Letter: Laguna at a Crossroads


Considering this council’s sweeping revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) last year, the decision to oppose the LRF ballot initiative is sadly, unsurprising. (City Council Opposes Ballot Initiatives, July 15, 2022)

Bit by bit, the council majority is chipping away at longstanding guidelines while substituting weaker provisions. For example, just 10% open space is called for with the use of courtyards in the city’s new proposed ordinance/ballot measure. This is instead of the current (and far more robust) ground-to-sky open space requirements in the municipal code.

Attempts to hide a building’s mass with varying roof forms, different paint and assorted exteriors won’t make an imposing building any smaller. Few residents even realize that height changes in the revised DSP now permit an additional story to non-historic buildings downtown.

The DSP’s relaxed parking standards don’t help the average resident, either.

This fall, voters have a chance to correct the path this council is on by voting yes on the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative. It will give residents the right to vote on development projects that exceed reasonable parameters. Please visit lagunaresidentsfirst.org to learn how project size, traffic, parking, height limits, combining lots, and cumulative effects impact our quality of life.

Trish Sweeney, Laguna Beach

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  1. Same old fear mongering and tired non-factual statements. The LRF initiative is a solution looking for a problem. Stopping time and creative vision only leads to blight and a continuation of outdate policies. Hello, we are well into the 21st. century! Time to act like it….

  2. The relaxations are in service to 2 objectives championed by developers and existing landlords: 1) bigger new commercial development and 2) intensification-of-use of existing commercial properties. (1) gets most of the attention, given the overblown & half-baked proposals coming from the Laguna Beach Co. But I would argue that (2) is equally damaging to Laguna’s charm and residents’ “peaceful enjoyment”. Given the relaxed standards embodied in the revised DSP, landlords will be looking for higher rents, rents that typically cannot be sustained by resident-serving, non F&B businesses. These higher rents can most readily be afforded by alcohol-serving businesses. So we’ll see the steady conversion of more retail spaces to bars/sports bars etc. Fort Lauderdale-west is the most likely outcome, instead of “Rodeo Drive on the Ocean”, as some proponents of these intensifications claim.

  3. Let’s stop the rhetoric stating that downtown has no resident serving businesses. Let me list. Multiple dry cleaners, vets, urgent care, doctors and dentists, hardware store, multiple florists, grocery store, multiple banks, insurance offices, real estate offices, auto servicing, printers and notaries, a cobbler, a pharmacy, meeting space, massage and physical therapy, a senior center, churches, a library, and that was off the top of my head. Please stop the rhetoric about resident serving businesses downtown.


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