Letter: Response to Sam Goldstein Guest Opinion


Sam Goldstein states in his guest opinion that appeared in the July 15, 2022 Indy edition that those who support the Laguna Resident First initiative naming Gene and Johanna Felder specifically as being against low-income/affordable housing, ADUs and assisted living housing and for zero growth. He also states we were against Vision 2030 and the arts. I’m surprised he didn’t also throw in the kitchen sink, but I do wonder where he gets his information.

Gene and I have never come out against low-income/affordable housing, ADUs, or assisted living or for zero growth. I was part of Vision 2030 and attended all their sessions. Gene and I are supporters of the arts in Laguna Beach. We have been members of the Laguna Art Museum since before we moved to Laguna Beach in 1986. We were members of the Directors Round Table supporting the Museum and active in the Contemporary Collectors Council. In 1995, when the Museum voted to merge with the Newport Harbor Museum, Gene became Chair of Save Laguna Art Museum, and after the Museum returned to Laguna, I served 13 years on the Laguna Art Museum Board of Trustees and became Chair of the Contemporary Collectors Council. For many years, we have been on the Museum’s Advisory Circle.

We have consistently financially contributed to the Museum including underwriting exhibitions and the annual art auction. We have also loaned pieces from our art collection for numerous Laguna Art Museum exhibitions including a piece of the Tell by Mark Chamberlain and Jerry Burchfield.

It would behoove Sam Goldstein to get his facts straight and he should be identified as having made a total of $40,000 in donations to Liberate Laguna political action committee in 2018 to influence city predevelopment policies.

Johanna Felder, Laguna Beach

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  1. Get over it! Rehash, rehash, rehash! Time to look forward and keep you eye’s off the rear view mirror. I have been supporting the arts for 47 years here in Laguna but I don’t need to remind everyone of that. And what Per-development policies do you speak of? What “development has happened in the last four years? Reality is knocking and perhaps it’s time you answer the door!

  2. What a rude and disrespectful response from Planning Commissioner Jorg Dubin to a resident simply clarifying the facts on false accusations recently made by FACTless Sam Goldstein.

    What Dubin brings to light is the complete lack of professionalism and bias by a board and commission member serving us. With the open hostility shown here towards local stakeholders, we should ask ourselves if this person could ever be respectful, fair or objective? It’s clear he will attack and degrade constituents he disagrees with. IMO- A person like this should never serve the public in a decision-making position. This isn’t leadership. It’s undeserved power unleashed.

    The fact is, Dubin was put in his position (no related land-use planning credentials or experience) by Peter Blake who was put in his position by the developer/investor PAC Liberate Laguna Forward (no relevant experience or qualifications) and the Dubin/Blake/LLFPAC agenda is being rejected by the community.

    I say keep challenging these special interest folks and hold them accountable publicly for their falsehoods. And Vote for change in November. #noincumbents #BlakeOut2022!

    And push new city leaders to clear out the biased developer/investor stacked Planning and Design Review board members in 2023. We need respected, experienced professionals serving Laguna Beach.

  3. These partisan comments by Ms Abraham are full of the same disdain for others that she accuses Jorg Dubin of displaying. It must be election season.

  4. Nice try but facts are facts Mr. Quilter. Jorg Dubin is in a high level decision-making position in our city that has great impact. Defend him all you want but IMO he’s biased towards certain stakeholders and should step down. Thanks.

  5. As a point of fact, Gene Felder has come out blatantly against affordable housing and zero growth when his PAC, Laguna Residents First, politicizes the artist live/work project in the canyon with their most recent mailer. In it is a picture of the project under construction, and the headline, “33 Years Ago We Saved Laguna Canyon. Now Laguna Needs us Again?” Say what!? Not only is this a slap against a project very much about providing more housing for young artists, but it is such a heinous lie for an organization that is a few years old to take credit for something that happened 33 years ago. And Johanna’s organization, Village Laguna, came out against the project in 2015 with this statement found on their website: “Opposed 30-unit artist live-work in Laguna Canyon as violating the Specific Plan requirement that development be small-scale and rural in character,” even though it passed every regulatory and environmental hurdle. Congratulations, the developer has lost so much time and money defending the project against these forces that he now has to raise the rents to recoup his losses.

    As for MJ’s rant about Jorg Dubin, as a Planning Commissioner and resident he’s entitled to express his opinion, and ask the simple question of all of you (which continues to go unanswered): What “development has happened in the last four years?” And I’ll add, what phantom mega developments are on the horizon that the Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative keeps warning us about (and instead has to represent the Artist Live / Work project as an example)? Remember, this is the Planning Commissioner who was among the unanimous vote to reject Mo’s Museum Hotel in North Laguna. Yeah, sure, he’s in the pocket of developers!

  6. MJ, can you point to single decision Jorg has made that is beholden to developers, or when he has breached his responsibilities as a Commissioner? Has Jorg’s judgment been clouded by his opinions? We have proof that it hasn’t, as the Planning Commission has demonstrated it is very aligned, and Jorg has rarely voted outside the majority opinion. He puts in the work week after week, reads the entire staff report, and comes prepared to do what’s best for Laguna. He has earned the power he now enjoys as his peers have made him the Commission Chair. Congratulations, Jorg, and thank you for serving your community so faithfully.

