“…we run the risk of becoming a city of transients.”

I was excited to be moving to beautiful Laguna Beach in the late 80’s but had one firm requirement: I didn’t want to live in a transient, party area but wanted to live in a neighborhood – where one knew the neighbors and could rely on one another. We were fortunate to locate on a street in South Laguna on which people had lived for many years, raised their families, and cared about each other, including us newbies.  

And yes, our neighborhood has changed over the years. Though a number of old-timers remain, we also now have more second homes, and we have had a taste of a couple of owners who have operated unpermitted short-term rentals. 

Whether this trend of transient, commercial use in residential neighborhoods continues depends on the Council’s decision about short-term rentals.  After a year of study and debate, City Council will soon choose between two versions of an ordinance designed to address the proliferation of illegal short term rentals that have resulted from the growth of private equity backed websites like Airbnb and VRBO.  

If the City Council approves the subcommittee produced version of the ordinance, which would allow an increase in short term rentals in residential neighborhoods, we run the risk of becoming a city of transients. Owners driven by the opportunity to make a fast buck will find the provisions of the subcommittee version of the ordinance easy to circumvent and enforcement will be both difficult and expensive. Plus the only way to enforce such restrictions will be to turn neighbors into vigilantes.  

An ever-increasing part of our City’s resources will be used to enforce rules and ensure the peace in our neighborhoods. Is this what we want for our city? I think not!  

Let’s protect our residential neighborhoods from short-term rentals.  

I urge the City Council to adopt the version of the ordinance recommended unanimously by the City’s Planning Commission, the City’s land use experts.

Peggie Thomas

South Laguna


Remember Mrs. Kravitz of “Bewitched”?

Anyone over the age of forty (ok, maybe fifty) will recall the Mrs. Kravitz character on the classic TV show “Bewitched.” The character seemed to be engaged full-time in reacting to all the crazy happenings across the street at the Stephens’ residence. While an amusing television character, nobody actually wants to have Mrs. Kravitz as a neighbor, let alone a neighborhood filled with them.  

Yet, the City Council is currently considering a short term lodging (STL) ordinance that appears calculated to do exactly that.  

Both currently proposed STL ordinances to be considered by the City Council on Aug 9, the Planning Commission’s proposed ordinance and the City Council’s alternative, place the burden of enforcing the STL rules on the neighbors of future STLs. Under the Planning Commission’s proposal any STL activity in a residential area would be a violation.  A single STL use would be relatively easy to detect either through tracking of an Internet site or discussions with an honest lodger. 

A Mrs. Kravitz will not be needed to detect such a use.  

However, the subcommittee’s watered down version would allow a scofflaw property owner to repeatedly falsely claim that the detected STL use fell within allowable limits. Such a falsehood could be uncovered only if a concerned member of the community continuously monitored STL websites and surveilled the purported STL property over a long period of time. Residents will be put in the position of either suffering cheaters in their midst or becoming the present day equivalent of Mrs. Kravitz, something that nobody wants.  

The City Council should reject the subcommittee alternative and instead adopt the well-conceived Planning Commission proposal.

Lester J. Savit

Laguna Beach


Five for the Planning Commission’s plan

Hard to police

The number of illegal short-term lodgings has exploded this year.  Both City Council subcommittee meetings on this issue had a large turn out at the Susi Q where a vast majority of community members described their personal experiences with the increased noise, trash, parking, and drunken parties invading their neighborhoods this year. Others were concerned about the declining number of long-term rentals in the community because some owners were going for short-term rentals and evicting long-term renters, which drastically affects the number of affordable housing available in Laguna Beach.  

A transient neighborhood brings about a host of issues to people living there.

A residential neighborhood by design is for residents to rest, recharge, and re-energize for the work ahead. Commercial areas by design are for commercial enterprises, and hotels and motels are in this category. The revolving doors of short term rentals this year have hurt our neighborhoods, as opposed to long term rentals where people know each other, their children go to our schools, and the residence is their home.  

I shook my head when listening to various rules and regulations that were presented at these sub group meetings. All require enforcement people and plans, which only go to show how hard it is to police this type of commercial renting in a residential zone. Many other cities have enacted a ban on short-term rentals in residential areas, and Laguna Beach should, too.

