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