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Village Entrance City-approved project loses 120 existing parking spaces, never disclosing it to residents or public agencies!

Planning Commissioner Kempf and City Councilmembers Iseman and Zur Schmiede voted to approve the VE Project despite that residents and businesses would lose 116 existing parking spaces within project boundary…GONE!

The City only reported during the last four years of “planning” + public meetings + communications as having 397 parking spaces in the existing City VE project and with “388 spaces planned”, “we’re losing just 10 spaces”! 

In CC Workshop handouts it stated (held on 11/12/13 and attended by hundreds of residents) there were 397 existing parking spaces + 65 existing gravel City parking spaces earning revenue (existed for decades adjacent to Tivoli Too/tree lot), Lot 16 – the City paid $5.3 million for this in 2014. This equals a never disclosed 462 City Parking Spaces (status quo) we weren’t told about and approved “just to build something by election.”  (Confirmed at City 9/12/18 meeting 462 existing onsite parking spaces in City Property.)

I feel strongly that deceptive City math exists – see the parking count chart displayed on Sheet 1 – where 24 spaces on Caltrans R.O.W. added on Laguna Canyon Rd outside of the project area, the equivalent 14 bicycle + 4 motorcycle spaces are counted (omitted in my review to just compare car spaces, as dozens of motorcycle spaces exist today = even more embarrassing apple to apple comparison). Today, the City’s VE Project provides just 388 -24, -14, -4 = 346 proposed car parking spaces. Thus 462 - 346 = 116 lost spaes at about twice the $6.1 million 2013 Budget, $11.3 + 5.3 = $16.6 million real project cost!

Would residents, businesses, and Coastal Commission have approved the project with reduced public access losses of these directly adjacent parking spaces with existing congestion during Summer Festival and beach season? I think not…what do you say?

This project requires revisions to retain our existing parking spaces (per LB City General Plan – Policy 6H – 1 for 1 parking space replacement in CB District) and potential for an additional 50 spaces to alleviate the parking inundation the trolleys promote in our neighborhoods. I’ve presented an alternative plan solution at the City’s CC Workshop in 2013 that’s more pertinent than ever to resolve VE losses underway. We can have our trail connections and park landscape underway move forward while amending the plan, but let’s build it right for residents, businesses, visitors, and patrons of the arts. 

If the City loses 116 Spaces here + another 18 Spaces during 2017 FOA remodel, we’ve Lost 134 car spaces = more than all 131 Parking Spaces on Forest Ave from PCH to Laguna Canyon Rd!

We can only imagine the congestion next summer... 

P.S.: City Council Meeting 9/11 – approved losing 4 more spaces after groundbreaking. Total = 120 spaces LOST!

Bryan T.S. Menne

Laguna Beach

Do we need to villainize those who disagree?

Perhaps it’s just the new style. Those who we disagree with have to be made into villains. This is the example that our President is setting for us, such as the “villainification” of CNN. It is unfortunate to see the spread of accusations that paints a group or class as villains rather than sticking to a healthy, open debate on the underlying issues of disagreement.

 While I am certainly not here to defend Village Laguna and all, or any, of what they do and stand for, making them out to be a band of marauders who swoop into Laguna and control all that goes on here, and to lay all of the city’s problems at their doorstep is a vast overstatement and oversimplification. We know that some of the candidates bitterly disagree with Village Laguna, what it stands for, and what it has accomplished in the past. Many of us have disagreed with them at times. Goodness knows that even Village Laguna has disagreed with itself on a few occasions in the past. This is all part of a healthy democratic process. 

Can’t we all just address the issues without villainizing those who we disagree with? If someone has tried to work around various height and mass restrictions in the past and have been thwarted, then is it really productive to rail against those who support these common sense limits to what the rest of us want for Laguna? Just tell it like it is. If you want to bigger, denser, taller, and more congested downtown then let that be your rallying cry. Realize that the rest of us are really not under some magic spell from an evil group. Awaken from that dream. It‘s just that your vision of Laguna and our vision of Laguna differ, which is ok. It being ok really is what makes Laguna, Laguna. 

