By David Raber, Co-Founder of Laguna Residents First
As this campaign season is winding down, there are a few myths that need to be addressed about Measure Q.
Ballot Box Planning?
Measure Q does not send everything to the ballot box. Perhaps nothing will go to the ballot box because developers will submit plans that are in sync with the reasonable height and parking requirements that have been in effect in Laguna Beach for decades. Remember that Measure Q completely exempts all projects that keep the same height, size, and type of use. If you have an art gallery and want to completely remodel or even rebuild it into a surf shop that is not Measure Q’s jurisdiction.
Yes, Q makes building Laguna-sized 20,000 sq. ft. hotels much easier than a giant 120,000 sq. ft. hotel, like what is being proposed to take over North Laguna. What will happen to Laguna if we don’t build several very large hotels? We will find that we can better support the shops, restaurants, and hotels already here!
The City-commissioned report from earlier this year stated that commercial tax revenues “Had grown at a 7% annual compound rate in the past decade with no new development projects.” That is enviable growth for any city. Even with no new development, Laguna Beach has a better-than-average economy.
Most of the empty storefronts here are from developer speculation. The Hotel Laguna and the first-floor retail merchants were unceremoniously terminated when the developer bidding war ended. The new owner floundered and was only able to reopen the first-floor bar and restaurant. The retail space and the actual hotel are still vacant.
Parking and Traffic Congestion? Most residents agree that the town operates at capacity during the peak summer and holiday periods. Measure Q requires that Laguna Beach do proactive planning around parking and traffic congestion metrics. Many California cities do this performance-based planning. Might that planning inform us we need to make some changes before we allow more buildings or more intensive uses of buildings in a specific area of town? Very possibly. Laguna is great, but it’s not infinite. We will all have some choices to make as the town evolves. While Measure Q does not dictate specific courses of action, it does demand high-level standards be met that are directly connected to performance-based planning.
Thus far, monied interests have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars telling us to not bother with careful, thoughtful city planning. Those monied interests have hundreds of millions to gain in the redevelopment of Laguna. 36.3% of their money is from outside of Laguna and 18.37% from outside California.
Opponents falsely assert that St. Catherine’s property would require a vote. Adding a pool would not come under Measure Q’s jurisdiction. There is already an abundance of classrooms and gym/meeting rooms. If needed an additional 22,000 sq. ft structure could be added.
The monied interests are telling us that little businesses could not survive which is false. That example of the proposed ice cream store? They made parking arrangements in the lot behind it. That coffee shop on Broadway at Third? It’s across from the largest parking lot in downtown, so an exemption can properly be granted. The sandwich shop off Pearl St.? The building’s historic preservation parking credits covered the additional parking.
All of those examples have been approved, and those approvals remain in place when Measure Q becomes effective.
But really, Laguna Beach is more than just a place for visitors. We all live here. Nobody wins when commercial rents are so high that small businesses can’t survive, or when people can’t find a place to park and shop or dine. Measure Q helps our existing merchants and restaurateurs by keeping large redevelopment at bay and ensuring that all businesses in town do their fair share to keep parking available and traffic flowing. Together we can figure out how our town evolves. Vote YES on Q to put thoughtful City Planning back in Laguna Beach.