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Disclaimer: Letters to the Editor do not necessarily represent the opinions of Stu News Laguna but rather the opinions of the letter writer.

Is Laguna Beach still an environmental leader?

Moulton Niguel Water District has been awarded the state’s highest environmental and economic honor for its efforts to protect local creeks, watersheds, and beaches from pollution, and doing so in the most cost-effective manner by partnering with Orange County Coastkeeper and the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition.

When will South Coast Water District, Laguna Beach County Water District, Emerald Bay Service District, and South Orange County Wastewater Authority do something to gain honors to improve Laguna Beach’s ocean environment rather than waste our ratepayer money on multiple, endless, expensive lawsuits? Partnerships lead to progress while lawsuits stop timely improvements while serving as an excuse to delay action on expanding recycled water to all of Laguna Beach for wildfire protection. The Coastal Treatment Plant is over 50 years old and was never designed to handle Laguna and South Laguna’s 8 million annual visitors or Dana Point’s rapid increase in tourism and poop.

Mike Beanan

Laguna Beach

Regarding tonight’s proposal for incremental City Planner

On Tuesday evening (tonight), the City Council will be voting on a measure that significantly changes the emphasis that the city will be placing on large-scale development in the future.

On the surface, the motion appears to simply be a generous offer from one of the more ambitious developers in town to pay the city to hire another person to staff the planning department. On the surface, it seems to provide safeguards by prohibiting the developer from hand-picking the planners, or getting his projects approved faster than anyone else, or being more lenient on his projects.

What could possibly be wrong here? There are three points that we need to keep in mind:

1. If we need more planners to handle large-scale development, then we should raise permit fees so we will get the funds needed to do this right, and avoid the appearance of collusion. Developers absolutely should be charged the actual cost to the city of administering our planning process for large developments. This should be done with a published building fee schedule rather than through ad-hoc donations.

2. Upon careful reading, we find that this explicitly puts large-scale development on a fast-track that the average resident does not enjoy. The proposed position to be created is for “Funding of Advance-Level Planning Services in the Community Development Department and services in other City departments with regard to the processing of applications for major development projects.” Currently Major Developments get treated equally with all other development. With this legislation, Major Development will have its own, dedicated queue. We should address the entire planning process for large-scale developers and residential development alike.

3. There is more to major developments that just getting them through planning. How about building inspectors and the incremental cost of public safety? How about management of mitigation for the congestion that will be caused by trying to accomplish all of that construction at once in this town with only three ways in and out? Financing all of the associated social costs needs to be considered in as much detail as the planning department headcount increment this seems to be.

In summary, here is a balanced suggestion for handling the proposed major developments:

--Fix funding for the planning department by increasing the fees to be commensurate with resources required to service development projects without resorting to a “tip-jar” approach.

--Do not put Major Development on a special track through the process. Fix the process for everyone, including (especially?) residents.

--Before incremental changes are made here and there, do a systematic inventory of the incremental cost of major development in Laguna, then find tax, fee, or Mello-Roos funding for those costs so that residents do not have to pay for it.

David Raber

Laguna Beach

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