Keepers of the Flame
Fall is just barely beginning but the campaign season is fully underway. Laguna Beach’s city council race promises to be not only controversial, but intriguing and very important for the future of our city. Seven candidates are running for three positions on the council.
So far questions have come up in the campaign about a candidate’s resumes and whether they are truthful, who’s running with who, where are endorsements coming from and what significance do those endorsements have. Political junkies are studying the content of candidates’ websites and comparing lists of names of supporters. Candidates are edgy and feeling vulnerable. Forums are being held, candidates perform, yet all the while I am feeling like we’re skirting the basic issue we face. Who will be most effective at keeping Laguna, Laguna?
One candidate thinks promoting business will do it. Another says solving traffic problems is the key. Another focuses on the police department. One says streamlining permits at city hall and maybe getting rid of Design Review would be good moves. One emphasizes process and experience.
In the audience some say we already have a wonderful town and we need to listen to residents more. Architects and builders say we need to be more open to change.
Two recent articles with outsiders’ views of our town made me more aware of the impressions visitors have of Laguna Beach, and the responsibility we have to a much larger constituency—even the world—to make sensitive and respectful decisions about Laguna Beach’s future.
Richard Grice, an Englishman abroad, wrote a guest column in the Indy several weeks ago, and just recently a long article by Sam Anderson in the New York Times magazine featured our town and the pageant.
“It’s all-implausible, the entire town,” Anderson maintains as he describes the exotic plants, craggy outcrops, eccentric beach bungalows and clustered mansions on the hillsides. “The ocean at Laguna Beach doesn’t even try to look realistic: It’s 300 percent too beautiful — it looks like a screen saver, as if any second now, someone is going to hit a key or nudge the mouse, and the whole thing will disappear…In the winter you can watch the whales leap. And yet people go on living there as if it is all real.”
Grice extols the “sheer intensity and scale” of the natural beauty of our coastline, and cites Laguna Beach as one of the “finest places on earth…built up layer by layer over time; the charm of decay in harmony with sensitive renewal, not the brutally imposing hand of development justified as progress.”
“Some places are endowed with natural beauty. Some are even lucky enough to acquire even greater beauty through the sympathetic development of a place and its people. Sadly, most are destined to be destroyed by the heavy-footed march of Mammon. But what fate awaits Laguna? How will ‘the keepers of the sacred flame’ discharge their trust?” Grice asks.
That’s us, elevated to the position of “keepers of the sacred flame,” responsible for assuring that Laguna Beach continues on as this coastal jewel, a respite and example for other communities as well as a wonderful home town for us and our families.
How will we know who are the best choices for council?
I suggest going direct. Meet candidates in person. There are many forums, events, neighborhood coffees. Candidates want to meet you and talk with you. Some are canvassing neighborhoods. They are available by phone and email. And you can watch them on local access television Cox, Channel 30, see the schedule below.*
It’s not just us, fellow keepers of the flame, the Laguna Beach idea is so much bigger than what we want for our little window of being here. We can continue to share the experience of a beautiful town respectful of its scenic landscape. We can show how preservation of open space and historical features, and an enthusiastic citizenry can interact to create a humane and enlightened setting. We can pick the leaders that will help us keep Laguna, Laguna.
Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.
*Candidates Kelly Boyd and Toni Iseman are already on the city council and so you can see them in action. Often candidates Michele Hall, Paul Merritt and Eli Grossman also speak at those meetings. The next council meetings are October 7 and 21, at 6:00 p.m. and they are replayed on Saturday evening. Rob Zur Schmiede is on the planning commission and their next meetings are October 8 and 22 at 6:00 p.m. Jon Madison is chair of the Heritage Committee and their next meeting is October 20. Unfortunately those meetings are not televised so you will have to actually visit the meeting at the council chambers to observe.