LB Election: Seven Questions for Seven Candidates


Laguna Beach has seven candidates vying for three open seats on the Laguna Beach City Council. The Laguna Beach Independent created seven questions for the candidates to answer in 150 words or less. Election Day is Nov. 8.  

The 2022 Laguna Beach City Council Candidates in alphabetical order by last name:

Peter Blake, Ruben Flores, Sue Kempf, Mark Orgill, Jerome Pudwill, Alex Rounaghi and Louis Weil.

Peter Blake

About the candidate

I’m a 36-year resident. I have started two businesses in Laguna Beach. A couture clothing boutique with my ex-wife and the fine art gallery I’ve owned for 30 years. My current occupation is art dealer.

What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served in Laguna Beach, if any?

City Councilman, elected 2018.

Why do you want to serve on City Council?

I LOVE our community and love serving my residents. I have a vision for Laguna. It will remain small and quaint but will become more cultured. It will be a community whose quality of life will be more commensurate with the current generation who is decidedly more sophisticated and wants more out of their dining and retail experience. I will solidify our property rights gains and eventually abolish the Design Review Board.

What are the City’s three biggest challenges and what are your proposed solutions?

Fire safety: I will continue my efforts to work with Chief King and our Fire Department to make sure my residents are safe, and all challenges are addressed and mitigated. We will bury the power lines in the Canyon and in neighborhoods where ingress and egress are compromised and represent a dangerous situation in the event of a natural disaster. We will continue our efforts to enforce the removal of hazardous vegetation.

Law and Order: I will continue my efforts with Chief Calvert and our Police Department to ensure the safety of my residents from criminals and transients. We will continue to employ a zero-tolerance approach towards crime. We will defend our Police officers and compensate them well for their efforts. Laguna will be the safest coastal community in CA!

Property Rights: I will continue my efforts to streamline the building process in order to allow my residents to realize their dreams for their homes. Property Rights are an inalienable right and not to be hijacked by a group of tasteless frumps and activists who are protecting and enabling their cronies to control and inhibit great architecture and design. Village Laguna needs to get out of our way!

What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

I will work with our City Manager, Shohreh Dupuis to identify pocket parking lots as well as identifying potential parking structure locations. I will also work with the CA Coastal Commission on potential tradeoffs with enhanced visitor parking and residential parking passes for neighborhoods. I’m interested in how the Canyon can be widened to incorporate bike and transit lanes for locals and mass transit.

Give your stance on Measures Q, R and S.

NO NO NO!!!!!!

All three have devastating consequences for Laguna especially Q (quagmire).

If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City? 

I’ll be reelected and will continue to serve my community as long as I’m a viable voice. I have no intention of becoming a Council gadfly like Village Laguna/Laguna Resident First activists are. I have no need, or desire, for power and control. I seek only the betterment of Laguna.

Ruben Flores


About the candidate:

28+ years resident of Laguna Beach 

30+ years working in Laguna Beach. I own a retail nursery. Come visit at 481 N Coast Highway.

I have owned a landscape design and construction company for 30 years 

Bachelors and Masters degrees.

I’ve attended City Council meetings for about seven years now continuously.


What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served on in Laguna Beach, if any? 

Chair of the View Restoration Committee.

Chair of Beautification Council.

BOD Pacific Marine Mammal Center.

Director at South Laguna Community Garden.

Worked with the Sister Cities to design and install sister cities garden in Heisler Park.

Participant in Laguna Beach Garden Club for 12 years. 

Participant in City Council meetings for many years. 

Assist Glenwood LCAD, PMMC, sister cities and more.


Why do you want to serve on City Council?

To help guide the City in a more inclusive direction. 

To help ensure that the charm of Laguna doesn’t get lost in its oncoming development.

To assist those that want to help shape the future of Laguna and give them a voice.

To put some structure into the leadership that helps others feel secure in the management of the City by the Council.

To help the City make some great decisions for our 100-year anniversary.


What are the City’s three biggest challenges, and what are your proposed solutions?

Undergrounding the power lines/fire safety/pedestrian safety.

