Political notebook banner

Stu News and KX 93.5 Forum: Part One

By ALANNA WIGHT and BARBARA DIAMOND

Candidates Jorg Dubin, Judie Mancuso, Peter Blake, Toni Iseman, Sue Kempf, Allison Mathews, Cheryl Kinsman, Paul Merritt, Lorene Laguna, and Ann Christoph were given anywhere from 15 seconds to two minutes to answer questions at the Stu News/KX 93.5 Forum. The forum was broadcast on the local station and posted on the Stu News Facebook page. For those who missed it, here is Part One. 

Paint a picture of your vision of Laguna over the next five to 10 years. (1 minute)

Dubin: “One of the big things that I’m here for is to try to maintain our cultural heritage and make sure it’s viable going forward.” 

Mancuso: “The vision I have is that it’ll be the greenest and the bluest Laguna Beach. It’ll be the greenest because we’ll start recycling all of our wastewater, and we could have perimeter water not only for our fire mitigation, but also for our ecosystem. It will be the bluest because we’ll do everything possible to stop any kind of runoff or untreated water going into our ocean. It’ll be a more pedestrian friendly Laguna Beach.”

Blake: “In 10 years, I’d like to see a Laguna that’s charming, small and sophisticated, emphasis on the word sophisticated. We have charming and small, but it’s frumpy. 

“I do not see where we have to accept the fact that we are talking about permanent supportive housing of chronically homeless people who are addicted to drugs or mentally incapacitated.” 

Iseman: “In the next five to 10 years we’re going to see some things happen we’ve all been waiting for. We’re going to see the Hotel Laguna back in its glory. We’re going to see the movie theater reopen.

“It’s not just what we will see, but what we won’t see. If our town isn’t careful, we’re going to go through some changes that are not going to benefit us. You know, I say I put residents first and putting residents first means we have a vibrant downtown. Putting residents first means that your neighborhoods are clean. But putting residents first means we have to be careful and treasure that which we have right now and why we moved here.”

Kempf: “I’d like to see a very vibrant downtown and I’m not just talking about businesses. I’d like to see people living downtown. 

“Secondly, I’d like to see better transportation options. I’d like to see where cars can be parked. I’d love to see permanent parking in the neighborhoods, getting people into the parking garages, maybe even peripheral parking garages if we can do that. I’d like to see the Transportation Corridors Agency do its part. They committed to making the toll road free after 20 years and they haven’t done that yet.

“And finally, I want to make sure that we don’t have any catastrophes here, that we create a very safe environment, that we don’t have any fires, don’t have any floods.”

Mathews: “What I would like to see in 10 years is smart, urban, professionals, artists, LCAD students. I’d like to see commerce come back to the village and people going to restaurants to eat and to walk into the grocery stores and commercial zoned space that’s just sitting there, zoned to be residential space, [ready for] pre-fab houses.”

Kinsman: “I will do everything in my power to reverse the decision that’s been made on the $11 million paving job...there should be parking structures against the hillside, there should be bathrooms. And the digester will be moved. I know it’s on the historic register but it can be moved. I’ve been to Egypt and they moved the Temple of Ramses up. They can move that digester.”

Merritt: ”We’re going to have to really get aware of protecting our public beaches. Parking and circulation will be solved in 10 years, because we’ll have autopilot cars, just send them on autopilot out in the canyon parking lot, and they can circle, and you can buzz your button to come pick you up in front of a restaurant.”

He would also hope something would have been done about Cox Cable, whose rates he describes as “outrageous.”

Laguna: “The picture has been painted and it’s called our green open space and our bluebelt.” 

She also envisions safe pedestrian crossings, complete streets, dog and resident parking permits for everyone, and municipal wireless in this town for free.

Christoph: “My vision of the future is that the problems that have been outlined here been solved, and we are united as a community again.”

We all know we have an affordable housing crisis here in Laguna, especially for our artists, seniors, and emerging youth. If elected, what specifically, if anything, will you do to create more affordable housing?

Mancuso: “I don’t think we have to do anything but find the right project and get it done.”

Blake: “Affordable housing can only happen in the canyon. It’s not going to happen anywhere in town; we have the most expensive real estate in the country. In the canyon, we have the opportunity to work with development that’s responsible.” 

