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Stimulating the Staid

ann christoph
By Ann Christoph

On Willa’s corner, at Eagle Rock Way and Santa Rosa Street, we have a Little Free Library. Neighbors leave books they’ve finished and can go away with another of interest. How serendipitous that I would find two books that got me thinking about how Laguna’s generations interact.

Several months ago, I saw Bob Mosier’s 2014 autobiography, “Flying with Biscuit Bomber Bob.” I had only known Bob Mosier as an active north Laguna resident, a member of veterans organizations, and conservative speaker at city council meetings. I wanted to learn more—what was the back story? There he was on the cover as an 18-year-old enlistee and aspiring aviator. He became a pilot of transport planes in the South Pacific during World War II, delivering biscuits and all manner of needed supplies and equipment to troops battling the Japanese on isolated jungle islands. He describes flights over long stretches of open ocean to obscure dirt strips where enemy fire might hit at any time. And of course, it was not only snafu, but situations constantly changing requiring improvisation and courage. (And remember, in the midst of all that, the uncertainty hung over all. They didn’t know, as we do, reading the book from our comfortable sofa, that the war would come out on the Allies’ side in the end.) After the war, he married Beverly, fathered four children and had a challenging career as an electrical engineer advancing digital long-range communications in the aerospace industry. He retired to Laguna Beach in 1985.

Then last week, a 1985 Time-Life book, “The Soviet Union,” caught my eye. The book describes the Soviet Union before Gorbachev, before the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (1991). The authors had no way of knowing that their description of the country was only a fleeting snapshot.

The struggles of managing such a gigantic country with its cold and forbidding climate, multiple ethnic groups, religions and languages, and tumultuous history resulted in a society that made the day-to-day lives of its residents difficult and primitive by our standards—small apartments, shared living arrangements, and limited availability of so many goods we take for granted.

One look at the climate map in the book and I could see the significance of the focus on Ukraine and its future. Areas suitable for agriculture, with relatively mild climate and long growing seasons, comprise a tiny portion of the area of the former Soviet Union. These stretch from Ukraine to Armenia, and include a small section of Kazakhstan. Millions of acres across most of the rest of the country are too cold and too dry. With the break-up of the Soviet states, Russia is left without the most productive agricultural areas it relied on.

What has made our country great became clearer by comparison. Areas suitable for agriculture extend country-wide. Climate is temperate or warmer—not sub-arctic. Two sea coasts with open ports. Religious liberty and tolerance. Freedom to be creative. Acceptance of diverse cultures combined with assimilation into a melding common culture.

If the Allies had lost World War II, all of that could have been crushed and we would be living in a different world. This was surely in the minds of our soldiers, like Bob Mosier, that were on the front lines. And this generation, termed “the greatest generation” when they returned from war, was determined to make the most of this victory. To come into the modern age, develop technology, to make life more pleasant, convenient, and enlightened by comprehensive education. A mobile society, nuclear family, suburban development, burgeoning industry and impressive modern architecture resulted.

My generation said all of this had gone too far—environmental impacts of all that growth had been unrestricted. Post-war urban life was too standardized and confining. Community, extended family, long-term roots in a society, were important too. Appreciation expanded for the natural world and its importance to the planet now and long into the future. This emphasis manifested in Laguna Beach with the adoption of the 36-foot height limit in 1971, the preservation of the Laguna Greenbelt, and Laguna’s artistic heritage and village character.

Now, there’s another generation speaking up that says all that has gone too far. Members of the group, “Young Minds for Laguna’s Future,” want to promote places they can go with their friends; they find Laguna Beach too staid. They want something new, stimulating—like the mushroom-shaped sculpture proposed at the Village Entrance. Group member Tyler Russell spoke at the last council meeting and, motioning to the audience, said the conversation surrounding the Downtown Specific Plan is being dictated by people who will be gone in 20 years, and the council should plan for the younger generation instead. Later on, Cathy Jurca—who urged the Council to investigate the impact the state’s housing requirements would have on Laguna before committing to adding housing density downtown—quipped, “I’m 55; I hope I have another 20 years!”

I hope we were never that harsh with Bob Mosier and his cohorts, even when we disagreed and wanted to push policies that were more environmentally protective. There are always ways to find common ground that can be achieved without accusations.

