Letter: Ballot Initiative – Encompasses Too Much


There is a lot to digest within the Laguna Residents First (LRF) Purposed Ballot Initiative and its impacts are still unclear. I have researched this initiative, others like it and have sought advice from professionals to understand it further. It’s very complex in nature and I still have questions, as I’m sure others in the community do.

As proposed the Initiative’s “Beautiful Laguna” Overlay Zone could impact over 7,000 parcels along Coast Highway and the Canyon Road (50%+). This sparks the questions—does this zone encompass infrastructure projects, parking structures, city buildings, fire stations, schools, condo buildings, apartment buildings, affordable housing project, and commercial buildings?

What specifically is enhancing Laguna Beach’s beautification or is it simply tightening the reigns on any development? How many projects would have been affected in this scope over the last few years? 5, 10 or 20 plus projects?

“Building height” has been used as a major point of discussion within the initiative. I and most residents can agree that the 36-foot mark and other codes heights have been a staple of the building code that has helped keep Laguna’s character and charm. In my dealings with the height code, I found our municipal code to have some elements of code collision that do need additional clarity. The proposed initiative does attempt to offer clearer definitions to the finished floor, natural grade, and finished roof height as starting points for the 36’. However, it doesn’t address many code sections, and, unfortunately, the proposed initiative would not create a situation to assure a rational 36′ height restriction. If this initiative passes it will have a similar effect to Dana Point’s Measure H leaving language left up to staff and lawyers to interpret. Which is why, the typical process for amendments would include staff analysis and property owners and community comments. As proposed, the Initiative only takes the sole perspective of the leaders of the Political Action Committee – Laguna Residents First, excluding all others from the process of helping craft a workable document.

I find this proposal to be too impactful, casting a net that is too large and with too many unintended consequences. The Initiative includes language and definitions for “Major Remodel”, “Cumulative Effect” and “Average Daily Trips” which contrast and complicate the development standards and needs further professional evaluation. The definitions stated within the Initiative were clearly copied from our neighboring cities such as Dana Point (Measure H) and Costa Mesa (Measure Y). Those measures have acted as a moratorium, stopping potential projects from being proposed and forcing many sites to be left empty and unchanged.

In conclusion, I am still looking for more reasonable information on the impacts of this Initiative, which is why I tuned into the Tuesday City Council Meeting (Items 16) to hear more of the city’s analysis of this Initiative.


Louis Weil, Laguna Beach

Editor’s Note: Louis is chair of the Laguna Beach Design Review Board

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