The vitality of the city/vacant stores/future development.

Climate change and the ocean influence on the beaches.


What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

Traffic will never be solved. It will always be an issue. If the residents want to take over Coast Highway we can make some great improvements to the slow-moving traffic, slow the speed and improve safety at the crosswalks and improve the beauty of the highway Parking will also always be an issue, placing smaller lots outside the downtown is the answer. I believe much can be done in the Canyon before you get to FOA.


Please give your stance on Measures Q, R and S. 

Yes on Q. No on R and S.


If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City?

I will always be active in the City. I live here. I want it to be great. I will continue in all the organizations and activities I am currently active in.

Susan Kempf

About the candidate:

I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, moved to California when I was 19 and never looked back. I spent the preponderance of my career in software and systems engineering executive leadership roles. I retired for a brief period and subsequently was appointed President of Mirion Technologies Dosimetry division in Irvine, where I spent about five years. Now, I am permanently retired and have ample time to serve the community.

What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served on in Laguna Beach, if any?

I was Chair of the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee (EDPC) for three years. I served nearly five years on the Planning Commission, assisted in drafting the View Preservation Ordinance, and I am now in my 4th year as a City Councilmember and the current Mayor of Laguna Beach.

Why do you want to serve on City Council? 

Like all of us, I love our town. In particular, as I have been the Mayor this last year, I have had the pleasure of meeting many residents, speaking to various groups around town and attending various functions. I have a good sense of what is important to residents in this town. My business background and extensive knowledge of city government give me a unique set of skills to provide thoughtful input and make sound decisions. We have many very talented people in this town, and if I am elected, I would like to engage more residents in city government activities who have not been previously involved.

What are the three biggest challenges facing the Laguna and how would you address them? 

Public safety: the number one priority of a Councilmember. My main focus is ensuring that we are doing everything to protect our community. I am looking forward to the addition of our new Park Ranger program, charged with monitoring our neighborhoods and beaches. We have new police officers joining our force in December. Note: Police staffing is challenging for ALL cities in Orange County.

Housing: The State of California has mandated that Laguna plan for 394 additional units. I think we can meet the requirements by adding ADUs, re-using or re-zoning existing buildings for housing and adding second stories to some suitable sites. We need to expand our resident base because nearly thirty percent of our 10,000 dwellings are at least second homes. A shrinking resident base is not healthy for our town.

Quality of life for residents: Keep our beaches and neighborhoods clean, work to reduce visitor impacts, continue our successful efforts to reduce homelessness (currently down 60 percent), provide desired community-based amenities at the St Catherine’s property and keep our town vital and functioning well.

What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna? 

Mayor Pro Tem Whalen and I are working on a parking master plan for Laguna, including enhanced mobility. Recently, we presented data illustrating where the town is particularly impacted, where visitors are coming from and where they go once they arrive. The next step is to match solutions with the problematic areas in town. More to come on this topic.

Please give your stance on Measures Q, R and S. Measure Q: I oppose it. It was not properly vetted and has many flaws, oversights and omissions. It was written by a handful of people without the benefit of land use experience. So what we know: (1) government buildings were not exempt. The proposed fire station in S. Laguna will have to go to the voters for approval, along with the uses for St. Catherine’s. (2) Q makes it much harder to open a business here; single proprietor businesses are the lifeblood of our commercial sector. (3) Requires more than 50 percent of the registered voters to approve a project, an almost impossible hurdle. I do not support either R or S. The City of Laguna Beach should have nothing to do with contracts or agreements between hotel management and labor.

If not elected, do you plan to stay engaged with the City?

If I am not elected, I will likely devote my time to climate-related organizations and issues.

Mark Orgill

About the candidate:

My formative years were in Upland, where my house-painting business (that I started when I was 14) led to a lifelong interest in design and creative spaces, for example, Seven Degrees in Laguna Canyon, which I (formerly) owned and operated. I’ve always been a self-employed entrepreneur involved with real estate, art, and nonprofit management.

What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served in Laguna Beach, if any?

