Letter: Please Read the Ballot Initiative Carefully

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I am writing to share my concerns as a resident. It has been brought to my attention, that prior to a community event, a councilmember was actively petitioning residents for signatures on behalf of the Laguna Residents First (LRF) Political Action Committee (PAC). This action poses two questions. Is this a conflict of interest due to that councilmember’s public role? What is the initiative?

Although wearing a LRF PAC logo T-shirt and carrying a clipboard may not be illegal, these actions should be concerning and viewed as a potential conflict of interest. It is one thing for a councilmember to bring items forward directly or endorse elements involving the community, it is another for that councilmember to be advocating directly for a PAC.

This Founder Emeritus clearly is not Emeritus. This is not the first time this councilmember made his decision prior to a public hearing. Could this be grounds for recusal if relevant matters from the PAC fall before City Council?

The Laguna Residents First PAC ballot initiative recommends further restrictions to the development standards for size, parking, daily trip counts, and more. If updates are needed these changes should be vetted through the public process. It appears that this initiative is being proposed without public, city staff, or professional input. The initiative has serious implications for Laguna Beach’s vibrancy and vitality. Please read the fine print prior to signing.

My understanding of this initiative is that the organizers of the PAC believe this is the only way to “Save Laguna Beach.” By purposing this to keep life and business frozen in a time capsule… as fear of change may be damaging. The stance of, “build nothing, change nothing” is likely not the correct position. The PAC is even positioning this as way of “Beautifying Laguna.” To my knowledge, nothing in the document involves beautification, design, architecture, or even landscaping.  Instead, it exposes the clear intent for a PAC to assert unnecessary controls on our community. It therefore bypasses our elected City Council leaders, staff, standing policies, and public opinion for future decisions.

This proposal will also further complicate our already complex general plan, LCP and municipal codes. It would not fix them or help create a better Laguna. The overlay zone could impact over 7,000 publicly- and privately-owned lots and may conflict with state law. This could potentially lead to greater controversy, delayed permits, taxpayer confusion, and litigation.

In 2014, the City of Malibu passed Measure R, a voter-based initiative that would restrict development of large-scale, mixed use commercial developments of over 20,000 square feet, with voter process. Three years later, the courts overturned their initiative, costing Malibu increased staff time and legal fees. The residents clearly ended up last in this scenario, not first.

I strongly believe that making development changes to Laguna Beach’s commercial and residential properties takes a delicate balance. This balance includes the voices of all property owners, neighbors, staff, and community members. This process must be transparent and involve the entire community. All residents should be heard in creating the Laguna Beach vision.

Again, please read the initiative carefully.

Louis Weil, Laguna Beach

Editor’s Note: Louis is chair of Laguna Beach’s Design Review Board.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. The cloak of nobility hiding in plain sight here. Developers do as “we the people want and need”. And then they stage mass exhibits to prove ‘the people need it’. Example: The Montage where the DRB extorted a parking gargage and huge park and hundreds of thousand in local art because some developer had the audacity to want to build a five star resort on a trailer park. You people who fail free market tests are utterly miserable liars and they make medicine for that now.

  2. Mr. Linden?
    I think your memory isn’t quite accurate?
    I was a part time consultant in charge of environmental compliance issues, basically housekeeping at the future Montage site while under construction. I only worked for about 4 hours each week (Friday am) but was onsite for the duration until opening.
    I was hired by the CEO of The Athens Development Group himself, Kim Richards, in person actually a pretty interesting guy to become acquainted with frankly.
    Knowing my background in local hillside and bluff construction (both residential and commercial), he had faith that even though just entering the eco-protection field professionally (2000), who better to walk the site once/week for a few hours, fine tune the site, than strident NGO leader of emerging watchdog CLEAN WATER NOW (Established 1998)?
    Over 20 months, not one legitimate squawk, not one day lost. So I earned my keep, not by ignoring but rather proactively reaching out to the contractors because I spoke their lingo.
    I point all of this out because you’ve incorrectly described what happened there: The frontage public park (and if memory serves) the subterranean public parking structure at the south end cost ≈$10 million, paid for out of OUR pockets, residents, taxpayers, NOT the ADG’s pockets.
    Go back into media and LBCC archives, it was the ineptitude of former CM Ken Frank and our CA Phil Kohn who failed to read the fine print in the land use agreement. The park and structure were supposed to cost ≈ 1/2 or less of that but if I remember correctly it had to do the wording about excavation/grading costs?
    No one extorted anything, and because of OUR City Hall incompetence we the sheeple had to cough up millions more than staff projections.
    I don’t blame Kim or John Mansour (his VP) or any of them. 20 years ago it was openly divulged that it was a “rube, naive” CM & legal counsel that messed up–with OUR money.
    And even though Morris Skendarian & I had a parting of the ways over subsequent re-development Project (The Pottery Shack), I thought he did pretty good job for the ADG, BEFORE the resort became the Montage.
    Originally it was to be a 4 Star (Marriott?), financed by a Merrill-Lynch investment group, not Conde Nast 5 Star that most of us can’t afford.

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