David Raber

Laguna Beach

Tired but Not Stupid

I’m voting NO [on] Measure P, the undergrounding/sales tax increase, which also tees up a $135 Million+ bond without voter approval. I’d vote NO twice. Beyond all the rational reasons, two recent events solidified my vote. First was the police union and firefighters candidate forum. The majority of questions were blatant money grabs by the unions along the lines of “what are you going to give us?” Sure seems like a “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” to do the City’s bidding pushing Measure P. Come contract renewal at the collective bargaining table with the City Manager will there be raises all around? I question the underlying objectivity of endorsements by paid City employees. 

Second, targeted phone calls are being made to residents with the “fear and fire” and the “police and firefighters support it so you must vote for it” logic. I’m tired of that same old song and the selective facts and blatant misrepresentations promoted to push the sales tax increase. I’m tired but not stupid, so I read the proposed Ordinance at

Read carefully Section 16(a) pertaining to the undergrounding of so called “evacuation routes.” Started out with just Laguna Canyon Road, now it’s up to 12 streets AND the City Council can add more for “other areas”, whatever that means. I mean either it’s necessary and identifiable now, or it’s not. This is entirely open ended. Read Section 16(b) that provides we will be paying for the utility connections on private property that property owners always had to pay for themselves. Another give-away in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Read Section 16(c) allowing the City Council to backdoor hundred million dollar bonds without voter approval. Read Section 16(d) and (e) which lumps an open ended grab basket of goodies unrelated to undergrounding. Read Section 16(f) which cleverly says the tax money can’t be used for EXISTING personnel, pensions and facilities, but leaves WIDE OPEN any future new hires, pension payments and new fire and police stations! Read Section 17 with its “intent” language, which is not legally binding. Pure smoke up your arse. Last, read Section 18 establishing yet another toothless oversight committee. Now I’m tired and sick. This Ordinance is a huge overreach and critically inept measure that does not protect Laguna Beach residents, it just grabs their money for things the City should already be budgeting for, not raising our taxes.

William Rousseau 

Laguna Beach

City Council Candidates and Trees

I attended the lively City Council Candidate Forum sponsored by Village Laguna on Tuesday. Although there were no questions on trees, Paul Merritt answered a question related to historical preservation by stating that he hoped the City would provide protection for Historical Trees. 

Certainly, the support of trees is not unqualified and must be balanced with public safety and view rights. We know from past City Council meetings that Ann Christoph is a supporter of trees, their proper maintenance and care. I’m honestly not sure about most of the other candidates’ position on trees with the exception of Sue Kempf. 

In 2011, Sue initiated action that led to cutting down some large eucalyptus trees in Bluebird Canyon. The views from Sue’s home benefited from these removals, and as she initiated this action while Co-Chair of the Disaster Preparedness Committee, the question is did Sue take this action partly to improve her view or solely for public safety? If the latter, did she look at trees in other areas of town, or just her neighborhood as part of her Disaster Preparedness Committee work? This activity may be indicative of Sue’s antipathy to Laguna’s status as a bird sanctuary and of Laguna winning the certification for being a Tree City USA. 

George Weiss

Laguna Beach

Congratulations on the 55th Annual Brooks Street Classic

A quick note to congratulate the City of Laguna Beach and all the winners on this past weekend’s 55th Annual Brooks Street Classic.

I also want to pay a special thanks to the City’s Recreation department, and the tireless work of Adam Gufarotti and Tierney Doran, as well as commend local Brandy Faber for his total commitment to keeping the event vibrant and relevant to all of us.

We’re extraordinarily blessed with a community and a city that supports this unique event, and I hope that we can count on everyone’s support for 55 more!

With thanks,

Don Meek

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach and Recycled Water

I recently saw a letter in Stu News from Mike Beanan again suggesting a recycled water system for Laguna Beach. This is an issue that Laguna Beach County Water District has responded to before. In late 2015, Laguna Beach County Water District hired a consultant to investigate the feasibility of recycled water in the District’s service area. The study cost $132,900 to evaluate all possible options to bring recycled water into our service area. Completed in March 2016, this study concluded that recycled water alternatives would be between 3 to 11 times greater than the District’s current cost of imported water and significantly exceed our groundwater cost by 6 to 22 times. Currently, the District’s water supply is 60 percent groundwater and 40 percent imported water. 

