By Doug Vogel
While I have worked in Laguna for many years, I am now seeking to raise a family in this city. I understand the frustrations that many feel about the growing amount of visitors and traffic that come to the city. Unfortunately, it is everywhere. Our issues are not as bad as larger cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, but we sometimes feel it more. We have only two roads in and out, a complicated landscape of hills and ocean that require specialized management, but our greatest challenge may be the government mandates that require us to provide affordable housing and access for millions of visitors a year. Under these mandates, we must provide more affordable housing, and we must provide incentives for developers to providing affordable housing.
For 16 years, I had the pleasure of living in Costa Mesa before buying a home. Costa Mesa has a residency of more than 60% rentals. According to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, Costa Mesa didn’t need any more affordable housing, but families wanted to move there and buy homes. Lots that were once filled by one home were being bought and developed into lots with six to eight townhomes. A group of residents known as Costa Mesa First ignited, but in actuality, they were always there. They opposed the Segerstrom Home Ranch Project that would have developed up to 3.1 million square feet and up to 20 stories high in 1988.
In 2016, Costa Mesa First created an anti-growth initiative to halt all new development. It is almost identical to the initiative that Laguna Residents First has created. In a quest to better understand the viewpoint of Laguna Residents First, I have met with some of their leaders and proponents. Of their complaints, the issue I find most prevalent is that they do not believe that our City Council listens to and represents the residents of Laguna Beach. Strangely enough, that was actually the same complaint of the Costa Mesa First folks. So, what the two cities really have in common are residents that are angry at their local city leaders.
Forward a few years later, Laguna Residents First has qualified to have their initiative on the ballot. For me, it’s Déjà vu all over again! Angry residents and a defiant council majority that is fighting back. How did this story turn out for Costa Mesa? Well, the council majority lost and the unions came in funded a new council that in turn voted for the development of a 15-acre multi-use development property with 1,057 rental units known as One Metro West.
What does this mean for Laguna Beach? On the ballot will be three initiatives. One anti-development initiative by Laguna Residents First and two by a monstrous union known as UNITE HERE Local 11. This union has raised a million dollars to support their initiatives. They are responsible for preventing Disneyland from opening late in the pandemic hurting thousands of employees. The initiatives created by UNITE HERE not only parallels the language of the Laguna Residents First initiative, but creates a minimum wage of $18 an hour for hotel workers with a $1 increase per year through 2026. Think this sounds good? Ask the residents of Costa Mesa that watched their hotel industry turn into dozens of dilapidated motels that house hundreds of homeless, human traffickers, and drug peddlers. These initiatives will cripple the tourism industry that helps keep this city vibrant. Many of the businesses and restaurants that you love will struggle to survive. Don’t believe me, believe them. Ask them!
Doug Vogel, Laguna Beach