The Goodbye Kiss
It was Nov. 15, the very last City Council meeting before the old Council Members rolled off, to be replaced at the next meeting with the new Members rolling on.
At the beginning of the meeting, there was a “resolution commending Toni Iseman for her outstanding service as a member of the city council.”
She had served 24 years, and her friends, mostly Village Laguna (VL) acolytes, one by one showered her with much praise. It went on for more than an hour, then a big cake was served, and the occasion was sweet indeed.
However, there was a sour note. Four years before that, VL had lost its council majority, VL and Toni Iseman lapsed into the minority, and one after another, the initiatives, rules and regulations of VL and Toni Iseman had been summarily dismantled. Further, on Nov. 15, they still were licking their wounds from losing the Prop Q vote—the initiative created to by-pass the existing council majority that would have frozen Laguna Beach with VL restrictions so tight a new donut shop would require a popular vote of the entire city.
All of that, all, was being dismantled, all those restrictions, all those phony “historic” priorities, all the deliberate traps imprisoning poor passersby, all those fake committees pretending community involvement and buy-in. All of it, bye, bye.
Your 24 years of service, Toni Iseman, almost all your actions were as though you did not exist. Your service was so much dust.
But there was one tiny thing left to do: the very last item on the council agenda that Councilmember Toni Iseman would ever hear: an appeal by a phony historical group to kill a remodeling permit for a duplex at 337 Hawthorne, a duplex now owned by, well, me. The issue was whether that house was on the City’s “Historic Register” of properties. To be on it, City law required a written agreement between the homeowner and the City, signed by both parties, notarized, and recorded at the County Recorder’s office. No such agreement had ever existed. Therefore, that duplex never had been on the Historic Register, and never been “historic.”
Yet here it was, literally midnight on Nov. 15 and the same VL members who had praised Toni Iseman had waited up all evening to support the appeal. They said the City law did not matter, that “intent” was what mattered and that they, of course, knew the intent; or that City law was irrelevant in light of “historicity.”
Then it came Toni Iseman’s turn to speak. She said the agreement must have been lost in the city files; stuff gets lost all the time. City Staff should have looked harder, or they should look again, or, hey, let’s think about this decision. Like that. There she was, this last action, slick like always.
Ms. Iseman and VL stuck with it until 1 a.m. when the Council voted, and they lost 3-2.
There is one last coda. Heritage Committee Member and VL acolyte Clark Collins produced a document that supposedly “proved” the owner, me, knew the house was historic and therefore could not be changed. It was another slick maneuver, and Councilmember Peter Blake called him on it.
In response, Mr. Collins spent the rest of the council meeting sitting in the audience, continuously giving Blake “the finger.” It was a general “finger,” though, generally pointed toward the entire Council and derivatively to the entire city.
To me, it represented the entire Village Laguna sensibility. Give ‘em The Finger.