Letter: Developer Influence Looms Large

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Anyone who thinks Laguna Beach or any similarly prized community is immune from the shady shenanigans sixty miles to our north is terribly naïve.  Last week L.A. city councilman Jose Huizar was arrested on a charge of federal racketeering for using his position to accept bribes and other financial benefits in exchange for supporting several large-scale development projects.

An unprecedented and staggering $1 billion dollars plus in development projects are either under review or in the pipeline in our City. They include the Coast Inn, the Cleo Hotel, the Museum Hotel, the Laguna Arts District, Canyon Acres Housing, and the Hotel Laguna and Central Bluffs with likely more in the queue. Whether in Laguna Beach or elsewhere, developers and their attorneys wield tremendous power and influence, and they can be very skilled at lobbying and cozying up to city staff, commissioners, and elected officials. They are experienced at exhorting the need for concessions and variances and promoting how outsized projects can economically benefit a community despite inadequate parking, incongruous mass and scale, loss of view corridors, umbrella-blighted roof-top decks with restaurants and swimming pools, and a deleterious impact on adjacent neighborhoods. They have deep pockets and are experienced in the battle of attrition.

I need not remind Laguna Beach residents that this is an election year, and two City Council seats will be on the ballot. I urge voters to follow the money and keep close tabs on the source of political donations, sponsored fundraisers, or other perks that may be exposed during the campaign.  As has been said, “money is the mother’s milk of politics” and currying favor is the sport that developers excel in. When over a billion dollars in projects is on the table in a community of 24,000 people, it should rightfully compel our attention. This is not the time to be asleep at the wheel.

Randy Lewis, Laguna Beach

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