Letter: Reports of Village Laguna’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated


Michael Ray’s Feb. 19, 2021 column talks about Village Laguna as having had power and according to Mr. Ray is now losing it. Village Laguna is an organization made up of Laguna Beach residents and it’s the residents that have the power not the organization, but Mr. Ray is wrong and Village Laguna is not going anywhere.

If anyone needs to worry about demise, it’s the political action committee Liberate Laguna. In 2018, they spent over $150,000 from about 14 contributors of mostly developers many of which were from out of town and we have them to thank for Peter Blake. During the 2020 election, they spent a little less than $100,000. According to Liberate Laguna’s final disclosure statement Michael Ray contributed $57,000, Sam Goldstein $28,000 and Cindy Shopoff $18,500.  If you do the math, that totals $93,500. It’s basically a three person PAC. 

I found Michael Ray’s recent column full of what I call Ray facts. Village Laguna never opposed the Promenade and has not taken a position on the Theater although I’m sure most of us want to see the best historic remodel possible. Village Laguna has taken a strong position on the historic preservation ordinance and we’re hoping to see it revised, not gutted. There’s a reason many of us moved to Laguna Beach and why we get over six million visitors a year. Our historic homes are an important part of the ambiance that makes Laguna special and they are worth preserving.

It’s obvious that Mr. Ray and his cronies don’t know the meaning of village character or why it’s important to maintain, but most Lagunans do and feel that it is being threatened. That is why membership in Village Laguna has been increasing.

Yours truly,

Johanna Felder, Laguna Beach

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  1. Johanna, I thought you retired? Isn’t Anne Caenn a skilled enough liar to take over the reins of Village Laguna’s propoganda? Maybe she needs more training? How bout a mind-numbing monotone voice like yours?

    We all know that Village Laguna has held power in Laguna for the last 50 years. Between your lapdogs on City Council, henchmen on appointed commissions like DRB, Planning and Heritage, and your iron-fisted grip on the staff at City Hall, you’ve enjoyed a monopoly on all decision making for decades. This fall, 5,500 of the useful idiots you’ve been mining since the 70’s came through and now your vote tally on Council is now back to two. Vote-splitting and ruthless attacks on Larry Nokes and Steve Dicterow sealed it. They took the “high road” against political predators and lost a race they should have won. You claimed your anointed candidates won on “grassroots” campaigning” but we all know how much was spent behind the scenes. Through your fancy bookkeeping it looked like the “gardeners” spent next to nothing. Monies were moved around from individuals to groups. Even Toni, a retired school counselor could afford to buy multiple full page ads? Hmmm… Hell, you had so much money you could afford to fly planes with your attack banners (I know, you have no idea who paid for them)

    You claim that you didn’t take a position on the theater? I guess your new bestie Catherine Jurca worked the appeal on her own? Oh, and somehow George Weiss was negotiating the compromises and he never mentioned it to you? Yeah sure! Maybe while all of you were suing our city over the preservation ordinance you never discussed it? That suit with the shadow group that doesn’t exist online and no one knows who runs it? The one with Catherine’s address? I bet that’s where your “membership increases” came from right? Your new friends from Glendale and Preserve OC that you worked with against the interests of Laguna’s residents? BTW, how many members do you have? I bet you dont have 300? Your Zoom debate for Council candidates had 33 people watching. Hardly the audience participation for a group given the exponentially larger influence you yield over 23,000 residents. A vocal minority is an understatement!

    Johanna, just so you know, we want more out of life than you and your tasteless frumps at Village Laguna can begin to imagine. The Promenade is the first step towards realizing a town square that can work towards elevating the dining and retail experience for us locals. I’m downtown every day. Funny, I never see you or any of your sycophants shopping or dining? Anne Christoph mentioned that “Forest Ave needed hanging flower baskets” Is that’s what was missing? Are you seriously going to lie about your support for the Promenade? Village Laguna was adamantly opposed to it and still is.You went to a fine dining restaurant (Marche Moderne) in Newport Beach rather than celebrate its grand opening. Hardly supportive wouldn’t you say?

    We know you think “you’re not going anywhere” but your influence will be further diminished and will eventually go away. You are made up of aging, long-term residents but there are new residents who pay the bulk of our city’s 100 million dollar budget with their property tax and they want a say. Many of them individually pay more than your entire board combined yet you want all of the control. Isn’t it ironic that the people who’s property rights you fight made all of you Luddites millionaires by valuing up your property over the years? (I know, not you. You live a 5 star lifestyle with no apparent income)

    Please Johanna, spare us your self-righteous BS. The spin-cycle is no longer working!

  2. It appears that Councilman Blake has forgotten who ran those nasty smear campaigns against Steve Dicterow’s financial and water board insurance issues: First, it is listed on the Steve Dicterow post card attack mailer as “paid for by Liberate Laguna, PAC. ID #1405838.” Village Laguna is NOT listed as a co-sponsor of this attack postcard, so why does Mr. Blake (and occasionally Mr. Ray) claim that Village Laguna launched the unfortunate attack on Mr. Dicterow? Second, ex-Mayor Kelly Boyd, who Councilman Blake cites in another LTE on 2/27/21, wrote a full-page guest column exposing and criticizing Mr. Dicterow’s water board insurance issues. No one could read either the Liberate Laguna postcard or Mr. Boyd’s column as anything but a criticism, and a smear at the worse, of Mr. Dicterow’s financial/insurance issues. Since Larry Nokes was endorsed by Liberate Laguna on their other mailers and ads posted in this newspaper, it can be assumed that Liberate Laguna’s Dicterow smears were to aid Mr. Nokes and not other candidates. Mr. Blake needs to correct his story unless he wishes to imply that Liberate Laguna and Village Laguna have formed a coalition.

  3. Deborah, I haven’t forgotten who ran the nasty smear campaigns against Steve. This election it was Liberate Laguna and Kelly Boyd and in 2016 it was MJ Abraham and Michael Morris. Village Laguna, (your husband George Weiss’s masters) did run attack ads on Steve Dicterow, Bob Whalen and Larry Nokes. Did you miss the cartoons posted on Village Laguna’s Facebook page of Larry as the puppet of developers? How bout the one of him running from them? Did you not see the full page ads by Toni Iseman and other VL lapdogs with the same old tired mantra (vote for them and the developers will scrape the town)? Maybe you missed them? Not sure what I need to “correct”. Why would I ever imply that Liberate Laguna and Village Laguna had formed a coalition? Are you deflecting? Given your inability to understand my simple response to Johanna’s fact-free LTE, it’s obvious and fortunate that you’re a publisher and not an editor for the book company you work for.

    Nice try!


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