As many Lagunans do, I travel most of the year for business outside our great village. These past two years I have spent much time in Shanghai, Beijing, and other cities in China. Making a comparison between Laguna Beach and these cities is unfair in many ways. However, I am struck with some similarities and some great differences.
Development in China has been rapid and very massive. Shanghai has about 3,000 buildings with 10 or more stories. Beijing boasts of approximately 6,500 such structures. Development in Laguna has been slow and deliberate. We outlawed large structures on our coastlines and downtown while preserving the size and scale of our neighborhoods.
Tax policy in China has focused on maximizing revenue through public land sales and massive development. In Laguna, we do not object to a modest increase in fees and taxes to fund good government in lieu of promoting rapid and destructive development.
The results are obvious: Only 3% of China’s cities have clean air. Fifteen percent of the streams and river waters are so polluted they are unfit for any use, even for crop irrigation. Laguna’s air quality, oceans and stream waters continue to improve because of strong civic and citizen efforts.
China’s citizens and leaders now recognize the costly impact of this activity and are attempting to undo this damage. In Laguna, our citizens and leaders always do the right thing!
Now, a visionary group of activists and civic leaders are proposing each household contribute $120 a year towards protecting and expanding our open space. This funding method assures we will have the money to acquire parcels to expand and protect our greenbelt.
Every time I arrive in the U.S. and drive from LAX to Laguna, I am reminded of the wisdom of our citizens who first created the concept of our greenbelt. I will sign the Open Space Initiative. I hope you will too!
Imagine what Laguna would be like today without our greenbelt! If you cannot, then come to China and I will show you!
Armando Baez, Laguna Beach