Letter: Setting The Record Straight For The Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative


Unfortunately, Dan Rosenthal’s recent column citing problems with the Laguna Residents ballot initiative leaves a lot out of the narrative. Including that the City Code can be overturned at will by a bloc of just three pro-development, pro-business, pro-tourism city councilmembers—all of whom have received generous political contributions from developers and commercial property owners with vested interests who have consistently put profits first and residents dead last.

For instance, the City Council’s not requiring commercial landlords to provide parking as specified by the Downtown Specific Plan has resulted in major parking problems. The Heisler Building, the single largest commercial building downtown after the Hotel Laguna, should provide 170 parking spaces, but the City Council has said it doesn’t have to provide any. Nada. Zip. Zero. This even after granting the building a height-restriction-busting roof deck. And people wonder why parking is being jammed into neighborhoods and why the City Council wants taxpayers to pay for parking structures that largely profit businesses and commercial landlords?

There are many good reasons the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative is 18 pages long. It is the only initiative that eliminates all the loopholes, weasel clauses, and back room political insider sweetheart deals by giving residents the right to vote on and approve of Laguna’s largest commercial projects (and I do mean major, massive projects—not the small or residential ones, as opponents would love you to believe). Residents would finally get some say in the scope, scale and character of their community—not just developers, commercial property owners and the politicians they’ve funded.

Contrary to Rosenthal’s conjecture that there will be catastrophic collateral damage to the community—it’s just the opposite. Instead, developers and commercial owners will be made accountable for retaining reasonable, human-scale growth that enriches the community instead of catering only to the unrestrained profiteering that increases tourist traffic.

One only needs to look at Dana Point and Huntington Beach to see what results from uncontrolled growth.

If Rosenthal’s prognostications are so dire, I invite his explanation why Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and—sadly and belatedly—Dana Point have all passed highly successful similar initiatives.

I have no idea what Rosenthal’s agendas may be (hidden or otherwise), but I can tell you this—the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative is the only initiative created by and for residents that will give residents a say in the potential overdevelopment of Laguna. Despite developers spending hundreds of thousands to misrepresent, malign, and defeat this initiative—the LRF initiative is the only insurance policy residents have that can protect them from overdevelopment.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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  1. Mr. Pudwill, what over-development do you speak of? In the 47 years I have lived here I have seen a total on one large development happen and that was the Montage resort. You and your group keep pushing this idea that unrestrained development is occurring and the dozers are waiting in the wings to clear out downtown making way for high rise development. Nonsense! The last big concept review for a large development came before the planning commission three years ago and was promptly and rightly so sent to the trash heap! No LRF initiative was in place then and to date that project has gone the way of the dinosaurs! Laguna has plenty of firewalls in place to prevent over-development as was born out by facts not the fiction you continue to expound upon. The LRF is a solution looking for a problem! Luddites Reactionary Force! Change comes in many forms but the change you and your group believe will happen is pure fantasy!

  2. Several large projects are indeed in the wings, unless you think that proposed 400+ seat Mozambique theater is no big deal.

    The personnel of the Design Review Board and Planning Commission has changed substantially since the Museum Hotel project – with many pro-development appointees cherry-picked by the pro-development City Council . . . including you, thanks to the lobbying of your long-time friend Peter Blake. (Please inform us of your extensive background in urban planning.)

    And no, the LRF ballot initiative is not a solution looking for a problem – it’s the residents’ insurance policy against any major commercial overdevelopment project that may rear its ugly head in the future.

    And it gives the residents a say in the shape, scope and character of their own hometown – not just developers, commercial property owners and the politicians they’re in bed with – including you. (Is it any wonder you’re opposed to it?)

  3. Mr.Pudwill, I sat through the 1 hour and 15 minutes presentation by David Raber last week in North Laguna , he was trying to explain the finer points of “his initiative “. I left more confused.
    As ,in my opinion ,the other attendees

  4. Pat – Then go to the Laguna Residents First website (lagunaresidentsfirst.org) and learn more.

    The big takeaway is profoundly simple:

    Developers, commercial landlords and the City Council members they’ve funded don’t want residents to have a say in their Disney-fication of Laguna, so they’ll do anything and everything (including lie and attempt to mislead the public) to keep residents from being able to vote on approving their biggest, most overblown commercial projects.

    These pro-development forces are only interested in profiteering and turning Laguna into their cash cow. They don’t care about what residents want nor about preserving the unique artistic charm and heritage of Laguna Beach.

    Anyone concerned about overdevelopment, height-restriction busting buildings (blocked views), the destruction of heritage buildings so they can be combined to create larger, taller stucco boxes, increased tourism, more traffic, less parking architecturally incompatible buildings, costly parking structures and maintaining property values should vote for the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative.

    It’s that simple.


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