Isn’t it great to live in Laguna Beach surrounded by 22,000 acres of natural open space? Elsewhere in Orange County the boundaries between two cities are just lines with no buffer at all to urban sprawl.
How did this happen? Was it just an accident? No. It is thanks to the great leadership of lots of people. The Laguna Greenbelt was founded in 1968; its founder bookstore owner Jim Dilley providing the vision. I live in the Top of the World neighborhood and we benefited significantly from a state environmental bond which was passed in 1988. Proposition 70 included $10 million for the City of Laguna Beach to expand the Laguna Greenbelt. At that time, the 471 acres at the north end of Alta Laguna Boulevard was owned by a Canadian company Carma-Sandling, which obtained approvals from the County of Orange to build a 100+ house gated community. Somehow the city was able to purchase the 471 acres for $4 million most of it coming from Prop 70.
The Irvine Company had a 3,500-house Laguna Laurel development planned in Laguna Canyon. On Nov. 11, 1989, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, the Laguna Greenbelt, Village Laguna, the City, and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored the Walk in the Canyon to bring the Irvine Company to its negotiating knees after 7,500 citizens walked in the canyon that day.
The next year 1990, the voters of Laguna Beach voted to raise their property taxes about 6% to raise $20 million to go towards the Laguna Laurel property purchase. Measure H passed by almost an 80% yes vote.
Undeveloped property often appears to be protected open space. However, many parcels are privately owned and could be developed. Over the years, the city manager has been able to purchase properties as the property owner and the city’s interests coincide, using federal and state grants and bonds.
None of these sources are likely to be available in the future. What are we to do? Where are the leaders today? Well, they have drafted an Open Space Initiative and are trying to secure signatures from Laguna Beach registered voters to place the initiative on the ballot to be voted upon by the voters.
I have signed the initiative. I think it is a no-brainer to provide the city a revenue stream to purchase and maintain open space, about $1 million a year limited to 20 years. The new Open Space Initiative would be a parcel tax having each parcel owner pay $10 a month or $120 per year for 20 years. Please support this effort as it will require a 2/3 positive vote.
Gene Felder, Laguna Beach