The suggested reclaimed water distribution in Mr. Beanan’s letter advocates serving a number of schools and parks. These public spaces have a current water demand of less than 70 acre-feet a year. To construct this proposed system would require $35 million to build the distribution system to irrigate these areas, including 10 miles of pipelines, two reservoirs, three pump stations, on site retrofit for recycled water, and mitigation for impact to native habitat along the wildland areas. This proposed recycling project would result in a cost seventeen times greater than the District’s current cost of $1,000 an acre-foot for our imported water supply and twenty-three times greater than our cost for groundwater at $550 an acre-foot.

More extensive projects like the plan to irrigate the wildfire interface, along with the parks across the City, would drive the cost of water much higher. The simple sketch in Mike Beanan’s letter representing the solution to ocean pollution is a project that would cost tens of millions of dollars. Those using water to irrigate could expect to pay ten times or more compared to traditional water costs. It’s also important to note that irrigating land that is not currently being irrigated cannot be considered as conservation, as it would generate new water demands. While new innovative ideas should always be explored, the public agencies involved are required to maintain fiscal responsibility. Pursuing projects that may sound good, but place huge cost burdens on the rate payers, is not the answer.

It is a little-known fact that Laguna Beach County Water District already supplies recycled water in Laguna Beach, and you’re drinking it! A large portion of our recently acquired groundwater supply is delivered through the Orange County Water District’s Groundwater Replenishment System. This Replenishment System purifies wastewater and returns it to the groundwater basin for extraction by member agencies like Laguna Beach County Water District to use as potable drinking water. This water supply is less expensive than imported water and is a perfect balance of innovative problem solving and responsible financial management. 

Renae M. Hinchey

General Manager, Laguna Beach County Water District

Village Entrance Project

Fellow voters, 

I went to the Ground Breaking Photo Op at 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon for the Village Entrance, at it I got a copy of the “Village Entrance Monthly Update”, and on the second page was as list of the highlights of the project: 

1. New multi-use paths will separate pedestrians from vehicles and improve safety 

2. New bridges, access roads, and parking areas with improved circulation 

3. Walking trails and bicycle paths, featuring decorative concrete to create a pedestrian friendly environment 

4. The Historical Digester building will be repainted and patched with options for additional rehabilitation 

5. Decorative parking lot lighting to match the Downtown area 

6. 52 bicycle racks and 4 new electric vehicle charging stations 

7. New buildings for Police support services and Marine Safety storage 

8. Extensive landscaping that will tie into recent Festival of Arts improvements 

9. 120 new trees, 9,100 new shrubs and 2,200 flats of ground cover 

That’s it! I think, where are “new” parking spaces? Duh? Did I miss something? 

That night I attended the city council meeting. One of the speakers stated that Laguna Beach was losing 111 parking spaces in the new Village Entrance! This statement was met with silence from council members and city staff! I was flabbergasted! Millions of Laguna taxpayers’ money and no additional parking! Duh?

The voters of this town need to wake up!

It’s rather obvious we need a change.

Pat Galez
Laguna Beach

Scheduling of City Council Meeting on Yom Kippur

It has been brought to my attention that a community meeting has [had] been scheduled for this coming Tuesday, September 18, from 4-6  p.m. This conflicts with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. 

I am certain that this scheduling was done without malice. If the scheduler checked a Jewish calendar, s/he would have noted that Yom Kippur is on Wednesday, September 19. Even if the scheduler had been aware that Jewish holidays begin at sunset the previous evening, s/he might have concluded that a meeting ending at 6 p.m. on Tuesday would present no problem. 

Alas, the situation is a bit more complicated. Yom Kippur begins at 6:36 p.m. on Tuesday, September 18. Observant Jews must be in synagogue by that time. Further, Yom Kippur is marked by a total fast – no eating or drinking for 25 hours. Thus, observant Jews are partaking in S’udat Hafsakah – the final meal before the fast – from about 4 p.m., so as to allow enough time to eat this meal calmly, prepare for the sacred day, and get to synagogue in time to be seated (large crowds attend) prior to the beginning of services. 

