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ROGER BÜTOW, Laguna Beach
Depending on whom you believe, either Benjamin Disraeli or Mark Twain said, “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”
The city manager (CM) seems to be hiding behind a data point or two and gives them more weight than the voices of outrage within the community that he serves. Now add the fact that he and his family live 10 miles away here in Laguna Beach, so what does he personally know about navigating SJC year-round?
Many of these angry voices are long-term residents and this, unfortunately, resembles our issues here in Laguna Beach; hence, our local controlled growth initiative on the ballot this fall.
No small irony, the CM served as our Deputy CM himself. He has a long history of experiencing and observing what happens when you throw open your community’s doors and entice and encourage year-round tourist destination hordes.
As the CM indirectly admits, what was originally zoned per the Los Rios Specific Plan as several acres of passive park space within the Los Rios District is being converted to one humongous parking lot to accommodate those visitors and the increased staffs of tourist-serving restaurants and bars.
Those lots don’t serve residents, they assist outsiders—–and don’t be surprised when, like here in Laguna, SJC is end-to-end lined with parking meters and locals are forced to purchase a $100-per-year permit to park in their own town. This is, in fact, how villages morph from quaint towns into urbanized cities.
We have the identical conundrum here in Laguna. Formerly, we had respite from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Now, every day traffic and gridlock mimes peak circulation of those 3½ high-season summer months.
A local could find parking downtown the rest of the year. No mas.
Like SJC, we have a predominantly pro-growth (commerce first, residents second-class citizens) City Council these past four years.
Regardless, the sense of place and time and the character of a small community is being eroded and gradually taken away by people who appear unwilling to “just say no” to more money but lessened quality of life (why locals live in a place, sink in their roots and stay their entire lives).
Consultants are hired only if they bring back sustaining, cherry-picked evidence that supports City Hall’s stance. Otherwise, these contractors would never get rehired. They tell governance what they want to hear and deliver what’s been pre-ordained. Otherwise, it’s next up.
And Councilmember Bourne reveals what is truly broken: the “get-out-of-jail-free card.” (That is, he admits that for members like himself, 10 years down the road is too far to allow reasonable decisions to be made.)
So, if this Council majority can’t tell good from bad long-term impact decisions, what does their decision tree actually look like?
That Mayor Reeve found no support is a definite poker tell. There is neither the will nor the staff mentality willing to face the eventual consequences head-on. The adverse ramifications will be a legacy left for subsequent councils and staff to deal with … kick the pro-development can down the road. Someone else’s problem.