Letter: Promenade committee should include residents, business owners


Is the City Council majority tone-deaf? Or do they just not care about what residents want?

Mayor Sue Kempf has promoted the promenade since 2020 without giving residents an opportunity to provide meaningful input. This was repeatedly pointed out at the Jan. 23 city council meeting when 20 residents and business owners blasted councilmembers and railed against the two permanent city-defining promenade plans the council majority hoped to approve. Both plans called for removing virtually all existing Forest Avenue trees.

The promenade was imposed on residents, originally advanced without required public notification by Kempf and then-Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis as a temporary fix for four restaurants during Covid.

Part of their justification was based on a survey they took of Forest Avenue businesses (no residents) – a survey never revealed. No mention of how many businesses were surveyed, whether interviewees were landlords, business owners or salespeople, or what questions were asked. In short, no data, proof or evidence – just their word.

Two public planning workshops were eventually conducted. The first consisted of condescending questions such as, “Which style of garbage cans do you prefer?” That workshop ended in infuriated chaos. In the second session, the consultants basically said, “Here are two plans – pick one.” This approach has resulted in wasting a quarter of a million dollars on two unacceptable plans rejected in part by the overpowering public rebuke at the council meeting. Please see those comments at the 3:15 point of the Jan. 23 meeting, which can be found on the City of Laguna Beach website.

Despite having mismanaged the process, the council majority has appointed Kempf to head a new committee to review future promenade development with direction that’s supposed to include residents and promenade retail business owners. Yet Kempf is already espousing her plans and denying others when the idea of the committee is to solicit all possible solutions.

For instance, in the OC Register, Kempf stated, “We want the whole street designated for (liquor sales), where restaurants can serve alcohol without having to rope areas off.” Do residents truly want to turn the promenade into one big bar?

Councilman Weiss said, “The promenade has been in place for three years, yet we have no truly independent data on how many residents versus visitors use it, how long they stay, and what they do – much less its impact on sales.” (So much for data-driven councilmember talk.)

There is no way this “committee” should exist without independent residents and promenade retailers permanently serving on it – not just pro-business councilmembers and cherry-picked city staff designees.

Contact all councilmembers at [email protected] and tell them what you think.

Silence only encourages them to ignore you.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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  1. Jerome Pudwill, Sue Kempf’s statement to the OC Register about turning lower Forest into an outdoor bar shows that as a minimum she is uniquely unqualified to be on the Promenade Committee. She and Bob Whalen have wasted almost a million dollars on this extravagant giveaway to the four restaurants at the expense of the retailers who have had decades long establishments that the residents frequented. And there is another $5,000,000 and likely more to be spent. These retail establishments are no longer viable because of the lost parking. So they are leaving and of course through administrative approvals restaurants will be approved. Later these restaurants will apply for liquor licenses which will also be approved even though we have the highest per capita liquor licenses in the county. We already have the most DUI arrests of the 101 cities of comparable size in CA. Perhaps Mayor Kemps does not want to lose that distinction and therefore wants to turn Lower Forest into an outdoor bar. And who benefits? Certainly not the residents nor the retailers on lower Forest. Only those four restaurants and the building owners. Maybe I should also include the elected officials that get contributions from the restaurant owners which help them stay in power.

