Laguna’s Great Fire Part 2
I recently wrote a column about Laguna’s Great Fire of 1993, which destroyed more than 400 homes. I wrote that the destruction was amplified because the firemen ran out of firewater; they ran out because a planned three-million-gallon firewater reservoir, which had been approved by the City Council, instead was sent back to the Planning Commission and delayed until after the fire occurred. The tank was planned to be underground and unseen in a new park at the Top of the World (TOW), called Alta Laguna Park. Finally, I stated that according to Water District official Louis Zitnik, the delay was generated by Village Laguna (VL) and led by Ann Christoph.
Boy oh boy, after this column ran, did VL acolytes cry out. You would have thought the world ended.
Christoph even emailed Indy Editor, Daniel Langhorne, noting she could not have been involved because during her tenure on the City Council (late 1991—95) she was under contract to design the Alta Laguna Park and recused herself many times in 1992 when related Council votes were taken. There is one problem with her argument: the delaying action occurred in 1990, prior to her term on the City Council.
Let me quote minutes to the City Council meeting on Sept. 18, 1990:
“At its meeting of July 24, 1990, the City Council approved a Waterworks Agreement with the Laguna Beach Water District for Alta Laguna Park… the City will dedicate a 2.93 acre site to the Water District for an underground [three million-gallon fire] reservoir…” Further, “The review process for these facilities will require that the Water District comply with CEQA.”
All this means the Alta Laguna fire-water reservoir was approved subject to the usual measures, and that the new tank … “will provide a highly reliable source of water for the TOW neighborhood, which is currently served by a single pipeline” according to the July 24, 1990 city council minutes.
According to Zitnik, “Unfortunately, ‘no growth’ advocates were able to convince the 1990 City Council… to rescind approval of this reservoir.”
On Dec. 31, 1991, The Los Angeles Times reported that to counter the recension, the Water District scheduled a public information meeting, and Zitnik said “the district has been unable to get city permission to even test the soil at the proposed site” and “The 600,000-gallon [existing] tank…is half-drained by 9 each morning.” He added “a larger reservoir with a capacity of up to 3 million gallons is needed.”
Finally, according to Water District general manager Joe Soella… “about 1,500 homes in the Top of the World and Temple Hills neighborhoods would be at risk.” The need was so pressing, he said, “the [water] district board has gone on record that they have the intention of condemning the site if necessary.”
There you have it: the Water District stated 1,500 homes were at risk and if necessary, they would condemn the site to make way for the fire reservoir to save the city from its own no-growth advocates, meaning Village Laguna and according to Zitnik, led by Christoph.
This is unmistakable and unambiguous. It is not my opinion. It is the opinion of those in charge.
By the way, how did Christoph obtain the City contract to design the Alta Laguna Park? Was she so powerful any design competition was irrelevant? Was there one? I looked at city records and could not find out. Does anyone know?
And one more time, why won’t Village Laguna debate this or any other subject? What are they afraid of? The Truth?
Michael is a Laguna Beach resident and principal officer emeritus of Laguna Forward PAC.