By Alex Rounaghi, City Council Candidate
During the first City Council candidate forum in this election cycle, Village Laguna asked all candidates what they considered to be a defining feature of Laguna Beach. My answer felt automatic: the Laguna Greenbelt and Bluebelt. That’s because no other city in Orange County–or perhaps the country–can compare to the unmatched natural beauty of Laguna Beach.
Our beautiful beaches and wilderness are no accident. Rather, they are the result of decades of environmental leadership. Activists, artists, and marchers fought for the Greenbelt in 1989. Tom Osborne, along with a group of concerned citizens, created the city’s first climate action plan in 2009. Local environmental organizations and school clubs organize beach cleanups. Laguna’s legacy of environmental stewardship continues today.
As a lifelong resident of Laguna Beach, I grew up with this stewardship ingrained in me as a core value. I spent my childhood hiking our trails and exploring our beaches. I know them intimately and love them for all that they represent, past and present.
But I worry for the future. Even in my lifetime, I’ve seen these spaces change. Our hills are hotter and drier. A wildfire raged in Emerald Bay in February. We all suffered through the heat wave a few weeks ago, and then a tropical storm, and then another heat wave. Our beaches are losing sand. As climate change gets worse, we will continue to lose our beloved environment–unless we act now.
I’m running for City Council to preserve and enhance Laguna’s uniqueness. That means preserving and enhancing the green and blue spaces, along with our small-town character and close-knit community, that make Laguna what it is.
That’s why environmental protection and climate action would be some of my top priorities as a Councilmember. I want us to build on Laguna’s history as an environmental leader by being the first city in Orange County to have carbon-neutral City operations. I strongly support existing efforts to electrify the City fleet and put solar on City buildings. I hope we can continue this progress by making the City more energy- and water-efficient. These changes aren’t just good for our environment; they are also fiscally responsible.
I also want us to have an evidence-based plan to reduce emissions. I am thrilled by City Council’s recent decision to create a comprehensive Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. I will push for this plan to include extensive community involvement and nature-based solutions that enhance our unique character.
While this plan is underway, we need initiatives that create local clean energy, reduce waste, and protect our local water, wilderness, and beaches. I’m interested in expediting our solar permitting system, supporting businesses that transition to reusable materials, and reducing waste and litter in our neighborhoods and open spaces.
That brings up another point: our open spaces have also changed because more and more visitors are enjoying them. Who could blame them? We have some of the most beautiful beaches and trails in the world. But we must mitigate visitor impacts and protect these resources for future generations. If elected, I plan to build on the work of the City’s Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan to do just that.
Laguna Beach is a treasure that we cannot take for granted. If elected as your Councilmember, I will ensure that Laguna Beach–and its unrivaled natural beauty–is protected and preserved for future generations.
My plans for environmental protection earned me the endorsement of the OC League of Conservation Voters. You can visit my website, alexforlaguna.com, to read about these plans in more detail.