Laguna Beach City Council
SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 7/26/2022
"Review of my first year on City Council —
City Council Members Propose Amendments
To Zoning Ordinance and Local Coastal Program –
Move To Counter Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative
Read it here: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1775&meta_id=138234
George Weiss: The City and three City Council members have chosen to respond to the Laguna Residents First ballot initiative by proposing an ordinance that would not require a vote of the people – instead, passing their ordinance with their own City Council votes.
See the enclosed chart which compares the City’s proposed ordinance’s provisions to the Laguna Residents First’s ballot initiative.
If you are unfamiliar with the group, Laguna Residents First is a grassroots organization formed to help stop overdevelopment and preserve Laguna’s quality of life. The group’s ballot initiative has been designed by and for residents – along with top legal experts –to give residents the right to vote and approve of oversized commercial projects.
Its tenants cover building size requirements, height limits, traffic control, parking requirements, and increased density.
Similar initiatives have been successfully enacted by voters in Costa Mesa, Dana Point and Newport Beach.
Full disclosure: In 2019, David Raber and I, joined later by Mike Morris, founded Laguna Residents First in response to City government and City Council actions that, over the years, have eroded the trust of residents.
It’s only gotten worse since 2019. We see a pattern of behavior by the City of providing “special treatment” to developers – preferential treatment which has contributed to the negative parking impacts of visitors and workers in residential neighborhoods and allowed for increased density of use in projects without properly mitigating the resulting impacts.
I invite you to compare the two proposals . . .
Comparison of Proposed Ordinance with LRF Ballot Initiative
(commercial and residential)
Overlay Ballot Initiative
Unlimited size projects will be allowed along Pacific Coast Highway if the City’s ordinance prevails. There is no limit to the size of a project as long as it provides a façade that makes the project look like separate buildings and provides 10% of the lot’s square footage as open space.
Grandfathered Parking would be permitted for 85% of businesses in Downtown, so there is little protection for existing businesses from competitors who, thanks to the recently revised Downtown Specific Plan, must provide spaces for only 3 vehicles per 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space. The Downtown Specific Plan allows retail buildings to be converted into a highly patronized bars or restaurants without providing the standard 10 spaces per 1,000 for their intensified use.
This creates incentives for increasing the intensity of use, which brings in more visitors, traffic, vehicle congestion, DUIs, accidents and trash– all negatively impacting surrounding neighborhoods and Laguna’s quality of life.
Rooftop Bars – Originally, the City’s ordinance allowed rooftop dining without reference to the allowable height of a building. I am not opposed to rooftop dining if the roof being used counts as an allowable floor for the building’s height. As an example, the historic 14,186 sq. ft. Heisler Building was allowed a rooftop deck without providing additional parking and now has 165 grandfathered spaces at no cost. This forces the City to provide parking at resident expense. Ever wonder why there is no “residents only” parking in Downtown? I do and want to change that.
Traffic Management And Public Safety – With regard to traffic within Laguna, you can see that small, medium and large areas of our vehicle circulation system break down and gridlock every day. For example, the carrying capacity of Park St., Third St. and Laguna Canyon Road are exceeded every day when LBHS gets out of school. On weekend days and nights, we have gridlock along Coast Highway in both directions in South Laguna, North Laguna, Downtown, and in the Canyon. With 6.5M-7M annual visitors, how do we safely manage them and their traffic in an emergency when all must be evacuated to safety?
The question is: Are we really going to leave our town’s future, our property values, and our quality of life up a City government that has lost the trust of residents?
Who do you trust more – developers and City politicians or your neighbors who have nothing to profit from overdevelopment?
The LRF Ballot Initiative is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to give residents a direct say about whether oversized commercial projects get built here.
It’s the same democratic voting right that residents in our neighboring cities Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and Dana Point have. The same is even true for Carmel---a popular visitor destination, as our Community Manager, Mark Weiner, who came from Carmel knows.
Please go to www.lagunaresidentsfirst.org to read more about the ballot initiative written by and for Laguna residents.
What Is Missing From The City Ordinance?