Opinion: The Big Lie


In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden won 80 million popular votes to Trump’s 74 million. In the Electoral College, Biden won 306 votes to Trump’s 232. In short, Biden won the presidency and Trump lost. 

However, Trump continually has lied otherwise, and so often, that approximately 30% of all Americans and 70% of Republicans believe it. Pretty astounding numbers, and it shows that if one repeats a Big Lie often enough, many people will believe you. 

In Laguna Beach, The Big Lie is about big real estate developers trying to take over the city and destroy it, repeated endlessly by the same usual suspects. Typical comments include: 

“For years, the writing has been on the wall about the plans of big money developers and commercial landlords to re-shape the character of our town by proposing construction projects on a scale never previously entertained or envisioned.” ~ Randy Lewis, Guest Column, Laguna Beach Indy, Aug. 1, 2022 

“It is the developer’s overzealous drive for higher rents and profits that have closed dozens of businesses here…” by David Raber, Guest Contributor, Laguna Beach Indy, Nov. 4, 2022 

“Big developer money has……Browbeat and intimidated residents from offering their opinions in city council meetings…” by Merrill Anderson, Guest Contributor, Laguna Indy, Feb. 11, 2022 

I would repeat more quotes, but you get the message.   

But in my opinion, the worst liar is Councilmember George Weiss. During his 2020 run for the council, Weiss hired a huge truck displaying images of high-rise Huntington Beach, campaigning on the theme that his opponents would turn Laguna Beach into the same high-rise hell. It is a copycat of Laguna’s Big Lie, but it was effective enough for him to win. 

Here is the thing. There are zero big developers doing anything in Laguna Beach. Why would they? There is nothing worth developing, or for that matter, owning. Why own a retail store in Laguna when half of the market is in the ocean and the other half is in the hills. 

Fashion Island, Spectrum, South Coast Plaza and even Crystal Cove Promenade are easy drives and offer better higher-end and entertainment choices (leaving Laguna with service businesses, those that appeal to tourists, or those, like Jane Hanauer’s bookstore, that are locally exquisite unto themselves).  

Potential new tenants have many options next to Laguna: Newport, Costa Mesa, Irvine, or Dana Point. In all those cities, you can open almost anything you want with over-the-counter approvals (except uses requiring more parking, which always is a problem), and bang, 90 days later, you’re in business. In Laguna, good luck. That 90 days could be years, if ever. 

Rents in those places are just as high as Laguna’s, if not higher. To state that Laguna landlords are greedier than landlords anywhere else is a display of ignorance; landlords always seek maximum profits, just like all other businesses. 

The idea that big developers “browbeat or intimidate” opponents is a Big Lie. In Planning Commission and City Council meetings, I usually see scores of folks from Village Laguna or Laguna Resident First, appearing in multiple-person, coordinated sequences and pressuring Commissioners and City Council members. To me, that feels like “intimidation.”

But enough of this column. Here is what I propose. Dear Councilman Weiss, let’s debate the issue on either of the two radio stations in Laguna. Really, George, let’s do it. If you don’t want to debate me, try now-retired developer Cindy Shopoff or any other experienced real estate professional.    

Or George, are you chicken? Personally, I doubt you’ll ever debate me. Or anyone else. 

Michael co-founded Orange County School of the Arts, The Discovery Cube, Sage Hill School, Art Spaces Irvine and several other area nonprofit organizations. He is a business partner with Sanderson-J. Ray Development and has lived in Laguna Beach since the early 1980s.

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  1. Ha Ha! Same schtick but a different target.

    The people who gave us the worst city council member of the last 50 years (You know who!) and four years of acrimony and name calling, have now raised the curtain on their next strategic direction. They aim to defeat the primary Council Member, Mr. Weiss, who is fighting for the Laguna we love and protect.

    Thanks to Mr. Ray and his deep pocket partners, we suffered through Liberate Laguna Forward machinations during the past 5 years. Let’s hope we will not be forced to climb the barricades this year as the Barbarians try to storm the gates once again.

  2. The big lie is that you are never telling the truth, let’s see your claim to fame is The Cube the land is by a Freeway, so it was cheap, The Sage High School was near a or on a dumpsite, also, cheap land! The Historical Cottage on Hawthorne small cottage on a large lot you purchased at a low cost now to be developed into a large house blocking views, great claim to fame as a developer. So, who is lying? You, maybe.

  3. Hey Michael did the Big bonus of skewering the Residents of laguna Beach for approx, over $350,000 and then showing up at the Council meeting drunk and screaming at a beloved councilman ..your opinions are so over the top, sprinkled with non truths, 80,000 million votes for Biden, LOL..hey I will take any day, a truthful person and no wars, energy independence and a closed border..please spare us anymore of your illusions..thanks

  4. So do tell, Mr. Ray, why have you and the other developer buddies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns and candidates who are dedicated to defeating candidates and measures designed to protect Laguna Beach from overdevelopment?


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