  2. Suicide is often referred to as a long term solution to a short term problem.
    The Promenade has become that long term solution, beyond its original temporary fix intent.
    There WAS a short term problem, i.e., getting people out of crowded rooms that were “spreader events” regarding Covid. Open air with a prevailing onshore wind accelerated (Venturi effect) through a constricted air space between buildings.
    Yes, HELP the few businesses but not ENABLE them to basically become permanent occupants, squatters in OUR version of HOMETOWN USA (Forest Avenue).
    Every time I go downtown at random hours, there’re few if any people in those cattle corrals. And obviously (DUH) during inclement weather it’s 100% barren of bodies. So it serves no year round purpose or function, eliminates a historical cut-through steet to avoid the backup at PCH & Broadway.
    The Forest Promenade usage isn’t even maximized, it’s about PROmoting, about people who think themselves kool wanting to be seen on the scene. As if their presence equals some kind of hip-happening.
    WE, the people (residents in general) didn’t acquire any benefit.
    Formerly, we went downtown in the am into early afternoon, were able to visit local businesses as they opened or casually socialize, get out before surrendering the late pm featuring tourists rolling in, taking over. We grumbled but vacated.
    And mind you, that was for only 3 months/year, rest of the year WE had OUR town, local businesses adjusted quite well or folded, just like any environs. It’s called capitalism, it’s competitive, that’s how it works folks.
    Nothing was really broken that needed this type of peacock-strutting fixing.
    The City illegally, illegitimately took OUR parking spaces, OUR sense of community but found THEIR workaround.
    The City took OUR Hometown USA feel with the quaint banners across Forest for local events, that long block of Laguna’s essence, its “time and place” character away from us.
    Why didn’t a group like Village Laguna file against the City for an “unlawful taking?”
    What’s to stop them or a coalition of NGOs to do so now?
    Nothing, just the will.
    It was and remains theft, Forest Avenue OUR public domain, OUR public easement, OUR property held in trust, in common.
    File in OC Superior Court and name the Coastal Commission as a party. Watch how soon the CCC rescinds, what’s wrong with at least trying to “Save Planet Laguna” from a business friendly, resident hostile Council?
    Grand theft of Property (Cal Penal Code §487) involves violations over $950 in value.
    Any journeyman real estate attorney in one of our Resident’s First extended family could file and plead that case, it’s neither expensive or rocket science.
    Then an OC Superior Court judge can decide, not that traitorous Council.
    For a few hundred $$$ to file, hasn’t THAT dynamic been on the table since inception years ago?
    Nearly 100 parking spaces in proximity to OUR preferred destinations unavailable (perhaps permanently) without compensation for damages to OUR quality of life and tranquility, that’s a type of damage, of a taking.
    Qui bono? (who profited and continues to profit?), certainly not the majority of the residents.
    What’s there now is ersatz, a manufactured sense of community like Disneyland.
    That there are holdouts is typical: These are people who aren’t in touch with OUR reality, OUR history.
    Forest is no longer genuine or authentically us….unless of course a person feels that herding people into a compressed environs for a few hours late afternoon or early evening, basically an URBAN habitat, is one’s idea of bliss.
    Conqueror’s always try to eradicate the vestiges of a former culture—which is what’s happened. Newer isn’t axiomatically better, only to those consumer society types, inclined towards disposing of culture as one does of carry out containers tossed into the trash.
    They allege that WE fear change? Sophistry, yes, and no, we don’t need your changes, but that isn’t fear. It’s knowing what we want.
    The Promenade is not only a visual blight but an insult to the majority of not just residents but the overwhelming majority of non-alcohol or food serving businesses on Forest.
    And who believes that those indulging in alcohol won’t have other substances in their bodies? With marijuana and now even psychotropics available, ever heard of the synergistic, amplified effects? Ask our LBPD, or MADD………where’re the cost or risk benefit analyses as they get in their vehicles and drive our local streets or major arteries?
    Can PCH or Laguna Canyon Road get any more hazardous, more dangerous?
    Or what about revelers who stumble into the OTHER, non-alcohol sales merchants stores?
    Great models for the young too, indulging those who can’t remain sober while in OUR public commons, huh?
    Last: Parking and traffic circulation are critical elements of any CEQA review. By eliminating Forest as a vehicular venue, the “queuing” (backing up Glenneyre) has increased.
    The same or more cars then “bulge” into adjacent streets like the 3rd Street hill. This ends up putting more of a burden on the streets that feed into Park Avenue too.
    So more smog in the central district bowl from idling vehicles, historical circulation patterns eradicated, and to benefit a handful of business owners who don’t even live here, do they?
    This is antithetical to encouraging locals to venture downtown and shop…what was once upon a time ephemeral (grid lock) is now systemic.
    Looked at ecologically, what was once foraging habitat for indigenous species year round residents) is gone.

  3. AGREE, “There is no way this “committee” should exist without independent residents and promenade retailers permanently serving on it – not just pro-business councilmembers and cherry-picked city staff designees.”

    Jerome, thank you. The current Indy POLL is on this exact resident input issue. A YES Vote is a vote for government transparency and public inclusion in all major decisions within our city.

    We should never accept elected’s internally controlling City infrastructure changes of this magnitude/cost and ignoring stakeholders. Whether you support or oppose the “Promenade” proposal isn’t the issue. The real issue is are you willing to accept any elected controlling monopolizing our city government processes and shutting out residents?

    Get vocal locals. Contact your elected’s: lagunabeachcitycouncil.net Thank you.