  7. Ms Abraham: You’re welcome. Although you are polite about it, your personal hostility towards decision-makers with whom you disagree is obvious to everyone. I’ll credit Dubin with two years of experience with seasoned colleagues and a staff of land-used professionals. That’s in stark contrast to the authors of the LRF initiative, a small number of self-appointed amateurs who have no land-use experience and who worked in secret with no public input. Given the importance you always place on experience and transparency, how you can support the LRF is a mystery to me. Thanks.

  8. Contrary to the assertions made above, the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative was created over a two year period with input from 200 residents in consultation with experts. As for the Artist Live/Work project now going up in the canyon, I can’t think of a single artist who could afford rent of $10,000 a month for a 2 bedroom. This project is nobody’s idea of “small scale” and “rural” and multiple exceptions had to be made for it because it is both too close to Laguna Canyon Road and the creek. It violated the Canyon Preservation Plan, municipal code and open space and yet it passed with 3 city council votes. And that’s the crux of the issue: a ballot initiative provides greater weight and stronger protections against the variances, full or partial modifications and other tools at the disposal of city councils.

  9. B. Fried and Mr. Quilter. Typical responses is to turn city related conners and issues into personal attacks on people and the organizations you dislike. IMO Mr. Dubin’s response to a resident sharing their opinion publicly is not leadership worthy. Period. It’s fresh out of Peter Blake’s condescending and arrogant playbook. We should expect more from our city representatives.

  10. Chris: When you say; “That’s in stark contrast to the authors … and who worked in secret with no public input.”, what is your knowledge of the process we undertook to come up with the BI? Would you still make the comment if you knew that indeed we consulted with knowledgeable community experts in land-use several times during the process (including, but not limited to a 20+ year LB planning commissioner & Steve Dicterow). Our primary land-use attorney is also highly regarded in her field and was involved in several significant, similar citizen initiatives in California. I think you’re unfairly maligning a process you clearly have little knowledge about.

  11. Trish it would have been affordable until people like yourself sued and held the project up for 10 years. And let’s not forget, this was approved by every regulatory body in existence, including the Coastal Commission. Sorry but it conforms and provided needed housing, and most units will be very affordable relative to rental costs in Laguna. False flag much?

  12. Respectfully, Ms Abraham, I have learned an invaluable lesson from you: If I start every post with “Respectfully” and end it with “Thank You,” then nothing in between counts as condescension or disparagement. Thank you.

  13. Michael, very few people have any intimate knowledge about the initiative process because it didn’t take place in the public arena. If you want to be retrospectively transparent, however, it would help to name names. Is Susan Brandt-Hawley your “primary land-use attorney”? She is indeed highly-regarded, although her involvement will strengthen the suspicions of voters who think there is a coordinated campaign by Village Laguna, the Coalition, and Laguna Residents First to “save” Laguna by passing the initiative and overturning the revised Historic Ordinance and Downtown Specific Plan recently approved by the Coastal Commission. Who’s the secondary attorney? Sharon or Mark Fudge? As for past Planning Commissioners, you must mean Norm Grossman, who might sway some minds if he endorses the initiative. I can’t think of another current or recent Planning Commissioner who supports it, including Bob Whalen, Sue Kempf, Anne Johnson, and Rob zur Schmiede. All of them have had access to a staff with professional careers in land-use planning, as well as to our City Attorney. Whatever you may think of their collective expertise, you’re asking voters to place their trust in an initiative written by no one they elected, read by few people, few of whom can explain it. Our elected Council have read it, as well they should, although its most seasoned member admits she doesn’t understand it.

    I know you don’t trust the current Council majority. But they just voted to strengthen current restrictions on height, mass, and scale, which are among LRF’s core concerns. You may find voters wondering why LRF didn’t declare victory and withdraw the initiative, at least for the time being, and concentrate on taking back the City Council.

    BTW: Why do your supporters say it’s demeaning to point out that none of the LRF principals have any land-use planning experience? They don’t either. Nor do I. And while I am here, although Mark Orgill has many fine qualities, do’t you find some irony in the fact that LRF leaders appear to be backing a pro-development, pro-tourism candidate for Council?

  14. Mr. Quilter, are you competing with Peter Blake on personal attacks on LB residents you disagree with? You are a definitely a pro.

  15. LRF’s primary land-use attorney was Ms. Beverly Grossman Palmer of Strumwasser & Woocher LLP (Yale Law School, ’04). Originally we were working with Chatten Brown, Carstens & Minteer LLP but found that the PAC was better served by Strumwasser. I have never heard of attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley and indeed LRF has never been in contact with such a firm; so let’s be sure to not create/foster/promote/insinusate a rumor associating LRF with that firm nor a further false rumor attempting to link the LRF PAC with other local groups which might have used the services of Brandt-Hawley.