Iseman: “The really operative word is affordable. I think affordability comes if we use our own land and find somebody we can have a partnership with. 

“You’ve got to be smart about this, and being smart means that we don’t take money that’s going to have those strings attached.”

Kempf: “I think the most obvious solution is a new state law, called Accessory Dwelling Units. We have an ordinance that allows people to rent out portions of their home. If you are an elderly person, and you want to stay in your house, you can have a caregiver live on-site with you, or vice-versa: if you’d like someone else to rent your house and you can live in the smaller room, you can stay in your house. 

“The second thing is somebody really needs to donate land, and then we can do a public/private partnership. That’s probably the second easiest way to do it. 

“Thirdly, there’s a lot of office space downtown that are small that we could convert to housing, little 500-square-foot places, with restrooms. Students could live there.”

Mathews: “Everyone’s talking about what I was talking about three months ago:  turning the commercial space into affordable housing for students.” 

Kinsman: She said one of her clients built Hagan House and there are other places that would be affordable just like that. 

“There’s a building next to Whole Foods. There are some properties around town that can be converted, I can think of some motels that are really not in the best of shape. So creative, good private and public money can be used. I don’t know about the work part, but the live part I think we can do. 

Laguna: “Let’s get to the ADUs and what Governor Brown did for this community to allow places to be configured to put in affordable housing. We need tiny houses in the canyon, tiny, rural, small scale, which follows the Laguna Canyon Annexation Plan.

“We also can legalize non-conforming structures that are existing and repurpose M1-A and M1-B zones in the canyon.” 

Christoph: “I don’t think big projects are the answer for us. I think the ADUs are a good possibility, if we can assure that they’re affordable. The state has a law that says they are permitted in a certain situation, but they didn’t allow the city to put controls over how much they’d be renting for, so that they’d be assured they’d really be affordable.” 

Dubin: “I’m telling you, if we don’t change just talking about things and start being more proactive, we’re not going to have an artist community anymore.

“There’s plenty of industrial buildings out [in the canyon] that are one story that could easily be added to if the city and the property owners got together on this.”

What, if anything, are three things you would do about the problem with homelessness in Laguna Beach? (2 minutes)

Blake: “We need to send cops down to the beach and into the canyon. We need to make these people uncomfortable. What’s the most important thing in the world to a drug addict? His drugs. I’ll remove those drugs from him; he will not stay around very long. 

“Coming to terms with this permanent supportive housing that gets floated around by the compassionate “ignorants” in town, we will never be able to build permanent supportive housing in the most expensive real estate in the country. We need to bring them into areas where housing is inexpensive.” 

Iseman: “I think we need to aggressively deal with those people who are making it difficult for the downtown merchants, frightening the people that are walking down the street. I do believe that we have to have an aggressive way of dealing with repeat offenders, so that they don’t get in the police blotter three times.” 

Kempf: “If I’m on the Council, I’m going to push for regional solutions. I’ve met with Jason Ferris, our outreach officer for Laguna Beach. He often gives these people bus tickets and sends them home. He locates their relatives and sends them home. He also works with the Friendship Shelter to get them permanent support housing or some housing.” 

However, Ferris also told her that he has arrested the same people five or six times.

“We need tougher laws,” she said.

Mathews: “We’ve got to tease out those problems between addiction and domestic violence.” 

Kinsman: “The first thing, we need more boots on the ground, we need police to patrol Heisler Park, Main Beach, downtown.

“Number two, we can work with the hospital because the hospital has a three-day hold for mental health patients. I have personally seen a hospital employee wheeling a wheelchair all the way down the highway and leaving this person at the bus bench. Those people need to be transported back to the cities or wherever they came from, they should not be left in Laguna Beach. 

“And third, we need to work with the federal Judge David Carter, who is trying to get other cities to do similar things to what we’re doing, because the burden right now is way too high on Laguna Beach.”

Merritt: “We’ve got to be very careful and we have to understand and study the details and issues of permanent homeless housing.”

Laguna: ”I ask that the police department have equal enforcement of the law for all of us, whether you are homeless or you’re a resident that can afford to pay your ticket and your fine. 

