Opinion: Outside In

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Ordained but not Resolved

By David Weinstein

I’m a funny guy. Ask anyone (except my wife) and they’ll probably agree. So, in my column, I’ve looked for relevant issues in the City, and tried to be topical, humorous, and local. These were my marching orders from Daniel, the editor, when he said I could be a guest contributor. Topical: fairly easy. Humorous: my mother always said I was a clever boy, and, trust me, you wouldn’t want to argue with my mother. And, Local: a bit more challenging since I don’t live in Laguna Beach.

I have searched for issues impactful to Laguna Beach residents and tried to put an amusing spin on them. So, when I came across the issue of the new Historic Preservation Ordinance, I thought I’d hit the motherlode. I figured I could write about this topic for weeks. However, I am sorry to report that after exhaustive research, I can find nothing “funny” about this or all the controversy surrounding it.

When I read about the concerns of proponents for historic preservation, I am disheartened by the prospect that the very character and charm that make Laguna Beach such an enchanting place might be compromised. But then, I am equally saddened by the plight of those local homeowners who find that by the time they get through the permit process to remodel their 850 square foot, two-bedroom, one bath bungalow they paid $2 million for, that their architect and builder will have long since been deceased. And that the individuals at the planning and building departments who reviewed their original plans will have retired to Arizona or Nevada. Worse, after a decade but before final permit approval, they will have to start all over again because of drastic changes to the building code. Neither of these prospects are particularly “funny” to anyone involved.

I strongly support both private property rights, and historic conservation. Preserving the built environment creates an important sense of place and provides tangible reminders of a community’s heritage. My wife and I have a special affection for all things old, which is fortunate for me since most other wives would have long since traded me in on a more functional and sportier model. In our past, we owned several homes built in the late 1800s. They were generally delightful places, except on those occasions when the toilet would decide not to flush, or the boiler, which looked like something from the engine room of the Titanic, would quit working during a cold spell in December.

The attacks against those who defend or object to the new Historic Preservation Ordinance have been rancorous. Village Laguna might claim if Liberate Laguna has its way, you’ll wake up one day and have a three-story retail building next to your house with a dance club on the lower level and a 24-hour bowling alley on the top. Liberate Laguna might argue, if its opponents prevail, you’ll wind up living in an Airstream trailer in your driveway for the next decade while you try to persuade the City to give you a building permit. And both groups have spawned numerous offspring with names like Citizens for a Better Laguna, which makes it hard for an outsider like me to even figure out who supports what.

I conclude instead of trying to write about this, I should open a shop in one of the empty retail spaces downtown and sell “Merch”: T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and tote bags with each respective organization’s name and slogan emblazoned on them. The organization can use the dough for political contributions, and I can use mine to pay Laguna’s parking fees and for an occasional morning latte.

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” – Stuart Smalley

David lives in Newport Beach and claims to have had several friends in Laguna Beach before he started writing this column.

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