years, the city has opposed efforts to develop several of these parcels. These parcels do not justify a new law, new taxes and added layers of bureaucracy. This will only undermine and confuse the current proceedings managed by our elected officials.
Laguna Beach has proven it has ability to acquire open space land. This law is not needed and will only lead to waste, conflict and disappointment. Please support open space and join me in voting no on Measure CC.
Doug Cortez, Laguna Beach