During my 38 years in Laguna, I’ve been involved with a number of nonprofits and civic projects. More recent examples include developing student housing for the College of Art & Design and serving on the Community Clinic board. Years ago, I had an instrumental role in establishing the Civic Arts District. This campaign is my maiden voyage into electoral politics.

Why do you want to serve on City Council? 

We deserve the best from our political leaders and City Hall in general. The status quo — the general contentiousness, lack of clarity in specific policies, and lack of best practices in governance and municipal operations— is not consistently exemplary. That’s not good enough. I believe I’m well suited by virtue of experience, integrity and temperament to make a positive difference, should Laguna Beach voters elect me.

What are the City’s three biggest challenges, and what are your proposed solutions

(1) Smartly evolving while retaining the best of our small-scale, distinctive character. Solid starting points are strictly enforcing existing policies against over-development, encouraging artful and otherwise beneficial projects, cleaning up the city, and keeping safety the top priority.

(2) Finding more ways of doing more with less so we can afford prudent investments in new technology and environmental sustainability. This will be challenging and begins with public awareness. Additionally, it should start with tapping the rich talent in this community. We need to take a hard look at things while being driven equally by a sense of urgency, a desire for collaboration and consensus, and a relentless demand for excellence and continuous improvement.

(3) The increasing vitriol and herd mentality in our local politics threatens our local Laguna culture no less than the emotionally-charged and ugly culture wars across the country that undermines our national culture. It’s hard to address this without sounding clichéd, but I am profoundly disturbed by what’s happened to our once close-knit community, especially during the last four years. We all have some role to play in righting this situation. Voters can demand an end to it. Political leaders can step up and say enough. I say enough.

What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

We start by better managing identifiable pieces of the situation, for example, by designating spaces for seasonal festivals, major employers, merchants, and their employees. That would be a huge step forward, and then we’d be better positioned to understand what’s left to get our arms around, what the best mix of solutions is in terms of parking supply and moving people around. In South Laguna, there’s an obvious need for new parking options to ease the burden on the neighborhoods most affected by daily visitors and to lessen the public safety problem of pedestrians crossing Coast Highway. We obviously can work more effectively with the County and the Coastal Commission.

Give your stance on Measures Q, R and S. 

Voting “no” on all.

If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City? 

I’ve always been involved, so yes, I’ll continue to stay involved.

Jerome Pudwill

About the candidate:

I worked in land development and real estate and then later owned and operated an advertising agency specializing in land development. My first career was as a teacher of high school English and remedial reading. Years later, I taught at Chapman University while also serving as a marketing director for a wide variety of national and international clients.

What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served on in Laguna Beach if any?

I regularly watch City Council meetings to stay current with City government. I’ve worked closely with Laguna Residents First over the past three years. I was one of the key members of Councilman George Weiss’ successful election team. I’ve also been active for three years as a community watchdog on Nextdoor, posting alerts such as the one regarding the City Council’s attempt to blindside the public and possibly turn the library into a parking lot.

Why do you want to serve on City Council?

I feel developer money has compromised our City government. It is threatening our hometown charm and culture, plus it’s become unresponsive to residents’ needs. I look to restoring balance, transparency, civility and stability to the City Council by focusing on a residents first approach to government.

What are the City’s three biggest challenges, and what are your proposed solutions?

Re-establishing balance in the City Council by promoting a residents’ first form of government – one that looks at serving residents’ needs, not just those of businesses, developers and commercial landlords.

Restoring transparency and civility to the City Council by pressing diligently for clarity and public information regarding every questionable City Council and staff action.

Preventing overdevelopment and the loss of Laguna’s charm by holding projects to ordained standards instead of granting sweeping variances and special sweetheart backroom deals.

What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

At this time, I’m waiting to see what the City Council parking committee’s consulting firm will recommend. I am opposed to the Presbyterian Church parking structure – it would be way too costly, we’d never own it, we’d be splitting the profits and it would further promote traffic congestion in town.

What’s your stance on Measures Q, R and S. 

