A Laguna Beach resident-driven ballot initiative that would require voter approval of certain development projects took a step toward the ballot box on Monday.
Laguna Residents First PAC filed thousands of supportive signatures of registered Laguna Beach voters with City Clerk Ann Marie McKay. The hand-off caps a nearly five-month effort by 75 volunteers to collect signatures from at least 10% of Laguna Beach voters in support of putting the initiative on the ballot for the November 2022 General Election.
About a dozen people, including initiative supporters and members of the press, packed into McKay’s office to witness the exchange.
McKay planned to drive the signatures over to the Orange County Registrar of Voters on Monday afternoon. She plans to ask the Registrar to certify up to 2,000 signatures, which would qualify the initiative for the ballot. Registrar staffers are allowed 30 days to complete the work.
“We are most gratified by the positive response from residents during this signature-gathering process” Merrill Anderson, assistant treasurer for Laguna Residents First PAC, said in a press release Monday.
A previous effort by Laguna Residents First to collect signatures was stalled last Spring due to the pandemic. The initiative’s supporters argue voter approval is necessary as a bulwark against overdevelopment and gridlock that could affect residents’ property values and their quality of life, Anderson said.
Voter approval would be required for major developments that combine lots totaling more than 7,500 square feet, create at least 200 additional average daily vehicle trips, exceeds 30-feet in height, or contain more than 22,000 square in floor area. The initiative’s scope is also limited to proposed major developments within 750 feet of Coast Highway or Laguna Canyon Road.
Single-family home remodels and multi-family projects of nine or fewer residential units are explicitly excluded from the initiative and wouldn’t be subjected to such votes. Denser housing projects of exclusively low-income to extremely low-income housing residential units would also be exempt.
Despite these exemptions, the initiative’s opponents say it would create an additional layer of bureaucracy that would stymie investment in deteriorating properties in a coastal town that already has multiple layers of review.
Laguna Beach wouldn’t be the first Orange County city to apply brakes on real estate development. Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Dana Point have passed similar so-called “Greenlight” initiatives. In 2000, Newport Beach voters approved a right-to-vote initiative to block new high-rise towers.
The principals behind Laguna Residents First are fixtures in the City Council Chambers who often argue against intense development. Treasurer Gene Felder is president of the Top of the World Neighborhood Association and also serves as treasurer for the Laguna Canyon Conservancy. Anderson is also vice president of Village Laguna. David Raber has been active in the Temple Hills Community Association and served on the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force.
Councilmember George Weiss and Laguna Beach resident Michael Morris are both founders emeriti of Laguna Residents First.
On Tuesday, the Laguna Beach City Council will hear the findings of a fiscal analysis conducted by Kosmont Companies, probing how the proposed ballot initiative could impact development and city revenue.
“The Initiative, if passed, will likely have a noticeable negative fiscal impact to City General Fund revenues levels over the next decade and beyond,” the Manhattan Beach-based consultant said in a report.
The City could annually miss out on almost $3 million from property taxes, sales tax, and hotel taxes by 2026-27, assuming normal public review and construction timeframe, according to the report. Two proposed hotel projects submitted by corporate entities controlled by the Laguna Beach Co., the Cleo Hotel and Museum Hotel, would trigger a vote of the people if the ballot initiative is approved, the consultant said.View Our User Comment Policy