Opinion: Developers Feel Threatened by Direct Democracy

9
428

 

By Randy Lewis
It was just a matter of time before deep-pocket developers and pro-development City Council and staff members would begin to express their nervousness over the resident-driven measure that would offer enhanced protection for the architectural integrity and character of our town. It is apparent that that time has come. And, along with it, a sense of panic that concerned voters just might hold sway in the November election and vote to support the Laguna Residents First initiative. Their response: disseminate misinformation, sling mud, call out people by name, slander their character, and belittle and devalue their past contributions on behalf of our community.

For years, the writing has been on the wall about the plans of big money developers and commercial landlords to re-shape the character of our town by proposing construction projects on a scale never previously entertained or envisioned. In response to this very real peril, a grassroots group of volunteers has garnered the necessary signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would give residents a voice in determining the future of our town. Borrowing from Newport Beach’s court-upheld “Greenlight” initiative as well as legislation adopted by other communities facing similar development pressures, the Laguna Residents First movement was born.

The Laguna Residents First initiative is not a tempestuous no-growth proposal. Rather it is a human-scale growth initiative promoting a pathway to the “responsible, thoughtful, and viable evolution of our commercial districts.” It is important to note that single-family residential projects or residential projects of nine or fewer units would be exempt from the limitations of this initiative. Likewise, public or private K-12 school, hospital, museum, or house of worship projects would be exempt. The scope and intent of this initiative is limited. Its focus is limited to citizen input on proposed large-scale development projects.

The Laguna Residents First initiative would trigger a public vote on those projects that exceed 22,000 square feet, intensify traffic by 200 or more additional daily car trips, and do not meet on-site parking requirements. Hardly radical stuff.

As expected, developers and their political allies claim that the Laguna Residents First initiative is unnecessary. They say it is another example of bureaucratic overreach. They argue that existing building codes are sufficient to protect our community from over-development. They ask that we trust them.

The fact is that they are frightened. They dread residents may not share in their grand plans and majestic vision for our town. They are afraid that residents may not support tearing down buildings and replacing them with new, taller, more dense commercial spaces. They are threatened by the idea of citizen participation and the concept of direct democracy.

Laguna Beach is widely recognized as the jewel in Orange County’s crown. We are fortunate to live in such a place and call it home. The Laguna Residents First ballot initiative would provide voters with an opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to intense, large-scale development projects that have the potential to re-shape the town’s historical look and character.

Developers and their enablers and influencers tell us we need not be concerned—that this brouhaha is nothing more than “a tempest in a teapot.” If that’s the case, then what is there to fear? Everything.

Randy is a 50-year resident of Laguna Beach and retired executive associate dean of students at UC Irvine.

View Our User Comment Policy

9 COMMENTS

  1. Randy, thank you for sharing your opinion and saying it like it is. I’m another long-time resident that agrees with you. Particularly these statements:

    “Their response: disseminate misinformation, sling mud, call out people by name, slander their character, and belittle and devalue their past contributions on behalf of our community.” related to deep pocket developers and pro-development Council and staff. And;

    “The fact is that they are frightened. They dread residents may not share in their grand plans and majestic vision for our town. They are afraid that residents may not support tearing down buildings and replacing them with new, taller, more dense commercial spaces. They are threatened by the idea of citizen participation and the concept of direct democracy.”

    Fact is, the 2018 election brought us the new Liberate Laguna (Forward) PAC and their self-interest and divisive city leadership and agendas. They are using their pocket books to buy power in our community and some are falling for it. Their PAC members/supporters tactics are to seek out residents who disagree with them and demean them. Great example was the recent guest column by Skyoft restaurant owner Sam Goldstein who insults and falsely accuses locals who threaten his agenda. Laguna stakeholders like myself will not accept being intimidated or bullied. We’ve survived almost four years of attacks by their city official Peter Blake.

    Hopefully 2022 will end this abusive anti-resident power attempt to takeover our city. Voters need to ask themselves why this LLFPAC group spends so much money and is fighting so hard to convince us that there’s “nothing to worry about and we should trust them to run (ruin) our town.” No Thanks! There will be no peace or progress in LB until we get sincere independent representatives who aren’t beholding to big money investors/developers.

