I have long advocated preserving open space in Laguna Beach, and worked hard as did many Lagunans to “Save the Canyon.” But Measure CC on the November ballot is unworthy of similar support.
Critical differences exist between the current measure and the historic canyon purchase. Measure CC will tax Laguna property owners for what amounts to a $20 million blank check, to be spent by a committee of five political appointees for “open space” which has not been specifically identified.
Our vote to tax ourselves to buy the canyon land was literally our last chance to prevent a massive Irvine Company development which was shovel-ready. We knew exactly what we were buying.
But Measure CC includes no specific parcels and no safeguards to prevent our tax dollars being spent on property that is unbuildable, isolated from other open space, or grossly overpriced.
The official ballot language allows our money to be spent on “any unit of land within the city that receives a separate tax bill for ad valorem property taxes from the Orange County Assessor’s Office.” There are no provisions prohibiting the purchase of single-lot parcels, and no requirements for a minimum size of qualifying parcels.
And because there are no restrictions on purchase prices, our tax dollars could create windfall profits for owners of previously unsellable parcels.
This serious flaw invites haphazard, poorly-considered purchases over which citizens have no control and for which there is no remedy.
We don’t need a $20 million tax to achieve our shared community goal of safeguarding what little true open space remains.
City purchases of parcels at tax collector sales, private land donations, and contributions by concerned citizens and environmental groups to the city’s open space fund are all viable alternatives.
These approaches would be fairer than further burdening Laguna’s property owners whose tax bills continue to increase annually due to rising sewer and trash fees, and assessments for utility undergrounding.
The tax will also affect renters, as their landlords pass along Measure CC’s tax increase to their tenants. With affordable rentals in Laguna Beach increasingly hard to find, this unintended consequence should not be ignored.
Purchasing open space is a worthy goal. But a $20 million tax with inadequate rules on how the money can be spent is not a responsible open space acquisition plan.
Vote NO on Measure CC.
Gayle Waite, Laguna Beach