People keep asking me to comment on the no-growth initiative, Measure Q. So, I will. It will stop anything new from happening in Laguna and the town would (further) rot.
You think retail vacancies are high now? Measure Q would make them skyrocket.
Because that is what it does. The initiative’s tripwires are so restrictive and all-reaching that even a new coffee bar at a place like The Lumberyard would be stopped cold. To obtain approval, the owner would be required to submit the coffee bar to a vote of all the citizens of Laguna in a special election. That election would cost $100,000+, paid for by the proposer.
Would you spend $100,000 for voter approval for a coffee bar? Duh, of course not. You would take your idea to Irvine, Newport, Tustin or Rancho Santa Margarita—some other place. You don’t need Laguna. It is a simple economic choice.
That is what the Measure Q, as created by Laguna Residents First (LRF), would do: stop cold any new commercial enterprise. Stop cold any remodels any upgrades, any new tenants, anything new of any kind. It will stop them dead in their tracks.
Measure Q is an outgrowth of the prevailing sentiment emanating from Village Laguna (VL), a Political Action Committee, that controlled this town for more than 30 years and stifled anything new. However, in the 2018 elections, VL candidates lost control of the majority on the City Council, did not regain it in the 2020 elections, and some sanity has returned to this town.
Village Laguna hates—hates—-its loss of control, and like as modern-day Terminator, has risen out of the ashes to back Measure Q under the rubric that Laguna’s “citizens” should vote on anything new. During their thirty-year rule, such niceties were not considered necessary because, ah, ahh…because they were in control.
To justify their support, they promote The Big Lie that high-rise developers are poised to destroy Laguna—turn it into a type of Huntington Beach hell—and Measure Q is the only thing standing between our quaint town and their Big Lie.
Here is the truth. There are zero high-rise developments proposed for Laguna, and zero possibility any could be built. No one wants it. No one.
As a political position, it is a Paper Tiger: a cure for a problem that does not exist, kind of like the medieval practice of bleeding patients to cure a fever.
It is also like the VL’s parallel Paper Tiger argument that new tenants are discouraged by high rents charged by greedy landlords. Give me a break. Our landlords are no less greedy than landlords in surrounding cities, whose rents are just as high. Our buildings are vacant because after Village Laguna spent thirty years enacting every more restrictive impediments for new tenants, hardly any new tenants want to run the gamut. But Village Laguna says it is not their fault. It is greedy landlords. Hogwash.
Measure Q is simply the latest action, a last gasp, to strangle the town that artists made famous. It is not needed and is pushed by the Big Lie. I would say to all those Measure Q supporters, who are extremely noisy on letters to the editors and local social media: go away. Leave us be.
Ray is a Laguna Beach resident and principal officer emeritus of Laguna Forward PAC.