Letter: Good Library News

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The City of Laguna Beach has not only signed a 25-year lease with the County to continue to run our beloved Laguna Beach library, but they have purchased the site for $4.29 million and all that money will go for refreshing and refurbishing the library as well as some renovations to the building. There’s more good news. The County will provide an additional $2.8 million from the County’s property tax revenues for these same needed updates. That’s a total of $7.09 million to renew our library at its current site.

All of this happened because of you, the residents of Laguna and our four city councilmembers who voted for the purchase and this 25-year lease. (Only Councilmember Peter Blake voted against it). On April 12, you showed up and spoke to keep our library at its current site rather than seeking an alternative location as was indicated in Clauses No. 9 and No. 14 of the City’s original proposed lease agreement. 1,496 of you signed a petition to keep the library where it is.

Many of you who couldn’t appear or speak in Council chambers on April 12 sent letters. Your voices were heard, and our council majority voted to keep the library in its current downtown location by the delightful Fairy Garden for 25 years per the lease with the County.

Thanks to your community input and the votes of our City Council our library will remain in the heart of our downtown for all of us with over $7 million dollars slotted for improvements. Maybe we can generate even more money for improvements with private funding from community donors as some Indy columnists have suggested?

Deborah Laughton, Laguna Beach

Editor’s Note: Deborah is the spouse of Councilmember George Weiss and Publisher of Methodology and Statistics of Guilford Publications, Inc.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Indeed a great outcome and many thanks to the many folks who let their voices be heard on the issue. Residents =1 / Developers = 0 (on this one).

  2. Shame on Laguna Residents First for completely torpedoing any shot at a real 21st century library by duping the public into believing there were only two options: tie the library up with a suffocating longterm lease with the petty bureaucrats from Orange County; or have the City Council demolish it to make way for a parking garage. Great job. By making up a completely phony narrative you have now saddled the next generation with an old and tired library that you believe simply needs a little “refresh and refurbish.”

    And dear Lord, Deborah, you act as if that money is a gift to us. It’s our money. And we should be stewards of it, like other smart towns. Because for the remaining 24 years of that lease we will be kicking in $2 million more into the County-wide system than we get back. That’s $48 million of our money that will be used for the “futuristic” convenience of having books delivered from neighboring libraries. In up to two weeks time! The least we could have done is enter into a 5 year lease with the County in order to evaluate the best path forward. But nope, in order to enhance the tired meme that our City Council is beholden to developers and wants to tear our historic core apart, your team drummed up some mass hysteria that easily tugged on people’s heartstrings: “Save the library from demolition.” About as difficult in gaining sympathy as clubbing baby seals.

    This is 1000% why Laguna Residents First and their Ballot Initiative cannot be trusted as the stewards of Laguna’s commercial and retail future. They want to freeze our town in a time warp based on some anachronistic notion that residents don’t dine out, shop, or want more pedestrian corridors.

  3. And thank you Michael Morris for the glorious tell: this was never about using this inflection point to imagine the best library possible for future generations, but instead some imagined competition between phantom pro development people who would tear down our library for a parking lot, and pro “freeze our town in time” advocates who create false narratives to try and subvert the democratic process of an elected city council. Laguna Residents First = 1 / the Rest of Us = 0.

  4. What a political con-job by George Weiss, Toni Iseman, Laguna Residents First, and Village Laguna!

    Rather than signing a 3-5 year lease while we explored our options, we signed off for 25 years and gave a bunch of Orange County bureaucrats control of the library we own. Why couldn’t we plan for a library that would best serve the next generation? Why couldn’t we explore the possibility of moving it to a better location? How bout St Catherine’s?

    Deborah, thanks for crediting me for standing up and not voting for this. I didnt succomb to BS from activists and Council gadflies who pressured my colleagues during an election season.

    Oh, and btw, I see that your husband’s bestie Miachael Morris tallied the score wrong. It should have read Residents =0 / Activists = 1

  5. Um, if you go to the OCPL (OC public library site) and then check those records with their head, you’ll discover, Billy, that $1.8 million a year is spent on Laguna Beach’s library from our taxes. I haven’t been able to confirm yet (as in two different official sources) whether there is a missing $200,000 (as in does LB really pay $2M/year in tax fees to operate the library?) or whether our total bill is $1.8M. I realize that cross-checking claims against data from public records is considered a waste of time per your postings, as you charged Michael Morris, who you accused in another posting as having too much time on his hands, by checking the accuracy of your claims. I realize that Billy is really writing editorials, which can consist of opinions versus actual facts, but he should try not to get so hostile when someone else does provide actual evidence-based data. The responsibility and privilege of a citizen of this great Nation is to dig for evidence-based facts—like all of us need to do when voting for candidates or Ballot Measures. (I recommend the League of Women’s Voters’ site and followthemoney.org as starting points).

