Opinion: Unintended consequences of writing initiatives by committee

Jun 3, 2022

David Raber, is the main author and defender-in-chief of Laguna Residents First (LRF). When someone challenges the content of the highly technical LRF proposal David seems to be called on to defend it. But instead of defending LRF, his response to my recent guest opinion, Stuck in Traffic?, is a perfect example of how remarkably damaging the initiative would be.

His response selectively explains how one provision of LRF won’t impact parking garages as an example but fails to reference other provisions that would in fact trigger the requirement for a public vote.

It’s critical to understand. LRF has several tests that would apply to a development. Consider these as “trip wires”. The trip wires are designed to stop most new projects. If a supporter says a project may be exempt from a trip wire such as parking requirements, there is another trip wire pertaining to traffic or number of trips that will. If neither of those two stop a reasonable project, then a prohibition of lot combinations will stop it. I can go on. There are several more.

So, without getting hung up on these technicalities, its important to understand. While LRF proponents may be correct in stating a project won’t be subject to one LRF provision it likely will be impacted by one or more other provisions. LRF states it will only stop large projects. That’s simply not true. This may have been the intention at the outset but when you write something by committee without experience in land use matters and with multiple objectives you end up with unintended consequences. You end up with LRF.

And this brings us to the biggest overriding problem beyond the multiple trip wires. When a public body like a city council or senate pass a bill and it’s flawed, it can quickly be amended. It can be corrected within the chambers of the voting body. Not the case with LRF. If passed by a public vote this November LRF can only be changed by another public vote sometime in the future or by a court. Laguna would be stuck with LRF for years and during that time needed investment in Laguna will be put on ice. No one who might have been willing to go through the current lengthy and expensive standards which have controlled over-sized development for years will wait around to invest in Laguna while we try to get our house in order.

Read the initiative at lagunaresidentsfirst.org.

It’s not light reading. That’s why you likely have not and will not read it in its multi-page entirety. Yet we voters are being asked to approve a proposal that will bring needed upgrading of our aging commercial buildings to a halt and limit the number of apartments that can be built.

LRF says that its proposal is not intended to replace the City’s code. Again, a play on words. Laguna’s code will indeed remain but then, after it’s been applied, the LRF code takes over. If the project hits any of the trip wires in the LRF code the project would go to a public ballot possibly a year later. A new, highly technical code aimed at freezing properties and we citizens are being asked to be ruled by it.

Jane and I have lived in Laguna for 40 years. Prior to this LRF ballot initiative I don’t recall having written any local opinion pieces. We tend to weigh in through other methods. We have a great town. When I open Stu News or the Indy I prefer reading what’s going on rather than getting mired in the nastiness. But LRF is so potentially harmful I’ll continue to speak out until fellow Lagunans passive on this topic understand the extreme damage it will cause.

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