Letter: First or Fiction


It is trick or treat time in our fair hamlet and from what I continue to read in our local papers, it seems that more tricks are being played than treats. The re-hash of elections past. The non- fact-based missives purported as absolutes is getting childish at best. I do believe that some of our neighbors, friends and fellow residents truly believe that there are not enough firewalls in place in city hall that oversee what can or cannot be developed in our commercial and residential zones to the point where they feel their “Beautiful Laguna overlay zoning district” is the only solution to keeping Laguna Beach safe and sound from evil developers waiting in the wings to intensify all land uses in more then 50 percent of town.

Let’s talk about development for a minute. We all love our theater. Thank you, Mr. Aufdenkamp! We love the Hotel Laguna. Thanks Mr. Underwood! We love the Coast Inn. Thank you, Mr. Smith! We love the Coast Liquor store. Thank you for your design, Mr. Abel. We also love the Heisler building, The White House and Pyne Castle! Guess what my friends, they were all developers and or designers of these great landmark buildings that we all cherish. Would any of these buildings be allowed to be built today here in Laguna? Would they pass muster under the new overlay zone? Would those visionaries of these landmark buildings be vilified as “evil developers” by those residents who want nothing more than to turn back the clock to some idealized time in our history? What would Laguna Beach be without these magnificent buildings? There is an old saying, “People don’t decide issues. They vote for the people who decide issues”.

Don’t like city council. Run for council. Don’t like planning commission? Don’t appoint them. Same with Design Review Board, etc. Let’s talk about fiscal impact of special elections. In the past five years there were roughly 18 projects and currently a dozen pending projects that would have to go before the entire community for an up or down vote. That is 30 projects! A rough estimate of the costs for these special elections in noticing, staff time, voter pamphlets could be up to $60,000.00 each election equating to $1.8 million! Who pays? Residents? Shop owners? Building owners? “Evil developers”? No one in their right mind looking at this additional financial burden to do anything in the city where it is already excessively hard to open a store, new business or remodel / build anything would ever think of bringing viable creative projects to town. New business / development need not apply says Laguna Residents First! We have plenty of firewalls to non-creative over-development: City council, planning commission, design review board, the building department, the fire department, and our coastal commission.

Laguna Residents First Initiative is an answer looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. Nobody on city council or any of the appointed oversight committees wants to aspire to be Huntington Beach or Dana Point. That is pure fantasy and fear mongering and is immature nonsense at best! Creative visionary solutions should be the goal. Not pointless initiatives proposed by the “Lingering Resentment Factory”.


Jorg Dubin, 45-year resident / Laguna Beach planning commissioner

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  1. There you go again Comrade. Repeating arguments you know to be false. Stating that 18 past and current dozen projects would run afoul of the provisions of the LRF Ballot Initiative has been refuted time and again. But, when its the “strongest” argument you’ve got, why let truth get in the way? Of those 18 projects that City staff flagged as likely to have triggered the BI 77% would not have triggered the BI, since the BI acknowledges historic/grandfathered and even the B.S. “”sidewalk cafe” parking credits. That leaves 4 that “might” have triggered due to height. Smart developers would have instructed their architects to modify the proposed projects so that height wouldn’t have been an issue.
    With all of your fearmongering about the number and cost of special elections, why do you fail to consider why, Newport Beach, in 21 years with a similar BI, has had only 3 special elections, and Costa Mesa, after 5 years with a similar BI, has had none?
    As for your flimsy “if you don’t like someone, don’t vote/appoint them” argument: pro-development electeds and appointeds (such as yourself) can do a lot of damage during their terms, especially when that damage is translated into physical buildings that last for generations.

  2. Blah blah BLOZD. Michael, why do you say other cities have similar ordinances when none of them are as granular and onerous as this? Seems like you have to play whack-a-mole every week when common sense opposition appears. How are you going to respond to Joe Hanauer’s guest column this week, you know, the guy who developed the Pottery Place, the model development that would pass muster, when he himself is against it and said he would never have developed it in the first place if the ordinance was in place. Go back and re-write it for justifiable mega-developments that would change the general plan or cause zoning changes only. Until then, you’ll continually be flat-footed on defense, continually getting threes dropped on you.