  6. What a great outcome thanks to the residents who fought to save our library. And to George Weiss for showing true leadership by pointing out that this item was 1) originally simply placed on the Consent Calendar and 2) Had a staff report that unmistakably suggested moving the library and drastically reducing the terms of the lease. Many thanks to the council majority who joined Councilman Weiss in recognizing that our library and garden is a beloved centerpiece to our downtown. The LRF ballot initiative gives residents the right to vote on projects they certainly would want to if given the chance. But renovation of the library–as the tourist-based business owner above implies–wouldn’t apply. In fact, the ballot initiative specifically excludes remodel, repair or reconstruction of any existing building with the same size, height and type. Finally, outdoor dining and shopping in our pedestrian areas are welcomed. It’s a good thing NOTHING in the ballot initiative refers to outdoor dining, which is not considered floor space.

  7. Nice deflection, Deborah. Even if the cost is $1.8 million a year to run the library (as opposed to $800,000 as originally reported), that would still leave and additional $1 million on the table every year that we could’ve spent on ourselves instead of other libraries. But The real question here, which you continue to dodge, is why lock up a library we own with a 25 year lease with the County? If you are so data driven, why wouldn’t we have done a deep dive on how to best imagine a library of the future, instead of your husband and his supplicants exploiting fear and a false narrative that we would demolish the library for a parking lot and rush into a dopey long term lease? Where’s the fact driven logic on that?

    I tried reasoning with you and your husband and asked why couldn’t this be a bipartisan effort to manifest the best library possible? All it would take is to commit to keeping the library where it is, but revising the lease with the county to a shorter term. But you were so stuck in your dogma, and your perceived victory, that you just would not listen to logic. This is a devastatingly bad outcome for our community.

  8. Billy it’s baffling to me how you continually conflate everything. Keeping the library where it is does NOT mean that it can’t be reimagined, renovated and brought up to today’s standards. We do NOT have deep pockets from citizens like Newport does nor do we have a foundation. Keeping the library right where it is, getting the money to upgrade it and having the county run it with money we would be paying ANYWAY with our taxes seems like a smart thing to me. But you keep right on bleating about how horrible this outcome was. Apparently residents don’t agree with you or your buddy Peter Blake.

  9. In checking the records, it appears that the City’s earlier report that only $800,000 of our taxes were used to run the library was $1.8 million per the County’s records. (I understand that it’s easy to miss a number like 1 million when reading quickly 😉 ). Let’s play with some more numbers: What is the population of Newport Beach—does 85,239 residents ring a bell from the 2020 population records? Does that sound like the same number of Laguna residents who can fund a library the size of Newport’s as you suggested in earlier columns? I don’t think so since we have less than a third of the number of residents in Laguna Beach. Second, Newport Beach had some very large corporate and personal donors who helped fund Newport’s public library. While we don’t have any corporations the size of those in Newport Beach, maybe Billy could spearhead finding some large donors to add to our $7million library renovation kitty? I thought that was what he was suggesting in his push to revision the library.

  10. Deborah,
    You never know what kind of money you can raise from the private sector until you try. You should know that as a self-described “data expert.” But instead you opine that Laguna couldn’t fund its own library without the data to support it. That would never pass muster with a research firm.

    And that is why you don’t enter a long term lease. Not some rush to give the County a reward for keeping our library mothballed in time. Even if your $1.8m operational cost is right, we pay in $2.8m a year into the system. We can control that money ourselves, meaning we could pay off any loan to improve the library with that guaranteed funding.

    But please, to all of you who see this as such a win, explain why a 25 year lease is better than a 5 year?

  11. Why is this a win to keep the library at its current location for 25 years and operated by those expert in operating a free, public library? You’re kidding, right—or, you didn’t watch all the testimony from April 12 and the many letters. (Check it out. It’s all there on the City’s site.) We got $7 million to refurbish our charming Fred Briggs designed library in a central location that everyone can access with free parking below the library. Sure, we could use more money, so let’s get those who wanted to spend all that money on a private library to start adding to that $7M for renovations. As for controlling our City money, wouldn’t you rather see it spent on something like the purchase of St Catherine’s School where we might be able to have a municipal pool, skate park, concert venues, and more? Now, there’s a purchase you should be able to get behind. We’re getting more bang for our $7M from the County than we would funding an endless chain of library consultants and having to pay for staffing and running a library out of our City govt budget. Lastly, the County keeps track of how much money we pay into the system for the library, and it was $1.8M. As I said earlier, it’s easy to miss a million here or there when you’re reading quickly.

