Fair Game

Aug 15, 2022


Joe Hanauer questions the reasoning behind Laguna Residents First Initiative

Real estate owner, developer and philanthropist Joe Hanauer penned a strong letter this week that runs in Stu News today outlining the flaws he sees in the Laguna Residents First Initiative. I must say, I thought his points were solid, he presented good questions and gave everyone food for thought.

I encourage people to read it in our Letters to the Editors today, but in case you can’t, here are some of his key points:

–If you walk around Laguna Beach, he asks, “where are the large, oversized projects” LRF is concerned with?

–He also acknowledges that (sure) mistakes have happened over the years, but that they’re few and far between. He calls it the Democratic way.

–Joe also points out that “property standards and code regulations are dynamic…constantly fine-tuned (with the times) reflecting new housing and commercial real estate concepts as they evolve” and therefore need to be open to modifications that wouldn’t require a vote.

–With LRF’s initiative requiring public votes, Hanauer says that it’s “a major flaw” because “a City can’t operate if every time a change is needed a public vote needs to (also) occur.”

Joe closes his letter by mentioning the City of Costa Mesa. So, I called Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens who was on the side, not in favor of, but on the side of the people who passed their initiative in 2016. He even mentioned that he has discussed the problematic issues that have arisen with Mayor Sue Kempf.

Stephens told me that it COMPLETELY stifled development in Costa Mesa to the bad. He added that nobody would spend the money necessary to prepare a project all the way for a vote, which included plans, permits and much more, then risk losing on a vote. So, they just moved on to other cities.

He also told me that he would never advocate for something even similar for any other city, and, to make matters worse, he told me that the LRF initiative is even stronger, saying that a vote change would require “50% + 1 of all registered voters, not just 50% +1 of those voting.” Big difference.

Costa Mesa is now acknowledging their previous measure was wrong and going to the ballot box in November to hopefully make changes.

Here’s the question I constantly ask: Who wants to bring major changes to Laguna Beach? I don’t believe most local developers do. No one wants a high-rise project in the middle of Forest Ave. and no one is proposing more hotels along the oceanfront. And, as Joe reminded us, “the council just voted to put more meat into protecting its citizenry.

“NO block-long monolithic development can occur” and “a firm 36-foot height limit for new buildings with nothing…not equipment, rooftop dining or anything else protruding above the 36-foot limit.”

I interpret that as meaning “NOTHING,” as in zero, zip, nada, nil.

So, what’s the problem?

Thanks Joe, I agree with you!

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