With three council seats up for grabs, Laguna Beach incumbents see five challengers

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Laguna Beach City Councilmember Peter Blake and Mayor Sue Kempf are seeking reelection on Nov. 8. Firebrand Media file photos

Three seats on the Laguna Beach City Council are being sought by seven candidates, according to an election notice posted by the City Clerk Wednesday.

Incumbents Sue Kempf and Peter Blake will seek their second four-year term after helping lead the city through the pandemic.

“My work isn’t done,” Kempf said in a press release. “I assessed that I have sufficient support from a broad coalition of residents.”

Kempf spearheaded COVID-19 relief programs for businesses, employees, and residents. Along with Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen, she was deeply involved in the creation of the 2019 wildfire mitigation report, which led to the City adding a helicopter refilling station and an expanded outdoor warning system.

Councilmember Toni Iseman’s decision not to run for reelection after 24 years of public service in Laguna Beach leaves a door open to five challengers, who are known quantities in Laguna Beach politics. These candidates are:

  • Ruben Flores, Laguna Nursery owner and a tree advocate, earned 131 fewer votes than councilmember George Weiss in the 2020 election.
  • Mark Orgill, a 39-year Laguna Beach resident and real estate investor behind seven-degrees event venue, Laguna College of Art + Design Residence Hall, and Sunset Cove Villas.
  • Jerome Pudwill, a 36-year Laguna Beach resident and advocate for limited development. Pudwill works as a marketing director “with a prior land development career.”
  • Alex Rounaghi, a Laguna Beach native and chair of the Housing and Human Service Committee. The 24-year-old is co-vice president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club and works full-time as a policy advisor to Orange County Sup. Katrina Foley.
  • Louis Weil, a Realtor and design review board member, led the influential panel overseeing an uptick in home remodels amid the pandemic. Weil is the son-in-law of prominent local philanthropists Barbara and Greg MacGillivray.

A Laguna Beach High School graduate and third-generation Lagunan, Rounaghi returned to his hometown after graduating from Dartmouth College in 2020.

“I feel really lucky to have grown up in this community and so I feel sort of an obligation to step up and ensure that future generations get to enjoy the same unique, special Laguna Beach that I got to grow up in,” Rounaghi said.

Rounaghi’s top priority is seeing utility lines underground in Laguna Canyon.

“The power lines on Laguna Canyon Road and fire pose an existential threat to us. We’ve had two fires in the last year and the question is not if but when the next power line causes a fire,” he said.

He advocates pursuing all possible financing options, including a one or two percent increase in the hotel transient occupancy tax.

Before deciding to run himself, Rounaghi served as Kempf’s reelection campaign manager. He supports her reelection.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. The clarity in decision making and his ability to shred the haters makes Our Leader Peter the clear winner for all Laguna.

  2. Laguna Voters: Looks like there are some promising candidates stepping up to serve and represent ALL Laguna Beach constituents. That will be a welcome change for residents!

    #Vote2022LeadershipChange. #BlakeOUT2022.

  3. Marty Liston , no your Dear Leader Peter is either totally confused or duplicitous or maybe both but certainly shows no clarity in his decisions. At the same time he was telling us that we have no parking problem and with the other two developer friendly council members reduced parking requirements for bars and restaurants he was the senior member of a negotiating team which includes the City Manager which has a draft Memorandum of understanding with the Presbyterian Church to LEASE their property for 53 years, design, build and maintain a parking structure and at the end of the lease the multimillion dollar structure belongs to the Church. After all the money for this is our, the taxpayers money. Please go to the city website on council meetings and scroll to agenda item 14 of the May10, 2022 meeting and read the Memorandum of understanding for the details of this “Great Church Giveaway” compliments of your dear leader Peter. I suspect Blake will get votes from Presbyterian Church members that normally wouldn’t vote for a boorish bully.

  4. Mr. Blake is the capitalist businessman we need, who understands the vision of development (we need) in Laguna. He’s not an obstructionist for preservation. His proposal is pro-growth for parking. Why should there be a parking mandate for retail? It’s stunted everything for 20 years for what? Building and maintaining a new garage with the church is a bad thing? Because it’s done with tax money? What about the legions of ‘public safety, children, education, green, art, and racial equality’ money spent on pet peeves and special interests? Y’all complain about the situation but can’t face the fact that you and the peeps you elected have ruined a lot, and LOST the last time. Nothing is better (according to you). So let Blake and the Capitalist Businessmen who have $kin in the game provide leadership over the trust fund babys who parrot the same old same old whining year after year after year.

  5. I find using the words “trust fund babies who parrot the same old whining” awful. There are many of us hardworking folk that never had a trust fund, able to acquire.property here in Laguna Beach. Wow…..this statement makes me sad for the future of our town and good people. Shame.

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