Laguna Needs to Work as One
By Michèle Monda
I was going to write a column on our parking situation. But recent events have caused me to think about what really matters now. Parking can wait. I hope all the studies, Downtown Specific Plan, Downtown Action Plan and other ways the City, in my opinion, spends taxpayer money with abandon—such as the parking app—have stopped.
What matters now is our future as a town. We are going to need to rebuild Laguna in different ways from what we were thinking a month ago. It’s going to take all of us. This is a serious situation. Our shops and restaurants face closure, our city government is facing drastic cuts, our beloved institutions like the Museum, Playhouse, and Festivals face serious operating issues if no one comes this summer. We need to find common ground to save our Laguna, not fight like cats and dogs over turf or influence.
I spoke at City Council in January on ways to rejuvenate the downtown. I asked for a task force of all groups to discuss what we could do to make Laguna livelier. I’m now asking for the different groups do this, without the encumbrance of City government, to ensure that Laguna will survive. Can Village Laguna, Liberate Laguna, Laguna Residents First, developers like Mo Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Co., shop owners, Chamber of Commerce, seniors and the young come together and talk? Let every group state what is important to them and why. On what will you not compromise? What is flexible? I think there’s room for compromise. For example, there are some buildings where a second story would be fine and compatible. One side wants all buildings to go up by another story. The other side wants no buildings to go up in height. Same with combining lots. Maybe some could be combined, others absolutely not. There are some buildings that should never be touched—the cottages on Ocean come to mind. One size does not need to fit all so that one side wins and the other loses.
I’m not being Pollyanna. I’m being realistic. We need to have all groups as stakeholders in ensuring that Laguna is going to be viable for both residents and tourists. There are ways to develop hotels, buildings and housing that work for everyone. Look at what happened with the Montage. It was a horrible fight but now it’s one of our favorite spots because of the compromise that was worked out with developers and residents. Can we use that formula to have everyone at the table, saying what they want and figuring out a way to make it happen?
We need to form a Laguna Beach Groups Task Force. We will find an experienced volunteer facilitator to organize, guide, and help us reach consensus. Someone to get everyone to the table. I’m tired of all the groups opposing each other, not bending, calling the opposite side their enemy. Successful people understand that lasting change happens when everyone gets some of what they want. Let’s use this forced furlough of our lives to go outside our interests, our agenda, our set-in stone opinions.
If someone is willing to be the Task Force leader, someone with no agenda, a neutral soul, please contact me. I am calling on all groups to participate. What we have been doing isn’t working with all the hate, animosity, and distrust. We all care passionately but let’s go beyond our individual wants and strive for a Laguna that everyone is proud of. Let’s at least try talking civilly to each other about what we want. I would bet we could get more done this way than throwing bombs at each other.