Letter: Suggestion to add Indy online poll comment section 

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I’d like to suggest that the Indy create an online reader response page for its weekly polls so that readers can discuss the pros and cons of each poll’s question.

Simple poll questions such as “Do you support changing the Downtown Specific Plan to allow more two and 3-story buildings for housing?” leave out way too many of the key points that can affect responses.

In this instance, this poll question does not mention the many consequences of what the Downtown Specific Plan may engender, such as requiring only .5 parking spaces per new home in the downtown area – thus resulting in greater congestion and yet even fewer parking spaces available in what is already the most jam-packed part of town.  

Which then presupposes that residents will have to come out of pocket to pay for yet another parking structure – ostensibly helping subsidize the profits builders and developers would be making at taxpayers’ expense.  

Nor is there mention of what these new homes would sell for – they certainly wouldn’t help meet our affordable housing goals. So, indeed, who exactly would benefit and profit the most?

Additionally, there is no mention of how taller structures will eliminate views, block sunlight, and further erode Laguna’s quaint downtown charm.

Giving readers the opportunity to discuss these kinds of details should help everyone make more enlightened decisions.

An alternative method of clarification might be to have a very brief, even-handed pros vs. cons mentioned for each poll’s question.  

The point is to produce a better picture of public sentiment and ensure the true veracity of each poll’s results.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s find out why certain Council members want town to become NYC. Who is benefitting and how.? Let’s just create more carbon footprint, traffic, crime and taxes.

    Legacy, charm, quiet and culture just do not stand for anything in a greedy developer vibe cycle looking to build higher and bigger. What drives the passion to put elephants into ants? Is it looking ahead to favors because property owners may reward someone, somehow? More higher leases? Hm. Increase in property values? At the cost of what?

    Open space, art, quiet and charm do just fine with 6.5M tourists yearly. We have enough bars!

  2. A version of the classic fraud known as “bait & switch” for potential tenants too btw.
    Mr. Pudwill left out the fact that the buyers/renters/lessees won’t have any place to park either.
    At .5 instead of 1 space per potential/allowable occupant, if 2 or more people are allowed to occupy for either living or commercial purposes, now the deficit, the ratio/proportion starts becoming abusive, inadequate, insufficient and intolerable for both we, the locals, and for those proposed occupants.
    Development/investment, capital venture real estate speculators won’t care because the onus/burden is on someone else.
    Whether the spaces are affordable or not, what is pertinent are the attendant significant environmental, CUMULATIVE UNMITIGATED impacts and costs which will be enormous.
    Which is his 2nd point: Only way to mitigate is to build those 10s of millions of $$$ in multilevel parking structures.
    How far will all parties be required to navigate on foot?
    Which is, insult to injury, an additional “bait & switch,” because the spaces might be relatively peripheral, maybe not even contiguous, not in immediate proximity.
    The “suckers” might not even get that aspect until after signing for a long term on the dotted line.
    Those 2-3 new occupants/space would gobble up available spaces even if structures were built to accommodate them anyway.
    Tenants ensconced, locals wanting to drive into town after say 9 am likely won’t find any spaces anywhere close, so this could kill locally owned businesses & the locals seeking their services.
    In other words, a densely compressed urbanized zone, gridlocked with vehicles, charm and character gone.
    Which is another objection: Once again, the “tyranny of the Majority,” a pro-business, pro-development City Council that doesn’t care what we the locals lose.
    And it will plumb the depth of local pocketbooks present and future, put us into ridiculously spiraling red ink.
    Mr. Pudwill is correct: “Qui bono?,” who will profit, remains a legitimate and ultimate question.
    All the City Council needs to completely erase our character is that 3 of them agree to be complicit, facilitators and enablers….which seems to be the way this is irrevocably going, the inertia starting when Whalen came aboard 12 years ago.

  3. I would expect this type of polling from Village Laguna with a hidden agenda: scare villagers into parking paralysis where no changes downtown preserves the Village and guarantees no remedy.

    Mixed-use structures serve street-level retail businesses with housing upstairs. Mixed-use structures and relaxed parking requirements would address all of housing, revitalized retail, lower intensity, trip numbers, foot traffic, State housing mandates and parking occupancy. Mixed-use is warm, charming and used all over Europe.