As a long time resident, I appreciate our sense of community. I am appealing to community members to contact the five City Council members to urge them to vote for the Planning Commission report on Short Term Housing. It limits new short-term lodgings to commercial zones and does not add new ones to residential zones.   

I also urge community members to attend the 6 p.m. City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 9, to voice their concerns.

Karen Dennis

Laguna Beach


“…let’s save our precious water and keep us safe from extra fire danger…”

I support the Planning Commission Short’s Term Lodging (STL) Ordinance because the negative impact of short-term rentals can go far beyond our immediate neighborhoods. 

California, as we know, is in the middle of a severe drought and short-term renters in our residential areas who are unfamiliar – or unconcerned – with those challenges could pose a big threat. Imagine if a short-term renter who knew nothing of the threat - or didn’t care - threw a cigarette butt over a balcony onto dry brush? 

And what about our water, this finite resource we residents all work so hard to conserve by taking shorter showers, reducing our watering, using our gray water, removing our lawns, even letting some of our trees die? 

Turning homes, normally occupied by 2 or 4 people, into motels for up to 10 to 12 people dramatically intensifies water use and there is little incentive for out-of-towners to conserve, they are on vacation.  As Mayor Dicterow, has exhorted us many times to do, “Let’s be water wise.”  

So let’s save our precious water and keep us safe from extra fire danger by supporting the Planning Commission’s unanimously recommended version of the ordinance that keeps more STL out of our residential neighborhoods.   

The City Council meets on Tuesday, Aug 9  at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers to make a final decision about STL. Hope to see you there. 

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach


Subcommittee version is more onerous

We  are  very  much  in  favor  of the original Planning Commission Short Term Leasing proposed ordinance over the council subcommittee  version. The latter is more onerous and will require more city involvement, at all levels, in that it carves out exceptions to the residential zoning law and public policy.

If  the subcommittee version is adopted and you are suddenly overrun with the STL tourists next door, contact the councilmembers who adopted the subcommittee version and vote against them in the next election.

Sharon and George Orff

Laguna Beach


No to Temple Hills sidewalk

The City of Laguna Beach (City) proposes the construction of a sidewalk along approximately 2,640-foot portion of Temple Hills Drive as part of the City’s Capital Improvement Program (Proposed Project). The proposed improvements would start at Dunning Drive and terminate north of Palm Drive. 

The Proposed Project would include installation of a four–foot wide sidewalk and associated curb and gutter along the east/southeast side of Temple Hills Drive within the City of Laguna Beach’s right-of-way. The total area of the proposed sidewalk would be approximately 10,560 square feet.

The City of Laguna Beach took a survey of residents within 300’ of the project. The results were almost 50/50 for and against the sidewalk. There has been an appeal filed against the sidewalk that will be heard on August 9, 6 p.m. at City Hall. In the interest of all residents who use Temple Hills Drive to either take their kids to school, go to the parks, hiking trails, visit family or friends, cycle, walk, and live on Temple Hills (off Temple Hills or on Top of the World), we would like to hear from you, all concerned residents of Laguna Beach. 

If you have an opinion or comments about this project please complete the anonymous survey. Go to:  bit.ly/THSidewalk

Jackie Parker

Laguna Beach

 


Guest Column

Jerry Immel

The Temple Hills Sidewalk to Nowhere

 

Like many of us in town, an unexpected twist of fate resulted in my discovering and moving to this little paradise in 1970 (having come from Milwaukee, it was more like a miracle).  My wife, Susan, and I live just above the hairpin curve on Temple Hills, an admittedly exciting place to live because of that curve.  We’ve seen almost every kind of road mishap over the years.  This is part of my motivation for writing this.  

A few months ago, the Design Review Board approved a project to construct a raised curb sidewalk on the east side of Temple Hills beginning at our property, from Dunning Drive to Palm Drive, despite a large contingent of residents strongly opposed to the idea.  I am a member of the opposition and am writing this to inform Temple Hills and city residents about the reasons why we think this is a bad and costly venture.  

