Opinion: Musings on the Coast

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Zooming the City Council

As some of you may be aware, the Laguna Beach City Council now “Zooms” its meetings.   This was necessary because of the virus and social distancing.  And hopefully, when the City Council again meets in person, the zooming will continue.

The reason is increased public “attendance” at the Zoom meetings. No longer is it 20 people in the audience patiently waiting for their item to come up—finally, maybe very late in the evening when you wanna kill yourself for attending.

Now, through Zoom, the average “attendance” has increased to about 200, which for our city is huge.

It affected the vote the other day on turning the first block of Forest Avenue into a pedestrian oasis: soon you will be able to sit there in the shade, read a book, work on your laptop, have a cup or glass of wine. Local restaurants will be able to create seating for their customers, and there will be a little platform for live performances.

Ultimately, the pedestrian plaza will be a symbol for potential visitors—including our own citizens—it creates a “there” there. It is something you can walk to, even if you walk six blocks. It will give the downtown “gravity,” a feeling of being in the center of it. 

And on those walks from wherever you park you will find other stores and maybe stop in on those on you way or way back. And maybe, just maybe, new retail tenants suddenly will realize that the plaza is creating potential high-quality pedestrian traffic for them too.

This is just one of the many parts of the proposed DSP, which has been years in the making, and for just as many years opposed by Village Laguna.

It was the same 12 or 15 Village Laguna people, protesting changes like mad, and winning.

They won because they showed up, they had discipline, they coordinated their talking points, and they were determined. In turn, this convinced city councilmembers that the opinion of Village Laguna must be the general opinion of most Laguna Voters.

At the City Council meeting when the pedestrian promenade was approved on Zoom, the usual twelve or fifteen Village Laguna members did speak out when it was their turn.

After the Village Laguna members spoke, approximately many other people whose hands were raised, also talked. Overwhelmingly, they were in favor of the proposed changes, and the changes were overwhelmingly approved by the City Council.

It was a milestone for Laguna Beach. Suddenly, the silent voices are being heard, those who work, have children, or are too busy to allocate the hours necessary to physically attend a meeting. Now it is easy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a sea change. Zoom the next meeting. Check it out and voice your opinion.   

If you join in, democracy works.

Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many non-profits.

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