Opinion: Why the “Facts” Just Don’t Add Up

Apr 22, 2022

By Dan Rosenthal

In a recent Indy column, one supporter of the LRF Ballot Initiative (BI) cited three supposed “fictions” being thrown about by those who oppose it and offered his take on the “facts”.

The author was trying to show how much flexibility the Initiative has by giving the City some discretionary decision making authority. Unfortunately the “facts” that were presented not only don’t add up to the truth, they further confuse an already complex set of issues. All three “fictions” and “facts” are quoted directly from the article.

Fiction: “Parking requirements would be rigid and untenable.”

Fact: “Parking requirements are clearer with some discretion afforded to the Planning Commission.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the “fact” the author relies on here has nothing to do with the “fiction” he’s trying to debunk. Even if the LRF’s parking requirements were “clearer” (which they aren’t, big time), it doesn’t make them less rigid or untenable. And as it is incredibly limited, neither does the “discretion” afforded the Planning Commission. Further, since those discretionary decisions are appealable, they are all but meaningless.

The Truth: While no one disputes the need for revisions to the current parking code, the LRF parking requirements are more restrictive and economically untenable than the current ordinance. Read them both and decide for yourself.

Fiction: “Building height variances even for standard roof-top items would require a vote.”

Fact: “The BI grants discretion in the area of building height maximum for certain rooftop items…” the following items may be permitted to a height in excess of that permitted within a zone in the BLOZD when approved by the DRB; structures for the sole purposes of housing elevators, stairways, tanks, ventilating fans or similar equipment.”

The Truth: the author left out the beginning of the section he used to make his point. What was omitted is this: “Provided they do not exceed the maximum height limit of 36 feet…” Obviously, this renders useless the discretionary power the author is praising. You can find the truth on page four of the LRF initiative.

And, if you think you can stay awake for it, you may also want to compare the LRF initiative’s eight pages of single space swamp that address height issues to the single page of copy in our current code. Read them both and decide for yourself which makes more sense.

Fiction: “New or intensified projects that create 200 or more average daily trips would require a vote.”

Fact: “The BI only cares about projects that increase daily trips by 200 or more but gives discretion to the Director of Community Development.”

The Truth: This discretion is only given for projects defined as a “Minor Modification of a Major Development Project”, and only if the project “does not worsen traffic by causing more than a negligible increase in Average Daily Trips…” The definition of a “Minor Modification” when coupled with the additional restrictions on projects over which the Director of Community Development can exercise his discretion (appealable again) make the possibility of that discretion actually being exercised extremely remote. You can read more on page five of the LRF Initiative. Read it then decide for yourself what the Truth really is.

Unfortunately, it appears that Laguna Beach voters are going to be faced with months more of chest thumping about how great the LRF Initiative is. The Truth is, that while well intentioned, the solutions to the legitimate concerns raised by LRF and Village Laguna in their initiative will have serious and long term debilitating consequences for the town we all love. Our system ain’t broke. It just needs a minor tune up, not a rebuild.

Dan is a Laguna Beach resident and member of the Heritage Committee

More News & Views