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Speakers’ Corner: Measure Lacks Transparency

By JJ Gasparotti

I’m saying “No, no” to CC.  This item on our Laguna Beach ballot is a bad idea being supported by faulty logic and half-truths. The biggest assertion in support of this measure to buy unbuildable lots in Laguna is that it will be just like the Laguna Canyon purchase. This could not be farther from the truth. When we voted to tax ourselves to fund the Laguna Canyon purchase we knew exactly what we were buying and how much it would cost us to buy this buildable land from the Irvine Company. Under measure CC we don’t have any idea what it is we will be buying nor how much we will be paying for it. We old small town folk call this, “buying a pig in a poke.”

It is clear to me that most of the land declared not buildable in Laguna Beach will remain that way for a long time to come. It would take a major change in the political landscape of Laguna Beach for any of these parcels to become buildable. This is highly unlikely. Some would say that the act of buying these small separate parcels could in the long run make them much more developable by combining them into large parcels that would be much more attractive to some future developer. And much more lucrative to some future cash-strapped city council trying to pay for generous unfunded pensions. Note that last week our council voted to sell a city owned parcel on Camel Point to a neighbor. There is already a rush to grab those funds to buy a community garden in South Laguna.

Laguna Beach is already adding to its open space. It does so by purchasing property with open space funds. Some of these properties so purchased are bought at tax auctions from owners who have tired of making tax payments on unbuildable lots. Another way Laguna has added to the open space is through land dedications. The biggest example of this is the 62-acres on Guna Peak that were given to the Laguna Beach County Water District by the Irvine Company. This land is the big hill behind North Laguna. It was buildable. It has the best views in town and was acquired by the district at no cost to the ratepayers.

But the thing that bothers me the most about measure CC is that I don’t know who is going to spend how much of the money for what. How much will go to land purchases and how much will be spent on administration and consultants fees. A dedicated tax revenue such as contemplated by CC would be overwhelmingly tempting to bond underwriters and all the other expensive suits who hang around city halls. When the suits are finished how much cash would be left to spend on land?

Measure CC is just another “trust us; we know what we are doing” blank check to government. Remember these are the same folks that told us the park at Montage wouldn’t cost us more than $1 million bucks. Nine million dollars was the real bill. That is a big miss from the $1 million that was touted in the beginning. I’m not ready to support another venture that only spells out how much we all pay and not what we will spend it on or what we get for it. For me “No, No” on CC is the ultimate no-brainer of all time.

 

JJ Gasparotti is a former president of the Laguna Beach Water District, former chair of the Design Review Board and a former board member of Laguna Canyon Conservancy.

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