Having stimulating, exciting activities can be even more interesting in historic buildings—as San Diego’s Gas Lamp District, and Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco exemplify. The staid Chamber of Commerce and maligned Village Laguna both agree that the city’s permit process should be more accommodating to new proposed businesses. Both supported the city hiring an urban economist to advise on attracting businesses that will expand business offerings and stimulate the overall health of the downtown.

Surely we can encourage a downtown future that younger generations and older generations will enjoy and patronize. And we can make 2020 a happy new year for all!

 

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

 

 

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10 COMMENTS

  1. That is an insightful, interesting and informed article, Ann Christoph, that bridges history, generational perspectives and conservation along with its many benefits. I too hope that Laguna Beach finds a way to move forward to address future needs without destroying what has always made Laguna Beach one of the most wonderful and unique cities in the world, as evidenced by all those from far reaches that seek to be inspired by our town.

  2. Thank you Ann. Your article speaks to many past, present and future issues. One thing you mention: “Group member Tyler Russell spoke at the last council meeting and, motioning to the audience, said the conversation surrounding the Downtown Specific Plan is being dictated by people who will be gone in 20 years, and the council should plan for the younger generation instead.“

    As a taxpayer and long-time resident. I personally found Tyler Russell’s attitude and comments at the City Council insulting. Especially since his business is subsidized with our tax dollars and relies on residents (majority over 30 years old I would guess) to support his radio station through private fundraising. If he feels we should not have a voice, unless we promote development and hold a seat on his advisory board, I say we should consider stopping the funneling of city tax funds to him for the radio station. Those that agree should let CC Members know how you feel. Generations of residents have always been considerate of each generations needs as well as improving and protecting our beautiful coastal city.

  3. The aging population of Laguna needs to step down and let the next generation speak up without being bullied. I have lost respect for Ann and VL. Laguna is dying because of your archaic way of thinking. Bravo Tyler and the Young Minds group for having the courage to stand up against the obstructionists! Time for a renaissance!

  4. Yet another Village Laguna propaganda piece by the archaic Ann. All this does is feed into their insanity as well as the newly formed Laguna Residents First. Can you say same book, different cover? What a shame that Firebrand continues to allow such a narrow-minded way of thinking to take lead in their publication. The unimaginative elders of Laguna have been the major contributors to the overall decay of this community. Laguna is gasping for air while our surrounding cities welcome our youth with open arms. Bravo to Tyler and the Young Minds group for standing up for what they believe in, all while being belittled and bullied by the very people that claim to be attacked by everyone that thinks differently than them. Keep fighting on youth of Laguna, don’t let the obstructionists take the very little we have left!

  5. I too found Tyler Russell’s comments insulting. Whether I am here or not in 20 years, it is this group that has made Laguna the wonderful place everyone still wants to come and he obviously want to live in. Does it need refreshing and updating? Of course. But I don’t see how insulting those who came before you can do any good except pit generation against generation. Sadly for Tyler we are the ones paying the taxes to support his radio station. I agree with MJ – if you want to bite the hand that feeds you then maybe the hand should stop feeding you. What exactly are your numbers for listeners? Are we really getting something for the large amount of money we grant you yearly? Is anyone listening to you??? I suggest instead of insulting you find solutions to refreshing Laguna. And it sure isn’t by combining lots, adding another story to a building and getting rid of parking requirements. Give me some real solutions.

  6. Just who is being “belittled and bullied” here?
    The only group I see getting belittled and bullied are the residents of this city who care about preserving what we have and not turning the town over to developers. I don’t know who elected Tyler to “speak for the younger generation” of Laguna Beach residents as he presents himself. He seems to be speaking in a shockingly belittling manner to anyone in Laguna who is over 30 by saying (and writing in the Indy) that they will all be dead in 20 years so their voices should be silenced. He is essentially telling anyone who doesn’t agree with his position on Laguna’s development that they should “sit down and shut up” and that the City Council should ignore their input. Again, who elected him? Everyone has a right to have their voices heard on these important decisions that will affect a town that we all love for many years to come, and it should not be necessary to even point that out, and certainly not be necessary to suggest that attempting the pit different age groups or generations against one another as if some have more rights that others is not only rude and stupid but leads to very bad outcomes in the end. Try a little civility, Tyler.