We have filed an appeal of the Design Review Board approval.  The appeal will be heard by City Council on Tuesday, August 9 at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.  

Here are our concerns:

Pedestrian Safety - Temple Hills Drive is a very narrow and dangerous road.  Installing a four-foot wide raised curb sidewalk will exacerbate the existing danger and reduce public safety.  It will give pedestrians a false sense of security.  The letter carriers who service our drive tell us they will no longer be able to pull up to the mailboxes to deliver the mail because of the four+ foot reach across the sidewalk.

Bicyclist’s Safety - Temple Hills is heavily used by regular bicyclists and for advanced training for bicyclists in competitive events.  Bicyclists, who now hug the uphill shoulder, would be pushed out into the center of the lane, increasing the probability of car/bicycle collisions.  Bicyclists I’ve spoken with tell me they will not use the sidewalk (even if permitted) because they can’t tolerate the continuously varying pitch at the driveway egress points.  This will cause motorists to encounter delays in uphill traffic because there is no safe way to navigate around the bicyclists other than to try to pass in the oncoming lane.  I also think our police department will find enforcing the rules of the road regulating bicyclist and motorist interaction challenging.   The city got it right when they built the Park Avenue sidewalk years ago.  But then they had the good fortune of a huge right-of-way and no residences along its route from TOW to Wendt Terrace.  No such luck on Temple Hills Drive.

High cost – the current city estimate (and it’s only a guess at this point) is around $800,000.  Because the project will require the demolition and replacement of an extraordinary amount of hardscape and landscape along the entire route, the cost is easily twice that according to people with knowledge of public works projects.  If you’re the curious type, drive along the uphill side of Temple Hills starting at the end of the hairpin and imagine a sidewalk going four feet to the right of the right side white limit line on the roadway.  The destruction and remediation involved would be substantial and very costly.  This project fails in even the most rudimentary cost/benefits analysis.

Flood protection – despite the installation of a new storm drain down Temple Hills in the last year, there is still a substantial amount of surface water flow on both sides of the road.  Those of us on the east (uphill) side have had the city build berms and make other adjustments to the edge of the road to reduce the amount of flooding down our driveways that has happened in the past.  The sidewalk would very likely disrupt the topology and require the city to make additional expensive fixes to reduce this danger.

Sidewalk to Nowhere – okay, that might be a little dramatic, but the fact that the sidewalk goes up to Palm Drive and then abruptly stops does seem enigmatic.  What fate befalls the many homes between Palm Drive and Alta Laguna that won’t have a sidewalk?  I guess half a sidewalk will cost Laguna Beach homeowners/taxpayers less than the whole route.

If you agree that this project is ill advised and should be shelved and the money used for more pressing public works projects, please join us at the appeal hearing noted at the beginning of this column.  

If you have any questions, you can email me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Too much flag waving

In the past year many new retailers have put down stakes in our beloved village. Most, I would say, are refreshing to locals who crave something new. Some, unfortunately, are less than thrilling. 

Whether it is the business’ sales tactics (re: “spa” on Forest that will go unnamed) or the business’ merchandise, some new establishments haven’t been welcomed with open arms. 

One such new business that I find particularly displeasing has made its home on Laguna Canyon Road. While I cannot name the store, any local who has driven through the canyon in the last year will be familiar. I understand that it might be difficult to attract patrons to a storefront on Laguna Canyon Road, but perhaps that should have been considered before settling on this location. To combat the challenging location, this retailer has decided to fly nearly 25 different flags from their roof. 

My main points of contention are with the aesthetic appearance and safety. Let’s start with aesthetics. The canyon is beautiful—the rolling hills with natural wildlife never cease to delight me as I drive in or out of town. Now, however, I have found that my eyes are drawn to the bombastic flags blowing in the wind on top of this business. 

Aesthetics aside, let’s discuss safety. I know all locals can agree that motor vehicle, cycling, and pedestrian safety has become a priority in our town—especially in the canyon where a significant number of accidents occur. As much as it shames me to say, when I drive past the aforementioned establishment I am looking at the flags, not the car in front of me. So if I can be distracted by something I pass every day, what about the visitors to our town who are in bumper to bumper traffic and find their eyes wandering? 

