Guest Opinion: Rekindling the Creative Spirit in Laguna

Mark Orgill is running for an open seat on Laguna Beach City Council. Photo courtesy of Mark Orgill

One thing I’ve always admired about artists is how they help us see the familiar in new ways. It’s that sort of spirit that first lured me here, and for me it remains Laguna’s heart and soul. Sadly many artists, many working people, are now priced out of living here, as land values and rents keep rising. This threatens the overall vibe of our community. I’m open to your ideas.

We need 394 new affordable housing units to meet our legal obligations and, thereby, keep local that many more artists, teachers, public employees, hotel and restaurant workers, and seniors who need assistance. It’s a challenge. But we do have options, and we can start by encouraging broad community participation in deciding what’s best among those options. Our housing committee has identified locations worth examining. It’s time we put our shoulder to the wheel. We need the resolve to decide how best to do this and to get the job done. 

It’s time we squarely tackle other problems. We can do a better job at tourist management. We can do more to influence the profile of tourists while minimizing the adverse impacts of visitors in town for just the day, for instance, taking all the parking in specific neighborhoods. Solutions require better parking and transit options. Meanwhile, there are too many empty storefronts, which spells trouble. I don’t accept this as the new norm, but I’m uninterested in how to apportion blame among retail trends, Covid and bad policies. I’m interested in new ideas on how best to encourage desirable redevelopment. There are ways to evolve — while preserving our small-scale, distinctive character. The right projects can beautify Laguna, make it safer, strengthen its economy, and shore up the City’s capacity to plan while taking care of the basics. There’s no need to roll over to lure desirable businesses better. 

Two big starting points: say clearly what we want, not merely what we don’t want, and, equally critical, clarify and consistently enforce the rules. Unfortunately, the impression is that even if you’re asking for nothing special, the outcome in Laguna is always uncertain. Naturally, this has a chilling effect on recruiting even the most desirable business to invest here. Who knows how many publicly beneficial businesses we’ve lost because of this generally negative portrayal of our community and its public process. In business — I know from my own — certainty is your friend, uncertainty the enemy. This City has a history of creative community development. We need to channel that energy. Some of that history may not be well known. 

The Laguna Art Museum and Festival of the Arts leadership established the Laguna College of Art and Design  — so Laguna would benefit from arts education and performing and visual arts. Visionary. The Festival leadership stepped up, even after voters rejected the idea, to finance Main Beach — offering the Pageant’s revenue as collateral to make Laguna’s signature window to the sea possible. We need that sort of creative vision and collaboration today. We should be at the forefront of encouraging artful and successful small-scale businesses. We should be at the vanguard of environmental sustainability, being smart about energy and water use, enacting an ambitious climate action plan, and finding ways of doing more with less to be both environmentally responsible and fiscally prudent. We need creative solutions to a host of longstanding challenges. 

The good news is, as everyone knows, this town has a wealth of talent. We need to do a better job of tapping into it. Join me in rekindling Laguna’s creative spirit. I’m asking for your support and your vote in this election.

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  1. Hey! I’ve got an idea – – – Let the people vote on this by referendum. You’d need Baby Wipes on that outcome. (Who writes these Letter / Statements?)

  2. This letter is filled with errors, please allow me to explain. Every city has an allocation of new residential units that they must build which is mandated by the State. The Laguna allocation of new residential units they are required to build is the 394 Mr. Orgill references to. It is NOT a state requirement to build 394 affordable or section 8 housing in Laguna for that matter. Maybe is an affordable compote, but not all 394. Mark Orgill in this case clearly doesnt know what he is talking about. We want to make housing for our kids and seniors to be able to live in, not to bring Santa Anna here. The best place to build housing is in the most urban area of town, Downtown Laguna. It is close to stores, restaurants, and transportation. It is more practical and better for the environment. However, Mark Orgill wanted to disable any housing of the sort to be able to be built in the Downtown Laguna area in attempting to push the passing Ordinance 1675. If he is wrong about these basic facts, what else is he wrong about? Is it a good idea to vote for a candidate that doesn’t even know the facts? Should you vote for someone that is acutely making it more difficult to build housing that would be ideal for seniors or young people?

  3. Opinions opinions opinions but no real professional expertise is very bad for a city growth. Who thinks just because they write about their need for legacy laguna that we should stand still or roll back time? Why can’t we get a USA professional planning study to give us GOOD ideas instead of prattle from locals?

  4. 394 Low Income Housing Units to meet our “Legal Obligations”?

    Who voted for that legislature?

    Not us.

    This is another Politboro member thinking for all of us. Poster boy for holier than thou thinking.

    If housing is needed shouldn’t The People vote on it? I thought that was what meaure Q is for. Don’t let spinlessness rule anymore. Stand up for what is best for Laguna. Don’t ruin value.


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