By Sam Goldstein
I’ve been called by quite a few people and asked, “How can I support the open space initiative?” My response is that I support Measure CC because it will serve to help maintain the distinctive ambiance of Laguna Beach. It will also serve to further strengthen local property values.
The Laguna Canyon purchase from the Irvine Company makes more sense today than it did 20 years ago. I can’t fathom what Laguna Beach would look like if this acquisition had not taken place. In a similar vein, I don’t want to see the city’s remaining internal open space shrink any more than it has already. Stitching together the remaining parcels will help maintain the character of our community.
Some opponents say that we should not collect funds until the deals are on the table. But that’s not how the state parks program works. Funds are set aside; when opportunities arise there’s the capacity to act. To think that it could happen otherwise is silly. As a practical matter we rarely seem to have any money available for immediate needs, never mind for making smart investments in the future.
Now on to the debate among the current city council candidates. They talk about supporting the arts. They talk about finally doing a village entrance project. They talk about making the city more pedestrian friendly. They talk about encouraging local economic development and some tell landlords and restaurant operators to charge less. It’s a lot of talk about things easier said than done. I see no clear plans for any of it. I see no money around for any of it.
It seems that everyone has an easier time saying what they do not want, and a harder time saying what they do want, what they envision. No one ever talks about how we’re going to pay for anything given how tight the budget is, and given unfunded pension liabilities.
I’m waiting for our city council candidates (as well as the those council members not up for re-election) to squarely address this handful of straightforward, if not simple, questions:
Do you agree that we can and should make the city’s commercial corridors, and the connections between the downtown and the arts venues more beautiful and more pedestrian friendly? If so, what do you envision? How will you pay for improvements?
Do you agree that there are ways to significantly improve circulation and reduce congestion, both around town and on the Canyon Road? If so, what will you do to identify and implement effective measures? On what timetable? With what funding?
How would you change Design Review to be more predictable? How would you change the CUP process to be more business friendly? Would you separate parking and use? If you want to be pedestrian friendly, what is your vision, what is the timetable and where is the funding?
What should the city’s role be, if any, in supporting the Laguna College of Art & Design, the Laguna Playhouse, the Laguna Museum, and the Festival of the Arts?
There are opportunities for change that if we act can enhance the special character of our city. If we don’t act, or wait too long, our city will become a less desirable place for residents and visitors alike.
I’m frustrated on multiple fronts. To be honest, acquiring more open space is not my highest priority, but Measure CC is a great start for a change of “forward” thinking.
And at least we will literally be able to see our tax dollars at work, forever.
Sam Goldstein owns and refurbished downtown’s Heisler Building, co-founded Laguna Beach Live!, and was the force behind a bed tax that supports arts.