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 The artist has subsequently withdrawn his proposal.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.