    Laguna Voters: Protect your property investments and our unique beautiful coastal city. Reject LLFPAC and their funded and/or endorsed 2022 candidates and their two CC incumbents. Thank you.

  2. Mr Lewis: Thanks for your point of view on the BI. Obviously, I agree with your assessment. I especially want to highlight a statement you make in your column:

    “They are threatened by the idea of citizen participation and the concept of direct democracy.”

    At its core, that is what the LRF BI will provide voters of LB. A direct voice in the future of our City as it relates to new large commercial development and new intensification of use of existing commercial properties.

    Its laughable every time councilperson Blake makes the claim that the BI is an attempt to take away the voice of voters (he makes this claim repeatedly, unaware of how wrong it is). What he’s really saying is, my developer-backers are afraid that their oversized influence will be diminished if voters have a direct say in such decisions.

    What’s the saying: “loss of long-held privilege oftentimes feels like oppression”.

  3. A whole article in response to a letter. My new PAC “Let’s Continue To Ruin Laguna”. My platform: Defund The City Council and Let Everyone Vote on Everything All The Time. All ya got ta do is change the City Charter.

  4. Randy, can you please specifically elaborate on “the plans of big money developers and commercial landlords to re-shape the character of our town by proposing construction projects on a scale never previously entertained or envisioned,” other than Mo Hanarker’s Museum Hotel, which was rebounder panned by everyone in the community. Seriously, I ask this question all the time and it always goes unanswered. I’m open minded and wish to learn. Thank you.

  5. To Billy Fried:

    I’ve answered your question several times and you seem to keep missing, ignoring or forgetting it.

    First and foremost, this ballot initiative isn’t just about what’s on the drawing boards right now; it’s residents’ only insurance policy against any and all oversized commercial projects and large apartment complexes in the future. It’s about residents’ right to determine the future of their own hometown – not just developers, commercial property owners and the politicians they’ve helped fund.

    As is, any three-member pro-development City Council voting bloc can and does weasel around ordinances with variances, legal loopholes, and “special” treatment. Such as the secret, illegal City Council vote that allowed for the Hotel Laguna renovation to proceed without plans, permits and inspections – even after the City had red tagged the project five times.

    And there’s Sam Goldstein’s Heisler Building – the second-largest commercial building downtown after the Hotel Laguna – which the City Council deems need supply absolutely no parking for – even after the Council later granted a variance for the building’s rooftop deck –which increased patronage and building value by yet another floor. (Lucky, Sam, eh?)

    Logically, if there’s nothing on the drawing boards right now as you claim, then you have nothing to worry about if the LRF ballot initiative passes.

    I believe I’ve also previously told you that the Design Review Board and Planning Department have had some seismic shifts in their make-up, with several new pro-development members added by the pro-development City Council members. God only knows what they’d permit now . . . which is not to say Mo won’t be back with another gargantuan Museum and Cleo Hotel proposal.

    Just take a look at the plans the Architects Of Orange came up with for Mo’s bluff properties next to the Hotel Laguna:

    https://www.aoarchitects.com/project/hotel-laguna/

    Now there’s some Disneyfication for you! Out with the charm, in with the view-blocking glitz!

    It seems amazingly convenient that you couldn’t conjure up the parking and intensification of use problems posed by the Dornin apartment monstrosity in the Canyon, the Sweetwater Project, the Red Dragon Restaurant, the Coast Inn, Joe Hanauer’s laundry reincarnation and the plans to turn the Mozambique restaurant into a 400-seat dinner theater.

    You say you’re open to learning. I’m doubting it

  6. Hey Pud,
    That’s a whole lot of words to avoid the claim of “plans of big money developers and commercial landlords to re-shape the character of our town by proposing construction projects on a scale never previously entertained or envisioned.”

    It’s a total fabrication to incite fear. If you guys were more honest you might have some currency.

  7. De-fund The City Council! As ‘the voters’ ( alot of whom lack education and have never run a business) have a personal need for relevancy beyond voting for City Council Members. “Their personal insurance policy against development”; Because we all know Private Capital Should Be Banned In Laguna Beach and Only Allocated According To The Low Information Voters. Another group ruining our economy in the name of Socialism.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here