Just as a container ship full of work is about to hit the City Hall dock, Greg Pfost, Laguna’s community development director, is retiring. That is the real news this week.
That unseemly scuffle about the snow cones the Arts Commission is trying to stuff into the Village Exit is a distraction. It serves to keep folks from focusing on what is really important.
The community development department writes and administers almost all the rules most folks encounter in their dealings with government.
This department is the den of design review horror stories, Planning Commission horror stories, building inspection horror stories, plan check horror stories, and all the other land use horror stories. It’s the deck where they just rearranged some design review chairs.
The city’s script will be to form a committee that selects a replacement, out of a universe of possibilities, who is exactly like the one being replaced. Maybe the cover will be different, but the book will be the same.
Any sensible person should ask, why do we have all these land use regulations? California has about twice as many rules and regulations as do any of the other states. Laguna is a shining example of this achievement. We probably have 20 times as many rules and regulations.
Why would intelligent and good-looking people, like those who live in Laguna, do this to themselves? These rules and regulations must have a purpose other than administering conduct and shaping development.
They do. They really are barriers to entry. Designed to obstruct development. They are the wall that was erected by folks, who already have theirs, to stop late comers from getting the same. It is all based on a theory. If somebody new gets a piece of Laguna, then we’ll have less as a result.
Design review has not worked as promised. McMansions still sprout everywhere. All the while neighborhood enmity abounds. Then there’s the troubling question of whether the design review of textures, surfaces, windows and private view equity are the proper focus for a process premised on the need to regulate for health and safety.
It may be time for design review, and other barriers to entry, to go. That’s the rumble that keeps coming from Sacramento, as expressed most recently in SB330. Sacramento acts like our housing crisis is the result of selfish land planning decisions designed to preserve the status quo. They’re now looking for ways to forcefully facilitate change.
That is exactly what we need in a new community development director, the ability to facilitate change.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.