Letter: Regarding the MacGillivrays’ Offer to Save the Digester

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It seems that the city administration is not interested in preserving a building that is emblematic of the suffering that our nation endured during the Great Depression, but more importantly, how the nation came together and overcame the this tragic era. Barbara and Greg MacGillivray made a generous offer of $500,000 to preserve the building which would involve incorporating a small restaurant, a parking lot and restrooms that would demonstrably be of benefit to the city. Unlike others who have projects and are asking for variances because of questionable public benefits I don’t believe they are asking for any variances. The $500,000 would be combined with the $1.5 -$2 million cost to demolish the building, add bathrooms and parking spaces. This would thus save the Digester building, an important part of our history, and result in a demonstrable public benefit to the city. A win-win scenario.

Rather than thanking the MacGillivrays for their generous offer to save an important part of our history, the city manager sent a letter demanding that in less than two weeks they answer a series of issues that normally take months to prepare, because it appears he is anxious to have the item on the Feb. 25 agenda for discussion. Why is the Feb. 25 date so sacrosanct? The Coast Inn project was pulled from the council agenda for an additional two-month delay. The Digester building has been standing for more than 80 years, so surely there is no critical schedule for its final disposition. The question that should be asked is who, if anybody, reviewed the flabbergasting response to the generous offer? If this is a sample of the city manager’s exercise in judgment and management skills for which he was given an extra raise, then we need to hold those responsible for this largesse of our tax dollars accountable. Clearly their curious agenda with respect to the Digester building is diametrically opposite of most of us who value and want to preserve our legacy. At some point I hope that the residents of Laguna Beach will, like the anchor newsman in the movie, “Network,” collectively say, “We’re mad as hell, and we won’t take it any more!”

Chris Catsimanes, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thanks for the information Chris. Is there a copy of the City Manager’s letter? I would like to read it in its entirety. As for the demands imposed on the MacGillivray’s proposal, I agree, what could possibly warrant such a rush? And, quite frankly, with all the money spent on consultants analyzing the digester and the village entrance options and impacts over the years shouldn’t staff be able to answer most of the impact questions? This is a City owned asset. The City should be responsible for examining and exploring how this generous private proposal works or not and if it benefits the community. If our City Manager and Assistant City Manager’s can work directly with the Laguna Company of their private construction projects, why not spend some time on the private Digester proposal?

  2. The McGillvrays had plenty of time to formulate an offer as the digester issue has been out there for way over a year. History is, they tried to buy/lease Hotel Laguna. They did not succeed. Why? Low ball offers. It looks like they are willing to take minimum risk for maximum return. What exactly are the proposed lease terms they are offering?? That’s the main ingredient in this offer and I have not seen it publicly yet. Time to get on with this. Always foot dragging and delay in the City. Same parties always objecting. Why, the tree in front of City Hall was dead. No, can’t just cut it down before somebody gets injured; we have to retain multiple arborists etc. How much taxpayers monies were blown? Lots. Move on City Hall.


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