Opinion: Keeping It Real


By Sue Kempf

While watching the Village Laguna forum, I noted that their candidate, George Weiss, has created an alternate set of facts about past Council decisions. Having been at those well-documented meetings, all I can say is “Let’s go to the videotape.”

George: City Council voted to spend $14 million on a Chamber of Commerce proposal to spiff up the downtown, including the removal of 100 healthy trees.”

Fact: George is wrong. The Downtown Action Plan was commissioned by the Council, not the Chamber. The Council never voted to spend $14 million on a series of 20 plus projects to beautify the downtown. The Council never voted to remove trees, let alone 100 healthy trees. The Council did direct staff to evaluate the health of all trees in the downtown. The Council did set aside $1.6 million to provide funding for beautification of the downtown, but with no specific target street. In the era of COVID, that proved prescient: we used some of the $1.6 million to fund the hugely popular closure of lower Forest Avenue. (See Council minutes and video on Dec. 3, 2019 and Feb. 25, 2020.)

George: City Council voted to spend another $1.3 million to take out work in the Village Entrance to install the ‘mushroom’ art installation.”

Fact: George is wrong. The Council never voted to spend $1.3M dollars to place an art piece in the Village Entrance. Council received public testimony, asked the artist to refine his plan and sent the proposal back to the Arts Commission for additional public input. The artist has subsequently withdrawn his proposal. (See Council minutes and video on Sept. 24, 2019.)

George: When big money suggests that the City buy the library property and put up a parking lot, something is wrong.”

Fact: What’s wrong is that George is uninformed. When our 50-year lease expired, the Council authorized the City Manager to send a letter to the County CEO exercising the City’s option to purchase the library. There is no so-called “big money” involved and no plan to convert the property to a parking lot. (See the video or the minutes of the Jan. 21, 2020 Council meeting.)

George: “There are 40 units that are proposed for Canyon Acres”. (Stated at the CANDO forum for the Canyon residents).

Fact: George is fear-mongering. Mo Honarkar has floated the idea of building affordable housing on vacant land at Laguna Canyon Road and Canyon Acres. His plans haven’t even been submitted to the Planning Commission for a concept review, the Canyon Acres neighbors almost uniformly oppose the project, and my sense of the Council is that none of us would approve a project that dense in that location.

There’s the rub, however. Good governance isn’t easy. For example, the State has mandated cities like ours to create more housing, and to make more of it affordable. How do we decide how and where to do that? We do it the same way we decide any important issue, of which there are many. We discuss it. We listen to opinions that often differ from ours. We look for experts to inform us. We weigh the pros and cons. We often compromise. We even change our minds, as we did with the Digester building. And then we vote. What we don’t do is to mislead and alarm residents while purporting to be a resident-friendly advocate for them as Mr. Weiss does.

Serving as a City Councilperson is a serious and responsible duty. No matter who is on it, the Council is charged with working for the betterment of all of Laguna Beach. So please think carefully when you decide who you want to represent you as we navigate a very challenging and uncertain time.

Sue Kempf is a Laguna Beach city councilmember.

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  1. Thank you for clarifying the blatant mis-information from the Weiss candidacy.

    Using deceit to gain elected office is not a strategy I can endorse.

  2. Thank you Sue for supplying some real facts. As the old saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. In my opinion, Mr. Weiss’ campaign is attempting to paint him as something other than what he is and has been. Be careful whom you vote for, don’t be fooled by the slick campaigns.

  3. Fact: The real estate developers at the Liberate Laguna super PAC spent a $150,000 to buy Sue Kempf and Peter Blake their city council seats.
    Fact: In her time on the city council Sue Kempf has never voted to deny a developers project.
    Fact: The real estate developers who bought Sue her seat on the city council were quoted in this paper, this week, saying that they “are very happy with Sue.”
    Fact: Sue Kempf voted to appoint real estate agents to the Design Review Board, an event that made her fellow Liberate Laguna candidate, Peter Blake joyfully exclaim, “We gutted the eff-ing DRB!”
    Fact: When this new Design Review Board approved a project in Sue’s neighborhood she voted to overturn the project. It is the only time Sue Kempf has ever voted to overturn an approved DRB project.
    Fact: During a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans Sue Kempf has encouraged, and posed for pictures encouraging people to come and “sleep” “shop” and “visit” Laguna. She has risked a super spreader event to sell a few more baubles to tourists.
    Fact: Sue Kempf removed fencing from a neighbor’s property and cut down his trees while he was on vacation to improve her view. The police report is available to anyone who wants to check.
    Sue Kempf’s antics over the years demonstrate that she believes there are two governments: one for the wealthy and well-connected, and one for everyone else.
    Good governance is about serving the people of a community, not special interests. Sadly, Sue has failed on this front and we can expect more of the same kind of behavior if we continue to allow ourselves to be governed by politicians who are beholden to special interests and put profit above people.
    This November please ask yourself if a city council made up almost entirely of elitist candidates hand-picked by a small group of wealthy real estate speculators is really the best way for our government to serve its citizens.

  4. I’m very moved by Sue Kempf’s need to call out a first time candidate for misstatements. I eagerly await her catalog of misstatements that Larry Nokes has made to the city council while representing his wealthy clients. But we all know that article is not coming.
    Sue Kempf, and the wealthy real estate speculators who finance her, really don’t care about misstatements. They care about maintaining and consolidating power. When she doesn’t write an article decrying misstatements from her political doppelgänger, Larry Nokes, see her for the hypocritical fraud she is and vote accordingly.