Yes on Q – As long as three developer-backed City Council members can override any ordinances regarding building size, height, intensity of use and parking requirements, Laguna Beach and its residents will be susceptible to overdevelopment. Q sets reasonable, compatible building standards that can help prevent overdevelopment. Because it gives voters a say in approving major projects with massive community impact, it becomes residents’ only insurance policy against overdevelopment. Developers and the City Council members they influence should not be the only ones who are deciding the future of Laguna.

No on R – Los Angeles labor unions should have no rights trying to control real estate use in Orange County, much less Laguna Beach. This should be left up to local jurisdictions.

Yes on S – Hotel employees deserve to be paid fairly and have safe working conditions.

If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City? 

Yes, but I have not fully decided yet in which capacity. I will undoubtedly return to posting on Nextdoor. There are several politically active civic groups I’m considering joining. And I will surely work as a marketing director and strategist for like-minded candidates in the next election.

Alex Rounaghi

About the candidate

Born and raised here, I attended Laguna Beach public schools before studying Government and History at Dartmouth College. In 2020, I returned home to Laguna and renewed my involvement in the local community. As a Policy Advisor for Supervisor Katrina Foley, I’ve gained a county-wide perspective and experience navigating bureaucracy to get things done. I grew up in South Laguna, where my parents live, but now live in an apartment in North Laguna.

What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served on in Laguna Beach, if any? 

Chair, Laguna Beach Housing & Human Services Committee, 2021-present

Parking, Traffic, & Circulation Committee, 2015-2016

Why do you want to serve on the City Council?

I love this town. As a lifelong resident, I’m running because I have the passion, deep community roots, and relevant experience to tackle the complex challenges that our community faces and retain the uniqueness that we all love about Laguna Beach.

What are the City’s three biggest challenges, and what are your proposed solutions?

Public safety, particularly fire prevention. Wildfire poses an existential threat to Laguna Beach. Two significant fires this year affirm the need to strategically leverage all city, county, state, and federal resources to mitigate this threat. I strongly support the 2019 Fire Mitigation Plan and want to underground the utilities on Laguna Canyon Road, whose proximity to our wilderness and one of our major thoroughfares makes them an unallowable risk.

Preserving the uniqueness of Laguna, especially regarding housing and the environment. Laguna’s small-town character, close-knit community, and natural beauty are its key features. We must ensure that our seniors, artists, and workers–the people who make Laguna what it is–can live and thrive here. We must also protect our beaches, trails, and open spaces, which face increased impacts from climate change and visitors.

Data-driven, community-engaged governance. We must make evidence-based decisions to safeguard taxpayer dollars and deliver real results for Laguna residents. I plan to implement performance-based budgeting, create a 5-year strategic plan for the City, and rely on local talent rather than wasteful consultant contracts. I want City Hall to be more strategic, efficient, and user-friendly.

What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

I am interested in advancing “complete streets” in Laguna. I’d do this by investing in zero-emissions public transit, including Laguna’s trolley system, which is a cultural icon of our community. I’d also explore creating a bus/trolley-only lane on Laguna Canyon Road, which is often heavily congested, so more visitors would park on the City’s periphery. We also need to explore improving our transit connection with the rest of the county to reduce the traffic impact of visitors.

I’d also facilitate other modalities within Laguna, like bikes and walking, and push for stricter rules around using e-bikes so that these can be a success rather than dangerous form of mobility in the City. On that note, the safety of pedestrians and transportation riders is vital. A recent death in our community reinforces the need to create safe pedestrian crossings and lower speed limits where it makes sense.

I believe that the City must update its Circulation Element of the General Plan–which hasn’t been updated since 1998–to develop a comprehensive parking, transit, circulation, and mobility strategy to improve our quality of life and reduce traffic. I also look forward to the Parking Master Plan.

Please give your stance on Measures Q, R and S. 

I am against overdevelopment, but I’m generally not supportive of ballot box planning. Measure Q (or R) is not the answer. Land-use policies and development regulations are complicated issues that require expertise–and, at times, flexibility–which is not conducive to complex ballot initiatives. If there are any changes to be made, they must go back to the voters–which leads to many unintended consequences.

