The vested interests of developers and their acolytes have been in high dudgeon in the pages of The Indy lately, both in the letters to the editor and guest opinion columns, railing against Laguna Residents First and the ballot initiative that would give us property taxpayers a bigger voice in large-scale commercial development downtown, along Coast Highway and Canyon Road. All of which in total leaves me thinking “they doth protest too much.”
Most recently letters from Jorg Dubin (“45-year resident and Laguna Beach planning commissioner”) and Louis Weil (Chair of the Design Review Board) argue that there is already adequate oversight of proposed developments and the LRF initiative would merely add a burdensome new step in the process. Humbug, say I, these people are merely feeling that their personal fiefdoms are under threat from us newly upstart taxpayers.
Similarly, Joe Hanauer and his 24-signature letter to the City Council exhorting them to pay more attention to residents’ input on matters of development are already too little too late. The pro-development PAC Liberate Laguna (recently re-branded as Laguna Forward) have demonstrated that their money is quite capable of stacking the deck on a city council that seems quite willing to give developers a break if they beg forgiveness rather than ask permission for their plans—and will even do so in clandestine “closed sessions.”
One consistent thread in the anti-LRF arguments is that what has happened in Huntington Beach and Dana Point “could never happen here” and all that the pro-development crowd want is a “more vibrant” downtown. Really? What developers really want is to simply make big bucks and never mind local residents who will be inconvenienced by more traffic, more gridlock, and more visitor parking spilling into residential neighborhoods. And what exactly is a “vibrant” downtown? I have yet to hear this nebulous concept defined unless it means keeping bars open and liquor flowing until the wee hours.
Let’s be clear about one most important thing: the City of Laguna Beach derives two thirds of its annual revenues from residential property taxes. Yes, we want a greater say in proposed commercial developments in our unique little beach town, damn right we do; we pay the bills around here and we demand it!
Paul Holmes, 40-year Laguna Beach residentView Our User Comment Policy