  12. It’s called taking control of our own destiny, Deborah. Those “expert in running a free, public library” have run ours resolutely into the ground. It’s a sad, tired anachronism that is now a homeless hangout because it’s not being used by the public.

    We must be masters of our own destiny and not rely on county government bureaucrats to imagine and manifest a library of the future, one with real learning pods, media labs, recording studios, music production, film editing, all the things that activate youth today. Add to that interactive children’s learning installations, vast digital archives, a ground floor performing arts / movie theatre, a newsstand, and a rooftop cafe with a beautiful view of Main Beach. Think the County is capable of any of that?

    To abdicate one of our cultural Crown Jewels with an epic location to the County for the next quarter century without a thorough evaluation of its full potential just demonstrates zero vision for our town.

    Shame on Laguna Residents First for their war on civic progress and evolution, and the false narrative on development that will keep us mired in mediocrity and decay.

  13. Claims without evidence are called opinion or hype in the academic publishing world. Does anyone wonder when the last time Mr. Fried checked out a book from Laguna’s library or attended one of the wonderful family events there? Let’s congratulate and celebrate the many people who support and visit our library, and showed up to keep it where it is. You patrons DO know of what you speak and write.

  14. Does anyone wonder when the last time Ms. Weiss visited a modern library outside of town to understand what’s even possible?

  15. Since I have a library card to Newport Beach’s library and am a “paying donor”; Redondo Beach’s public library; and, a card to LA’s main library branch, I have some basis for comparisons of libraries and the population sizes that can fund different types/sizes of libraries. Do you have that data, Billy, based on population size and costs for various sizes of libraries? I was recently at Uppsala University’s Carolina Rediviva library, which was founded in 1620, and expanded in 1841. The latter is on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, but I suspect Billy would consider it tired and shoddy 😉 since it isn’t a “modern” building. Can’t Mr. Fried accept the testimonials of hundreds of residents (and visitors) who love our local Laguna library? Read what they wrote before criticizing our library, which it sounds as if you don’t frequent, and maybe it will open your heart to what others cherish in our wonderful community.

  16. You mean the hundreds of people who were duped by your husband and Jerome Pudwill’s mendacious post on Next Door that the only way to save the library from demolition was to sign a long term lease with the County to operate it? Since that lie has been debunked over and over and we all agree it should stay where it is, let’s poll them again on whether they prefer a restrictive long term lease with the County (those merchants of mediocrity), or whether we should enter into a shorter, 5 year lease with them while we evaluate all options for the future. Not even you or your husband could logically prefer a long term lease since it makes zero practical or objective sense. There is simply no way to justify such a boneheaded move unless your only motive is to proclaim victory over some phantom nefarious plot to replace the library with of all things, a parking lot. You might as well have said a nuclear waste facility.

    This is once again proof of why the Laguna Residents First BLOZD (Businesses Leave Overnight Zoning District) ballot initiative will turn Laguna into a zombie apocalypse instead of the vibrant, creative, progressive community that is its destiny and DNA.

  17. B. Fried. Thanks, I didn’t know Councilman Weiss and our new city council candidate Jerome Pudwill had such power and influence over the general public. This credit speaks quite highly of their leadership abilities. Clearly, smart and informed LB stakeholders are listening to those they trust and rejecting the Liberate Laguna Forward PAC pro-development and businesses only group.

    It’s impressive that these two even got Mayor Kempf and Mayor Pro-tem Whalen on board to vote in support of the Library and the 25 year county lease and neither of them are associated with LRF! Congratulations Weiss and Pudwill!

    Jerome, you along with candidates Flores and Orgill will be the Dream Team who brings back Laguna’s civility, quality of life and pride and who will protect our city from over-intensification and over-development. You can put a stop to the sell-out mentality by the business interests located in our town. Support the community of people of all ages who values our beautiful coastal town and don’t want to see it, our hills and waters turned into 24/7 entertainment Disneyland to accommodate outsider feasting. Let’s leave that to Anaheim.

    Thanks.

  18. Um MJ, try and stay on topic. What possible reason would you posit to sign a 25 year lease with the merchants of mediocrity over a 5 term lease while we evaluate the best path forward? Seems like none of you can answer that. Only deflect and obfuscate. Yes Pudwill and Weiss did a fine job of keeping us frozen in time with a dopey long term lease without thinking through the consequences.

