Developer Mark Orgill joins race for Laguna Beach City Council

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Mark Orgill is a 39-year resident of Laguna Beach. Photo courtesy of Mark Orgill

A real estate investor and developer will pursue a seat on the Laguna Beach City Council this November, adding his name to an already dynamic election season.

Mark Orgill, 60, is known for developing the seven-degrees event venue, Laguna College of Art + Design Residence Hall, and Sunset Cove Villas on Sleepy Hollow Lane. He’s lived in Laguna Beach for about 39 years and visited the town during his childhood in Upland.

For years, Orgill has mulled a run for city council but he was recently encouraged by some community members to step in amid a steady decline in civility and decorum on the panel over the last few years.

“I don’t think that it really serves any of us to have all of this conflict. I think it’s very disappointing. Because of these relationships, I think I can encourage and work with people to sit down like we used to and have spirited debates,” Orgill said.

Beyond his ties to the development community, Orgill will be a formidable candidate because of the community service he and his wife Dora Wexell Orgill have provided to entrenched nonprofits.

Mark has served on the board of directors for Visit Laguna Beach, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, and the Laguna Beach Community Clinic. Dora is a founding member of the Laguna Civic Art District Association, a former president of the Sawdust Art Festival, and served as a Laguna Beach arts commissioner for six years.

They also hosted the Laguna Beach Arts Alliance’s Art Stars Awards Gala at seven-degrees for many years.

If elected, Orgill hopes to work with fellow councilmembers and city staffers to develop a tourism management plan to avoid the unintended consequences tourists have on the City. He didn’t offer details on what Laguna’s tourism management plan would look like but highlighted it would not be the first town to see success after implementing such strategies.

A potential wild card for Orgill’s candidacy for the city council is his business dealings with Laguna Beach Co. CEO Mohammad Honarkar until 2020.

After a career in the mobile phone retail industry, Honarkar transitioned out of the business and started pouring assets into real estate across Southern California and reinventing himself as a developer. In 2017, a network of corporate entities controlled by Honarkar acquired the Orgill real estate partnerships’ portfolio in Laguna Beach.

Orgill was retained as an independent contractor to help obtain required permits and compliance for multiple projects including Terra Laguna Beach, Cleo Hotel, Museum Hotel, Art District, and Hotel Laguna, Honarkar said. For a time, Orgill identified himself as president of Laguna Creative Ventures, a division of the Laguna Beach Co.

But pandemic-forced closures of indoor businesses exacted a heavy toll on the hospitality industry, fraying the relationship between Orgill and Honarkar

In August 2020, a court-appointed receiver billed for hours related to Mark Orgill’s “employment termination,” public records show.

“I would call it a mutual understanding. I just didn’t think that there was really any benefit that I had anything else to offer him. We just had two different… ideas on what and how these projects would best serve Laguna’s interests,” Orgill said.

That same month, the court-appointed attorney notified Dora Orgill that she was laid off from her position as vice president of Laguna Creative Ventures, court records show. She claims Honarkar fired her and owes money for unpaid wages.

“There is still an outstanding financial issue that is unresolved,” Mark Orgill said.

Honarkar disagrees with Orgill’s financial claims.

“When Mark Orgill stopped working for us, he had been paid in full for his consulting work and any reasonable and necessary work related expenses submitted with the proper back up,” Honarkar said in a statement Thursday.

Whether Orgill would need to recuse himself from any vote on Honarkar’s renovation of Hotel Laguna or other hotel projects remains questionable. An attorney counseling Orgill has advised him state law holds that any councilmember who is owed money or sought money from an applicant must be recused for at least 12 months.

“I think that everybody’s in favor and anxious to see the rooms open at the Hotel Laguna. How long it would take to actually bring another project to the forefront? Who knows, I mean, we’ve already been here for five years and we’re just getting halfway done with Hotel Laguna.

After getting elected to the City Council in 1998, Councilmember Toni Iseman observed Orgill largely win over residents concerned about his plans to develop seven-degrees. He overcame the usual gridlock by displaying humility, passion, and adeptness for assuaging people’s anxiety, Iseman said.

“It wasn’t easy for him to get through the City because it was big and we weren’t used to it,” Iseman said. “People who went to seven-degrees while Mark and Dora had it know what a quality addition it was to the community.”

Orgill committed to working with fellow councilmembers on what many residents see as a key responsibility—oversight of the City Manager. He side-stepped a question of whether he sees Shohreh Dupuis as a good fit for the city manager position.

“I envision an opportunity to reset the conversation and work with the community to prioritize the issues that need to be addressed and encourage staff—and that would include Shohreh—to embrace the process, and I think a lot of folks might find that as a breath of fresh air,” Orgill said. “It’s really up to every individual whether or not they want to embrace the whole concept.”