  3. “Don’t like planning commission? Don’t appoint them. Same with Design Review Board, etc.” I find these three lines of Mr. Dubin’s grossly misleading since voters NEVER get to vote for those on the Planning Commission nor on the Design Review Board. Positions on both of these commissions/boards is by vote by City Council. Remember your own experience? I’d also recommend a close read of the Ballot Initiative before posting false statements–that is unless your purpose is to mislead the public. The Ballot Initiative gives residents the opportunity to vote on jumbo commercial projects that exceed 22,000 feet (yes, that’s bigger than the Pottery Shack); worsens parking (see definitions) by pushing parking into residents’ neighborhoods; and combines two or more continuous lots into a single parcel exceeding 7,500 square feet while AT THE SAME TIME causing more than 800 average daily trips more than the previous businesses in that locale created. These rules have led to only 3 special elections in over ten years in Newport Beach and a possible first one in 2022’s normal voting period in Costa Mesa. Newport Beach’s and Costa Mesa’s similar ballot measures have not led to expensive special elections. …And, here’s more good news: If a special election needs to be run, the expense will be paid by the developer, not the residents or City.

  4. Blah blah BLOZD, Deborah. Don’t like the way the city is run? Have your husband appoint you to the Planning Commission. Then you can really freeze Laguna in time.

  5. To Mr Fried and all others who’s livelihoods depend on tourism and on “growing the pie” in terms of visitors to Laguna Beach. We expect all of you to oppose the ballot initiative, because it threatens your wallets. We’re happy to continually dispel the FUD and misinformation that you are spewing out in coordinated, bits & bites every week. Indeed, its easy to dispel the poorly formed and easily dis-proven FUD you generate. And guaranteed, folks see you for who you are…a money-motivated special interest; and who we are…resident tax-payers who are tired of picking up the bill for your financial self-interest and putting up with the lowered quality-of-life that your chosen business pursuits impose on us.

  6. And there is is, folks. An anti-visitor campaign clothed as an anti development campaign. How very elitist of you. One where even businesses designed for locals with be driven away and our little town will be stuck in a hopeless quagmire of decaying buildings and lifeless offerings. Must be so hard on you “putting up with the lowered quality-of-life that your chosen business pursuits impose on us.” Yes, that ocean and those canyons are the exclusive purview of those of us wealthy enough to live here. And please Michael, remind me again of how long you have endured such suffering here in Laguna?

  7. Billy Fried, You wrote such a lovely column about protecting the ocean in today’s issue “We are the Oil Turds” and bemoaned our society’s worship of Mammon (money) over care for the sea and our environment. Practice what you preach. Move beyond self-interest and protect our Laguna environment from jumbo development (versus reasonable development) and embrace the Ballot Initiative. Attend to Luke 16:13.

  8. And please Billy, remind me again how much money you make off locals? Your canard of the ballot initiative being against tourists is just that – a canard. We can live together but the town doesn’t have to operate for the benefit of tourists. The VAST majority of money the city generates is from resident taxes. Residents pick up the tab for all your lovely clients to come and use our beaches/parking/streets. You have a complete financial interest in getting more people into town so be honest when you slam those of us who want to keep Laguna resident centric and small town.

  9. Ok you got me. Busted. I’ve made millions shepherding a couple dozen kayakers a week here. See them spread out over the horizon like the tankers waiting to enter Long Beach? This isn’t a lifestyle business I engage in for the love of taking a few adventurous and active people onto our ocean and teaching them about our precious ecology so they can return as better ocean stewards from whence they came. To hell with that. I gave up the corporate world for the money and ease of kayak tours in a town where I can’t set up on the beach and literally have to lug them down from the street. I’m surprised more people haven’t quit their jobs to do this! I would put motors on our kayaks if I could so we could move more people, faster into our ocean. Like an assembly line of visitors, parking in our neighborhoods, defecating on our lawns. There’s just so much money in it. Michele you should come and join me. We could make so much money together. And you’d be so much happier and would perhaps stop losing your sh*t over, well, everything. Follow the money. It’s those kayaks right in front of you.

  10. And Deborah, you and your cohorts keep telling us the initiative will protect us against mega development. As I’ve stated in the past, I would support an initiative that was only about mega development and would require a zoning change or change to the General Plan. Like those other city ordinances you keep comparing us to. Sound idea. But why do you advocates never fess up to how granular and overreaching this really is? One that would scare reasonable, small scale projects away? An initiative that would stymie progress – and by progress I mean moving our town forward without abandoning its sacred and historic past. We already have more than enough regulations in town to make progress extremely difficult in the first place. And asking the public to vote on so many little changes is an onerous burden to all. Once again, the visitors will come. It’s how we move park them and move them through town that matters now.

