In Defense of Peter Blake
To understand my friendship with Peter Blake, one must know how I came to know him. I collect art and years ago went by his gallery near the Laguna Art Museum, saw a piece I liked and bought it. After that, I bought several pieces from him. In the meantime, every Sunday I took long walks with my then-little kids through Heisler Park, the Main Beach boardwalk, the toy store at the south end of Main Beach (where they got $2 each to buy a toy), thence to what was the Jolly Roger for lunch (then later to Johnny Rocket’s), then we’d walk up the inland side of Coast Highway to Peter’s gallery.
As the kids grew, Peter mentored each. Gabby is an artist, and Peter arranged for her first showing ever and encouraged people to see it. My son, Harrison, remodeled a home in Palm Springs. Peter drove there several times to help create an appealing architectural style and introduced him to the best broker in the Valley to sell it. My oldest, Elizabeth, lives in NYC and sought a job at a giant money management company. Peter sent a glowing letter of recommendation (the letter was a wee bit of an exaggeration), and they hired her.
In short, Peter mentored all of my children, and still does.
As time passed, Peter grew disgusted with Laguna, particularly with the group Village Laguna, which has a reputation for protesting many new developments in town. While married to his then-wife Fetnah, they attempted to remodel a retail space in north Laguna so she could open an ultra-high fashion clothing store, and in anticipation of it opening at a certain time, bought a whole season’s worth of inventory at great cost. But at every turn, Village Laguna protested. Even when Peter found old photos of the place showing how he was remodeling it almost exactly as it originally had been, they protested, claiming it would ruin the character of Laguna. Approvals took more than a year longer than necessary, and the entire season’s worth of inventory was sold for pennies.
This lead to Peter investigating the influence of Village Laguna in town. He found they were protesting many other changes beyond his own retail space, and discouraging others who wanted something different or new.
Now Peter is a City Council member and calls it as he sees it. Members of Village Laguna have been attacking him continuously and consistently on every public forum available, including this newspaper. Peter, unfortunately, (sorry Peter, I got to state this) answers every post with his own response. In so doing, he is not doing himself a favor. It is the same 30 or so Village Laguna members who keep going after him, and it has gotten so repetitive it is boring.
Their biggest—and really only—refrain is that Peter is a bully. These same people, who claim to be saving Laguna, have bullied thousands of people over the years and cost them tens of millions, nay I would say collectively hundreds of millions of dollars, in their collective pursuits to obtain ordinary building permits to construct or remodel their homes. Ever been to a City Council meeting when one Village Laguna member after another goes to the microphone and complains about some poor sucker’s design? That, my friends, is bullying.
Peter has called out all of this, and VL members and their acolytes hate it. So they call him a bully and hope residents buy into their propaganda. So don’t.
Finally, let me say this. Peter, thank you. Maybe you can save our morass of a downtown, so screwed up by city hyper-overregulation, it ain’t worth a visit.
When was the last time you bought something (or anything other than dinner)in downtown Laguna Beach?
Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many nonprofits.