By David Raber
It’s simple. The Laguna Residents First (LRF) Ballot Initiative gives the Laguna Beach City Council better standards to help manage development and preserve Laguna’s quality of life and property values. Importantly, the initiative gives residents the right to vote on projects which exceed these standards.
Why now? The LRF ballot initiative is needed now more than ever because of how lucrative coastal development has become. Consider that two design concepts for brand-new large hotels in Laguna have been published and reviewed. That large, new apartment building under construction in the canyon demonstrates to other property owners in the canyon what the City is allowing. As Councilmember Peter Blake told us in a city council meeting we need to “just get over it” because there will be others to follow.
But we don’t need to “just get over it.” As Laguna Beach residents it’s our responsibility to set the pace for significant changes to this town. No one else has that responsibility to set the overall direction of how Laguna should work and how Laguna should look.
How about the future? True, Laguna Beach will evolve as California becomes more crowded and complex. We all need to keep up with the times, but what does that mean for our community development process? Laguna is at a crossroads. We need to arm the city with fair standards to help manage that evolution. Some things will never change, such as the only ways in and out of here are Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road, and our beachfront, and visitors.
Look at it this way. The LRF ballot initiative is similar to Newport Beach’s Greenlight ballot initiative that was passed 22 years ago. Newport, with four times Laguna’s population has only triggered three votes of the residents in all of those years. The idea here is not to have lots of elections over the small stuff, but rather to moderate what developers ask for, and what the City Council gives away.
How does it work? This initiative restores Laguna’s height and parking standards that have been in place here for decades, but which have been recently diminished by City Council. This initiative will also set rules regarding building size, traffic, and the combination of lots. The cumulative effect provision requires the City Council to carefully manage how many large projects get approved during a period of time. These are all common-sense standards that are needed for an orderly and fair evolution of Laguna as we step into the future.
The initiative sets standards for commercial buildings and large apartment buildings near Coast Highway or Laguna Canyon Road. The initiative specifically excludes all single-family residences, apartment buildings with fewer than 10 units, and projects mandated by state law. It also excludes remodeling or restoration of buildings that retain their size, height, and general type of use. That is a big, important exclusion that emphasizes, fully supports, and encourages renew and reuse of Laguna’s current inventory of commercial property.
Some developers would be scared away by this, just like some franchise stores might be scared away. On the other hand, innovative architects, developers, and merchants will welcome this because it preserves the unique value proposition that Laguna offers them. These people need our help to prevent Laguna Beach from becoming just one more in a long list of predictable, overstacked, overdeveloped coastal towns. We are unique, and the ballot initiative helps us maintain that edge.
Join the more than 2,600 Laguna residents who helped get this initiative on the ballot. Vote yes to assure Laguna’s quality of life, environment, and property values will be protected as we all move forward.
David is a co-founder of Laguna Residents First PAC.View Our User Comment Policy