Guest Column

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Put Residents First

By Robert Zurschmiede
By Robert Zurschmiede


Two important local measures are on our ballot this fall that will likely determine the future of our community.

Measure LL would increase the hotel occupancy tax by 2%, paid almost entirely by visitors. That would provide about $2 million each year to improve public safety and other vital services for the benefit of residents, including water quality, fire protection, emergency medical response, law enforcement, disaster preparedness and accelerated utility undergrounding. Undergrounding our dangerous electric utility lines is urgently needed to reduce the risk of another catastrophic wildfire like that in October 1993, which destroyed a good part of the city.

On the other hand, Measure KK is “bad medicine” for Laguna Beach. The issue here is land use and local control, not medical marijuana. Measure KK was cunningly crafted to enrich its out-of-town backers at the expense of Laguna residents, not to provide for the legitimate medical needs of local residents who can already get all the medical marijuana they need conveniently delivered right to their front door.

The shadowy backers of Measure KK plan to establish medical marijuana dispensaries in Laguna Beach that will – if Proposition 64 passes as appears likely – morph into recreational marijuana “supermarkets” serving all of South Orange County. Laguna’s dispensaries would be the only storefront marijuana sales facilities in all of South OC.

Because it is a voter initiative, KK would eliminate the City Council’s ability to develop additional rules to govern marijuana sales facilities without approval by the voters. Dispensaries would be located “by right” on just about any commercial parcel more than 1,000 ft. from a school, including many close to residential neighborhoods.

There would be no advance notice to neighbors, no public hearings, and no city vetting of operators who, contrary to the protestation of “Yes on KK” backers, could be convicted felons if KK passes.

These very different ballot measures interrelate. We’ve experienced a visitor surge in recent years that’s already placed new strains on city services: police, fire, lifeguards and beach patrol – even street cleaning.

If LL passes, tourists will contribute another $2 million per year to help shoulder costs their presence creates.   If KK passes, the growing numbers of out-of-town beach goers will likely be joined each day by a new type of out-of-town visitor, arriving in Laguna to “toke up”.

In addition to aggravating existing problems with traffic congestion, parking and impaired drivers, Measure KK would generate virtually no additional tax revenue to offset the added public safety costs that dispensaries would impose on local taxpayers.

According to the Laguna Beach Police & Fire Management Association, experience in other jurisdictions shows that marijuana sales facilities will likely become crime magnets.  Police could well be diverted to protecting these “cash only” marijuana sales operations from violent assault by other criminals – an occurrence that has been observed time and again when marijuana operators set up shop.  We don’t have extra public safety resources to spare.

That’s why the Laguna Beach Firefighters Association, the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association and the Police & Fire Management Association all oppose Measure KK and endorse Measure LL. To quote the firefighters’ announcement, our fire department is “at its limit and we need additional resources to do our jobs properly.”

In recent years, the city has funded major public safety improvements and the City Council wants to do more. But public safety enhancements cost money and Council wants to continue the city’s policy of fiscal responsibility, paying for ongoing expenses with ongoing revenue whenever possible.

Measure LL will do exactly that, by freeing up funds to improve vital services by asking visitors to cover more of the costs that they create.

Measure KK will accomplish nothing beyond engorging its backers with profits and adding to the public safety burden on local taxpayers.

That’s why I proudly join with my fellow Councilmembers and the police officers and firefighters who protect this community every day in asking you to vote no on KK and yes on LL for a safer Laguna Beach that puts the needs of residents first.




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  1. Really Rob? What era are you living in, Reefer Madness? The citizens of this state are about to make cannabis legal for recreational use, and you don’t want to make it accessible to the 50% of this town who want safe access? It could raise far more tax money than LL, allow users to select from a variety of strains and obtain consultation on dosage and use instead of inviting strangers into their home from places like Santa Ana. Most delivery services are NOT regulated, and they peddle other illegal drugs. Usage amongst teens decreases when it’s out of the dark, regulated, and legal. No increase in crime. No gateway drug (that would be Oxycontin, coming to a medicine cabinet near you). You really dropped the ball on this one by not offering the public the competing Initiative that was vetted and drafted by our police. You put your personal bias ahead of your responsibility to the thousands of residents who signed the petition that says enough is enough with this silly prohibition. We want this.

  2. “Asking visitors to cover more of the costs that they create”? You can’t be serious. Measure LL doesn’t ask anything of visitors, it asks locals to agree to unilaterally tax visitors. And what exactly are these problems caused by guests of local hotels? In its resolution of support for Measure LL, the City Council complains of tourists “disturbing residents with increased noise, littering our streets and sidewalks with trash, cigarette butts and empty alcohol bottles, fast-food wrappers, and other nuisances.” Not a very high opinion of our visitors. Do Councilman Zurschmeide and the rest of the City Council seriously contend that guests at The Ranch, Montage, and Surf and Sand are peppering our town with trash, cigarette butts, empty alcohol bottles, and fast-food wrappers? And Measure LL will be “freeing up funds to improve vital services”? The City’s current budget confirms no deficits in the City providing vital services, and boasts of a reserve of $11 million. The City’s only unfunded future need is the unfunded pension liability, which the City Council has already paid down once with $1.4 million. With all other needs being met, it’s easy to see what the City Council intends to do with the $2 million a year that Measure LL will bring.

  3. Measure LL is an ill-conceived effort at a demonstration of “Put Residents First”. Here is the backwards thinking of the City: Let’s tax the hotel-goers who actually contribute to the local economy. On the other foot, let’s provide countless free services to the day visitors who don’t contribute or purchase anything within our local economy, but instead trash our beaches with the food wrappers and cans that they were able to conveniently carry in their 10 gallon ice cooler thanks to the Trolleys.

    The only thing that Measure LL will accomplish is to further alienate the non-locals who would otherwise contribute to our local economy.


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