Fond memories and goals for 2009 were served up along with dinner at the first Laguna Canyon Conservancy meeting of the New Year, held Monday at Tivoli Terrace.
Guest speaker Kelly Boyd shared his objectives for the city in 2009 and recollections of earlier times in Laguna. Boyd is serving his second term on the council, but his first as mayor. The fourth-generation Lagunan owns a downtown business.
“With his experience, you might say he is a young old-timer and a perfect person to answer the often asked question: How has Laguna Beach changed over the years?” conservancy President Carolyn Wood said.
Boyd previously served on the council from 1978 to 1982. He was reelected in 2006.
Before strolling down memory lane, Boyd was asked about his priorities as mayor.
The short answer? Support local businesses.
“I don’t want to see empty stores or empty buildings,” Boyd said.
Boyd urged folks to patronize local businesses and to urge owners of commercial properties to drop rents to help businesses hang on until the summer, which usually brings in tourists that translates to income.
“Some local landlords have already reduced rents by 30% and are ready to go to 50%,” Boyd said.
Another goal is some streamlining at City Hall to make it more people friendly.
“But take an overall look at our employees — they do a very good job,” Boyd said. “But I know we have some problems, and we are working on it.”
With a 10% drop in sales tax and a dramatic decrease in bed taxes, the city will have to tighten its belt, according to Boyd.
“We have to work together to keep us solvent,” Boyd said.
Steps have already been taken. Fees for parking spaces for downtown employees were reduced and the council approved in December City Manager Ken Frank’s suggestion to increase the budget reserve from 10% to 15% of the general fund, which will help carry the city through the recession.
“The council has to make sure that every one of our 25,000 people are taken care of,” Boyd said.
Responding to longtime resident Barbara Painter’s question about what the council could do about out-of-town property owners, who she said don’t care about the community and are asking exorbitant rents, Boyd’s answer was “not much.”
“There is no legal way for the council to install rent control,” Boyd said.
An attempt in 1992, strongly supported by Village Laguna, to control mobile home park rents sharply divided the community. It was defeated in a referendum by a meager margin of about 200 votes.
“What do you want to push as mayor?” Bonnie Hano asked.
A good look at some of the city’s ordinances, Boyd replied. Some ordinances may need to be temporarily retired, if not permanently revised, to help alleviate the economic woes of the business community, Boyd opined.
“One businesswoman put up an illegal sign outside her store and business improved,” Boyd said. “She was told [by the city] to take it down and her business slacked off. Arnold [Hano, Bonnie Hano’s husband] said these are critical times and we may have to set aside ordinances.”
Boyd was surprised at the position taken by Arnold Hano, who has a history of holding the city officials’ feet to the fire when he felt they were straying from or circumventing local laws.
Boyd, who will turn 65 next week, shares a lot of history with the Hanos, who have lived in Laguna for about 54 years — but his family first came here in 1876.
He was asked to recount favorite memories of growing up in Laguna
“Some things I can’t talk about,” Boyd said with a grin. “When I was growing up almost all the police officers lived in town or close by. If you got into trouble, they didn’t put you in the slammer, they took to home to your mom and dad and you got into real trouble.
“There were no freeways, and on the trip to Santa Ana there were nothing but orange groves owned by the Irvine Co. The smell was wonderful.
“For those of you who came here after the old boardwalk was torn down — there was Ship Ahoy, a pharmacy, an Orange Julius, a dance hall, a bowling alley, a dress shop and Dante’s Inferno,” Boyd said.
The predecessor to Dante’s was the first daytime bar in Laguna, said Boyd, who owns the Marine Room Tavern on Ocean Avenue, affectionately known as the Mar Bar.
“We can’t get it all back, but we have an obligation to keep the city the way it is,” Boyd said. “I have seen all the changes and don’t ever think I don’t respect the city.”
Boyd declined to talk about the Athens Group project in Aliso Canyon because it is still being processed, but he did comment on efforts to clean up the creek.
“Aliso Canyon was where my grandfather first settled,” Boyd said, “If you saw the pictures, you would be amazed.
“But we have these people behind us [communities through which the creek runs], who don’t understand what they are doing to us. We can never bring it back to what it was. But we can improve it.
“I go back to the days when [Laguna Greenbelt Inc. founder] Jim Dilley was running around in his book store. If he were here today, he would be shocked to see what we have acquired.
“So many people in this room have been involved in increasing the [park] land around us. I know that newcomers enjoy what the folks here gave them.”
Boyd tipped his hat to perennial Greenbelt President Elisabeth Brown, Wood, and Michael Pinto, founder of the Laguna Canyon Foundation.
As for questions about the law suit filed by the ACLU against the city for actions allegedly hostile to the homeless, Boyd was mum.
“I cannot and will not discuss this because of the litigation,” said Boyd, who initiated a task force to help resolve homeless issues.
As pointed out in a Coastline Pilot editorial: No good deed goes unpunished. But Boyd’s efforts were applauded Monday at the conservancy dinner, not his accustomed turf. He defeated conservancy darling Verna Rollinger in her first run for council in 2006.
“I appreciate that Carolyn had the nerve to invite me here tonight,” Boyd said.
The conservancy holds monthly dinner meetings at Tivoli Terrace except during Festival Season. Meetings feature speakers on timely issues.
Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers with reservations.
To reserve a seat, call (949) 494-6465 and leave name, telephone number, number of attendees and the spelling of the names for tags. If plans change, call and cancel so the seat can be available for someone else.