In light of this, I urgently request that, out of respect to the Jewish residents of Laguna Beach, this community meeting be rescheduled. This would be an appropriate way to show how much the City of Laguna Beach values diversity. 

Rabbi Stephen J. Einstein, DHL, DD, Founding Rabbi Emeritus

Fountain Valley, CA

What changes does Peter Blake have in mind for the village?

Why do we love Living in Laguna? Why do six million visitors a year come here to share our home? Recall the reasons: our historic heritage, our unique and interesting shops and festivals, our Greenbelt separating us from the urban jungle, our pristine coves and beaches, our Bluebelt now alive with sea life, our trees and gardens showcased annually in the Laguna Gate and Garden Tour, our excellent and unique cafes and eateries, the large and stately homes in our hills, the charming homes in the village areas, and the considerate and experienced civic leaders who encourage citizen involvement in Village matters. 

One would think this is generally recognized. Yet at the recent Chamber election forum, Mr. Peter Blake outlined all that is wrong with Laguna from his point of view and promised to change our Village. Are these the things that Mr. Blake wants to change? 

1. Civic leaders who work to keep tourists from overwhelming our village; 

2. A city council that prevents investors from building towering hotels on our coast; 

3. A DRB policy of assuring fairness and balance between neighbors on construction related disputes; 

4. A city council tradition of hearing all points of view with an open mind; 

5. A policy against building huge parking structures to accommodate all the thousands of cars looking for parking during the three summer months; 

6. a downtown shopping district with shops only appealing to the high-end shopper.

Well, I think you get the idea. 

And who did Mr. Blake point out as being responsible for the Laguna that most of us love but he apparently finds lacking? None other than one of the residents’ leading volunteer organization, Village Laguna! 

Those of us who live in Laguna know of Village Laguna members’ selfless dedication to preserving and protecting Laguna. Not only did it spearhead the building height ordinance, but it forcefully advocated for both the Greenbelt and Bluebelt, supported the tax to rebuild after the landslide, fought for protection of our beaches from commercialization, advocated in favor of the protection of resident-serving business over big box stores and lobbied for the development of a prudent parking strategy to manage summer traffic with trolleys and peripheral parking. And this is but a short list! 

Imagine a candidate looking for broad public support before the election treating respected citizen organizations in such a false manner. How would such a candidate act once elected? How would such a councilman treat you or me if we spoke out in disagreement to his/her views?

Mr. Blake closed his presentation in the forum by asking those who appreciate what Village Laguna as done in putting Residents First not to vote for him. I think it’s something we should consider.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Liberate Laguna, the downside

I suppose that it not too surprising that a coalition of the big Downtown Laguna landlords have teamed together to create a special interest PAC called “Liberate Laguna” or that their little logo seems to be reassuring us that the sun will still rise in the East, even if our downtown skyline eventually consists of the five-story buildings that they hope for. 

It seems so modern to be saying that Laguna needs to get with the times and fast-track commercial development to revitalize downtown. However, I am not sure if we, the people of Laguna, want that kind of modernization. Isn’t this similar to claiming that Crystal Cove is totally out of step with the needs of modernization, and the fact that wait times at Beachcomber Café are outrageous calls for a two or three story restaurant there? And that the State Park System is totally out-of-touch with lodging demand, so that a multi-story Crystal Cove Hotel needs to be built? 

See, there are residents here who feel that both Crystal Cove and Downtown Laguna continue to need love, attention, and visitor management, but do not need a massive capacity increase. The flipside of Liberate Laguna’s logo is that the sun will also continue to rise on our little village even if we do not give into to paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. Small, thoughtful changes to a very special downtown is much more liberating to voters in this community than any of the landlords’  and landlords’ candidates’ dreams which involve a taller, denser, higher capacity, and more “modern” downtown. We actually like it here, thank you very much.      

David Raber

Laguna Beach

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