It’s unclear whether he would side with Councilmember George Weiss and Iseman, who have publicly butted heads with Dupuis over numerous policy issues, including how and when discussion items are added to the council agenda.

Mayor Sue Kempf, Councilmember Peter Blake, and Iseman are up for reelection in November. Realtor and Design Review Board member Louis Weil has been actively campaigning for weeks. Laguna Nursery owner Ruben Flores, who earned the third-most votes in the 2020 council election, has also filed papers declaring his interest in running again.

For more information about Orgill, visit markorgill4laguna.info.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. You Can’t Solve A Problem With The Same Thinking That Created It. More local yokels who’ll ‘help’ us all. No Way Sir

  2. Seems a bit short sided to be opposed to someone because they have lived in Laguna Beach for a long time. Just curious, but where are the choice places, in your mind, where City Council candidates should come from? Dana Point? Huntington Beach? Brooklyn? Texas?

    I have known Mark, and his wife Dora for years as part of being a board member for the Laguna Beach Beautification Council. I know both Mark and Dora to be informed, caring, encompassing, compassionate people who care deeply for this town.

  3. I would chose a competent person like Mark with a proven track record over someone like Weil who seems to concatenate words hoping they will mean something.

  4. Irrespective of Mark Orgill’s qualifications, it’s a tad ironic that the architect of Laguna Residents First’s anti-development initiative appears to be endorsing a developer for the City Council.

  5. Something doesn’t add up. So Toni Iseman/Village Laguna and George Weiss/Laguna Residents First are supporting Mr. Orgill, Chairman of Visit Laguna and a longtime local developer? Could it be because he is on bad terms with none other than Mo Honaker?

    I can smell the stench of this from a mile away. Voters beware.

  6. Mssrs. Johnson & Quilter:
    We seldom agree on much of anything, but the optics of this situation do seem odd.
    Don’t have a heart attack but I kinda/sorta agree with you both!
    C’mon, man, are you serious? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” IS an unusual campaign platform plank.
    Is that a basic rational for seating a politician?
    It was the Trumpster Dumpster Fire’s main plank: He alleged that he’d drain the DC swamp?
    Then he became The Swamp Monster himself via building his own dictatorial “habitat” (Swamp II—The Sequel).
    I’ve been critical of Visit Laguna and its former incarnation Visitors Bureau for 20 years, since inception.
    I’ve lived here for 50 years, was raised just north in the LA Harbor area, and travelled through/surfed and shopped here previously.
    Laguna NEVER needed publicity or promotion, its coastal placement, its mere existence in the middle of rampant urban and suburban development assured future visitations. We didn’t need to DO anything, we were and continue to be that proverbial “Field of Dreams.”
    Everyone knows that in So Cal you don’t need to say the “Beach” part, just “Laguna.” It had already adequately branded itself for marketing purposes. Brand extension wasn’t necessary.
    It seems as if those in power believe that we were drawing the wrong crowds, tourists who didn’t spend enough to enjoy their rightful. lawful access to one of California’s (or America’s) uniquely situated coastal gems.
    No we want BIG spenders, if that isn’t an oligarchy, a self-endowed nobility or maybe aristocracy, I don’t know what is.
    Handing back over, without strings, ≈ $1.5 million/year or so over to an elitist, self-serving Board and staff disguised as a non-profit invited mischief and duplicity, encouraged it.
    Of course the hotel/hospitality/restaurant industry love getting their own publicist/staff expenses paid for out of City funds.
    Now on top of increased, exponential visitations the past 20 years we have these endless weekends of gimmick events, arranged and organized or heavily supported in some way by Visit Laguna.
    So add the build-out and infill around us, between locals and the larger, non-regional pool of tourists, and you have a former town now held hostage 24/7/365—remember, the Visitors Bureau mantra was “Year round destination resort.”
    We could draw a breath and exhale from Labor Day to Memorial Day (excepting Spring Break).
    Now we have no respite, the “goal” is to accelerate, to jam our streets and sidewalks to the maximum extent possible.
    So LRF isn’t a surprise response, some type of controlled growth PAC was inevitable.
    But for we taxpayers to carve out and then “donate” and underwrite our own demise, a type of urbanized entropy?
    What a great scheme, 4 of 5 council members were duped back when……residents are now paying the price of that poor decision.
    What should happen asap is that LBCC strip them of that HUGE chunk of change, take that ≈ $1.5 and climbing, and spend it on the community services we provide—pay as they play, a form of mitigation for the significant adverse impacts.
    Those 4 council members that voted for this earmarking were no more than commerce shills.
    I’m not mentioning who that dissenting vote person was, but he was very prescient. He saw the headlights of train wreck coming.

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