Letter: Who Are You Going To Believe?


The world’s most dangerous propagandist once deluded an entire nation by stating that if you dominate the media and tell a big lie often enough, people will believe it. Well Laguna residents got a double dose of big lies last week with two more factless columns by the profiteering tag team of Billy Fried and Michael Ray.

What both fail to disclose is that they see Laguna as nothing more than a cash cow based on overtourism and overdevelopment. Fried ekes out a living renting E-bikes and paddleboards to the visiting hoards. Yes, let’s build a parking structure so we can jam more tourists into town and feed Billy’s businesses. Apparently, 6 million visitors annually just aren’t enough.

Ray, a developer, who with Cindy Shopoff (another developer of mega complexes), and local commercial property owner, Sam Goldstein, formed Liberate Laguna, a political action committee that’s “donated” over $250,000 to get its pro-tourism and pro-development city councilmembers elected—including Peter Blake and Sue Kempf.

Their vice-like grip on city government has created an autocratic regime that repeatedly belittles or ignores residents and consistently favors business profits over residents’ needs. For instance, Goldstein’s Heisler Building exceeds the 36-foot height limit and has had all 170 of its required parking spaces waived.

Ray touts his group’s great accomplishments but blatantly lies by omission. He neglects mentioning the promenade was not created for residents—it was created to increase business for downtown restaurants and bars. It was driven through City Council by Kempf and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, with absolutely no prior resident notification, input, discussion or examination.

He doesn’t mention those “rational people” being selected for City committees are cherry-picked by the City Council and City Manager to push their pro-growth agenda. He exclaims that their all-business Downtown Specific Plan was approved by the Coastal Commission… but doesn’t say only if 22 modifications are yet to be made. Besides, the Commission’s primary focus is on tourist beach parking, not on the plan as a whole.

Lastly, he refers to himself, Shopoff and Goldstein (aka, Liberate Laguna/Laguna Forward) as non-voting emeritus board members. They’ve brought on a full-time chair to run the organization. Who’s paying her? Who’s giving her marching orders? And who’s footing the bill for the expensive fundraising and political strategy organization NEP Services that they’ve brought in to kill the Laguna Residents First’s grassroots ballot initiative that would rein in overdevelopment?

Wake up, Laguna, it’s your town to lose.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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  1. Thank you for your letter Jerome. It’s encouraging that a knowledgeable and tuned-in resident will take the time to inform and educate Laguna stakeholders about what’s really going on. It’s all about the money. Look no further than the Liberate Laguna Forward PAC website developed by NEP Services who provides full service political campaign management including messaging, outreach and fundraising. While they appear as grassroots – they aren’t locals for locals. They are countrywide expert influencers prepared to convince and sway voters.

    And when certain individuals get to use our local media resources like the INDY and local radio shows as their free political platforms to create and control the narrative, agenda collusion activities become obvious. Hopefully if more residents who care about our city speak up to expose it, it will help create more awareness. Thank you again.

  2. Well, after my last column entitled “Goodbye Liberate Laguna,” I was attacked by the usuals. But I will not comment on each, so let the following suffice.

    Let me see, the usuals said the downtown Promenade is NOT wildly popular? Guys, go visit it on any sunny day or non-winter night: it is jammed.

    Us Big Developers profiting off changes in Laguna? How? Sam Goldstein finished his downtown Heisler building years ago. And that is it. We ain’t doing, nor gonna do, nothing else. So hey, please retire that lie instead of repeating it ad nauseam. You’ve become boring.

    Paying/controlling Sally Ann Sheridan? That one takes the cake. Before making accusations, please do your homework and look her up on Google.

    Guys, your main complaint is that after forty years, you no longer own the joint. You lost and you continue to lose. Get used to it.

  3. Michael –

    As Mae West once said, “You’re as pure as the driven slush.”

    Snake oil, anyone?

    PS. Thanks for responding – nice to know we’re getting to you.

  4. Isn’t he the same guy who said if Sue and Peter were elected there would be bulldozers on Main Beach at dawn . The initiative is just another dumb move by a small group of constantly disgruntled ill informed residents who live in fear of everything.
    Amusingly in the same issue was the piece by the woman returning to Laguna after 40 years and finding it almost the same. 🤣🤣🤣
    Remember the View Ordinance, they said if it passed the trees would be clear cut and the hillsides denuded. It looks exactly the same. This group follows the Trump playbook of lies and misinformation. They only ever get about half the facts correct and they don’t know much about how cities work.
    The members of this group have a history of being on the wrong side of most issues
    And please I’m not a developer, I’m just sick of this stupid hysteria over everything.

