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Village Matters: Not only good, but exceptional

By Ann Christoph.

Saving open space in Laguna with Measure CC is not only a good idea, it shows exceptional leadership, not only here in town, but statewide.

“Why don’t people get involved? There is so much they can do if they would only take some initiative!”  This is the refrain I heard in landscape architecture graduate school when we were trying to stimulate public participation in design decisions.  This is the ostensible goal of politicians, to lead an enthusiastic and creative assortment of involved citizens.

Often it seems hard to add to our life’s activity list of work, family, and domestic chores, to fit in a few moments of “what I’d like to do” to include civic and community concerns.  But Laguna inspires us to do just that.  Measure CC, the Laguna Beach Open Space Acquisition and Preservation Parcel Tax Measure, is an example of Lagunans deciding to take action and volunteer “from the trenches” to make our town better.

Seeing how a measure to fund open space purchases can resolve recurrent conflicts over proposed development of steep and questionably accessible properties, those Lagunans wondered,  “We were able to buy Laguna Canyon from the Irvine Company, surely we can find a way to fund purchase of smaller parcels within our city. Then we can truly complete the open space greenbelt.”  This is the germ of the idea.

The Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. and many other organizations and individuals researched and considered the best way to implement that idea. Experienced lawyers drafted the initiative and the city attorney reviewed the documents as required by law. Many dedicated volunteers gathered petition signatures, and thousands of us signed them.  Measure CC is the result of all this Laguna volunteer thoughtfulness and hard work, generated out of love for our town. Now volunteers are putting up signs and walking our neighborhoods, asking for your “Yes on CC” vote.

We should be proud and appreciative of this effort, this “getting involved.”  Measure CC is a sound, well thought-out proposal.   It’s one more example of our exceptional commitment to our town and its future.

The longer I am involved in public issues, the more I want to prevent conflicts.  There is no need to argue, if we can put issues to rest with a win-win solution.

The city is not just going to say, “No, no, no, you can’t develop your land.”  The city will pay for it based on appraisals that acknowledge both the limitations and the assets of each property, in a process that has already been used many times in the purchases of local open space land paid for by state bond funds.  Now that state bond funds are expiring, it’s time for us Lagunans to finish the open space purchase program.

Adding the last 400 acres to the greenbelt open space preserve will be a huge contribution, because this is open space that is interlaced within our community.  This is land that we see every day and take for granted. And the cost to us is low, $120 per year, per parcel.  Just the peace of mind knowing that those open spaces are not going to diminish any more will be worth it.

Just this weekend we took a hike up to the top of Aliso Peak. It had been five years since I had climbed that path; my newly repaired knee was finally ready. I had forgotten the beauty and the drama.  It was like walking through a national park, yet it is right here available every day. These are the rewards of preserving open space.

The passage of the “Save the Canyon” bond measure demonstrated a remarkable and noticed commitment to determine our own future. Passage of Measure CC will reinforce that commitment, that legacy, and establish a history-making path that can inspire other communities statewide.

We can take a leadership role not only in preserving what’s beautiful and distinctive about our town, we can make it better, because we can protect the open space forever.

 

Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.

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