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Christoph announces candidacy: It’s time to get a move on, she says

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Ann Christoph announced this week her candidacy for the Laguna Beach City Council, a position she previously held in the early 1990s.

Her goal is to reduce what she feels is the redundancy that stifles progress on important civic projects.

“We spend too much time on all the studies that are disappointing,” said Christoph in a telephone interview Sunday. “We are paying enormous costs and we should be getting enormous results and we are not.”

The drawn-out revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan are an example. She also cites a proposal to hire another consultant to prepare an urban design plan, which she said is already covered by the Landscape and Scenic Highways resource document she has worked on for decades.

Christoph head shot

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Submitted photo

Ann Christoph

Christoph questions the wisdom of hiring another consultant who has to be brought up speed, particularly when recommendations are “not Laguna” in Christoph’s estimation. 

“They show us something they say is outside the box,” Christoph said. “We could see that at the Irvine Spectrum. But it’s not us. 

“There is a better approach. We know our town best. Collaborating with our local, thoughtful and qualified citizens, the city can become an ally to help us accomplish our goals. 

“We should turn to our neighborhoods, often overlooked while the City focuses its resources on visitor-serving areas.”

Christoph said if elected she would involve residents in determining what improvements they want in their own neighborhoods and then work with them to make those projects happen.

Laguna Beach is different,” said Christoph. ”It’s not just the tiny streets, quaint buildings, and scenic coves. It’s the network of neighbors, organizations, and innovators working together to improve every aspect of the community. 

“Our art festivals, schools, greenbelt, marine sanctuary, social assistance, and parks are here because we joined together. Protecting the greenbelt and bluebelt, fostering the arts, preserving the small-scale village character of the community, strengthening our safety and preparation for emergencies, addressing traffic congestion and parking, insuring fiscal responsibility, and addressing housing challenges –these demand our attention.”

Christoph is a landscape architect often hired to work on city projects, such as Alta Laguna Park, Bluebird Park and the Village Green. She also was instrumental in the creation of the Community Garden in South Laguna, the city’s purchase of which she supports with tenacity.

“Persistence is part of my nature,” said Christoph. “I see something that needs to be done and can be done and I do it.”

Christoph said if she wins a seat on the council her first priority would be to establish a good working relationship with the other members on the dais. 

“I have worked with Steve (Councilman Dicterow) and Rob (Mayor Pro Tem Zur Schmiede) on the Community Garden and Toni (Councilwoman Iseman) is a ‘fellow traveler’,” said Christoph. “She has been active a long time in environmental issues, one of my focuses.”

However, urban development is also high on her list of priorities.

She believes key decisions will need to be made as three important areas of town are proposed for redevelopment: the South Coast Highway properties between the Hotel Laguna and Legion Street; properties north of Laguna Art Museum; and the Civic Arts District properties that include [seven-degrees] and Art-A-Fair.

Christoph seven degrees

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

[seven-degrees] on Laguna Canyon Road

“It is critical to lead our community toward a shared vision, making improvements and enhancements that embellish our village character,” said Christoph. “Now is the time to prepare ourselves for these decisions. I am running because I want to help to unite us. I want to build on what we have in common: We live different. We love Laguna.”

As for the big issue of undergrounding to prevent fires from incinerating the city and to assist safe evacuation if needed, Christoph said the risk justifies spending significant funds to protect the community, but has qualms about the proposed financing mechanism. 

“Many of us are not convinced that the current undergrounding proposal provides enough benefit to justify the high cost and long-term debt,” she said.    

Christoph advocates a comprehensive fire prevention program that includes consideration of a separate emergency water system ringing the city, establishing camera and in-person monitoring, limiting access to open space during critical periods, increasing fire and police enforcement, as well as phased undergrounding. 

Christoph has lived in Laguna for 47 years. Prior to her first election to the council in 1990, she served on the Planning Commission. And before that she served on the South Laguna Specific Plan Board of Review, prior to the 1987 annexation. She was part of the community planning team that wrote the South Laguna General Plan, which was given an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Planners, California Chapter. She also received a Civic Service Award from the South Laguna Civic Assn, and a commendation from the Orange County Board of Supervisors for her work on the follow-up, the South Laguna Specific Plan.

She was in 2015 and again this year honored by the Laguna Beach Beautification Council. 

Other honors include Christoph’s selection as the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club 2005 Woman of the year. The plaque reads “We honor Ann Christoph for her leadership, integrity and visionary dedication to the City of Laguna Beach, and we thank her for her efforts to protect our city and its environment.”