The choice of a new city manager provides a wonderful opportunity as well as a quandary for the City Council as well as the many special interests in town. As the former chair of VisionLaguna2030 many years ago, I have something to say. Doesn’t everyone?
I had the opportunity to be a part of a community-wide endeavor. That effort, I believe, ultimately had a profound effect on understanding the existing and future issues that were facing our community 20 years ago. Early on, the Commission members agreed that the effort would be guided by facts and data. In a data-driven and data-accessible world, how are we making decisions now. It also became clear that regional population growth was going to have a major impact on Laguna Beach. Laguna leadership could plan for the future or let the future plan Laguna. Now, 20 years later, we face the results of timidity, complacency and lack of leadership.
Early on, when the VisionLaguna2030 Commission was formed, I traveled to Aspen to talk to their city manager. Aspen had just completed their own vision process and I wanted to get a sense of what they went through. Interesting to me was the theme of their finished report – “Aspen – A Messy Vitality”.
It took COVID-19 to create the Promenade and to allow restaurants to provide seating on the public sidewalks. Where is the vitality? The Irvine Bowl cannot even be used for nine months of the year.
We are now far from a community with a “messy vitality”. Equally important, our community is now impacted by noise, visitor traffic, auto accidents and serious pollution and trash.
The dilemma? Laguna Beach will always attract tourists and day visitors. One of the issues is what type of visitors do we want? Multi-day visitors who stay in the hotels, shop, and eat in the restaurants. Or the weekend and summer onslaught of day-trippers? But, let’s face reality.
The new city manager choice is a great opportunity to hire someone who not only has good management and leadership skills, but also has a vision and is not afraid to push the elected and appointed leadership into new areas. The pandemic will end at some time in the near future. Will we then be able to bring back the soul of the city?
Fred Droz, Laguna Beach
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