  11. “Silly Billie” Fried: If you can’t have a decent, cogent point to make don’t you find it a little embarrassing by your sub sophomoric “blah blah …” opening to your your posts? No one wants to freeze Laguna in time. What many residents don’t want are the oligarchs continuing to intensify traffic, worsen parking and reduce our quality of of life without our having a voice in these decisions. And that is why the residents deserve to have the opportunity to vote for the LRF ballot initiative during the next election.

    Dubin tells us we can always vote the council members out of office. Does the US Constitution depend on what political party wins? Of course not, just as our city’s limits with respect to building heights, parking requirements, and other such matters should not depend on which group has the most resources to elect their candidates. And many are tired of the crony capitalism on which you and others apparently are hooked on. Isn’t a $20 million annual subsidy borne primarily by homeowners to support all of these tourists enough? Apparently not as the oligarchs’ city council members, the city manager and the city attorney are, as the community development director so correctly stated, “bending over backwards” to give special treatment to the oligarchs even to the point of violating the Brown Act to hide what should have been public information. And then vilifying the whistleblower in their attempt to hide the truth. Crony capitalism Laguna Beach style.

  12. Chris,
    Don’t like certain council members? There’s an easy solution: vote them out instead of burdening citizens with endless, onerous votes. It’s in the constitution. How’s that for a cogent point? And you are wrong – tourists subsidize us, and they are coming despite your best elitist efforts to stop them. https://www.lagunabeachindy.com/opinion-more-tourists-please/ So why don’t we focus on moving them in and around more efficiently with a 21st century multimodal transportation grid instead of an insidious plan to stop our little hamlet from progressing with new retail and service concepts?. One that will make it far easier for locals to get around as well. Problem solved. Next!

  13. Elected officials serve for 4 years between elections. As we’ve seen with Peter Blake, an elected can do a lot of damage during their tenure. Especially when that damage is in the form of permits for large developments or intensification that will last decades.

    Its also in the constitution that citizens may propose laws via the Ballot Measure mechanism. Look it up.

    And, for the 1000th time, tourists DO NOT cover the costs that they force the city to incur. They don’t, no matter how many times you claim that they do. The only tourists who cover the costs they force us to incur are those who overnight in hotels. That’s about 8% of tourists. The rest are a drain on the City’s accounts (i.e., on local tax-payers). The study:
    “Balancing the Costs and Revenues from Visitors to Laguna Beach”, by Thomas, Aigner, Danziger and McErlane (July 2017) showed that once the additional personnel costs are factored in, tourism costs the City about $20million annually. The study showed that Laguna’s public safety staff is about 3x’s a big as a similar sized-city that didn’t cater to tourists. Here is a link that will take you to the study:


    Tourist-focused business owners like Billy will immediately claim that tourists contribute to tax revenues when they buy meals, trinkets, rentals, etc., but they will fail to point out that for every $1.00 spent by a tourist, the city gets back $.01 (one penny).

    So, I know Billy hates math, but bear with me. $20,000,000 deficit due to tourism, divided by 6.3million tourists=$3.17 per tourist/day. Doesn’t sound like a lot. But again….math. How much in meals, tour/rentals, souvenirs would each day-tripper have to spend in order for the City to recoup the $3.17 it spends keeping them safe/streets clean/toilets repaired? The math says; 3.17/.01 = $317.00 each. Per day. Does anyone really think that the average day tripper is spending $317/day whilst they visit (and for a family of 4, that would be $1,268/day)? Now, since I believe in full-picture: since the City keeps a bigger percentage of parking fees; the $317 can come down if the tourist is paying for parking at a City meter. The best case is for a tourist to stay in a local hotel, because then the City keeps the entire 14% TOT (and hence, a visitor spending a mere $22.64/night at a local hotel has returned the $3.17/day locals spend on them). What you can see is that yes, having hotel-staying tourists can help. But not when they are outnumbered 20 to 1 by day-trippers.

    Visit Laguna Beach and every day-tripper focused business owner is doing local tax-payers a huge disservice and no matter how many times they float the myth that “tourists subsidize us”, the math shows it is simply wrong. They continue to float the myth to protect their selfish interests which allow them to keep the profits and force the liabilities onto local tax-payers.



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