Guest Column: What is Happening to Our Town?

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By Johanna Felder

What I have loved about Laguna Beach is not just its scenic beauty, its historic character, and its unique and varied neighborhoods—it’s our fellow Lagunans and the feeling that I have something deeply meaningful in common with those who have also chosen to live here. It’s how committed we are to our town and how together we have accomplished the most amazing and forward-thinking projects.

We Lagunans can do this because we have acted magnanimously and together.

We Lagunans saved the Canyon and the Greenbelt, the Art Museum, and the Festival (remember when it was going to move to San Clemente?).

We adopted the 36-foot height limit and a General Plan that emphasizes protection of our neighborhoods.

We support Schoolpower and fund scholarships for high school seniors every year. We support arts organizations, the Playhouse, No Square Theater, and Laguna Beach Live. Groups of residents cook dinner for the homeless day after day, year after year. Laguna is a hive of busy and devoted people who contribute.

That spirit of devotion to making life and the community better is what I value most of all in living here.

Now I am seeing that spirit being shattered by attacks on Village Laguna, the organization that is devoted to fostering the village character of our town, and attacks on individuals for real or imagined positions contrary to those of the accusers.

Our mayor has called for civility, and well he should. I am grateful for that. But it’s not just politeness we need. We need deep-seated respect for others who share this special community we have been blessed with.

Some of those behind these attacks have long been part of Lagunans’ efforts to make our community better, but now they have joined with the developers of Liberate Laguna in an assault on the city’s processes that blames them all on Village Laguna and its purported desire to “take away your property rights.”

Your property rights are at stake—but we’re not talking about the approvals involved in building individual houses and room additions. We are facing an unprecedented number of large development projects—projects that I believe will negatively impact the city as a whole, our neighborhoods, and our home environment: more traffic, more density, and increased costs of city services. If city controls are weakened as Liberate Laguna proposes, these large developments can be more easily approved. Our property rights will be diminished as the developers exploit theirs.

Liberate Laguna has attacked Village Laguna’s emblematic event, the Charm House Tour, alleging “lack of transparency.” As president of Village Laguna, I can assure you that we have filed the appropriate documents to report our income and expenditures. We are a nonprofit mutual benefit corporation and a political action committee. We thrive on grassroots community support.

It is no secret that in most local council elections, Village Laguna recommends voting for candidates that its members believe will best support preserving our village character. Village Laguna spent about $15,000 in support of its two candidates in the last council election, while Liberate Laguna spent 10 times more—over $150,000. Our funds are also used for addressing issues that come before the city council, produce a newsletter, hold events and meetings that are open to the public, and we contribute to many local organizations—the Community Clinic, La Playa Center, Laguna Canyon Foundation, Laguna Bluebelt, Community Garden Park, Food Pantry, Friendship Shelter, and we fund a high school scholarship.

Village Laguna’s mission is “to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the unique village character and cultural heritage of Laguna Beach. We foster community spirit and address social needs, and we work toward restoring and protecting our ocean and coastal habitats.”

We invite you to join us, attend our events, and enjoy the Charm House Tour on Sunday, May 19, from noon to 5 p.m. Visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

Together, let’s bring back the community spirit we treasure.

Johanna Felder and her husband, Gene, are 33-year residents of Laguna Beach. Johanna has served on the boards of Laguna Greenbelt and Laguna Art Museum, and she currently serves on the Laguna Canyon Foundation Board and as president of Village Laguna.

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  1. Transparency and honesty would be informing tiicket purchasers you are a Political Action Committee and the majority of funds raised are for political campaigns. It may feel like your under attack but you have just been exposed and the truth hurts when you don’t control the spin and narrative!

    FYI your single yearly scholarship award for only $1000 doesn’t even cover the costs of books, in comparison the LB Garden Club gave out two scholarships for $2500 and $2000.

  2. Oh please Johanna, spare us your self-absorbed BS. Village Laguna is a Political Action Committee that has ruled Laguna since the early ’70s with an iron fist. You have eroded our property rights and have controlled our community without any regard for our wishes. Yes, we the residents that pay the bulk of the property tax that fuels our 100 million dollar budget. You and your board members pay next to nothing and want all of the control. This last election proved that the residents have had enough and rejected Anne Christoph and Toni Iseman couldn’t beat a newbie. Was that really because a PAC bought the election as you like to claim or was that the voice of the people in a democracy telling you they’d had enough? You tried every dirty trick in the book to win and couldn’t. Bulldozer ads threatening that I would scrape the downtown lol The very place that decades of your control created the pathetic shopping experience that we are struggling to change. The lackluster buildings that no one dares to clean or remodel for fear of opening Pandora’s Box of restrictions that you have enacted over the years to maintain your vision. You want to make sure it remains just like the old days when all of you got here. Well, sorry! We are moving forward and all of your fearmongering isn’t going to work. Please stop talking about civility! We know you’re just trying to suppress us and it won’t work. We will continue to express and assert ourselves until we make Laguna the sophisticated land quaint little village that we want and aspire it to be. All of you tasteless hippies can either join us or get out of the way!

    Oh, and sorry about the Charm House Tour being exposed for the political fundraiser that it is, and has been,
    for 47 years. The residents will now decide if they’d like to buy a ticket knowing that their money will be used to promote your politicized agenda that goes against their wishes.


  3. Peter, you clearly have no temperament to be a City Councilman, or to fairly represent the public. Your rudeness and misrepresentations appear to be right out of the Trump playbook. And like with Trump, the citizens of Laguna Beach will quickly figure out just who you and what your motives truly are, and you will inevitably be a one-term councilman. And I for one will say good riddance to you and your BS.

  4. Sigh. Trump Lite, when will you rise above the pettiness? Just be quiet for a moment. If you can’t perceive any possible merits to the opinion of someone you disagree with, perhaps just be quiet. And FYI “aspire” is not a transitive verb.

  5. So true, Cora. I regret voting for this intemperate, hateful windbag who clearly wasn’t heard growing up!

  6. The truth: It’s really sad, and scary, that locals like village laguna’s members never obtained a quality education . . . and only parrot what the Central Committee Politboro Has Spewed from their drug induced hippie-isms. Long story short – the days of acting like a waterhead are over. It didn’t work. Sorry. Making Laguna Great Again . . . Trump? Hey . . it’s working . . and your way didn’t (we tried, now get out will ya)

  7. Votes are votes. And as they say opinions are like a-holes.. Y’all demonstrate the total immaturity that has ruined Laguna Beach, and foced me to close my store. The lack of skills and vision, subordinated to old hippies that never did anything ‘cept piss and moan to get your way. Santa Barbara, La Jolla, Carmel . .they all did it? what’s your problem?

  8. YAY! Peter Blake. You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.

    “The Best Case Against Democracy Is A Five Minute Conversation With The Average Voter” . . . Long Live The NEW LAGANA MANAGEMENT TEAM.


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