I believe in representative government, where Councilmembers make responsible land-use decisions and approve projects that meet the community’s needs.

Measure Q is a result of people not feeling heard by their government. If elected, I will actively listen to all stakeholders and ensure that Laguna Beach remains the unique and special place we all love.

If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City?

Before I could even vote, I joined the Parking, Traffic, & Circulation Committee in high school because I wanted to advance solutions in the community I love. I have that same desire today, regardless of whether I hold an elected office. If not elected, I will continue lending my time to this special town as a volunteer and an active participant in our public discourse.

Louis Weil


About the candidate:

After graduating from Arizona State University, I worked as a sales manager for three consumer products companies for 15 years. Currently a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway. Over four years, I have completed north of $16 million in residential and commercial transactions.


What elected positions and/or appointed roles have you served on in Laguna Beach, if any?

Appointed Design Review Board – two terms – four years – chair two years.

Appointed Affordable Housing Task Force – Chair for one year.

Board Member of the Chamber – one year.

Little League coach!


Why do you want to serve on City Council?

The need struck me for new council members who could bring fresh thinking and a deep understanding of our town’s challenges. I feel that I have both to offer and a reputation for integrity, approachability, and teamwork.

Also, as the father of two young boys, I’m aware of the importance of maintaining Laguna’s unique characteristics in the future and building an even stronger sense of community. So you could say I’m running because of my kids. I love Laguna Beach, and I think we need more balanced decision-making at the Council level. Protecting our environment is also crucial. 


What are the three biggest challenges facing the City, and how would you address them?

Fire Safety is a priority. We must underground those utility lines. Also, we must properly equip evacuation centers. For example, the Susi Q needs a generator. Police, marine and fire departments must be fully staffed.

We must focus on infrastructure Improvements (from reliable electricity to bike paths and sidewalks and improved parks) – I’ll work with utilities and relevant groups to find the best solutions. Traffic and parking issues, of course.

Addressing the affordable housing mandate is a major challenge. I have experience in that area from my time on the task force. We need plans that ensure that affordable homes fit Laguna’s village character.


What are your ideas for addressing traffic issues, parking in Laguna?

As a community, Laguna Beach has historically been challenged by parking issues. There is no one size fits all solution, but there are solutions if we work together. One aspect I want to focus on is the interconnectivity of sidewalks, bike paths, and alternative modes of transportation. That’s good for the environment too. I’m supportive of the continued efforts for a parking master plan.  


Please give your stance on Measures Q, R and S. 

No on Q, R & S

No on Q because it is riddled with complexities in its 17 pages of red tape – 17 pages! The measure goes way beyond protecting against over-development and will damage our small businesses. The take-it-or-leave-it campaign approach completely disregards the public process, with only a few residents out of 22,000-plus involved in creating the measure. It’s simple if you do not understand it, vote No. 

No on R, because Measure R would create prohibitive regulations for hotels and resorts simply trying to perform regular and routine maintenance to their properties, which will significantly negatively impact the beauty and visual appeal of our cherished City. 

No on S, because this is not an employee initiative. Laguna Beach hospitality workers would have to pay over $1,000 a year in dues, and their monthly pay would be less than what they make today. In addition, Laguna Beach hospitality employees already have the personal safety alarms required in the measure, and they don’t need more restrictions on voluntary overtime. We must vote No on Measure S for the sake of all local hospitality employees.


If not elected, do you plan on staying engaged with the City? If so, in what capacity? Absolutely! I will remain active and involved in our community because young families need to be connected to the public process and represented. I want to give parents of young kids a voice, and I want to plan ahead to ensure Laguna is the best it can be for current and future generations.  

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  1. Peter Blake loves Laguna Beach, and we support his fight to make our community safer and better. Our family and friends feel that Peter is the best person for the job and deserves to be re-elected. I understand he seems rough to some to some softer people, but it’s worth fighting when you love something. Our family is more concerned with actions than words, and Peter’s record of delivering on his commitments speaks for itself. We are telling all our family and friend to bullet for Peter Blake.


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