Today’s Activists Follow the Footsteps of Freeway Opponents

Laguna Canyon Conservancy founder and former mayor of Laguna Beach Lida Lenny was fond of quoting the anthropologist Margret Mead. “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Thank God for the activists.

I recently finished reading the 1977 book by Karen Wilson Turnbull, “Three Arch Bay, an illustrated history”, and noted the efforts to stop the Coastal Freeway going through Laguna Beach. In her “The Freeway Won’t Go Through” chapter 11 reads, “In the early 1960s, the head engineer of the State’s Department of Highways made a statement before 1,000 people gathered at the Balboa Bay Cub that the newly proposed coastal freeway would cut a swath directly through Three Arch Bay. It would closely parallel the Coast Highway in some places and diverge from it in others. The three proposed routes laid out by the State Department of Highways’ head engineer all would have bisected Laguna Beach at various points and all would have gone through Aliso Creek and Three Arch Bay.”

“From 1961 to 1967, Harry Grimsley fought on behalf of the neighborhood to prevent the construction of the freeway through the homes. Mr. Grimsley said, ‘When the State Highway Department announced plans to put a state freeway through Upper Three Arch Ray, there were six years of fighting and hard work. For the first time, the State Highway Commission changed an announced route and adopted a route proposed by local people.’ To facilitate this battle, a community organization was founded called the League of Orange Coast Civic Associations, or L.O.C.C.A. This body incorporated residential associations from Emerald Bay to Dana Point and their sole purpose was to persuade the state to move the proposed freeway inland behind the coastal hills.” “This is the only known time in California’s vehicular history that the Highway Department has bowed to the wishes of a group of private citizens”.

What are Laguna Beach activists up to right now? They are now collecting signatures for an open space initiative, which would put on the ballot for the voters’ consideration a parcel tax of $120 per year to finance open space acquisition and maintenance.

Measure H, a $20 million bond measure passed in 1990 to purchase Laguna Canyon open space, is now paid off. Over the last 20 years, there has been a line item on our property tax bills, but that tax is now gone. In a sense, the new parcel tax would replace that property tax line item. The parcel tax would also be collected via the property tax bill.

Are your readers thoughtful people wanting to help change the world? If they have already signed the open space initiative, would it help to sign again and again? No, that would not help. Only registered City of Laguna Beach voters can sign the petition, and only one signature counts. However, volunteers are needed to collect signatures. For information, go to www.LagunaGreenbelt.org and join the “small group of thoughtful people”.

Gene Felder, Laguna Beach

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