Does the Wet suit You

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By J.J. Gasparotti

Laguna Beach has a Planning Commission, Design Review Board, and City Council that start out saying no to every new proposal while all too often ending up approving things they shouldn’t. There’s a citizenry that thinks Laguna should stay exactly the same and a herd of developers who want to pillage the village. All combined with some major properties vacant and rotting.

How do we move forward? Perhaps we can learn from past experiences.

Like, how did we get from a Surf and Sand Hotel that supported its application for a permit to operate the hotel with a traffic study assuming all the employees would valet park on site into a hotel that likely prohibits almost all its employees from parking there?

We don’t watch the details.

As their consultant rightly pointed out, “The hotel didn’t sign an agreement with the city that employees would valet park on site.” Okay then, fool us once, it’s on you.

But in the very next breath he went on to add, “The hotel is making arrangements with the old Laguna Nursery property to park there. Sixteen spaces for 100 employees. The hotel is making an effort.” That had all the commissioners nodding in agreement.

Really? What happens when the nursery property reopens for business? Will the new business’ employees and customers valet park at the Surf and Sand? Fool us twice, it’s on us.

The solution for no longer acting like rubes at their first county fair is simple and difficult.

It requires decision makers with the mental acumen and education to handle complex land use entitlements. Supported by an assertive staff equipped with the latest and best tools for analyzing proposals.

In this age of big data for everything, why rely on a developer’s slanted and biased traffic study? We should have our own. Staff and the commissions have been asking for these tools. We could computer model traffic and parking ourselves. We could run scenarios on the various proposals that keep coming up, from closing streets to redeveloping hotels.

We must be conversant with the rules and regulations other government agencies impose on us and develop better working relationships with those agencies. Homeowners fined a million bucks for an alleged coastal zone violation, on a city permitted project, shouldn’t happen.

Don’t forget continuing education. We’re not the only ones carving a wheel out of stone in our cave. Late in the last century the design review board had an education budget for land use planning books and magazines. They took trips to Del Mar, Venice and Santa Barbara to see how they do design review there. That was stopped to save money, when one good idea can be priceless. It’s hard work not to be stupid.


J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.


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