Last November, I, along with 7,033 other Laguna residents voted to defeat Measure P, the undergrounding of select groupings of utility poles in the canyon and city. Measure P, championed by members of city council and city staffers, was defeated at the polls with a 53.85% NO vote. How is it that just eight months later, council members negated the will of the people, an election,and “conceptually agreed” to the spending of $168 million for supposed “fire mitigation measures,” $140 million of which is targeted for undergrounding utility poles in the name of fire safety? Included in this “conceptual vote” is $23 million of approved, current spending.
Obligating residents to any such massive spending proposals should require input from the residents. The Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report, finalized in July and voted on by city council two weeks later, is a massive report. July and August are traditional vacation months with residents busy enjoying the summer, traveling and preparing to send graduates off to college. Yes, I do question the timing of the release of the report and date and time the report was scheduled as a council agenda item. We deserve better representation from our elected officials.
Fire safety is critically important, and we and the city should be prepared. But is the price tag prudent and necessary? Maybe the grab bag of suggestions needs to be pruned? I invite you to read the report, it is interesting. Many of the recommendations appear to be prudent, cost effective and of high priority. But others do not appear to be as cost effective or necessary, and some are redundant.
As I drive the streets of Laguna, I see trees growing into the power lines and I wonder why this is allowed. If fire mitigation is of paramount importance, why isn’t every power line along Laguna Canyon Road and the city freed of vegetation? Seems a simple and inexpensive step would be to prune city trees and require property owners to prune their overgrown trees. Cutting the dead grasses and creating a 10-foot safety break next to Laguna Canyon Road would also mitigate fire danger. Some fire safety is simply common sense.
The city has a year-over-year unfunded and increasing pension obligation, an aging infrastructure, parking issues, a need for sidewalks and increasing traffic congestion. Solutions to these and many other issues must be found and will require the use of financial resources. Where will the money be found?
Robin K. Hall, Laguna Beach