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 VillageLaguna.org 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.