I am writing this in the hopes that our city will kindly ask this establishment to remove their flags on the basis of aesthetic appearance and safety on the canyon road. 

Chloe Cunningham

Laguna Beach


Trump’s acceptance speech

Even though I am a lifelong Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, I watched Donald Trump’s acceptance speech last Thursday night in Cleveland.  Some of my Laguna friends characterized his tone as angry.  Frankly, I think he has a right to be angry.

Is anyone happy that police officers are being ambushed while on duty?  No.  Is anyone happy vicious illegals, who should have been deported, have killed innocents?  No.  As far as I am concerned, there is a lot to be angry about these days.  For example:

Trump, like every other Republican in Congress, says Obamacare needs to be repealed. Where was his anger when it truly counted? The GOP has failed for years to come up with an alternative health care plan.

Trump says we must defeat ISIS. I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the problem: There are more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide. Most are peaceful. If a mere 1 percent are radicalized, how do you eliminate 16 million people without incurring the anger of millions of others?

My overall impression of Trump’s acceptance speech was this: The wealthy real estate mogul approached every topic on his agenda as if he was leading a hostile takeover of a company.

Like I tell my kids, America is not a business and, contrary to popular belief, not for sale to the highest bidder ... or angriest politician.

This includes Donald J. Trump.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


The realities of STLs

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to City officials

As a University of California Irvine political science professor who has done research on public policy for more than 40 years, I know this key finding: a policy is very likely to fail if implementation is extremely difficult.  I suggest that the STL (short term lodging) policy proposed by the Subcommittee of Councilmembers Dicterow and Whalen has fundamental implementation problems and should be rejected. 

It is naïve to believe that the great majority of those making substantial profits from STLs will register for a permit and fulfill all of the requirements that are included in the Subcommittee’s proposed regulations. Equally important, it is naïve to truly believe that in most cases where violations of the rules would occur, neighbors and/or city officials would be able to: (1) adequately monitor the extent of the violations; (2) gather sufficient evidence of those violations; (3) document the violations in a legally viable manner; and (4) impose stiff fines that were actually paid by the violators.

Some current, unlicensed landlords and STL tenants are sensitive to the impacts of STLs in residential neighborhoods. But for a substantial number of STL landlords, the financial incentives are too huge for them to accept and follow the restrictions in the Council Subcommittee version. The landlords will find many ways to end-run the regulations.  And city officials and neighbors will find it extraordinarily difficult to “prove” crucial regulations, such as, for example: that there have been only two 2-week rentals per year; that there are only two residents per bedroom [after 10 pm]; that the landlord is in residence six of the 12 months; that “visitors” are not non-paying friends or home exchangers; and so on). Enforcement will also raise important problems regarding privacy and neighbor-neighbor relations.

Serious implementation problems are only one of the several important reasons that have been identified and documented regarding the negative effects of STLs in residential neighborhoods (e.g., declining long-term rental stock and increased rents, increased work demands on public employees, real estate agent disclosure requirements reducing property values, etc.). On many policies, compromise is a great outcome among competing preferences. But not on STLs in residential neighborhoods.

Only a ban on all but a very limited number of licensed and rigorously monitored STLs (except in commercially zoned areas) can create the clarity of conditions in which implementation of the policy could succeed in achieving the goals of policy compliance and of protecting the “quiet enjoyment” in residential neighborhoods that is judicially protected by city zoning laws.  Thus I support the Planning Commission’s proposal as the most appropriate one for dealing with STLs in Laguna Beach.  And I encourage you to support the Planning Commission’s proposal.  Thank you for reading my comments.

James Danziger

Research Professor of Political Science, University of California, Irvine

Laguna Beach


Make no changes to Planning Commission’s STL recommendation

A recent article in another publication describes how neighborhoods bordering South Laguna beaches are being inundated by a tsunami of day-trippers, unleashed by social-media and unaccountable to their neighbors—because they’re not neighbors. What if that tsunami could have been prevented in the first place?