“We should not be bussing [homeless] in a van – a $68,000 brand new van – down to the bus stop every day. Let’s keep them at the Alternate Sleeping Location. Let’s keep that shelter open, and let’s give [the homeless] purpose-driven life solutions there. Let’s bring in social services. Let’s think about growing an organic garden out there and having them pet the dogs at the animal shelter.” 

Christoph: “We should be working with the regional situation with Judge Carter, looking at how we can as a whole region deal with problem. 

“Friendship Shelter has had outreach workers that go and interact with the [homeless] people that are downtown, try to find services for them. We need to support that. And I agree with providing useful activities so that they’re not just hanging around.”

Dubin: “Each city could potentially build a shelter or redevelop a space within their community, but most people don’t want them in their neighborhood.”

He thinks he has a better solution. 

While he was working on art at the former El Toro Marine Air Station after the Marines moved out, Dubin spotted a lot of empty buildings there that could be converted to a homeless shelter that is not in the middle of Laguna or surrounding communities.

“I think one of those existing buildings [could be redeveloped] into a South County or regional shelter that could be staffed properly and funded by all the communities around here. 

“Utilizing one of the huge empty buildings out there that’s just sitting there waiting to either be torn down, or who knows what, would be a really good place to start looking at building a regional homeless shelter that could take care of a lot of people.”

Mancuso: “Three things: First, stop the dumping by sober living homes and the hospitals that are dumping patients in the streets when they’re all of insurance money. 

“The second thing: We need to decrease the time from when they commit the crime and they’re prosecuted. When they get to the Orange County Jail, they can dry out and sober up. So it gets them out of Laguna Beach, they have to face the consequences and they sober up and from there, they can go wherever. 

“The third thing is we have to segregate the populations. There are veterans, there’s women, there’s mentally ill. They do not have to be housed in Laguna Beach. As long as we are housing some, we can house the rest that we are responsible for out of Laguna Beach, at a regional facility. The money that comes from our pot goes to there to house them.”

RAPID FIRE ROUND 1 (15 seconds each)

Do you support making Forest Avenue pedestrian traffic only?

Iseman, Kempf and Mathews did not support restricting Forest Avenue to pedestrian traffic.

Kinsman: “Only for certain events like Christmas.” 

Merritt: “Let the merchants give their two cents, do they want it closed or not, and secondly, I would consider it only if we recover the 124 parking spaces missing at City Hall.”

Christoph: “I think we should be careful not to mess with it.”

Dubin, Mancuso, and Blake support closing the avenue to vehicles. 

Question 2. Do you support parking meters on South Laguna streets, assuming we’re able to pull off neighborhood parking zones?

Kempf and Mathews: Yes

Kinsman: No 

Merritt: “Young kids that are looking for parking spaces, who won’t pay $4.50 an hour to park, are going to be circling like bees; that’s a bad for our rural neighborhoods.”

Laguna: “Assuming that we could have resident parking permits, and the Coastal Commission would allow that, then yes I would support it.”

Christoph: “No, unless the South Laguna people support it.”

Dubin: “Yes, as long as the funds that come out of those meters go to paying for the garden park in South Laguna.”

Mancuso: She’s in favor of it, if her South Laguna friends and constituents were, otherwise, no. 

Iseman: “Parking meters make sense, but we’ve got to make sure that neighborhoods are protected.”

Are you in favor or opposed to Caltrans’ road widening proposal for Laguna Canyon Road?

Mathews and Merritt: Opposed 

Kinsman: “I really don’t support anything that Caltrans is doing.”

Christoph: “I felt that the widening of the road north of the El Toro Road intersection would probably be a good safety measure, and the area to the south I am opposed to.”

Dubin: “I’m only in favor of it if it was tied to undergrounding the poles and putting in a mass transit lane with peripheral parking, otherwise I’m opposed to it.”

 Mancuso: “I went to a presentation that Hallie (Jones) and Penny (Milne) gave on this, and I agreed with everything they presented so yes, the part they showed was good.”

Blake: “I support it.”

Iseman: “The North Safety Project, which means from El Toro Road toward the Toll Road, has to be made safe. And that’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of – South California Edison needs to figure out where they’re going to put their stuff. But what Caltrans is proposing south of [El Toro] doesn’t work.”

Kempf: She agreed with Iseman about the south end of the project. 