  19. Would it be possible for Mr. Fried to provide specifics as to what he thinks makes the Orange County library system mediocre as well as what specific collections are needed at the Laguna library? There are industry publishing and library peer-reviewed journals that include information on recommendations for city population side, purchasing patterns, and collection mixes. For example, e-books barely comprise 10% of book sales in the industry, and guess what the biggest sellers in e-books are? Bodice rippers. Craving a new romance novel read, Billy 😉 ? I would also strongly recommend you talk to some experts, such as our local librarians. Talking to the experts is always a great place to start in addition to reading the studies in library science. And, for some real heartfelt stories, read the April 12 City Council letters and testimonies from residents to get a bead on how our community uses the library, and what they want versus a Billy-Fried-personal vision of what our residents want in our library.

  20. Would it be possible for Ms. Weiss to actually disclose what those 50 letters of support were based on? I looked, and they were all written on the false narrative that the library would be demolished and replaced with a library. I would have written a letter too if that were the case. But it wasn’t. It was a false flag. So let’s poll the city again and see if they prefer a shorter term lease where we can investigate best options for a library over the next 25+ years, or stick with an onerous 25 year lease where we donate at least $1 million a year into the black whole of a County-wide library system. Do I know what the best path forward for a library should be? Of course not. I leave that to the experts. Have I seen libraries in other communities that are way more vibrant than ours? That have interactive, experiential learning vignettes for children, media snd digital labs for teens, meeting spaces for adults, performing arts theaters, rooftop cafes? Of course. You don’t need to be an expert to look at our library and say it’s tired, hasn’t been improved in years, is underutilized, and a magnet for the homeless. And by the way, there are 160 signatures on my petition that say we should enter into a shorter term lease (https://chng.it/CYgPngzBgQ) more than spoke at Council and were misled by your husband and Jerome Pudwill because of their punitive battle with the three council people who want to progress our town forward, and explore all options before entering into dopey longterm leases with those merchants of mediocrity, the County of Orange.

  21. B.Fried – Re: Library Acquisition and Lease: I believe I am on topic in my comment above and I very much appreciated you pointing out that our newest council candidate Jerome Pudwill and all of our city council members (minus Blake) agreed with residents/taxpayers that the Library was important to our city and the long-term lease equally as important to keep current and future pro-development officials from repurposing the site for a parking structure or who knows what else. The five year lease you promote allows a pro-development council majority time to plan for its removal and possibly sticking residents with a long-term parking structure debt that businesses get for free.

    You seem bent on bashing the public library system and the people who use it but you offer no facts and statistics. BF, it’s ok we disagree. The deal is done and the majority of decision makers and residents are satisfied with outcome. I hope you can let it go.

    That said, why be condescending to others who disagree with you? Just listening to you go on and on here and in your columns ( Full disclosure: I don’t listen to KX Radio), I have to say, I’m starting to agree with Peter Blake (yikes, is the world coming to an end?) who told you publicly in the Indy comment section a couple years ago “Billy, nobody gives a S___ about what you have to say.” FYI – I have this classic verbal exchange between the two of you on my blog Lagunabeachchat.com and consider it priceless Laguna entertainment. BTW – I did agree that you owed the community an apology for using your KX radio position as a platform to get him elected and feel you are partially responsible for the civic discourse and deterioration in our city since 2018. Thanks for recognizing how unfit for public office Blake is though and offering and apology. Please don’t make the same mistake in 2022. Thank you.

  22. MJ, we seem to be living in two different realities. I just got out of 72 degree, sparkling clear water, where I body boarded, swam and snorkeled amongst some of the most vibrant marine life I have ever seen here. Then I jumped on my bike, road through town in some of the most glorious weather on the planet, stopped for a healthy bite, and headed home. The whole village is beautiful, with quaint, unique shops and restaurants. Our neighborhoods glistened in the sun, with amazingly diverse architecture with a shared love for flowers and shrubbery. Just glorious. Later on I’ll take a hike in our 25,000 acres of protected open space, followed by free music at Festival of Arts (for locals). Man I love this place.

    Then I read you blog and it looks like we live in Russia, with corrupt autocrats enriching themselves by bulldozing our town, with nefarious plans to destroy our city. It’s all dark, morose, and cynical… corrupt officials, corrupt city workers, malfeasance at every turn. Unbelievable that someone with such good fortune to live here could be so pessimistic about our town. Please don’t dwell in the darkness. Life’s too short. Get out there and have a little fun. The town will be just fine.

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