  16. Chris Quilter, you must have forgotten one of the first LTE’s that Mr. Dubin wrote shortly after being appointed to the planning commission. He and his sponsor, Blake, are a tag team doing the bidding of their staunch supporters, Liberate Laguna/Forward likely under direction of Stu Mollerich. Blake’s and now Dubin’s debt to LLF is being repaid. Blake has on many occasions called residents pigs, especially members of Village Laguna. And what was the title of Dubin’s LTE which he signed as a planning commissioner where he told half truths and lies about VL? It was “STOP THE SQUEAL”! Dubin likely thought this was just as clever as the pornographic, to most Christians, Christmas card he sent a few years back. Blake and Dubin make a nice nice tag team for the developers. Of course Dubin would like us to forget Blake’s cowardly incivility to and degradation of residents that has that has been Blake’s trademark. It’s election time.

  17. Michael, I appreciate your (partial) clarification. (No comments re Norm Grossman or the Fudges?) Anyone Googling your lawyer will see she has impressive credentials. Even so, when undecided voters compare the expertise of those for and against the LRF initiative, your side still comes in a distant second.

    I don’t understand why you label “attempting link the LRF PAC with other local groups” a false rumor. As you know, Village Laguna and the Coalition are suing to overturn the Historic Ordinance and Downtown Specific Plan. VL’s Vice President is Merrill Anderson, who also is LRF’s First Principal Officer. Your Advisor Kurt Weise also is on the VL board. Etc.

  18. Oh my my Catsimanes, Your portrayal of myself is quite interesting considering you know nothing about me or the 47 years years I have lived here and contributed to our community in more ways then then you could count on your fingers and toes. You and yours speak of debt or being in the pocket of the “developers”. When you define “debt” or “being in the pocket” it clearly means that I have derived an enormous amount secret financial gain from being appointed to the planning commission by the city council almost 4 years ago. I am laughing so hard right now I can hardly get the words typed in this comment box. I would like to believe you have a grand sense of humor but clearly you do not. #sad! So, I am willing to start a go fund me page to raise funds to pay for a sense of humor for you and your handlers. You contribute ZERO to the betterment of our community other then bile and plenty of misinformation and very slanted perspectives. You may not like my tenure on planning however I would put my record of community service up against you any day. As for Peter being my “sponsor”, please show me the evidence you derive that conclusion from. Clearly facts matter little to you. If you profess to be a Christian or a representative of the their community as you state above, understanding and being tolerant of different points of view while maintaining perspective should be a primary goal of yours. In your case the moral high ground you strive to walk on is as shaky as your facts!

  19. This is my first time commenting here. My heart hurts after reading this or as much of it as I could stand.
    It seems Mr. Goldstein wrote a letter that contains some in accuracies (I did not read it). This letter is a reply to correct mistakes. I’m sure Mr. Goldstein appreciates this as nobody wants to be inaccurate. That should’ve been that.

    Mr. Dublin’s A planning commissioner chose to reply. Unfortunately his comments i’m sorry but they were condescending and he chose the opportunity to brag about himself. Commissioners should be held to a higher standard as every comment speaks to their character.

    Mr Fried seems to accuse the replier of being against affordable housing. As an example he references the artist live work project in the canyon. Those units will rent for $8200 that is per month. I’m sure the majority of residence would believe that was not Affordable. So I’m confused either he didn’t know what the units were going to rent for or was trying to be dishonest (which I really hope it’s not the case).

    This is what I understand about the ballot initiative.
    November 8th LB residents Will vote on the ballot initiative. Yes – they want a say in large development projects. No – they do not. That’s it.

    I don’t understand what all the attacks and negativeness in these replies are about. We have a very intelligent community who can make decisions for themselves. This gives us that opportunity.
    So instead of making disparaging inaccurate claims. Let residents read and vote for themselves. If you don’t support it vote no November 8th.

  20. Happy to help with the confusion, Christy,
    24 of the 28 units rent for $3200/mo. And that includes a separate art studio space. Very affordable by Laguna standards. Two larger units are listed at $5800/mo, and the two largest at $7500. But they would have been cheaper had the developer not had to spend over 10 years fighting groups like Village Laguna in court. So yes the “replier’ was very much against affordable housing. Residents already have a say in large development projects, from the council members they select, to all the public hearings they can attend. Voting on every project under the Initiative will scare potential new business and services away. We will be left with rotting and decaying storefronts. This is why we need to help our intelligent community understand the minutiae in this Initiative and how bad it is for our town. Let Council and its team of planners and land use experts do their job. It’s why Laguna still has, and always will have, its charm.

  21. Billy Fried, a few would like to see the canyon filled with monstrosities with “affordable” rates of $3,200 per month. Had the LRF ballot initiative been law when this project was approved by the developer friendly city council the residents would then have had a chance to approve it. Although the square footage was below 22,000 square feet the lot combination would have triggered a vote. Just knowing that the project would have to be approved by residents likely would have resulted in a totally different concept than the box type structure which is totally incompatible with the rustic look of the canyon. Remember the Montage?


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