  7. Sadly, Tyler encompasses the ideology of today, no respect of idea’s or age or history..I am grateful for those young people who care about all of us as the generations before you, considered what you may inherit.

  8. A lot of residents agree with Tyler, he has every right to speak up and is a great asset to our creative community. Like it or not his age group is the future of this city and they should 100% have the ability to voice their opinion even if we don’t like what they say. Ultimately what Tyler said is the truth, and while it may hurt it is something everyone needs to accept. Many of us would be lucky to be able to live in our own homes here in Laguna past the next decade. The very people that say no to change were able to live freely and do as they please when they were in their 30s decades ago. When we were young in this town we never dealt with this kind of backlash from our elders when we spoke our mind, which is probably why Laguna was in its prime in the 70s and 80s. Youth contributed to its vibrancy way back in the day, and tourism was welcomed with open arms. Not to mention we had a thriving gay community, that is before we pushed them all out to Palm Springs.

    My wife and I are in our 70s and I am ashamed that so many of our cohorts are clinging on to the past as if we really have any way of stopping the natural population growth and changes that are occurring across our country. Newsflash, we have something called the California Coastal Commission fighting to ensure that everyone has equal access to our beaches. That means those that live in the growing inland communities are going to flock to our coastline, we might as well accept it. It is not legal to put a toll in the canyon, no matter how much you hate day-trippers. The anti-tourism/anti-parking structure groups remind me of a neighbor that shuts off all his lights on Halloween in hopes that the darkness will detract the trick-or-treaters from knocking on their door. This “build and they will come” anti-development propaganda is nothing more than fear mongering. The village entrance fiasco is a perfect example of what goes wrong when that mindset is accepted, instead of something worthy of that name we are left with a narrow parking lot with a few shrubs for $11 million. If I am not mistaken the designers of that site were Village Laguna members, and while the pathway to the festivals and The Hive looks decent, the rest of that money should have been spent on a usable parking structure so we don’t have to stare at a sea of cars across such valuable real estate.

    Way before all these crazy over regulations and obstacles, Laguna’s brilliant minds were able to creative unique places for everyone to enjoy. Can you image someone wanting to create a place like the Sawdust or a reoccuring event like the Pageant given today’s approval process and unrealistic requirements? Laguna needs a balance of people of all ages and demographics to bring this place back to life. My children and I have the same conversation every time they come down to visit and want to grab something to eat past 9pm. There is only so many times you can take the grandchildren to the beach before it starts getting old. My youngest granddaughter isn’t an outdoorsy kind of girl but loves a great library. Unfortunately I have to drive her to that beautiful library in Newport Beach every time she comes down because the one we have in town is surrounded by the homeless and looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 70s. The oldest grandchildren constantly want to be dropped off at the new Lido development or Irvine Spectrum because that’s where they can hang out with people their age without running into the mentally ill/homeless . The Village Entrance site could have easily housed a new library, artist live/work, social gathering spaces, etc as well as parking for visitors, city staff, and restaurant employees.

    There is a way to move forward and embrace the future while appreciating the past, we just need to get off of our high horse and move out of the way so fresh ideas can take the reigns and bring forth the next chapter of Laguna’s story. Remember, there’s not much charm in a community that only caters to those over the age of 60. If that is the environment we are seeking we might as well extend the border of Laguna Woods because quite honestly that is where we are heading if we don’t start making changes. We have a small window of opportunity before we will reach the point of no return. Please stop fighting the inevitable and start coming up with ideas that will help keep Laguna and its creative ecosystem alive for generations to come. There is beauty in the juxtaposition of old and new, whether it’s buildings or the intermingling of a high school student and an octogenarian. In the words of my beloved John Lennon “Imagine all the people,
    Sharing all the world”.

  9. Let’s be clear here, Mike…no one has suggested that Tyler has no right to speak up so your opening point is a red herring. He can speak as much ash he likes. But he represents himself…he does not speak for ALL residents of Laguna Beach his age…or his gender, or his religious faith, or any other cohort to which he belongs. And everyone else who lives here gets to speak up as well….the objection is to being told that if one is over a certain age one should no longer have a say…pitting one generation against another is no different than pitting one religion against another…it’s harmful to the future of the community no matter who’s doing it…

  10. As a general observation, posters who use pseudonyms, first names, or initials in a hometown forum like this one undermine their credibility by implying they lack the courage of their convictions.

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