  5. Thanks for your opinion. My opinion is that one needs to listen to the entire statements given by all the candidates and look at their message in whole instead of finding 4 instances of inexactness (in Weiss’s case). His overall idea of listening to residents who provide 60-70% of the city’s funding is wise. Was the residents’ opposition to spending money on a parking structure in the past not real? Are the concerns about over spending during an uncertain economic recovery not real? Are the concerns about the lop sided PAC funding impact on city policies not real? Replay of the candidate forum below for those that want a more holistic evaluation of the candidates’ ideas.


  6. Sue – Thank you for taking the time to refute false claims with documented facts. I couldn’t agree more that City Council service is a serious endeavor where listening and respectful dialog are key elements of responsible decision-making with the betterment of the entire community as the collective objective.

  7. That ANY of these ludicrous ideas and MEGA dollar drains were even presented or contemplated by the the city council or our city in general is the REAL story.
    Once exposed by people who deeply care about Laguna, many of these boondoggles were scraped or drastically reduced.
    Here’s the newest(oldest retread..): let’s spend nearly $2 MILLION to study (again…) the feasibility of a huge parking structure that most residents of Laguna do not want or need.
    Vote for George!

  8. I have mentioned time and time again that “Jessica Miller” is a fraud. This individual is in fact a major player in one of the competing PACs and continues to hide behind this fake online persona while purposefully pushing out incorrect information. Reveal yourself or I will.

  9. I find it interesting that CC Kempf chose only one CC candidate to review and address for fact-based comments during the election forums. Her focus speaks volumes. I’m wondering, was it because Candidate Weiss was the only candidate that offered actual stats of any kind? This seems to be the case with the forums I’ve seen. My personal feeling is that if Kempf were truly “keeping it real” she would have addressed all of the candidates questionable forums responses. Especially the clearly false record-boasting statements by the incumbents. They haven’t done ONE THING since their terms began in 2012 and 2016 for south laguna but take our tax dollars, provide inadequate city services and completely ignore us. Listen to the residents that live here, not the two seasoned politicians. This was obvious during the SLCA forum. Candidate Nokes appeared clueless and admits he doesn’t know the answers are, Whalen hasn’t been in SL other than a drive through since he ran in 2016 at which time he admitted he had only driven through it, and Dicterow who just loves dishing out BS to SL residents about how much he cares about our neighborhoods basically thinks the only thing we really need is a garden to make us all better.

    I’d like to ask CC Kempf to focus her next election timed opinion piece on real issues affecting our town and share some facts and suggestions for resolving them. I think her effort was clear who she was representing. Maybe she could try representing all of her LB constituents – even those in Laguna South?

  10. Charles Johnson: I appreciate knowing who’s who in these comments. if “Jessica Miller” is a pseudonym, she’s violating The Indy’s policy (“We require users to provide their true full name, including first and last names, as a condition for comments.”) and her posts should be removed.

  11. Lol. Oh, Chuck. Rather than assuming I’m a deep state player with a secret identity and major ties to a PAC, you might want to consider reality: I see Sue Kempf and Larry Nokes as a couple of hustlers who view their primary job as representing specific special interests and not the community as a whole.
    The people of Laguna are sick of developers and their profits taking precedence over the needs of everyday citizens.
    I believe if you cut down your neighbors trees while they’re on vacation it reveals true character and disqualifies someone from office. You may see Sue’s antics and sense of entitlement as a feature, not a bug. I don’t. For the Larrys’ and Sues’ of this world it seems rules are for the little people— Which is exactly why I believe they’re unfit to serve.
    I’m not interested in being governed by real estate developers, and if that makes me a target of your threats, so be it.

  12. We call it “fluffing” in advertising, when we present only part of the facts as CC Kempf did in her supposed expose of Candidate Weiss lists of City expenditures. Shall we go back and look at the components of the Downtown Specific Plan (DAP) according to the 3/2020 document? Let’s do it by the page numbers:
    p.306: Projected costs for all phases when completed was $13,924,000. but excluded the costs of the tree wells with an estimated additional cost of $1,500/well, an estimated cost provided when questioned by Mayor Whalen. Depending on how you measure it Weiss either committed the sin of an underestimate by citing $14 million without including the tree well costs, or he rounded $13.9 million into 14 million (not an unusual rounding strategy). The Council voted to allocate $1.6 million as a preliminary action on the DAP as Kempf notes. She neglects to mention that the Council didn’t vote AGAINST the proposed $14M plan. We’re just in the starting phase.
    P.147: Recommended the removal of all but 5 trees on Forest Ave, and many on Ocean and Broadway—a recommendation that was shelved due to public outcry. (I can’t find any City info confirming how long the current trees will remain on these three streets, or if the “hold” is just a delayed execution).
    This is the start of what is meant by “fluffing” or selective presentation of the facts in Kempf’s opinion piece. Actually, opinion is an apt label. It always helps to go back to the actual documents for facts.

  13. Correction as I emailed Daniel earlier: The following sentence “Shall we go back and look at the components of the Downtown Specific Plan (DAP) according to the 3/2020 document? Let’s do it by the page numbers:” should read Downtown ACTION Plan (DAP). The page number references are from the 3/2020 DAP (“action”) plan. Thanks, and sorry for the typo.


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