Village Matters


A Slogan that Inspires?

By Ann Christoph

It was a long drive home from a family reunion in Flagstaff and I thought some diversion would make it less boring. “How many state slogans can we remember?” So, Alfredo and I tried the easiest ones: California, “The Golden State;” Nevada, “The Silver State;” Florida, “The Sunshine State”…then it got harder and I had to resort to my laptop.

Some states have clever descriptions—Kentucky, “Unbridled Spirit,” Indiana, “Restart your engines,” South Dakota, “Great faces. Great places.” Some are optimistically promotional—New Mexico, “Land of Enchantment,” North Carolina, “A better place to be,” Maryland, “If you’re looking for a merry land, go to Maryland.”

But I liked the frankness of Nebraska, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

That may be the slogan we should consider for Laguna. “Home of the Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters,” may be what we want to be known for, but it doesn’t fully express what it’s like to live here. I would like to say, “Working together for a more beautiful world,” or Councilman Steve Dicterow’s formerly proposed, “City of Kindness.” But the reality now is very different. We seem to be a “City of Conflict,” and it’s not good for anyone.

Here, where we should be even happier than the “Happiest place on earth,” we seem to be bent on making each other as unhappy as possible.

“Was the council meeting on the 9th as bad as I heard?” I asked when we got back to Laguna. “It was worse!” was pretty much the unanimous response.

There were three especially important items on that agenda and all had advocates wanting to affect the council’s decision: Streamlining the city project approval process, the possible abandonment of trails in Temple Hills, and the proposed memorandum of understanding for the projects being proposed by Mo Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Company.

Staff’s recommendations for streamlining concentrated on changing what goes to the Design Review Board versus administrative review or Planning Commission review. None of the recommendations addressed the length of time involved in zoning plan check, which is done by staff. The Design Review Board is being blamed for delays that occur in the months it takes before projects are even allowed to be scheduled for Design Review. To take streamlining seriously, we need to confer with applicants, architects, and residents as well as staff—to get at the reasons why the process is so frustrating and takes so long—and to solve the problems. There was rhetoric blaming Design Review, and maybe some felt good that the Council did something, but the actions taken don’t address the core problem causing the delays.

The complicated issue of the future of the Temple Hills pathways was made more difficult and emotional by accusations from Councilmember Blake that testifiers were liars, that what they were saying was “nonsense,” and that it was all a political game.

Lastly, after midnight, the Council considered how they would deal with development of the Hotel Laguna, and the bluffs to its south, the Museum Hotel, rebuilding of a hotel at Cleo Street, the Hive and housing at Canyon Acres. In response to numerous public concerns regarding transparency and public input into the decisions, the Council on a 4-1 vote (Iseman dissenting) authorized the two-member council subcommittee to meet privately with staff and the developer, and approved the Memorandum of Understanding as prepared by staff. Proceeding with the decisions despite the late hour, limiting public comment to one minute, and the lack of any changes to the proposal as a result of public comment—all these don’t bode well for residents having meaningful effect on the upcoming course of events.

As we try to respect the Laguna we love, we’re being set up for more community conflict. Can we return to the inspiration of being a “City of Kindness and Inclusion?”


Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor and member of the City Council.



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  1. HAHAHA! Ann . . When YOU were mayor – I applied to PAINT MY HOUSE and was literally told by the people who ran DR: what color i could use . . Get a grip . . and face facts, YOUR way didn’t work


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