    Changing zoning to mixed-use structures is consistent with our Vision 2030 Plan and GP but not necessarily on Forest Avenue downtown.The Poll characteristically over-simplifies the issue missing these points.

    Laguna has plenty of parking, it suffers from too many motorists with their automobiles.

    The familiar argument goes;
    when parking turnover is 5-motorists per hour but retail businesses need 20 to pay the lease, you need more parking; when parking occupancy grows by 4.5% per year we need more parking.

    Now do the MATH. The cost of a parking structure built today is $192,000 per space (visit Laguna Streets). Laguna needs affordable housing and a new mobility plan for residents, not more parking for sob-mobiles.

    The 1950 parking solutions like parking structures don’t work in 2024 Laguna due to intensification, latent demand, and the obscene cost of building structures today. Stop thinking about increasing parking supply and watch-out for misleading Polls.

  4. These polls are meaningless, serve no useful purpose, and should be dropped from the Indy. Supporting evidence from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

    Straw polls and other nonscientific surveys are based on indiscriminate collections of people’s opinions, while responsible surveys are based on scientific methods of sampling, data collection, and analysis. Yet, because they are so easy to obtain, data derived from nonscientific methods are often confused with responsible survey results. At best, they reflect only the views of those who choose to respond. But they are also used as tools of “spin” by those who wish to put forth a particular slant on popular opinion. Referred to as “voodoo polls” by some polling experts, they lack the statistical significance achieved through proven sampling methods, and they have grown increasingly prevalent. Given the number of online opinion polls that are nonscientific, communications theorist James Beniger observed that they are just as unrepresentative as call-in polls, pseudo-ballots, straw polls, and the “hands up” of a television studio audience. None of these approaches can properly measure or represent public opinion.

  5. “There are lies, damned lies & statistics.”
    “I can prove anything by statistics except the truth.”
    “Facts are stubborn but statistics are more pliable.”
    “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have performed a better experiment.”
    “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: For support, not illumination.”
    “There are 2 kinds of statistics: The kind you look up and the kind you make up.”
    “Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures.”
    “Statistics: Correlation isn’t causation. Most of the time they’re speculation.”
    “Stories change people while statistics give them something to argue about.”
    “Statistics can be used to support or undercut almost any argument.”

  6. Some community input is better than none.

    Too bad the City Council hasn’t had a legitimate survey or poll in four years. Their community satisfaction survey was a sick, twisted joke – the vast majority of resident responses were online, and the City Council refused to include them.

    One of the questions was something along the lines of “Do you want the promenade?” Too bad they didn’t mention all the lost parking, lost parking revenue, the cost to taxpayers to establish and maintain the promenade, the added downtown congestion, and the loss of a charming village main street (I sure wouldn’t call all of its corrals wrapped in plastic sheeting “charming”).

    And then there was the secret business survey Councilwoman Kempf and then-Assistant City Manager Dupuis conducted to help justify the promenade’s establishment, where they claim they spoke to businesses about whether they wanted the promenade. Of course, this survey was never released to the public, so we don’t know if they spoke to the landlords, the business owners, our whoever was staffing the cash register. Nor do we know how many they spoke to, how many truly endorsed the plan, nor what their level of their support was, especially knowing there may have been some pressure from responding directly with City officials.

    For that matter, the residents have never had the opportunity to vote on whether they want the promenade, knowing all of its costs and downsides.

    Nor do we know if the promenade is financially successful because no legitimate, unbiased, independent study has been done. So much for being data driven and campaign promises of transparency.

    And let’s not forget the Retail Survey that the City Council abdicated all responsibility for by turning it over to the Chamber Of Commerce to conduct. One-sided bias enough? The damned thing read like a Christmas list of everything the Chamber ever wanted, loaded with “you should” comments, not recommendations. What little resident input that was included was comical – 33 people interviewed with no demographic profiles provided, so no knowledge of their predilections, much less who picked them and why they were cherry-picked.

    How many residents did the City survey or poll for Bob Whalen’s proposed Presbyterian parking structure – a deal that was structured in secret?

    How many residents were polled when Mayor Kempf and City Manager Dupuis proposed buying the library and then possibly turning it into a parking lot? (The answer: none, because those details were not mentioned in their staff report and the whole $4.3M agenda item was put on the consent calendar where it would have passed without discussion if no one had dug deep into the fine print to catch these details and call them out.)