It’s not too late to prevent the predictable tsunami of short term rentals in Laguna. A number of beach cities have enacted total bans against them: Redondo Beach, Tiburon, Belvedere, Sausalito, Manhattan Beach, Monterey, Carmel, and Santa Barbara, besides the inland cities Ojai, Anaheim, Aliso Viejo, and West Hollywood. 

We, however, have a carefully-crafted, moderate ordinance presented to us by our excellent Planning Commission after their many months of study. It doesn’t rule out STL entirely, it only restricts it to the commercial zones where it belongs. If we do have to fight the Coastal Commission about this issue, we will obviously not be alone—and it’s the right thing to do.

Rule number one—don’t enact an unenforceable ordinance!  At a recent Council Subcommittee meeting about the STL issue, we were given expert testimony by Dr. James Danziger (see below), (http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=2600) who stated that the changes the Council is considering making to the Planning Commission’s ordinance on STL are unenforceable. 

The City Council meets on Aug. 9 to make a final decision about the STL ordinance—it should stick with the Planning Commission’s version.

Rosemary Boyd

Laguna Beach


Still blaming Hillary

Now I’ve heard it all.  After blaming Hillary Clinton for nearly everything (from the long lines at the gas pump in the 1970s, to the Challenger blowing up in the 1980s, to the Cubs failing to make it to the World Series since the 1940s, and more), Donald Trump’s campaign manager had this to say about the presumptive Democratic Party’s presidential candidate: “Melania Trump’s plagiarism is Hillary’s fault.” 

Really? Can someone in town please explain this to me?  

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Feel free to attack Hillary Clinton’s policies, but stop spouting nonsense from bizarre or discredited websites.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Response to John Pietig’s Guest Column

I read with interest both John Pietig’s guest column in response to the previous guest column and a recent letter in support of the city’s housing assistance program. Because this issue sparked my interest and ire, I might add, I did some research on my own and voila, found what the writer is calling “unfair accusations” about the city’s program and its home sharing participants are actually facts, not accusations.   

Facts are not “unfair”, they are informative. What is unfair and extravagant, in my opinion, is the city using taxpayer funds to help buy employees houses in the first place. It seems to me that the money could be used for other needed services or improvements benefiting the residents. It’s laughable that the letter writer claims that city employees who benefit from this program somehow put any more at risk than any other person who buys a home with a bank loan, or that we should feel sorry for them because they have to “share” the equity appreciation with the city.   

Huh, if you borrow money from mom and dad to buy a house, don’t you have to pay it back maybe even with interest? By the way, I’m pretty sure the neighbors in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood bought their houses with their own money or had to borrow from a bank like the rest of us. I also don’t think government was in the business of buying city employees houses back then, kind of like government wasn’t in the business of providing pensions at 90% of salary and life long health insurance either.  

City governments weren’t going bankrupt back then due to unfunded pension liabilities, either. Cities used to spend within their means and put the residents first, not the city employees. Somehow Mister Rogers’ neighborhood got hijacked.  

Look, I don’t blame Mr. Pietig for defending this program. He benefited from it and after all it’s the job of city employees to justify city expenditures. I would like to point out however that his rationale that in order to ensure swift responses to emergencies these “essential” employees must live in town seems flawed. I understand that the last director of public works did not live in Laguna and recently retired after 20 years. Was the safety of Laguna Beach at risk for the last 20 years?  Was response to emergencies impaired because of this individual’s lack of residency? 

I’ve read a couple of these home purchase agreements and I can tell you they are sweet deals. Not only does the employee get to buy a house in Laguna subsidized by the taxpayers but these individuals may remain in these houses for up to two years after termination from their city job or up to 10 years from the date of retirement or death.  

So for example, if the employee were to die a year into their city employment their spouse could remain in the home for up to 10 years before being obligated to sell the house. 

If capital improvements are made by the employee, e.g., remodeling of the kitchen or bathroom, then the city will adjust the employee’s equity commensurate to the costs of those improvements at the time of sale. How many of us can actually be guaranteed that the cost of our capital improvements will equate to increased equity in our homes at the time of sale? 

