Guest Column: Unexpected support for Measure Q

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ann christoph
By Ann Christoph

Mo Honarkar is busy proving that Measure Q is just what we need. Is he a closet member of “Yes on Q”? Maybe he has his own secret chapter of Laguna Residents First, the group that started the Measure Q campaign?

His Laguna Beach Company hired signature gatherers to circle our market parking lots asking voters to sign a petition purported to oppose parking garages.

The petition is really against Ordinance #1675 that City Council passed Aug. 16, solidifying height limits, requiring rooftop decks and their furniture to be within the 36′ height limit, and making special requirements when several lots are developed together as one project. The ordinance was intended to demonstrate that the city can better address the issues raised in Measure Q by passing new and improved measures—and that, therefore, a vote of the people on some development projects (as provided by Measure Q) would not be necessary.

On Monday, Honarkar submitted 2,600 signatures to the city clerk for verification. If the Registrar of Voters finds 1,800 valid signatures, ordinance #1675 will be suspended. Then council can just cancel the ordinance, schedule a special election, or hold the item until the next general election in 2024.

In April, the City hired premier political strategist Stu Mollrich to advise regarding the Laguna Residents First initiative, now Measure Q. There was never a public report of his recommendations, but Ordinance #1645 resulted and it was approved by the usual council majority, Mayor Sue Kempf, Mayor pro tem Bob Whalen and Councilmember Peter Blake on its first reading. Interestingly, at its final reading, Blake switched from his previous support of the ordinance and voted no.

Why? At the last minute, there was a ten-page letter from high-powered Los Angeles attorneys, Latham and Watkins, representing Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Company, strongly opposing council adoption of Ordinance #1645, specifically its lot merger language. The connection to this concern is clear. The Laguna Beach Company is an “owner, leaseholder, manager, or operator” of properties composed of grouped individual lots—including Hotel Laguna, Laguna Village shops and the Cliff Restaurant, and properties north of the Art Museum to Jasmine Street. Since the purpose of the ordinance was to respond to Measure Q on the November ballot, Kempf and Whalen were strong on moving ahead with it. Councilmember Toni Iseman switched her vote to yes, and the ordinance was approved despite Blake’s no vote.

Thus the petition drives to repeal Ordinance #1645. (See commonsenselaguna.com.) What it is really doing is demonstrating why approving measure Q is so important. Measure Q provides for a vote of the people if large projects may present unacceptable impacts.

Three councilmembers can overturn a city ordinance under pressure from a petition drive like Honarkar’s—or for any reason.

So far, Honarkar’s other efforts have produced results at City Hall. No formerly required publicly reviewed master plan for the Hotel Laguna.

Piecemeal improvements allowed instead. Work proceeding without permits. Improper closed session agreement allowing stop work orders to be lifted—cited by the District Attorney as out of line with the Brown Act. No public review of the restoration of this important historical icon.

Work continues on changes to the beachfront and access from the sand despite Coastal appeals and encroachments onto the public beach.

Honarkar succeeds step by step in doing what he wants without public review. This pattern suggests that his or other efforts could result in the repeal of other important protective ordinances. We’ve seen that we cannot rely on the City Council to stand firm on City requirements. This is why Honarkar is Measure Q’s best advocate.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor. She’s also a long-time board member of Village Laguna, Inc.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Where is the disclaimer listing Ann as one of the founders of Village Laguna and current board member? Seems the new editor of this publication needs a refresher.

  2. I regard the abbreviated resume at the end of my column as listing qualifications. It is not a disclaimer. I am a board member of Village Laguna, but not one of its founders. Village Laguna was started in 1971 and South Laguna where I live was not annexed to the city until 1987. I joined the board of Village Laguna after serving on the Council from 1990-1994. I am proud of being a member, but my column is my own and not Village Laguna’s–nor does my column represent other organizations in Laguna Beach such as South Laguna Civic Association and the South Laguna Community Garden Park that I also serve.

  3. Ann Christoph,
    You failed to mention that you’re also a member of the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition, which is the process of appealing the City’s approval of the Kirby’s approved remodel! Please go to Lagunaneighbors.org and get the full story! You & I were on the Laguna Beach City’s Historic Preservation Task Force a few years back. My understanding is that your groups are suing the City & the Coastal Commission for the approval of the new Historic Preservation Update!

  4. Ms. Christoph – you are making a lot of assumptions in your column, and sadly most of them are false. From what I can see this town has been destroyed by yourself and Village Laguna for decades. Village Laguna and its lobbing for draconian polices are the reason we have over a hundred empty store fronts. If Measure Q or the ordinance were to take into effect get ready the number of empty/shuttered stores to 3x. We don’t want a ghost town, as a resident I would like to visit local business and not have to drive to Fashion Island every time I want to buy something or have a meal. Empty stores result in residents not being able to stay and enjoy the town. This also result in tax dollars leaving Laguna

    My research shows that back in the early 90s you voted against a water reservoir…right before the fire of ‘93 that ravaged our beautiful town and landscape!!! If that reservoir were in place, then it is very possible that the fire could have caused a lot less damage. Measure Q would put so much red tape in the way it would make it next to impossible to build even a fire station. No wonder you support Q, you don’t care about being able to build a fire station or fire safety for that matter. Your record on this is very clear.

    Let’s not forget how your design of the village entrance parking caused us to lose over a hundred parking spots, that must do wonders for traffic, as cars are forced to go into the neighborhoods to park.

    You inherited your property and have a very low property tax base. You and a majority of Village Laguna live for free, and you pay practically no taxes!!!

    If people were with you, they would have voted for you. Now that you and Village Laguna cannot influence and force majority of council your way you are trying to force and fool people with Measure Q. YOU ARE NO LONGER IN CONTROL and cannot disturb this town anymore. You have been forced into retirement time and time again, its time you accept it and quit crying sour grapes.

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