Opinion: Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative is Superior to City Ordinance Changes

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By Gene Felder

Laguna Residents First is a grassroots organization formed to preserve Laguna’s quality of life, and give voters a say in development. Its supporters collected 2,679 signatures, and its ballot initiative will be on Nov. 8, 2022 ballot.

The City Council has been encouraged to craft an opposing ballot initiative by special interests. Not much progress, the City’s April 12 staff report recommended a vote of the people when a variance was granted to exceed the 36-foot height limit. Subsequently, this idea disappeared. So, at this time, the City will only tweak ordinances. Voters should understand that ordinances approved by a majority of the City Council can later be changed by just three votes.

When a business expands, it should mitigate the negative impacts created, and provide parking for employees and customers. This is only fair to other businesses and adjacent residential neighborhoods. Laguna Beach has parking requirements and waives them. It has parking-in-lieu fees, but over the last five years has collected zero. City staff documented there have been five projects in four years where height variances were granted, and 15 for parking variances.

The Laguna Residents First ballot initiative triggers a vote for a project that exceeds the height limits that have been law for many decades. The City’s proposed ordinance approved July 26, 2022 has no upper height limit if a three-vote council majority approves a variance.

The ballot initiative triggers a vote for a project over 22,000 square feet of floor area. The City’s proposed ordinance has no upper limit on the size of a building if a three-vote council majority approves. 

The City’s proposed ordinance states that a building cannot be longer than 125 feet, but then states that “Longer building lengths may be approved by the Planning Commission.” The City’s proposed ordinance has no upper limit on the length of a building if a three-vote Planning Commission majority approves.

The ballot initiative triggers a vote of the people for a project that generates an extra 200 average daily trips. The City’s proposed ordinance, allows the City Council to approve a project regardless of the number of additional vehicle trips the project generates.

The ballot initiative triggers a vote for a project not meeting the required parking. Meet the parking and no vote is triggered. The ballot initiative allows parking credits if the Director of Community Development makes a finding “that commensurate public benefit can be demonstrated, and it can be shown that there is no impact to parking and noise in adjoining neighborhoods.”
The ballot initiative triggers a vote of the people for a project when lots are combined (6,000 square feet for downtown and 7,500 elsewhere. The ballot initiative requires a pause in development if the City approves 88,000 square feet of projects within eight years within any half-mile stretch on Coast Highway or Laguna Canyon Road.

Newport Beach’s Greenlight ballot initiative was passed 22 years ago and has only triggered three votes of the people. The idea is not to have lots of elections, but to moderate what the developer asks for, and what the City Council gives away.

Laguna Residents First is a registered PAC, California #1421491. Donations are needed and are not tax deductible. We are dedicated to a government and business climate that nurtures human-scale growth. Please endorse the ballot initiative, learn more and donate at lagunaresidentsfirst.org.

Gene is treasurer of Laguna Residents First PAC.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Felder makes many noteworthy points in this piece. Perhaps the most important being: “The idea is not to have lots of elections, but to moderate what the developer asks for, and what the City Council gives away.” This is indeed the effect that most “smart growth” initiatives produce, and what we believe will happen if the LRF Ballot Initiative passes in November. Better projects that don’t attempt to push the boundaries of what’s reasonable and less “give aways” or special-arrangements by council. The sky won’t fall upon passage. Developers will still be able to develop and make profits. Businesses will continue to come to LB. Growth in tourism will moderate. And perhaps most importantly, residents’ qualify of life will see improvements.

  2. This latest dose of political propaganda starts off with the usual lie “Laguna Residents First is a grassroots organization” Right! LRF is actually a proxy group of the powerful Village Laguna. Lying Gene is the husband of Lying Johanna Felder, a decades-long leader in the suppression of our property rights. LRF could barely collect enough signatures for their Ballot Initiative so they hired a professional signature gathering company to finish the job. Those signatures were collected under the guise of Village Laguna’s tired old mantra: “the Council is corrupt and in the pocket of developers” Here come the highrises!

    Lying Gene continues with “The City Council has been encouraged to craft an opposing Ballot Initiative by special interests” Actually, the “special interests” were the residents who voted these authoritarians out in 2018 and want to make sure they never return. A case in point is the line “Voters should understand that ordinances approved by a majority of the City Council can later be changed by just three votes” How bout that one? The residents’ vote and their duly elected Council majority vote in their interests. Sounds reasonable unless you’re a group of activists who want control of the Council without winning the majority of votes. Bring on a Ballot Initiative and attempt to usurp the power of the people’s vote.

    Lying Gene continues with several paragraphs of classic VL fearmongering and wraps up with “Newport Beach’s Greenlight Ballot Initiative was passed 22 years ago and has only triggered three votes of the people” Is that supposed to make us feel better? Only three votes in twenty-two years? How many small, cool, businesses were so intimidated that they never even bothered to try? Costa Mesa’s similar initiative has never had a single vote of the people which means that development has been stalled there for years at the hands of similar power-hungry activists hell-bent on controlling the silent majority. VL and LRF claim that the “boundaries for development” in these initiatives make for better development. Try telling a small business owner who wants to open a business that they will have to pay for, and wait a year or two, for a vote of the people. There go the great cafes and restaurants, clothing boutiques, record stores, etc…

    Finally, an admonition appears in the form of a mandated disclaimer. “Laguna Residents First is a registered PAC, (Political Action Committee) California #1421491” Lying Gene is the treasurer. He and his wife are two of the political predators who’ve ruled our community with an iron fist for decades. They’re the ones behind the old DRB. Remember VL’s hatchet women that absolved us of our property rights? You can bet there wasn’t a Ballot Initiative that gave them control of our fundamental property rights. They want to “save Laguna from all of us” They know better. Don’t they? These entitled and emboldened hippies barely pay any property tax and want control over those of us who pay the bulk of it.

    Look at this buffoon and ask yourself. Is Lying Gene inspirational? Are you willing to trust him and these tasteless frumps with your future dining and retail experience? Willing to give him and his fellow activists’ control over your home and property rights?

    This November send lying Gene, his wife, Phoney Toni, and their fellow busy-bodies packing. Let’s put an end once and for all to Village Laguna, Laguna Residents First, South Laguna Civic Association, CANDO, Friends of the Canyon, TOWNA, and ALL of their oppressive proxy groups that form the basis of their nanny state.

    It’s time for a new generation to have a voice!

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