Letter: Retail Benefit of Proposed Hotels is Overstated


The storefronts’ primary problems are a combination of exorbitant rents and the changing nature of commercial retail.

The primary draw for tourists remains what it has been since the town’s earliest days, the ocean and beaches and, increasingly, the backcountry.

People aren’t coming to Laguna to buy things that can be found online or elsewhere, for less money. They admire cute boutique shops and art galleries with interesting things because it is fun and entertaining and, sometimes, will make a purchase.

Large hotel projects won’t change that.

The notion that the currently envisioned hotels will draw an elite clientele, that will buoy the galleries is probably overstated, as only one of these properties is oceanfront. These projects will impact traffic congestion more than anything else and produce rooftop-generated noise.

As properties age, owners should be compelled, or if that is too strong a word, coaxed into maintaining their properties.

It seems as though some commercial owners are hoping that Mo’s projects are accepted with exemptions to current building restrictions, widening the door for their own grand dreams.

Suggestions that Laguna is “dying” are silly, as are the comments I’ve heard that Laguna is becoming a slum.

Thanks for reading my opinion. I arrived in Laguna in 1963 and have followed this discussion for quite a long time now. Change and growth will occur.

Let’s be as mindful as possible as to the repercussions of things like roof-top amenities, that sneak around building height restrictions and have the potential to destroy the ambiance of our existing environment.

John Walker, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thank you Mr. Walker. I Agree. Anytime there’s a perception of demise, overreacting is eminent. Liberate Laguna and their vocal supporters (CC Peter Blake and Tyler R. @ KX93 to name a couple) have been successful at causing a “fear of dying” concern in our town in order to push their pro-building agenda. Selfish motives at work here. I believe residents want change and growth. However, they have been clear that they just don’t want the change and growth this group is proposing and pedaling.

  2. I agree with MJ however I would also add that residents are not necessarily against development. They are against development that would fundamentally change the look and experience of downtown Laguna from a village to a block of solid storefront. We are for COMPATIBLE development, for upkeeping the buildings that are there (and some have been sorely neglected by their owners). These developers and their allies calling for passing the Downtown Specific Plan want to combine lots, add a story and change parking requirements to basically nothing (so where will everyone park???). Compatible is good – changing Laguna to Dana Point is NOT.

  3. I agree with John Walker
    Mo, Blake, Tyler R. and the rest of the LL group sound like the chorus in a Greek tragedy. No, the sky is not falling but if the chorus is loud enough maybe some people will listen to what for most of us is a Siren’s song. I am a relatively new resident in Laguna Beach but I suspect that the rents of the commercial properties have have had a meteoric rise over the the past twenty years. If that is the case the city should enact a viability tax ordinance that would require any building owner who had an empty building for four months be assessed 75% of the last monthly rental rate per month for that property until a tenant was found. This assessment would be added to their property tax bill. The owners would then likely have more reasonable expectations on lease rates. Other cities in this state have enacted such ordinances.

  4. Funny that Laguna Residents First and Village Laguna advocates MJ, Michele, and Chris tag teamed the comments on this biased Letter to the Editor in hopes of making it seem like the majority are against hotels. You are all a part of the problem.

    Most of us, residents of all ages, are in support of conforming projects. Our city already has guidelines in place to ensure projects fit the local environment. Stop the fear mongering. Buildings are not going to exceed the city height limit, and we are not turning into Dana Point. We are Laguna Beach, but we need a facelift to be completely honest. Hotels like the Montage and Surf and Sand are places we as residents are proud to have in our community, and we use them constantly. They bring great revenue and help subsidize the city’s cultural arts programing we all get to benefit from, including many of the artists that still reside in Laguna. Their overnight guests are exactly what our local economy needs, we cannot survive alone on the aging festivals during the summer. They too are becoming obsolete as their quality continues to decline and the majority of their attendees are residents from retirement communities brought in by the busload. My own sister is one of them and never has the disposable income to purchase anything, she is just a body to show attendance.

    I live near the Hotel Joaquin and love that my daughter comes down from LA and stays there went visiting me. It’s a shame we can’t go to their amazing restaurant when she is not in town, another idiotic restriction brought forth by archaic parking requirements put in place during the VL majority on council.

