Mailbag: Reaction to Pietig letter

In response to the letter by City Manager John Pietig, I rush to his support and to support the other participants in the Laguna Beach housing support program John describes.

It's a pity, though, as John and the others shouldn't need support. Perhaps an outside party can shed some much-needed light on the unfair accusations hurled at the City and these participants.

I feel obliged to state that I personally know John and have worked with him on matters of importance to the city and its citizenry. I am proud that the city has stepped up in this fashion, to provide assistance to key city employees with housing in our very expensive city.

This is one of the things that makes Laguna Beach "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for Grownups" to me, and one of the key reasons I moved here 20 years ago.

As a retired businessman who has seen utilization of many creative ways to solve financial issues, I can safely say that this method is one of the more creative ones I have seen in nearly a half-century of involvement with creative financing.

Leave it to a "creative" city like Laguna Beach to solve a problem in a unique and quite sensible fashion. To those critics, I would say that you should be ashamed of yourselves for being so critical. It's a bit like having a trigger finger. Shoot first. Ask questions later.

Think of these points before you shoot next time: First, the so-called benefactors of this program put a lot at risk. They risk the possibility of interest rates climbing above conventional mortgage rates over a period of time.

Second, they never own their homes themselves, but share ownership with an outside entity, thereby assuming obligations that you and I, as independent homeowners, may not have. Last, they share in the profit from sale. This third item, in a state where folks appear to use home appreciation as a key method of family equity-building, places an immediate 50% downward push on those participants for family equity assumption upon sale of the property.

John and his other city associates must some day share this appreciation with the city. Incidentally, that's a big giveaway in a city whose property acquisition costs are the highest in all of Orange County.

I commend the city and those who have chosen to participate in this program, and I hope that other communities do the same in order to hold key personnel close to home. To those who criticize I would like to know how you would feel as a participant who knows that one day, when your residence is finally sold, you have "given away" a great deal of your equity to the city you have so proudly served over those years.

Jason Paransky
Laguna Beach resident

Democrats in panic mode

The FBI disclosures on how Hillary Clinton messed up the State Department and possibly our country's security has put the Democrats in panic mode.

Her presentation, along with Bernie Sanders' rant, on Tuesday morning reflected their state of panic by their promising to give everyone even more "free stuff" while avoiding mentioning how any of it can be paid for.

I can only figure Sanders' total reversal from months of accurately stating Clinton is incompetent in every way to fully supporting her must be based on his continuing hope that Clinton will have to drop out — leaving him as the most likely Democrat candidate for president. Or, that she will select him as VP. It should be obvious to voters, and to even the liberal press, that all these lies and wild claims by Clinton and Sanders make them totally unqualified for any government position.

All the Democrat panic and wild promises would be amusing except that the future of a free America depends on Trump becoming president and bringing sanity and patriotism into government

Dave Connell
Laguna Beach resident

Reshape hedge enforcement code

In December 2002 the city of Laguna Beach removed the hedge height limit from the municipal code. Instead of requiring a fixed height for hedges, a complaint-driven system was installed, where a neighbor has to complain and prove view blockage to force a hedge to be trimmed.

I have been Googling and found that almost every other city has a fixed hedge height limit (other than Hollywood and Montecito). In those cities, hedges can grow to any height. In every other city there is a hedge height code, which is usually 4 feet in the front yard, and 6 or 8 feet on the side and back.

I believe that it was determined that there were too many hedges that were out of compliance in Laguna Beach, and it would therefore be too hard to use code enforcement to bring them in compliance. Instead, neighbors must file a hedge height claim and prove a view blockage to control the height of hedges.

Is this a bad thing? As an older person I am used to the idea that a neighborhood has front yards. A local landscape architect told me she likes to see front yards, and that is why we have frontyard setbacks. So I Googled this, and there are entire books about frontyards and why we have them. They make a neighborhood seem neighborly, open, and airy.

Since our hedge code is driven by preventing view blockage, the idea of preserving frontyards and open airy neighborhood streets has kind of gotten tossed aside.

Is this what we want? It isn't what most other cities want. Views are one thing, but streets with fortresses made out of hedges are what we might end up with the way our code stands.

I have driven around and I see frontyard hedges that seem to be getting bigger and bigger, because there is no longer a simple code enforcement. It's almost as if some houses have no frontyard setback anymore as people have created virtual rooms out of hedges that start at the property line.

I wonder if at some point we will wonder what happened. At that point it will be really tough to turn back the clock.

If we want to put the burden of regulating hedges on the hedge owner instead of on neighbors, we have to have a fixed height in the code.

Maybe our code is this way because people like giant hedges. Maybe it's a new world with new types of neighborhoods where frontyards don't exist.

If, on the other hand, you like old-fashioned neighborhoods with frontyards, open, airy space between houses, and don't like green tunnels and fortresses of hedges, please email me at susan.elliott7@gmail.com.

Susan Elliott
Laguna Beach resident

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