Don’t be fooled, vote No on Measure Q

Sep 2, 2022

Councilman George Weiss, the emeritus founder of Laguna Residents First and an architect of the Measure Q initiative on November’s ballot, recently wrote in his newsletter: “I can share from first-hand experience that it is extremely difficult to write a good ballot initiative.”

Weiss cuts to the heart of why a new grassroots movement – Citizens for Laguna’s Future – thinks Measure Q is a really bad idea. We agree with Weiss: it is “extremely difficult” to write complex initiatives like Measure Q. That’s precisely why they should not be written in secret by earnest amateurs with no known land use experience. Land use legislation is complex. It should be written by professionals, like the ones in our Planning Department and on our Planning Commission, who are overseen by our democratically elected City Council.

Then there’s the question of why we are voting on an initiative to solve a problem we don’t have. Laguna has been a low-and-slow growth town since we passed America’s first community-wide height ordinance in 1971. It’s one of many reasons why Laguna has a reputation as a challenging place to build anything. Measure Q supporters insist that our time-tested rules could be scrapped by a simple majority of the Council. Yet the Council just voted to strengthen key provisions of our already restrictive planning codes. Is it possible that we all want the same thing: a vibrant, small-scale hometown?

Weiss writes about the time they invested in “getting the details right.” But that’s where Measure Q also fails. If it had passed four years ago, the City estimates that 29 projects would have had to go to the ballot. Not one was a blockbuster. Some were as modest as Slice Pizza, which restored and re-purposed an empty home decor store. Under Measure Q, that change-of-use is an intensification, and its “cumulative effects” clause would have required the City to do an eight-year look-back at the impact of all development within a one-mile radius. Eight years! Measure Q would also require the South Laguna fire station, a vital public safety project and the St. Catherine school property to go to a vote.

Backers say that Measure Q is direct democracy in action. What they don’t say is that direct democracy works best when voters are asked direct questions. Should we boost the sales tax? Underground our poles? Buy a greenbelt? Measure Q is so complex that even our most seasoned elected official admits she doesn’t understand it. If passed, it would force voters who want to make informed decisions to do deep dives into dense documents like Measure Q at every election. Democracy is hard, but our founders didn’t intend it to be that hard.

There are other reasons to vote no on Measure Q: 70% of our businesses are owned by our friends and neighbors and they are overwhelmingly opposed to Measure Q. Taxpayers should be too. Measure Q will cost the City millions of dollars a year in lost revenues and added expenses. So, get ready to pay more taxes to support our first-class police and fire departments and other essential services.

The earnest people behind Measure Q have many fine qualities. But they have convinced themselves that the only way to keep Laguna, Laguna, is to suffocate it under a mountain of red tape. Like helicopter parents who would chew their children’s food for them if they could, they’ll stifle and stunt Laguna by overprotecting it. Citizens for Laguna’s Future opposes this mindset. We love the town the way it is just as much as they do, but we believe Measure Q is a bad idea we don’t need which will do way more harm than good. If you agree, help us spread the word, check out our website at, donate if you can, and join us in voting NO on Q in November.

After that, let’s try working together on some of the real problems we face going forward.

Chris Quilter
Laguna Beach

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