  5. The usual tactic here is about the money and developers MJ. You neglect to mention the most detrimental PAC in Laguna, Village Laguna, they are well financed and well organized and have the same 10 people crowing on all forms of media. That includes you and Jerome.
    Not sure how anyone can defend this ridiculous initiative that had its start in the completely erroneous tourism impact report. None of it is relevant. This is simply about trying to stop a parking structure from being built in this town.
    Nothing has been built here since the Montage, which VL opposed vehemently. It replaced a rotting junkyard of trailers that spewed raw sewage into our ocean.
    And remember George Weiss promised if he were elected the condo complex in the Canyon would never be built. Well it’s there.
    Jerome’s letter was not well informed it was a propaganda piece nothing more

  6. Cathy – once again you speak without facts. I’m not a member of Village Laguna. I do admire their efforts and commitment to what they believe in and they have done many wonderful things for this town since 1971. More importantly, I’m impressed at how they have stood up to being villainized by a group of shrewd self-serving business people (LLFPAC) who want political power so badly that they would say and do anything to lie, hurt and harass fellow residents who stand in their way.

    And those who spread such viciousness for them are just as bad. Birds of a feather.

  7. As I said, Cathy, who are people going to believe?

    And as you say, you’re not a developer. You’re only the wife of an attorney who’s offices are used by the developer’s political action committee Liberate Laguna/Laguna Forward to hold its meetings. You’re the wife of the man who was co-funded by the developers of Liberate Laguna for a losing bid in the last City Council elections – losing handily to the residents’ representative, Mr. Weiss.

    I sure wasn’t the guy saying there’d be bulldozers on the beach. But do check out Mo Honarkar’s plans to build condos on the bluff next to the Hotel Laguna.

    Last time I checked, those who want to preserve Laguna’s charm are in the majority (hence Mr. Weiss’ election). They are extremely well informed (not dumb, as you say), and the thing they tend to fear most is developers and business interests commandeering City government in order to glut the town with more tourists and replace heritage buildings with high-rise, high-density stucco boxes, a la Dana Point and Huntington Beach.

    What you call “stupid hysteria” is well-founded concern. Exhibit A & B: The proposed Museum and Cleo Hotels. Exhibit C: The in-your-face, view-blocking Dornin/Longi project in the Canyon. Exhibit D: The soon-to-be proposed 300+ seat dinner theater at the Mozambique location. (Parking? Parking? We don’t need no stinking parking!) Exhibit E: Liberate Laguna/Laguna Forward member Sam Goldstein’s efforts at City Hall and in the press to increase building heights beyond 36 feet. None of which are lies or misinformation, as you describe things.

    Those who are preserving Laguna’s village charm have a history of being on the right side of most issues, unless of course someone’s all in on destroying Laguna’s historic and artistic village charm and packing in more tourists.

    In regards to Village Laguna being well financed, that’s hilarious. At one time, public records show they raised $8,000 to Liberate Laguna’s $150,000. Your husband’s multi-millionaire development buddies at Liberate Laguna have funded numerous elections and efforts to overturn City building ordinances that allow for more development. (See Exhibits A-E above.) They are now paying for a high-end political strategy company to defeat the ballot initiative – where’s any similar counter-effort by Village Laguna?

    All the usual pro-development, pro-tourism, pro-business sent letters to the City Council this week advocating for their pro-development City Manager to have complete control over what would and wouldn’t be discussed at City Council meetings – an outrageous, attempted power grab to further prevent much-needed City reforms and restrict resident participation in City government.

    I don’t belong to any political group, but I, like many others, are proud to “crow” about the threats of overdevelopment, overtourism and over-monetization of Laguna Beach. It’s a village of residents, not a cash cow to be milked for every last cent by profiteers. What you call “crowing” is alerting and informing residents of these threats. There are those who are not interested in becoming doormats for developers and investors – they’re citizens protecting their quality of life.

    This “ridiculous initiative” was signed by over 2,700 residents (so much for this group being a dumb minority) who feel it’s important that residents have a say in the development of their own city – not just developers, investors and the City Council members funded by them. It appears you are opposed to citizens having a voice in their own city, despite the fact that they pay around 70% of all taxes.

    As for the parking structure – if you build it, more will come. As if 6,500,000 day visitors aren’t already enough. If developers and business interests are so hot for such a structure, let them pay for it – more tourists are of no value to residents. In fact, they’re a liability, costing resident taxpayers about four dollars in social services for every visitor – around $24,000,000 per year. If they must build it, make it architecturally compatible with Laguna’s village look and feel. And build it somewhere where it doesn’t increase downtown traffic congestion.

    Nothing’s been built here since the Montage? Please tell that to the Mozambique building and the Dornin/Longi project. But beyond those two, the forward-looking ballot initiative is designed to prevent future overdevelopment – and there are a lot of new projects being planned, including the Sweetwater car wash complex and the Coast Inn.

    Lastly, no, Mr. Weiss didn’t promise to stop the Dornin/Longi project in the Canyon. The project had already been cleared to move forward long before he announced his candidacy. (And you say others lie and are misinformed?!)

    Are my reportings sheer propaganda as you claim?

    Hey, I’m just a lone concerned citizen with nothing financially to gain. And you’re closely affiliated with developers and business interests.

    I’ll let readers decide for themselves.


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