Letter: Speak out against potential parking structure deal

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H.L. Mencken said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Unfortunately, this may prove true if residents don’t vigorously speak out against the Presbyterian parking structure deal being pitched this month by Laguna’s self-appointed parking committee of Mayor Whalen and Pro Tem Sue Kempf – who are seeking the support of our two newly elected Council members – Alex Rounagi and Mark Orgill.

How can anyone justify building this proposed Third Street parking project which could cost taxpayers up to $55.6M once the structure and its leased land revert in 53 years to the Presbyterian church, which will own it free and clear?

During that tenure, we will have to split the meter revenue with the church while paying for all operational costs, taxes and insurance.

This location will further clog downtown with even more traffic. And if closing Third Street was a nightmare six years ago, the street’s closures for this multi-story project will take even longer.

With this deal, the church has exclusive rights to the structure on Sundays until 12:30 p.m., during the largest influx of tourists.

If a parking structure is really needed (which is still being debated), there’s a much more logical and fiscally responsible solution: build a parking structure on city-owned land for around $12M, use it full-time, retain all profits and own it in perpetuity.

But given our Council’s track record for lack of transparency and autocratic decision-making, that’s not how this may play out.

For example, two years ago, the Council ignored and straight-armed dozens of residents who protested against the $2.7M acquisition of the unusable Ti Amo property in South Laguna. The Council bought the site anyway without an appraisal or feasibility study. Now the City is desperate to unload it in a down market.

Another example: Forest Avenue was shut done by fiat of the Council without proper public notification or residents’ input, and without an explanation of the operational costs and need for a parking structure – all expenses now to be foisted on residents, not the businesses who benefit most from the street’s closure.

Is the public up for blithely accepting similar blindsided treatment to the tune of $55.6M when cheaper solutions are readily available? I encourage you to speak up at Council meetings, write letters to the editor, post on Nextdoor and write your Council members. Oppose this project before we’re stuck with it and wind up with what we don’t deserve.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Downtown Garage is another dumb idea; you’ve got no parking and the system right now of parking “outside” is really the only viable solution.
    Council is also guilty of hiring Consultants and wasting $$$$$- sad state of affairs- got common sense?

  2. Jerome you are 100% correct. This is a very very bad deal for residents but a great deal for the church. You forgot to mention that they have a large number of reserved spots all the time making fewer revenue generating spaces for the city. If you crunch the numbers, and John Thomas has done just that, there is NO WAY that this pencils out to ever be revenue generating. And I’m confused – didn’t the Downtown Specific Plan say that we had enough parking spaces so that they could loosen restrictions on new establishments? So if we had enough then to justify what the city was doing just a little over a year ago, why oh why do we need this parking structure now? Something isn’t adding up. If you MUST build, do it on city owned land, get 100% of the revenue, own it and do it at a fraction of the cost. Again – follow the money. Who is benefiting from this deception????? Bad deal for residents.

  3. Excellent letter and factual..will our council do the old 3/2 vote and vote us down the road…this is a bad deal, we give away our money and it’s not our investment, every poll even the city’s biased silly polls they do, shows 70%+ of residents are against…So what gives???? When will people take an active participation in what is going on in City Hall? The Nextdoor poll shows 78% against, so is the other % business developers lickin’ their chops for Resident paid parking to boost their sales and developments? Just asking…

  4. Thanks Jerome for bringing awareness to the Presbyterian Church lease/build parking proposal. I think this is a sweeter deal for the church/school than for the majority of property owners/residents. I don’t support it.

    Council Members Weiss, Orgill and Rounaghi must listen to all voter constituents regarding our financial investments and act in their best interest. Not in the interest of out-of-town investors/developers/businesses/tourists. If they rubber stamp this long-term lease/build proposal supported by the Mayor and MPT without resident majority public support, I suspect it will trigger more mistrust and discourse between our elected’s and residents.

    The question I have is – what logical reason could there be for city leaders to not look at building on city-owned land if a parking structure is deemed necessary?

    Finally, IMO any city development negotiations involving former council member Peter Blake should be highly scrutinized. Voters overwhelmingly rejected his self-interest, pro-development/business/tourists only focus and threats to build out our city and rid the canyon of its natural rural beauty.

    Residents: Making a $55.6M financial investment in an infrastructure that hasn’t been proven as needed nor will we ever own should be questioned. Contact City Council Members and let them know they are accountable for making sound financial investment decisions on your behalf. Thank you.

  5. Our City budget is $110-million but can’t prioritize affordable resident housing. We residents should underwrite parking structures at $40-million a-pop (John Thomas analysis) when our city gives away a potpourri of parking permits for selected interests. The Parking Management Plan Subcommittee values the wrong priorities.

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