  4. What are the written project requirements for the Forest Promenade project?
    What are the success criteria and metrics to establish what a successful Promenade is?
    If the requirements are unknown the criteria not specified and metrics not collected, it matters little who directs the project and who participants are; city staff designates, residents or retailers.

    With no requirements Our “Promenade Committee ” doesn’t understand why we built the Promenade in the first place, this is the third Promenade floundering in execution because the baseline requirements are not specified much less understood. In May 2023 I wrote an open letter to Promenade Project Director Tom Perez expressing these concerns giving promenade goals, design elements and metrics, to date no reply was received.

    Successful projects demand requirements, criteria and metrics, the Promenade can be saved but not by Executive Order from a select “Promenade Committee” and city staffers.

    The Forest Promenade has several origins briefly:
    – 2001 Goal in the LB Vision Strategic Plan: “A Gathering Place”
    – 2008 Climate Protection Action Plan: “alternative to car transportation.”
    – 2010 Parking Day Demonstration: “Develop Community Space” https://lagunastreets.blogspot.com/2017/09/today-is-parking-day.html
    – 2020 “The Promenade Committee”: Permanent outdoor seating as response to Covid-19 pandemic.
    – 2023 Planning Workshop: “The Serpentine, The Broadway by RRM Design Group”

    Paris Barcelona and Boulder remove cars to benefit residents visitors and retailers, will Laguna be so bold? https://lagunastreets.blogspot.com/2022/11/postcard-or-post-car-laguna-beach.html

  5. Jerome you are so right. It needs to include residents and, gee, how about thinking of what residents want instead of tourists?? I totally support the idea of Forest Avenue that can be closed off temporarily. How about leaving it open daytime during the week for residents to use and then close it off nights,Friday – Sunday for special events, concerts, art shows, outdoor dining? That’s what George Weiss has suggested and what they do so successfully in Europe. It’s a great compromise – everybody wins. But doing this permanently with no data, no unbiased surveys and not giving people options is sheer folly. Heck yeah – kill all the trees. We don’t need them for shade, looks or history. Bah – who thought this was a good idea???

  6. Jerome, it’s not just that Kempf doesn’t care about what we want. She doesn’t care about us!
    Her plan is beyond reckless, it’s a death sentence.

    Pretty clear by the great comments above what is at stake. We have over 140 bars and restaurants sharing 170 Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses. We have the highest number of DUIs per capita among 101 cities closest in population in California per Chris’s comment. In our off season the city gets dark at 5:00PM. Interesting that so many locals, or visitors wear dark colors and walk in the evening here.

    When we return home from an LA trip some evenings after 9:00, or 10:00 we are so careful because walkers, J walkers, are so hard to see in the darkness of night. If Kemps’ death plan were embraced visitors, tourists or party peeps might say, “Hey lets go to Laguna tonight, get drunk/ hammered and walk around”, (are drunk) as walker’s and drivers, who is liable? If the city takes over 133, and parts of PCH who is underwriting city insurance? If I lost a spouse, or child to pedestrian drunk driving, vehicular manslaughter knowing what the promenade was to be under Kemp’s plan I’d litigate v. the city. Could I sue Sue?

    When the heck is this city council going to be audited, self investigated along with city departments so we get that transparent response Jerome is still hoping for? There is a list of questions as long as my arm that I wish we had answers to, that our city refuses to share with our requests.

    Bob, Sue, Alex, Mark shame on you for sitting idle. George supports what we want. God help this city. Answer our questions, self investigate NOW!

  7. Great idea, Billy. Invite every lush in the surrounding counties. Keep up the good work promoting everything that further demeans Laguna. You the man.

  8. This promenade WAS NOT built for the four restaurants, this was thrust upon them they had to make changes too..This promenade was a vision along with their group to add high end stores and some sophistication to the town by a departed CC member and a departed CM this was one of the goals and why residents were really not invited to the party but needed to pay for it, so the departed CM threw out a so called survey (*that we paid for) that simply asked us what we liked better for the promenade which I personally felt insulted by, Just letting you know how this came about..But I must say it’s presented many problems and on the other hand I think the idea of it being available Friday-Sunday evenings is a good one. Number #1 it’s a compromise , it allows for us to go down town during the week find parking and do our stuff. I think George Weiss and Michele have great idea’s, we could replace the corrals with small outside tables in the evenings and Benches it really could be done more of a European way and the residents can use this area again! the retailers would have more business and more shoppers…Other then that, all I can say is please, TERM LIMITS…..ASK TO PUT IT ON THE BALLOT.


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