Name some nonprofits that you have supported in the last year.

Kinsman: “I’ve been the treasurer of the Laguna Plein Air Association for the last 10 years.” 

Merritt: “I guess the one nonprofit I’ve been active in since I was 17 years old is the Laguna Beach Beautification Council.”

Laguna: “I am on the executive board of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy. I am a member of CANDO, I’m on the zoning committee. I was a board member of the Laguna Beach Beautification Council.”

Christoph: I’m a member of LOCA, the arts education group, South Laguna Civic Association, the Greenbelt, Laguna Art Museum, the South Laguna Garden Park, the Beautification Council, Laguna Canyon Conservancy, and Village Laguna.

Dubin: “The Laguna Art Museum and Jorg Dubin.”

Mancuso: “I’m the founder and president right here in Laguna Beach of Social Compassion and Legislation. It is a Laguna Beach nonprofit. We had five bills signed into law this year in Sacramento, and we are saving and protecting millions of animals each year.”

Blake: “I serve on none and unlike my colleagues, beholden to none.”

Iseman: “I was one of the original members of the board of Laguna Canyon Conservancy. I served on the Laguna Greenbelt, the Friendship Shelter, the museum, the Playhouse, and Laguna Live!”

Kempf: “I’m a member of the museum, the Festival of Arts, Laguna Beach Seniors, the Marine Mammal Center, and the Boys & Girls Club.”

Mathews: “I have served on the League of Women Voters. I am on the Affordable Housing Task Force.”

In the past year, about how many City Council meetings have you attended?

Merritt: “Too many. My guestimate is about eight to 10.”

Laguna: “I have attended at least one per month and also spoken at many of them.”

Christoph: ”I would say at least half of the city council meetings, maybe more.” 

Dubin: ”When I am not working, I’ve attended probably about 6.”

Mancuso: “A dozen.”

Blake: “Can’t think of any.”

Iseman: “All of them.”

Kempf: “I’ve attended about six. I watch them all. I’m on the planning commission. My work goes to the council.” 

Mathews: “I go to the Affordable Housing Task Force [meetings] because I have to. I mean, I’m on that one, and I’ve been to about five I guess.”

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least voluntary and 10 being the most voluntary, how voluntary do you feel the city’s historic resource inventory should be?

Laguna: “I think that decision has already been made at the last historic preservation ordinance meeting.”

Christoph: “I can’t put it on a scale of 1 to 10.”

Dubin: “7.5. I think it should be mostly voluntary.”

Mancuso: “What I saw was about a 10, and that’s what they voted on.”

Blake: “A 10”.

Iseman: “There are two words you need to understand: the registry and the list. If you’re on the registry, you’re on voluntarily; you put yourself there, and that means it was [voluntary].” 

Kempf: “I’m a 10.” 

Mathews: “I think you’ve got to figure out what’s historic, and you’ve got to give it maybe two or three criteria that can’t be changed on anything, and then make it completely voluntary.”

Kinsman: “Absolutely the most voluntary that it can legally be.”

Merritt: “10.”

What is the number one issue facing the city of Laguna Beach right now?

Christoph: “I think the number one issue is discord; that we need to be working on projects as a community, build enthusiasm and be inspired with our solutions so that we don’t have Measure P and the conflict that comes from that.”

Dubin: “Our creative heritage and how we treat our ‘creatives’ in this town.”

Mancuso: “Climate change, without a doubt”.

Blake: “I consider crime and homelessness as an existential problem in Laguna Beach.”

Iseman: “We are a town of 23,000, but our development in this town currently would be equal to a town of 100,000. We cannot keep up with things.”

Kempf: “I think we need smart planning to adapt to the changing world around us going forward.”

Mathews: “I’m worried about the heart of the village. I’m worried about what people want, I’m worried about the nastiness, I’m worried about us not thinking into the future for our kids. I’m worried about where they are going to be in 10-20 years.”

Kinsman: “The number one issue is money. It’s the taxpayers’ money and how [it is] used.”

Merritt: “Public safety is my number one issue, all the time, for everybody.”

Laguna: “One of the most concerning problems we have is San Onofre. However, right on its tail is the economic fire that will be created by Measure P.”

Published answers, including paraphases, are limited to those that responded directly to the questions asked.