The Laguna property owners bought 23,000 acres of canyons and hilltops with a bond of $20 million, paid over 20 years. This debt ends this year. This new initiative is asking for another $20 million, to buy 550 acres of land scattered around Laguna, which they admit isn't likely to be developed given the parcel size and rugged terrain. They want us to blindly pay into their fund without giving us any specifics.
In 1990, Laguna Canyon was planned for mass development. We saw the property in question. This initiative declines to identify which parcels — claiming to avoid "price escalation." Vacant lot owners know the value of their land regardless of whether they have an offer today or six months from now by the initiative committee.
Are these "parcels" the small strips and triangles of city property adjacent to our city streets? These small patches are now maintained by neighbors or the city and much too small to be developed. And, will the committee personally profit from these particular parcels being sold? The property owners in 95% of Laguna won't see any improvement to their views or property values.
The Laguna Canyon Foundation has used the $20 million from the 1990 bond, along with $12 million in park bonds approved by the voters in 2000. They also raised $2.7 million from more than 7,000 donors and $7.8 million in state grants, funds from private land donations as well as federal and city funds to buy and preserve the land within and around Laguna Beach for the last 20 years.
This includes the Laguna Coast and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, as well as the city of Irvine's open space preserve.
Let them continue their great work to preserve open space with private donations and donors. Ask the 2,700 voters signing the Open Space Initiative petition to pay $120 a year for 20 years.
The Laguna Canyon Foundation already has the committee to investigate possible parcels and all the operational experience. Homeowners don't want another parcel tax for another self appointed group to do the same job.
The economy is in a recession, our retirement funds have diminished, and health-care costs are on the rise. Utilities, gasoline, food and insurance costs have increased. Let each individual decide if they want to donate, whether they own, rent or are just visiting.
'Like-minded' residents work together
Gathering signatures for the Open Space Initiative, I've been enjoying the opportunity to say "hi" to a lot of people who live in and love Laguna Beach and want to help make it even better.
One morning as I stood outside of the supermarket with my petition in hand, a truck drove up. The driver rolled down his window while his passenger got out of the truck and ran into the store, and he asked me what I was doing. I told him all about the initiative and asked him to sign my petition to help get it on the ballot.
He said that he would be "more than happy" to do that, and while he was signing he told me how much he loved living in Laguna Beach. When his passenger returned, she too signed the petition.
As they drove off, a woman came up to me and asked, "What do you have there?" When I told her, she said, "Of course I'll sign that!" I began to envision the possibility of some kind of drive-through arrangement for signers.
My friends who are out on the streets with their petitions all have similar stories. Meeting so many like-minded people simply confirms for me what a special community this is.