    Enough is enough. Listen to the experts and stop pushing your opinions down our throats with planted letters to confuse the average reader. Whether it’s Mo or someone else, something needs to happen. As the kiddos say, we need something “fresh” to keep us relevant and on top of mind.

  5. Mr. Johnson, first your statement “Laguna Residents First and Village Laguna advocates MJ…,” is incorrect. I am not a member of either of these organizations and I don’t know Mr. Walker at all. I just gree with him.

    Secondly, your other statement “Most of us, residents of all ages, are in support of conforming projects. Our city already has guidelines in place to ensure projects fit the local environment. Stop the fear mongering.” is also incorrect. Yes, our city CURRENTLY has building guidelines in place to ensure that projects fit the local environment but they are in the process of being changed and these changes may allow reduced parking, increased building height and lot combining. This will have an impact in our town and we should all understand the potential impact to its fullest extent possible. This is called prudent not fear-mongoring. And I fully agree…”most of us are in support of conforming projects” – we just don’t want the “guidelines manipulated” beforehand to ensure conforming as it appears may be in the works.

    Finally, what “experts” are you suggesting we listen to? Paid developer and city consultants? I have to believe that you are smarter than this. I understand how city government works and I have some experience with commercial property. Please don’t be offended if I disregard your suggestion.

    Enjoy your daughter visits and the SJ hotel. I suggest you take the complaint you mention about the hotel to the current city council. I’m sure they will address it.

  6. MJ – a “family member” of yours is listed as a donor to the group, it’s public information. Nice try though.

    Also, if I am not mistaken, the 36 ft height limit is NOT changing. The new DSP just wants to allow second story housing on some properties in the downtown. Reeks like “fear-mongering” to me. Not sure how long you have been here but look at pictures of the downtown since the 30s. There were 2 story buildings all over. Maybe you should pick up an Urban Planning book and read up on the negatives of single story structures. Use this time for something positive instead of the same old thing you have been doing all these years to stall this community.

  7. Mr. Johnson, have you protested when Hasty Hornarkar posts comments favorable to her companies mega developments? If so I am sorry to say I missed those comments. Most people do not become members of political or civic organizations to change their views, they join because the organization’s views are on line with their own. So if one joins an organization do you propose that they should not be allowed to state their already held views? Anyone speaking on behalf of any organization to which they are a member should so indicate. In my case unless I state that I am speaking on someone else’s behalf whether it be an individual or an organization I will so state otherwise my comments are strictly mine own opinions.

  8. I appreciate the positive feedback to my letter. I know that many people enjoy the small town flavor of Laguna Beach. In addition to our shoreline, I think it is what a lot of people are attracted to. Personally I feel, that many communities have been damaged by “redevelopement”. The concept of “progress “, as a positive, is overstated and the desire by investors, dedicated to cash profit in their to desire to “not leave anything on the table” is reprehensible.

    These are my personal beliefs.

    For the record :
    I am a long time local. I was brought to Laguna Beach as an infant. This is my home town. I left for 20 years and was fortunate to have studied and worked elsewhere. I have also been extremely fortunate to have returned.

    I have no political or membership affiliations with any local organizations, mainly due to my work schedule. I am fairly well educated, although I do wish that there was broader support for excellent public education for all and wish that I had had more opportunities for study than I did.
    My career and education have been varied, as I am interested in almost everything. My income has been predominantly in the construction industry.
    That said, again this is my opinion, this city and most others, would be well served by developing primarily along the lines of local residents needs. I am clear that tourism supports part of our tax base. I am also of the opinion that much of our tourism is a net cost. Lifeguard, police and maintenance costs are not covered by our average visitor and there are challenges from homelessness that cannot be solved by locals alone.
    In this time of pandemic infection it should be more apparent than ever that local self sufficiency trumps profit from tourism alone. We are blessed with a vast talent pool of entrepreneurs and a moneyed elite that is extremely rare in such a small city, let’s work to develop a sustainable ethic that can be shared with the world, while also maintaining the valuable attractions we have for our county, state, national and international visitors.
    Stay well


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