    And then there was the disastrous waste of $250,000 on promenade plans that ignored any significant resident input. (Another project primarily directed by Mayor Kempf and Dupuis.)

    And let’s not forget the 60 or so residents who spoke out against the purchase of the $2.7M Ti Amo non-fire station and were ignored by the City Council majority of Blake, Whalen and Kempf. Over three years later and it still sits vacant.

    Yes – straw polls are not perfect.

    But in lieu of the public being ignored by the City Council majority, I submit that if polls are properly conducted giving pro and con backup information, they’re far better than nothing, and can go a long way in better informing the public . . . and at least alerting the Councilmembers who are supposed to be representing them.

  7. There are two common errors in survey and polling research that even some “professionals” make: 1-Convenience samples in which past respondents, those easily reached, or those on a particular list are used that can corrupt the data and lead to erroneous conclusions. 2-Flawed question items, such as those that ask two different things—Do you like the Promenade and frequent it regularly? Survey researchers also use straw polling data to write and refine their questions. Here’s one more quote to add to Roger Butow’s list: “An experimenting society is a democratic society.” We need to use valid and reliable research methods to make good policy decisions in a democratic society.

  8. Many residents of Laguna Beach feel that our voices in this community have been ignored by our City Council representatives. (With the notable exception of CC Member George Weiss)

    This neglect of Residents concerns by the balance of the CC is deplorable. Unfortunately, the status quo remains in place as our current CC has managed to preserve its “majority” by maintaining its embarrassing stranglehold on the mayors office. In fact our Mayor Pro-Tem is first term City Councilman Alex Rounaghi, a 26 year old who has had no Council experience beyond his 14 months as a City Council person.

    When Alex Rounaghi was sworn in by Bob Whalen in December of 2022 Whalen said this… “The torch has been passed to a new generation, so I just want to tell You that there’s four of us up here that are still around, so the torch hasn’t been passed, but the fuse has been lit.” Alex as I have stated before is just a minion for the “majority”, Peter Blake without the temper tantrums and foul language. .

    The “former” CC “majority” with the full support and influence of former Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis has attempted to thrust multiple inappropriate, senseless projects and decisions upon our citizenry. This “majority” as anyone watching knows was, Bob Whalen, Sue Kempf and Peter Blake. Thanks to the residents, we sent Mr. Blake packing after one dismal term on the council.

    (Just reflect for a moment what 3RD Street would be like with the massive parking structure that was proposed for the Presbyterian Church Lot, a structure that would have been approved if not for the Public outcry that ensued due to the “Boondoggle” that it was)

    But wait, this is only one part of the numerous missteps that the “majority” would have propelled through the approval process had it not been for Us the Residents, with the assistance of CC Member Weiss. There is no need to disseminate all of the bad decisions that were averted by Us the Residents. Have no illusions, the “majority” still exists in Laguna Beaches’ Council Chambers. There will be more attempts to build unneeded and unwanted parking structures in our city. There will be more attempts to bend to the developers bulldozing of our open space. Let’s demand that our CC start listening to Us the Residents.

    Residents concerns are regularly dismissed, left out, and ignored when matters of concern in our community are in desperate need of Resident input. We as Residents of Laguna deserve more from our CC.

  9. Deborah, I agree that “We need to use valid and reliable research methods to make good policy decisions in a democratic society.” Do you agree that the Indy polls are nonscientific and fail to meet this standard?

    Jerome, keep blowing smoke.

  10. Survey researchers use straw polling data to write and refine their questions, so straw polls such as those that are used in this newspaper are a valuable tool in a survey researcher’s arsenal—along with others prep tools such as neighborhood focus groups, etc. Without some of this groundwork, mistakes can be made even by those labeled as “professionals”, such as using off-the-shelf questions from an earlier survey instrument, which haven’t been refined/crafted by info from straw polls; convenience samples in which past respondents, those easily reached, or those on a particular list are used that can corrupt the data and lead to erroneous conclusions; and, flawed question items, such as those that ask two different things—Do you like the Promenade and frequent it regularly? Without taking these methodological precautions, we can get GIGO (garbage in/ garbage out)—Or, unreliable conclusions from a flawed “professional” survey.

    Editor’s Note: Deborah is the spouse of council member George Weiss and publisher of Methodology and Statistics of Guilford Publications, Inc.

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