Public Funds Should Not Underwrite Private Use



As pointed out by one of your alert readers, in my recent Indy commentary (“Collision Over Preservation and Property Rights,” June 19) I incorrectly criticized the City Council for using “tax dollars” to pay for a limited use public garden in South Laguna.  Since the source of public funds to be used for this questionable purpose is not direct taxation, my choice of words was wrong.

Instead the public funds to be used are derived from city revenue attributable to the sale of surplus city property. Thanks to reader Bill Rihn (“Gift’s Proceeds Provides Seed Money for Park,” June 27) the rest of us who have no garden plots at the property now know more history than we should ever need to have known about this dubious project, making it even more clear that the City Council should not be supporting it with city funds.

If I understand the twisted tale, the property was gifted to the county but the county didn’t want it and was going to sell it to a private buyer, but Ann Christoph acted as a special interest lobbyist for a small number of people who established private use of this public land, and she convinced the county to offer it to the city. The city was then lobbied to accept it, but then the city sold it to a private buyer, who allowed the private use by special interests to continue.

So the city benefitted from the gift instead of the county, but neither the county nor the city were willing or able to invest in a park for the benefit of the general public. Clearly, it would be best for the city as a whole for the property to remain in private hands and generate property taxes that pay for services to the whole town, including the public schools.

If the people who bought and own the property and the people who use it want to make a garden there that is called a free exercise of property rights. If the city gets involved taxpayers will incur the liabilities and cost of public ownership benefitting and subsidizing the use of the land by a small number of people.

Private use of private land for private purposes makes sense.  Private use of public land makes no sense and should not be allowed except where there is a historical dedication, which is not the case here.


Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

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