Not sure if you knew this but the city already had a policy back in 2008 that provided an $800/month (maybe more now) housing subsidy to incentivize city employees’ residency in Laguna. This worked well for one of the participants for many years until that individual wanted to purchase a home and because Laguna was not affordable would have had to move to, let’s say, Irvine. This particular home purchased in 2008, is one of the homes currently up for sale.

Mr. Pietig also states that the interest rates on the loans that the city makes are set to exceed the return on the city’s investment portfolio. But what he did not mention is that the average return on the city’s investments over the last 5 years are less than 2 % per year (0.79%- 1.83% to be exact). I know cities have to invest conservatively but heck are they buying negative interest rate bonds? The interest rates on these “variable” interest loans made with the participants are set at not less than 2% and while they can be adjusted every year based on the city’s rate of return on its investment portfolio will never exceed 5%. Nice terms if you can get them.

My major gripe with this program is that it exists at all. Why is a city of 25,000 in the real estate and mortgage business at all? There does not appear to be any compelling reason that I can see. I know there will be those that don’t agree with my position but that’s ok. We all have the right to our opinion. Oh and by the way I would love to get those power lines in my neighborhood underground. Does anyone have a spare dime?

Deborah Schlesinger

Laguna Beach


Bats vs. Mosquitos – Bats win

Zika virus is serious and coming to Laguna this summer.  

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a ‘green’ solution to help lessen the problem? I would suggest for anyone who is able to put up a bat box. If we had at least one in every neighborhood the mosquito population would be decimated.  

Mosquitos are a bat’s favorite “fruit”!

Peggy Mitchell

Laguna Beach


Vote for Prop 62 and against Prop 66

45 years ago in a bone-chilling, blood-curdling cover story for The Los Angeles Free Press about California’s gas chamber (“How Long Can You Hold Your Breath? Dec 4, 1970), author, musician, and beatnik activist Ed Sanders, decried state-sponsored, tax-payer funded executions as a “ritual of filth.” Sanders exhorted: “Isn’t it time to crush that cruel nose-cone at San Quentin in the jaws of the nearest auto compactor or in the nearest junk yard?” 

Close to half a century later – but, better late than never – when Californians head to the polls on Nov 8, we can do just what Ed Sanders suggested: We can toss out what former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun called our broken and vile “machinery of death” relegating it to the dust-heap of our shared, dark, wayward humanity. 

If we vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66, we can finally be rid of the gruesome gas chamber, which Sanders wrote, “drools for its next victim”; it might surprise you to know this man-made room of depravity with its glistening, antiseptic floor, could under current California law, still be used. 

And what about those grim, ghastly gurneys and the nasty life-sucking needles, no better than chemical nooses? They’ll be gone for good if we just vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66.

If we vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66 (which promises to speed up executions, but underneath its sheen, is nothing more than twenty-four carat fool’s gold), California can forever be free of the infamy of having executed an innocent person – that is, if we haven’t done so already. With the too-large number of exonerations of  the wrongfully convicted in California and nationally, a number that keeps rising as faithfully as the tide, it may be too late for us to prevent such an abomination – but what does it say about us as human beings if we don’t act now to prevent more!?

My fellow citizens, if we just vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66, finally, we can put an end to the extremely costly, time-sapping, never-ending death penalty appeals that have clogged and paralyzed our court system for decades, and that would do so even more under Proposition 66; if we just vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66, we can end the ghoulish grandstanding over the procurement and planning by our elected officials to administer potentially defective, death-inducing drugs to our citizens – drugs that have the potential, as we’ve seen in recently botched executions around the country, to torture – thereby demeaning us all.         

At least 18 death row inmates in California are out of appeals and ripe for execution; 730 more are in the pipeline, ready to follow suit.  We can exterminate them all, and going forward we can choose to kill the many hundreds and thousands of Californians that will sadly, but as surely as human nature, take their place. We can do so in the name of so-called “justice,” and on behalf of the great State of California.

Or, finally, as the Los Angles Free Press implored close to a half a century ago, we can as free Californians break from the yoke of state-endorsed murder – a vulgar practice of vengeance that has masqueraded far too long in this country as “justice.”    

