Opinion: Musings on the Coast

By Michael Ray

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. 

Share this:


  1. Laguna’s tribal division is on a significant scale.

    November’s election went against our economic precedents. Vacant downtown. Tax and spend wastefully. Block development. So Iseman and her cronies should have been routed. They were not. It was stunning.

    We clearly have two tribes. VL and Normal. Normals are traditional folks who generally follow the rules and believe in Laguna’s opportunity. They’re law abiding and stand for robust education both in school and at home. They generally accept the pathway their parents followed. They buy into capitalism and the belief that the USA is essentially a generous, noble nation.

    VL sees it dramatically differently. Driven by a “progressive” vision, they believe America is flawed and always has been. They want to overthrow the white, male-dominated power structure and replace it with a powerful central government that will redistribute income and dictates almost all policies. VL’s Tribe rejects self-reliance and competition, preferring guaranteed outcomes dictated by liberal entitlements. Many members have little stake in the current system, believing it is rigged against minorities and the poor. They generally dismisses American tradition and wants a brave new world built on central government.

    The truth is the progressive VL is growing faster than the Normals. And they will never vote for free market developments no matter how bad things get, economically, in Laguna.

    Now, the reasons for the rise in VL’s Tribe is public education has moved dramatically left; Our media has bought into “wokeism”; And Trump’s phenomenon has alienated independent voters who despise the former president. e.g. Peter Blake.

    So, even though many of these folks don’t understand they are empowering progressives, their votes directly lead to the VL’s Tribe success.

    Accolades for ruining Laguna’s economy? Well why not. That’s what VL’s stands for.

  2. Mr. Ray, I told myself after I commented in Your prior “Musings on the Coast” column where you called City Councilperson George Weiss “A Plain Clown” that I would not bother to enter into any future observations or comments in Your Column. That was until I read your latest installment. In your most recent file, Your statement regarding retiring City Councilperson, Toni Iseman, has compelled me to again write a response and suggest that You stick to providing “Musings on the Coast” with cute little stories about sunsets on the beach.

    You might want to abandon insulting people. First, I believe that Toni Iseman’s contributions over the past 24 years should amass more from You than disdain and scorn.

    Mr. Ray your comment, “Your 24 years of service, Toni Iseman, almost all your actions as if you did not exist. Your service was so much dust”

    This is what You say to a Public Servant, duly elected by the citizens of Laguna Beach that has served these citizens for almost a quarter century? That statement is not just an insult to CC Iseman but an insult to every person who ever voted in this community for CC Iseman or anyone candidate that has or will serve any City Council anywhere. These Councilpersons are not “overly paid” for the time and attention that they devote to our community.

    Mr. Ray it is painfully obvious that the TOTAL of 4 Years that Your preferred candidate Peter Blake spent on the Council will not be “so much dust”, as Peter will always have the Monstrosity in the Canyon as his “Legacy”. (LOL- but Sadly)

    Let us not forget the nearly $ 20,000.00 that you provided towards “former” CC P. Blake’s campaign, all the while insulting CC Candidate Rube Flores with Your PAC’s Political “Hit Pieces”. Mr. Ray we know you are a “Developer” that is fine, developers do what developers do.
    I will be forever thankful that Laguna Beach was spared having a CC Councilperson such as Peter Blake on the CC for 24 years! Peter Blake’s ONE TERM was plenty enough for the citizens of Laguna to figure him out. I can only imagine what our beautiful coastline would look if CC Blake were to have a 24 Year seat on our Council, and the support of developers such as You.
    (Think… PCH from Beach Bl. to the H.B. Pier)

    Having said that, THANK-YOU Toni Iseman for being a steward of “Thoughtful Development” in our city for nearly a quarter century! It is appreciated!

  3. Unfortunately we’ve had similar experiences with the Collins family. Feeling entitled, they tried everything in their powers to stop and reverse the sale of their neighbors historic cottage to our family saying they already had plans to buy and develop the property. Acting not in the best interests of either party and irritating all including the buyers, sellers and realtors.

  4. I have read several Letters to the Editor condemning me and my last column for criticizing Toni Iseman, etc. What none of them pointed out is that Toni Iseman is a creature of Village Laguna, which no longer controls this town, and that its many laws and regulations stifling everything in this town are “OUT.” Reasonable government is “IN.”

    And that Clark Collins continually gave The Finger to Councilman Blake, and uncivil move that should be censored, was not even mentioned by them. To them, his behavior must be just swell.

    So to all who condemned me, congratulations on your continued one-sided view and Toni, I have known you since 1982. You changed. Politics to you became more important than friendships. A pity. You lost your soul.

  5. Oh dear god Michael you keep making it worse for yourself. Leave the personal animus and “whataboutism” alone already and go back to your blow-up fantasy doll Petra.

  6. Michael Ray, in my opinion you profit from Laguna Beach and haven’t contributed anything but a rude opinion. You give Village Laguna more press than they could do for themselves, one year, they had more people send in membership because of your rants. I’m sure they are thankful for that.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here