Opinion: Village Matters


And Then the Next Thing Happened

ann christoph

Alfredo says his phone jumped into the toilet. A suicidal phone? Or it really intended to jump to the floor like a cat would? I don’t buy it. It wasn’t even on vibrate. We tried burying it in rice, but the phone was not resurrected. 

So we needed to actually travel out of town to the phone store. This takes planning.  After several cases of dead battery in my 1984 BMW, a special switch was installed that allows me to disconnect the power from the battery when the car is parked.  After that the car started every time. But something went amiss. Perhaps I forgot to switch the car off. Anyway, Alfredo took the battery out to be recharged. Twice he went to pick it up and the shop was closed. So taking my car to the phone store was out. 

I came home from work early so we could drive his truck to the phone store.  =I was greeted with, “The truck overheated. Water from the radiator was running down the street.” By Saturday he assured me the truck was OK, but half way to the phone store red lights came on—battery, radiator. We turned in to the center where we thought the phone store was but it’s longer there. Lots of things have moved since the pandemic. Car quit. Called AAA. Jump start the battery. A half block from the Toyota dealership where we thought we would get a new battery it quit again. AAA came again. This time the diagnosis was alternator. Somehow AAA’s second restarting enabled the truck to limp into the dealership parking lot for repairs.

We went home by Uber, mission unaccomplished. So Monday both cars were disabled and I had an appointment at 9 a.m. with building official Dennis Bogle. Once one gets this valued appointment, it would be a professional disservice to my client to cancel it. No problem, “I’ll call Uber again,” I said confidently. No Uber. I called Dennis who graciously rescheduled for 12:30. Called Uber again. They said they were 22 minutes away. Then 10 minutes later they were 24 minutes away. Finally as the prospect of arriving on time diminished tic by tock, they were 33 minutes away! 

I was sitting on the front steps, forlorn, when Ann Titus came by with her greyhound, Zander.

“I’ll drive you,” she offered. What an appreciated rescue! She explained what I hadn’t thought of—all the repairs on the highway were preventing Uber drivers from accessing their clients.

And then the next thing happened. All Dennis needed to approve the plans were the  signatures of two engineers. Engineer No 1.—no problem. Engineer No. 2 replied the next day, “Sorry, I’d love to help, but I am retired!” Now what?

That problem has not yet been solved, but I have faith it will be. I’m not the only one who has inconvenient and frustrating things happen. All of us face these dilemmas every day, even if they’re not as absurd as some of my recent ones. We have to work on solving problems. That’s life.

What we don’t need is unnecessary piling on, having to ceaselessly relitigate already fully aired and decided issues at city hall—such as whether the city should support the South Laguna Community Garden Park. First of all the adopted General Plan, the city’s constitution, says the city should encourage community gardens and engage in city/private partnerships to acquire them. The city has been supporting the Garden Park since 2009, but on June 15, the council will be considering cancelling the funding they have set aside to acquire the Garden Park land.

In 2009, the Council voted to waive city fees, and the city granted a temporary use permit to create the Garden. In 2014, the County asked city officials if they wanted a gift of some unused county park land in South Laguna. If not, the County was going to sell it. South Lagunans pointed out that the city could take advantage of the offer and then sell the land for neighborhood benefit. The city did just that and allocated that money ($251,252) toward the purchase of the Garden Park land. In 2018, the council added another $249,100 to that acquisition fund. They also assigned city staff to do environmental studies and an appraisal and to follow up on purchase options, including sending communications to the owner.

Meantime the community has raised $475,000 and has continued to maintain, manage and enhance the garden park and expand its public offerings, all at no cost to taxpayers. There has been no purchase because the owners in Saudi Arabia have not replied to any of the community or city inquiries. 

Those who negotiated the purchase of the many parcels that now make up the 22,000-acre Laguna Greenbelt talk about the “1000 cups of tea,” referring to the many meetings they held with property owners to negotiate acquisition packages.  They didn’t give up. They kept in mind the vision of preserving the natural open space surrounding Laguna Beach, and eventually were able to strike deals with the various property owners. The same can happen for the Garden Park.

The Garden Park, a beautiful community amenity, appreciated by all who visit it, maintained by dedicated volunteers, continues to deserve city support. It’s a perfect application of the basic principle of good government, “Encourage civic participation.”

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor.

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  1. Ann, while I fully support a Community garden I am totally against this particular piece of property that the garden is “squatting” on. The owner has never responded, will probably never sell and you are just deluding yourselves that this should be “bought” by LB taxpayers with the $500K held in our budget as a placeholder. Find another piece of property that is actually for sale, raise the funds to buy it and build your garden there. It can be a wonderful partnership of public/private entities and it will be yours free and clear. Please let go of this illegal use of someone’s property and find a real home.

  2. I was a contributor to the SL garden for years. I also supported the initial idea to campaign and raise funds to purchase the property if possible. The private fundraising has been challenging and the opportunity to purchase the property has not been possible since 2009 as the property was not and is still not for sale. IMO, the city has bent over backwards since they were approached with the idea of purchasing the land for this use. They waived fees, provided water and trash services to the property, turned a blind eye to the fact that the CUP they issued expired in 2016 and know it cannot be reissued without the approval of the property owner which they don’t have and can’t get, the property isn’t zoned for this permanent use according to SL general plan, they spent public funds conducting an environmental study and an appraisal on this private property and dedicated management staff time to track down the owner to discuss/negotiate a possible purchase who did not respond to them suggesting he isn’t interested and they put a little over $500,000 on hold several times to try to acquire this particular property. While I like the garden and the wonderful neighborhood folks involved, I think the city has exhausted all the time and energy it should to try to help obtain this property. And personally, any action to pursue eminent domain to take the property from its owner will be opposed. At this point, I support finding a property or properties for sale that could accommodate community garden plots and pursuing a purchase. In fact, I’m not sure why the city doesn’t work with SCWD on the large street to street parcel they have on 4th street to partner with us in a water-wise education and community garden park effort? After all, SL residents have lived with their pipe replacement project for years. Noise, blocking street parking, etc. Maybe they could give something back to SL? Just a thought.

  3. BMW’s, alternators, radiators, vibrating smart-phones, AAA, Alfredo, rescue trucks, greyhounds and Uber. Maybe your reliance on cars and lifestyle is unduly complicated? I don’t even need a smart-phone, but I can make it to the Verizon store, BofA or city hall in 10-minutes by bike. Door to Door service and problem solved.

    Rather than squatting, those efficacious SL gardeners could get busy building a defensive fire perimeter around SL instead of waiting for Agutilio and Shandoo to do it. The ROI is priceless. Just another thought.


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