Melissa O'Neal blesses the day in 1989 when she and her husband,
Michael, moved to Laguna Beach. But it was participation in the
Vision Laguna strategic planning process that prompted her to run for
"For Laguna to remain the city we treasure, we must address three
challenges: problems caused by aging and neglected infrastructure;
growth and development pressures from inside and outside Laguna; and
competing requests for city services," the Mystic Hills resident
Her experience as a facilitator for Vision Laguna and her career
as a water quality consultant led to her appointment on the
Wastewater Advisory Committee.
"My energy and drive allows me to think outside the normal
bureaucratic box," she said.
O'Neal is concerned that the Laguna Canyon flood control project
design got as far as it did without flaws being discovered in time to
repair them and keep the project alive, funded by the county and the
Corps of Engineers.
"I don't think the county will come back again," she said.
O'Neal signed the $30,000 spending limit. She had raised cash
contributions of $2,274 and a loan of $500 as of Sept. 21.
Village Laguna, Laguna Beach Republicans, Orange County League of
Conservation Voters, ECCO, the Sierra Club and the Log Cabin Club
1. With the proposed construction of more than 1,000 parking
spaces three blocks from the Village Entrance to Third Street, what
can the city do to alleviate traffic problems in the area?
The success of Laguna Beach as a destination challenges us to fill
a 5-pound sack with a 10-pound load creatively. The goal is simple:
get cars parked efficiently so people can enjoy our town and shop. A
single solution to this issue doesn't exist. Resolution will only
occur when a combination of projects are agreed upon, funded and
built. Easing gridlock along the Civic Arts District corridor can be
* Creating peripheral parking and signage directing drivers to
* Facilitating safe and convenient parking for employees.
* Expanding the use of our tram service.
2. How do you feel about putting public funds into private
organizations, like the community clinic and senior center, versus
using the money for infrastructure, particularly the sewer system?
I believe municipal government must protect the health and safety
of its residents and businesses by providing basic services such as
police, fire, lifeguards, streets, water and sewer service. This
mission must never be compromised. I work as a grant writer and I
have developed more than $40 million in non-traditional financing
packages for cities and special districts since 1997. As an
experienced and successful fund developer, I strongly believe both in
fiscal responsibility and community compassion. Therefore I will
aggressively pursue private partnership funding to support services
that provide for community wellness.
3. How has the enmity between members of certain political and
community groups affected the city?
We celebrate our eclectic mix of residents, and we must also
encourage a community dialogue peppered with differing opinions. In
the 13 years I have lived in town a number of heated issues have
fractured our community. Negativism severely limits our success in
resolving critical problems. We no longer have time to engage in
endless, unproductive debate. We need to make effective decisions by
working together as a community and move forward to identify
solutions that will work for all. My skills as a certified mediator
will help us take necessary action on the traffic, parking and
infrastructure problems we face.
4. What can the city do to help local merchants?
By developing adequate parking and signage directing people to
their locations, we will get people out of their cars and on to the
business of shopping! We must also keep our beaches and ocean water
clean, protect our village atmosphere and support our world-class art
institutions for these all attract visitors to our town. I support
the Downtown Specific Plan, as it is designed to promote diversity in
our market place. I also support the Civic Arts District and its
goals along with the Village Entrance Plan. These will facilitate
success for our businesses, art community and residents.
5. What can the city do to preserve the Village character?
Two variables are affecting our future. On one side are the forces
of standardization, as illustrated by the current debate on hedge
height; on the other side, is an individual's right to
self-determination. Laguna Beach cannot become a bland, planned
community. Nor is anarchy to rule.
The Vision Laguna 2030 Strategic Plan provides a number of
recommendations for maintaining Village character that have yet to be
seriously considered by the council. My objective as a council member
will be to implement these and other unique solutions, and enforce
our general plan and city codes while making updates to components as
they become outdated.