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Battles before Us

By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

“Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9, quoted by Hillary Clinton the day after her defeat, Nov. 8.

Some of our best candidates don’t get elected. Some of the most worthy causes are unsupported. Sometimes it seems that a loss is catastrophic.

Yet a decision-making process, like a campaign, a public hearing, a court case, a demonstration, moves the collective consciousness even if the immediate decision goes against us.

In 2012 measure CC, the Laguna Beach open space preservation parcel tax initiative, failed to pass. Still, the campaign emphasized the community’s concern for preserving open space. Since then the Council has purchased several open space parcels using general funds. Now with this election’s passage of Measure LL (increased bed tax) those general funds will be enhanced, giving financial flexibility to the city to both improve maintenance of the open space and acquire additional parcels.

In 1999 there was a referendum for Treasure Island (now the Montage) seeking a better development plan with more park and less density. The referendum did not pass. Still the points raised in the process continued to be pressed, and the park space was enlarged, enhanced, and made more welcoming to the public.

Preservation of Laguna Canyon was like that too. So many hearings and meetings, trips to the Board of Supervisors, lawsuits and plenty of rejection took place before that spectacular canyon march of 9,000 people in 1989. All the while consciousness was being raised, setting the stage for passage of Measure H, the $20 million city bond issue that helped to purchase the Laguna Laurel land from the Irvine Company and create the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

It would be so much more rewarding to just win these decisions and not to have to continue to battle with the issues one by one, hearing after hearing. But it doesn’t usually work that way.

Every once in awhile there’s a glimmer of a win. We heard about one of these at the Laguna Canyon Conservancy meeting on Monday night. Julie Hamilton, attorney for Friends of the Canyon, described the process that led to a favorable ruling in a lawsuit against the Coastal Commission. The Commission had approved a development in Laguna Canyon near the animal hospital that was not in conformance with several requirements of the local coastal plan, including that development be “small-scale and rural.” The judge found that with “30 residential units, plus work space, plus retail space, plus a 47-stall parking garage, all on a parcel smaller than one acre, the Project does not qualify as small-scale or rural.” The petition for writ of mandate was granted.

This will probably not be the end of this proposal. Will there be appeals, new proposals brought forward? It will no doubt require quite a bit more persistence to bring about a favorable resolution for the future of the property.

With all of these examples, it would have been easy to get discouraged and weary, but we as a community have never lost heart in pushing for good, for we are responsible for protecting the treasure that is the Laguna Beach environment, and we are compelled to fight the battles ahead, winning bit by bit.

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