Response to ‘Seeking Balance with the Ballot Initiative’
At this point, I feel like a dartboard for Village Laguna vitriol. The latest entrant is Michele Monda, who in a Nov. 12 Indy column painted me as “developer Michael Ray… seeking financial gain…” by destroying Laguna’s special old-town charm. How she figures this I have no idea, but she sure seems sincere in insisting her group’s No Growth Initiative is The Holy Grail.
But before I proceed, I would like to contest Monda’s credibility. She lives in a gated micro-community consisting of three houses. According to Zillow, each house is worth more than $8 million, and her house clocks in at $9 million. It has four bedrooms, six baths, a multi-car garage, pool, Jacuzzi, a great view from its perch on the hill, contains 6,004-square-feet, and with an architectural theme screaming classic Irvine-style “Mediterranean.”
Meaning, Monda has it made. She is not even bothered her house belongs in Newport. Not even old Newport. It belongs within the Irvine Co.’s new Newport Coast McMansion developments, all secluded, guard-gated, and with the same Mediterranean architecture as hers.
So Monda sure does not practice what she preaches.
But let’s go into the real reason behind her No-Growth initiative. Until the elections of 2018, Laguna was tightly controlled, and I mean tightly, by one small group: Village Laguna. Their acolytes controlled the City Council, Planning Commission, Design Review Board, Heritage Committee, and all other commissions and committees that run this city. Their control was beyond tight; it was all consuming—almost cultish—and in truth, they ruled by fear. If you wanted something they did not, they inundated the City Staff and City Council with so many complaints—all sent by the same small group—you had no chance.
On the political side, they were and are dirty. Their oft-repeated claim that developers (hey, like me, remember?) want to turn Laguna into downtown Huntington Beach is a beauty in political propaganda. Someone repeats The Big Lie often enough and people believe it.
To justify the new No-Growth Initiative, she writes: “We need balance that comes with resident input. I trust residents to decide—not just three pro-business, pro-tourist, pro-developer [there the Big Lie goes again] controlling votes by city councilmembers whose campaigns have been funded by the well-financed PAC Laguna Forward.”
Interesting comment. Does she really believe anyone controls Councilmember Peter Blake, or Mayor Bob Whalen, or the retired business executive Mayor Pro Teem Sue Kempf?
And where was Monda for the last 40 years when Village Laguna controlled the City Council and all the committees? Why is she complaining now, and not then?
It has to do with power: Village Laguna has lost it and is on the wrong side of popular sentiment. In my opinion, Village Laguna’s actions show it opposes the downtown promenade, outdoor dining, re-opening of both Hotel Laguna and the White House restaurant, and even fast-tracking cosmetic improvements along the blighted Coast Highway corridor.
So let’s get real. Village Laguna held absolute power in this town for almost four decades, has lost it, and now is going nuts.
The No-Growth Initiative is an outgrowth of that. If it wins, city staff has identified over 30 projects that would require a full vote of the city. This includes downtown retailers making even minor changes, like adding a coffee bar to their services. Public referendum on all these is not “citizen involvement.” It is public chaos.
So enough with the charade. Village Laguna has lost its power, and now is perpetuating its nanny state, no-growth ever agenda via a very flawed initiative. Don’t buy into their nonsense.
Michael is a volunteer columnist for the Independent and an officer emeritus with Laguna Forward PAC.View Our User Comment Policy