If we do that – if we Californians vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66 – we can fulfill the hopeful promise of our goodness as a people upon which the Eighth Amendment of our United States Constitution depends; in 1958, the Honorable Earl Warren, a native Californian, our state’s thirtieth Governor, and a former Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote that the Eighth Amendment “must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” If we vote for Proposition 62 and against Proposition 66, our standards of decency will finally have evolved such that we can mark – I daresay, we can celebrate – the progress of the maturing society conscientious Californians long have craved.

Stephen A. Cooper, Esq.

Woodland Hills

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California.


Democrats in panic mode

The FBI disclosures on how Hillary messed up the State Department and possibly our country’s security has put the Democrat party went into the panic mode.  

Her presentation, along with Bernie’s rant, on Tuesday morning TV reflected their state of panic by their promising to give everyone even more “free stuff” while  avoiding mentioning how any of it can be paid for.  I can only figure Bernie’s total reversal from months of accurately stating Hillary is incompetent in everyway, to his total support for her must be based on his continuing hope that Hillary will have to drop out leaving him as the most likely Democrat candidate for President. Or, that if she survives the coming investigation of her perjuring herself before Congress that she will select him as VP.  

It should be obvious to voters, and to even the liberal press, that all these lies and wild claims by Hillary and Bernie make them totally unqualified for any government position.  All the Democrat panic and wild promises would be amusing except that the future of a free America depends on Trump becoming President and bringing sanity and patriotism into government

Dave Connell

Laguna Beach


Get a ticket for All Shook Up

I have never written a show review before, even though I have been to many shows. 

“All Shook Up” at Laguna Playhouse is so terrific; it has compelled me to write this letter.  The show is surprisingly not about Elvis, but in fact it is a hysterically funny musical, using some of his songs. 

The large cast is young, energetic and can act dance and sing on key. Get a ticket and go to this show, because it’s fun for all ages.

Cheryl Kinsman

Laguna Beach


Fence me in

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to City Hall

As if more evidence was needed to demonstrate the morainic behavior of some visitors to the wilderness areas…last week, dried twigs were placed on one of the concrete structures on top of the Carolyn Wood Knoll…and set ablaze!   This within feet of the Hazardous Fire Area sign…proving that signs alone do not, and will not, serve as a deterrent.

Click on photo for a larger image

 

From a legal standpoint, I believe there is ample evidence that the Knoll has become an attractive nuisance.  As such, to mitigate the City’s potential liability, its time to consider erecting a chain link fence around the entire circumference of the Knoll.   The precedent for such action was set many years go when such a barrier was installed to control access to and around the newly installed water tank. 

For those who might complain about the esthetic impact of a fence, compare that to the devastating visuals a wildfire would leave behind.  One only need look across the way at the scarred landscape created by the very recent blaze in the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.  

It’s time that the City step up to the reality that passive measures will not get the job done.  Aggressive steps must be taken immediately to prevent an all-consuming wildfire.  

Jerry King

Laguna Beach


Don’t know about the Survey

A survey was emailed me recently from the City of Laguna Beach. The intention of this survey and to obtain feedback from local citizens about projects that could be included as part of the City budget. The question, after reading this list of proposed projects, was how truly were many of them actually needed? 

Many of the projects seemed possibly worthwhile but it was never discussed as to whether we are talking about paying for them with our current budget or if these suggested projects would have to be paid for by some other means like increases in fees and/or taxation on property. At no time in this survey was it mentioned as to whether property owners would be willing to pay, with an increase property taxes, or increase in the fees to remodel or build in Laguna, to have any of these projects completed other then increase in hotel taxes. In the July 1, 2016 edition of the Laguna Beach Independent, reporter Rita Robinson wrote and quoted Councilperson Iseman, “I really believe we need to have additional money”. 

With the many choices of proposed projects there were no choices to make other then how important they might be or how unimportant they might be. Many of my responses were “I don’t know”. I found it difficult to agree how much importance could be placed on any of these projects until the costs were discussed. It felt to me like the survey was leading me into a lot of agreement and yet not talking about how these projects were going to be paid for. With water rates, sewer rates, property taxes, and even electricity rates all increasing it can be overwhelming. This survey seems to be opening the door for some sort of increase in fees and taxation that would increase the burden on property owners. For such a small population in this city of about 23,000 people, the current budget to run our city government seems astronomical in proportion to cities with similar sized populations.

