It’s easy to predict what will happen in Laguna Beach in 2016: the same thing that happened in 1916.
The coves beckoned and inland tourists got sunburns. Sporadic drunken fisticuffs broke out downtown, and there was a brief traffic jam on Laguna Canyon Road when a Dodge Touring car ran out of gas.
Life now is pretty similar. Granted, there are more people and better sunscreen, but fundamentally, Laguna’s DNA is immortal.
Any changes in 2016 will be so incremental that you won’t be able to see them. Nonetheless, here are 10 predictions that may happen if you look closely:
1. Downtown changes but stays the same: The city will approve a fancy, expensive consultant’s report on how to improve downtown, but residents will not be able to see the difference. In modern technology terms, this miracle is called “vaporware.” It’s a marketing sleight of hand that makes people feel good, props up a share price and contributes to the popularity of reality TV shows like — oh, I don’t know — “Laguna Beach.”
2. The slow, agonizing disappearance of artists: As interest rates increase, rents will increase. And with no affordable housing inventory and no alternative live-work projects to speak of, artists will continue to leave Laguna. It’s inevitable and has been happening for several years. It’s no secret.
3. The rise of the creative underground: The status quo will reach a tipping point in 2016, causing some residents to finally create their own entertainment. Most likely, it will start with an alternative art walk where a handful of remaining, progressive artists open up their studios or homes to private, invitation-only parties. There may be performance art, experimental music and other innovative activities. Overnight, Laguna will reclaim its cutting-edge swagger.
4. Homeless take over canyon through eminent domain: Empowered by the ACLU, Laguna’s homeless will simply proclaim ownership of Laguna Canyon. They will set up a tent city in the dog park, eat at the food pantry and start converting the storage facility into long-term housing. Chances are they will overcome their chronic homelessness by the end of the year.
5. Tesla’s Model X replaces Range Rover as car of choice: When the coveted electric SUV hits, people in Laguna won’t blanch at the $100K-plus sticker. This technological marvel will haul seven people more than 250 miles and go from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. Laguna’s floor-heated garages will change overnight. No more bloated Range Rovers, gassy Porsche Cayennes or boring BMW X5s.
6. Emerald Bay and Three Arch Bay unite to further humiliate Laguna in a Fourth of July fireworks arms race: No one wants to say it out loud, but the fireworks display at Main Beach has become a dud. It barely lasts for 15 cringe-worthy minutes. Unless you’re 3 years old, it’s a bore. Last year, the party was over — long over — and both Emerald Bay and Three Arch Bay were still going strong. In fact, pretty much every fireworks display up and down the coast lasts longer than Laguna’s. But it’s not just the length; it’s the originality of the fireworks themselves. Laguna needs to step it up in 2016.
7. Airbnb boycotts the city in a display of power, causing Laguna’s absentee landlords to actually pay attention to local issues: Laguna is filled now with remote homeowners who couldn’t care less about participating in local issues. It’s a waste of their time. But if you take away some cash, it might get their attention. It’s inevitable that when the city starts to fine illegal Airbnb homes, there will be trouble.
8. Laguna chokes on the glut of expensive restaurants: So many new, expensive restaurants will open in 2016 that reality chef show “Hell’s Kitchen” will relocate to Laguna. Any hope of the city having more affordable restaurants is over. There is already a line of swanky restaurants waiting to open that will serve sticks and twigs at obscene prices.
9. Pageant of the Masters, Festival of Arts, Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair will continue like well-oiled machines: No surprises here, the festivals will power through another season. There may be some fresh paint and shuffling of the deck chairs, but otherwise, it will be business as usual. Big artful sigh ...
10. Surf culture clings to devotees: Because Laguna Beach has the oldest demographic along the coast — with a median age of almost 50 — and very few families, the local surf culture is at risk. The fact is, there are not as many young surfers coming through the ranks in Laguna. Despite the venerable Brooks Street Surfing Classic and the highly acclaimed “Vic” Skimboarding World Championship, we will be seeing old guys rule for quite some time.
While these predictions for 2016 may sound glum, there will be plenty of happy, shiny moments. For example:
The water, at times, will be so clear, turquoise and tranquil that it will take your breath away.
The tourists will infuriate you, of course, but when you least expect it, you will help one of them because you care — and you will feel that intangible Laguna pride.
Finally, just when you’re about to turn off the town’s only radio station, KX 93.5, because it’s so annoying, it will switch gears and play a song that completely surprises you — refreshing, smart and soulful.
It’s this unpredictability that gives you hope for Laguna.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.