By Billy Fried
Just when you thought we had put the ludicrous folly of citizen overreach to bed with the decisive repudiation of impeaching our governor (for the crime of trying to keep us safe from an unknown, invisible, lethal virus), along comes the “Beautiful Laguna Overlay Zoning District” ballot initiative, better known as BLOZD. Seriously, who thinks this stuff up? Even though I am fiercely against this kind of special interest group hijacking of government, the branding is so ill-conceived I feel compelled to help the Laguna Residents First PAC with some branding 101. BLOZD?? Really? Was COMATOZD already taken? How about SOMNAMBULIZD? What kind of payoff tagline could you attach to this brand: “Make Laguna Blozd Again?”
And what’s with the cumbersome and misleading “Beautiful Laguna Overlay Zoning District? Excuse me, but the whole of Laguna, from our 25,000 rolling acres of exotic, coastal sage scrub, to our abundant, healthy ocean, our devastatingly gorgeous, tree lined neighborhoods, and our progressively pro pedestrian village, is the one and absolute “Beautiful Laguna Overlay Zone!”
As your new, pro-bono brand and marketing advisor, I recommend a campaign of total transparency. Don’t whitewash it in some sugarcoated beautification program aimed at stopping phantom mega-developments.
How about a new and more descriptive acronym—“Laguna’s Angry Minority End-run”—better known as LAME. No? OK, I get it, you’ve already spent money on T-shirts, fliers, website, mailers, and letter writing campaigns. Keep the acronym, but be more straightforward. People want to grok what you are selling in a single, simple, cogent concept. So how about “Businesses Leave Overnight Zoning District?”
Now that that’s settled, let’s align our communications platform. When trying to compare BLOZD with neighboring towns like Costa Mesa that passed similar voter initiatives, let’s be clear that those guys were wusses, only requiring votes on mega-developments that trigger a change to the General Plan, or to the zoning laws. Not in our town. Not with the BLOZD ballers. We’re out to “Make Laguna Blozd Again,” because BLOZD gives us almost total control over commercial property development in town, right down to a 1,000-square-foot conversion to a restaurant, or a retail concept that generates an additional 200 car trips a day to what is currently there. In other words, a normal retailer. And the best part is, if a commercial property owner is self-flagellating enough to want residents to vote for his or her project, he/she also has to pay for the vote. A surefire way to repel any landlord with a concept to add vitality to our town. And a recipe for severe drops in property values because who would want to buy a building with such restrictions?
Let’s also be clear that we know what is good for this town better than the three city councilmembers who we don’t support. And by ”we,” we don’t mean you, because you don’t have time for this. You’re not gonna read the 18-page initiative or any proposals requiring your vote because, well, Netflix. We mean “we,” the couple of dozen folks who will doggedly speak at council meetings, go to city celebrations in our BLOZD shirts and badger people with clipboards, knock on doors and tell residents that council is going to increase the height limit to 60 feet. Leave that to us.
Finally, if we really want to win community support, let’s take the granular dreck out of this onerous ballot initiative and make it impossibly simple to refuse. Like our neighboring cities, let’s just vote on any project that requires a change in zoning, or to the General Plan. I’m down with that, because anything that enormous and disruptive should have voter approval. But this could practically never happen to begin within our constricted little town. Lord knows we already have the guardrails in place to make any commercial property owner nauseous over the red tape required to make improvements. Until that changes, we can call BLOZD what it really is: SWOT—a Singular Waste of Time.
Billy hosts “Do Good Works” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on KXFM radio. He can be reached at [email protected]View Our User Comment Policy
Laguna Beach can learn from their neighbors and pass a ballot initiative that enshrines our current development standards that produced such beautifully crafted developments as the Pottery Shack renovation—complete with shops, restaurants, public spaces and parking. Jumbo-sized commercial developments bigger than the Pottery Shack go to a vote of the residents with this ballot initiative as do developments that produce more traffic trips or try to weasel through without sufficient parking. (Does anyone out there really believe that there were as many car drivers in the ‘40s and 50’s as there are today?) We all recently heard how long it will take to evacuate Laguna in case of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster on a normal day. The time increases with more people in elephantine commercial developments. Laguna residents are as savvy as residents in our neighboring cities. Read the ballot initiative and don’t be snowed by those who say we don’t have to protect ourselves like our neighboring cities did. Sign the Initiative, and vote for Smart Development.
Leave it up to Mr. Fried to focus on the “branding” of the LRF ballot initiative, rather than its substance. That’s completely in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from him. Frankly when we were constructing the BI, we used the “working name” for the overlay district while spending endless hours ensuring its substance was fair, thorough and on solid legal ground. So, forgive us for caring less about the acronym, and focusing on making this a terrific ordinance that will serve Lagunans well for generations to come.
For those who can stomach the clumsy “branding”, we encourage you to read the BI’s text (its only 18 pages long) from the LRF website. http://www.lagunaresidentsfirst.org