Just how much of Laguna’s budget is spent on servicing our tourist business and what are the true benefits property owners get? With $445,000 just to just plan the Village Entrance, $450,000 for a walking path from Act V to the Art College, $100,000 to rebuild the steps to the beach at Agate Street, and the $2,000,000 grants split 50/50 for both the Museum and the local playhouse and now a proposed list of costly projects it truly looks to me that our city government simply has way too much of our money to spend. Maybe it’s a time to start giving it back to the taxpayers instead of looking for more costly and unnecessary projects.

The structure of this survey made me feel uneasy. Looks to me like if you want a Utopian lifestyle you got to be willing to step up and find a way to pay for it. Where will the money come from? This survey puzzled me and its intentions could be questionable to the point where it can be asked, is it a truly valid survey? Measures on ballots for voters often spell disaster for those who will ultimately be picking up the tab. 

This survey looked like a “wish list” and so many projects were truly unnecessary. What I came away with regarding this survey was about government over-spending. Any list of proposed projects could go on and on and on. 

Time for this to stop. When you got more then you need then save the rest or better yet...give it back to the taxpayers.

Jim Gothard

Laguna Beach


Go with the Planning Commission

We support the Planning Commission’s Ordinance, which allows: those operators of Short Term Lodging who have been playing by the rules to continue new STL with appropriate permits in commercial areas of town where the other hotels are located; unrestricted rentals of more than 31 days.

Sandra Pink

Laguna Beach


The true colors of short-term rentals?

I am a long-time Laguna Beach resident, the father of four children, a property owner and a Realtor.  When my family travels, we often stay in short-term lodgings. We have rented Airbnb houses in San Francisco, Anchorage, Spain, Washington, DC, Montreal, Quebec and other cities. Realistically, this opportunity offers a better and more affordable option for a family.  You can bet that when we stay in a city, we also spend a lot of money on restaurants, admissions to tourist sites, bicycle rentals, etc.  In my mind, Laguna Beach should be promoting short-term rentals for the health of the local businesses and the tax base of our city.

Last Sunday, a raucous party in our neighborhood kept us up. This party was thrown by neighboring homeowners and their local guests. This is a common occurrence in our neighborhood and I recognized the loud voices as those of my neighboring homeowners. If there are problems with short-term renters I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been disturbed by them.

Next week our family is going on vacation and our house will be empty.  Far from banning short-term rentals, the City of Laguna Beach should encourage us to rent our home to responsible vacationers who will buy art at Sawdust, eat at local restaurants, buy boogie boards and T-shirts, etc.  Instead the agenda seems to be driven by a vocal few elitist activists who want to change Laguna from a vibrant, welcoming beach community to a sleepy hamlet devoid of character and commercial activity.  To wit, I recognize these activists as the same folks who fight Mozambique and other businesses at every turn.  What’s next?  Shall we shut down Laguna Beach High School because of the noise made by their marching band? 

To my embarrassment, some of the most active opponents of allowing Airbnb listings are my fellow Realtors, including one who has an active business handling short-term rentals. The irony and hypocrisy is obvious. One has to wonder whether these Realtors are mostly concerned about disintermediation, whereby people rent their places like they always have, but now have the option of doing it directly instead of paying a commission to a Realtor.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Jason Vogel

Laguna Beach


Go ahead, attack Hillary’s policies, but…

Now that the House Benghazi report has been issued and the FBI has interviewed Hillary Clinton, I just want to say this to my very anti-Hillary friends here in town: She had nothing to do with the long gas lines at the pump in the 1970s, the Challenger blowing up in the 1980s, or the tsunami that struck Thailand twelve years ago.

She also has had nothing to do with the Cubs failing to make it to the World Series since the 1940s, or the Warriors losing the NBA championship to Cleveland two weeks ago.  Go ahead and attack Hillary’s policies, but quit spouting rubbish found on bizarre or discredited web sites.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

 

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