Opinion: Outside In

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Ask Shifty

By David Weinstein
I think every local newspaper needs an advice column, which is why I was delighted to see “Dear Susi Q” when I opened a recent edition of The Laguna Beach Independent. It’s a new column dedicated entirely to giving advice on local matters. However, I was disappointed to hear that it won’t be giving advice on real estate. This, even though its first column, how to deal with the challenges of an adult child moving back into a parent’s home, came imminently close. Had I been writing it; I might have suggested a few legal remedies that could have addressed any of the parent’s personal spatial concerns.

This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have an expert opine on local real estate matters? Particularly, since so much of the Independent’s space is already dedicated to real estate, either selling or griping about it, how it should be remodeled, the color it should be painted, the materials that should be used, how tall it should be, and whether it’s a proper use for the location.

But who could write such a column with every real estate person as busy as a one-legged tap dancer in this overheated market? Then it came to me—my buddy Shifty. Shifty is a self-proclaimed real estate expert who is currently residing in Lompoc due to a misunderstanding with the federal government. Lately, he finds himself with a lot of free time on his hands, about two to four years depending on time off for good behavior. Shifty is a creative problem solver. Maybe too creative. And while Shifty is not a Realtor® because of philosophical issues over the Realtor® Code of Ethics, he calls himself a Realatator, which he says is a cross between a Realtor® and a negotiator but knowing Shifty is really a cross between a Realtor® and an alligator. Regardless, he’s a good guy to know when you’re faced with an intractable problem, which seems like almost every real estate issue in Laguna Beach.

I asked Shifty to take a stab at a recurring complaint for a column he’d call “Ask Shifty”.
Dear Shifty. As a longtime resident of Laguna Beach, I am concerned with all the discussions and proposals regarding retail uses in our downtown area. I feel if some of these proposals are implemented, they will change the character and charm of the city. Laguna Beach has one of the few remaining downtown areas in Orange County, and we should do our best to preserve it and ensure it is not overrun by shoddy retailers. What can we do to protect it? — Worried in Laguna Beach

Dear Worried,
I certainly understand your concern. Downtown is the City’s soul and heritage. But good or bad, most everything in retail comes down to the “Do-Re-Mi.” Merchants need to sell their goods and services to make a profit, or they won’t be able to keep the lights on. But equally as important are broader community interests and concerns. It’s a delicate balancing act but disregard this balance and there’s liable to be trouble. Like when the IRS audited Shifty’s books and found them “out of balance.”
And finally, for everyone else in town who’s worried and wants to keep downtown vibrant and relevant, you might quit being such lazy shoppers, cut back on those online purchases, and spend a few more dollars downtown. This works for everyone. — Shifty the Realatator, “We fleece the other guy and pass the savings on to you.”

If you like “Ask Shifty” let us know. His next column is on — “The best outdoor playlists guaranteed to drive your neighbor into submission.” Spoiler alert: it doesn’t include the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island.”

David lives in nearby Newport Beach and his column frequently appears in The Laguna Beach Independent.

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