Allegations Suggest Lack of Oversight by Planning Commission



In a unanimous vote, the Coastal Commission upheld an appeal against a controversial project at the locally well-known Ben Brown’s at Aliso Creek, now known as The Ranch at Laguna Beach.

I had been taking it for granted that our Laguna Planning Commission and City Council were properly progressing The Ranch application; a resulting improved tourist hotel, one with golfing enhancements for residents, was my anticipation…Wrong!

As it happens, Lagunans have an alert neighbor, Mark Fudge, to thank for his voluminous and energetically explicit appeal of The Ranch to the California Coastal Commission.  I was appalled to learn of the alleged inattention or, even, flagrant abuses of power alleged by the body charged with protecting our precious Laguna coastal environment, the Laguna Beach Planning Commission.

Not only did our taxpayer money go to rush staff to the Coastal Commission hearing in Ventura last week, but the city waited until the last day to deliver their eight-page contestation of the Fudge appeal to the Commission.

In that delay, have we finally reached a tipping point?  Mr. Fudge, the developer, and Planning Commission and its staff have been wrangling for months over the claimed violations of Laguna coastal protections.

It would take pages to weigh-in on the details Mr. Fudge and the coastal staff analyzed. Nevertheless, the Coastal Commission obviously finds grounds to suspect that something inordinate may have transpired at the hands of Laguna government.

Has our local authorities brought us to the verge of revocation by the Coastal Commission of our home-control of our local coastal plan?

I’m embarrassed. What a disgrace that we trusted the progressive Planning Commission to protect and preserve our Laguna.

Having watched multiple planning controversies, Lagunans may consider as suspect the city Planning Commission’s actions and motives and thus the legitimacy of its authority.

Having placed us in jeopardy of losing control of our local coastal plan, a majority of the rest of Laguna’s Planning Commission membership should be thinking about tendering their resignations in a final generous act of contrite good citizenship and in a gesture to encourage the Coastal Commission to continue or restore home control of Laguna’s local coastal plan.

Mr. Fudge has nudged us to reflect on who Laguna’s true protectors are or may yet be.

Paul Merritt, Laguna Beach

The author declared his candidacy for the City Council this week.

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