I Love Laguna
I can remember like it was yesterday. It was 1963, and I was a senior in high school. My boyfriend took me to a city called Laguna Beach and I instantly fell in love. We ordered chocolate chip pancakes at the Cottage and I sat there in awe—the quaint architecture, the charming garden. We walked to Heisler Park and I was mesmerized as I looked out at the magnificent coastline, the sloping cliffs that lead into the ocean, the native flora and the pelicans resting on Seal Rock. We walked Forest Avenue, filled with cute little shops along PCH and were greeted by The Greeter. It was one of those glorious Laguna days, filled with sunshine and all the magical blessings that God could bestow on one place. I thought to myself, someday I am going to live here.
That day came in 1972 when I bought my first Laguna house in Arch Beach Heights for $72,000. I remember swishing down the hills in my little red convertible, staring at the ocean and thinking I am so lucky, this is paradise! A few years later, I closed my office in Newport Beach and opened the institute of Holistic Psychology across from the library. The smell of warm chocolate chip cookies emanated from the Laguna Beach Cookie Company and more than once a bag of broken cookies was served as dinner. I would take my patients to the beach for therapy, enjoy a cappuccino upstairs at C’est la Vie, have vegetable soup at some restaurant around the corner that is now Nick’s, and sometimes after work, meet my girlfriends at the White House to dance the night away. I remember when Las Brisas was Victor Hugo’s, Renaissance Bakery existed, and 230 wasn’t a restaurant but an old wooden-floored Laguna-style bodega.
I met my husband in 1982. Our first date was in Laguna. By then I was living above the high school and I couldn’t wait to show him the Laguna I love. Margaritas at Las Brisas, a walk along Heisler Park and dinner at Ron’s. He too was smitten, in all of his travels he had never seen a place as beautiful as our city. A few months later we married and because his practice was in Los Angeles, sadly, I had to move. I never gave up on returning to Laguna. We visited frequently. I met my girlfriends here. One incident, I recall, which is “so back in the day Laguna” was when I had a new baby and a new white Jaguar. I parked on Forest in front of the candy store and remembered to take the baby out of the car but left the keys in the door. When I returned, a note was on my windshield, “You left the keys in your car, they are behind the counter at the candy store.” This story illustrates what I think I love the most about our city: we love each other, we love our city, we care for each other, we help each other, and we stand for what is right and good This is the Laguna I love.
I have seen a lot of changes to our little town. Some better, some not so good, and some that I fought to not let happen, like the $65 million-dollar parking garage back in 2013. Our rallying cry was “Let Laguna Vote.”
On Nov. 6, Laguna will vote again, but this time the stakes are much higher than a single parking garage. Liberate Laguna, a PAC that has collected $72,000 thus far has hired the slickest most successful campaign management in the country. They want to influence our little Laguna election. But make no mistake, this PAC is run by pro-development interests and the only thing they want to liberate are the restrictions that stand in their way of mega development and the traffic that will accompany it.
They want to get rid of existing height limits, fast track their developments, get rid of the standards we have for view preservation, and build apartment complexes in the canyon.
Parking garages that they want us to pay for are back on the stage. They say they want to eliminate homelessness, yet the police have told us that parking garages become homes for the homeless. Liberate Laguna consists primarily of four rich mega developers. All they need is three seats on the council, and they are spending big money to do this.
Maybe this is why there is so much angry rhetoric in our city election right now. Let’s reset, let’s remember our roots. Let’s remember why we moved here and not Newport Beach in the first place. Let’s make sure we wake up on Nov. 7, notto a developer’s profit center, but to the Laguna we love.
Resident Rita Conn has led local protests over nuclear waste storage at the closed San Onofre nuclear power plant.