I just got back from one of my frequent short ocean swims around the reefs off Cress Street beach. While I was floating about I was considering the many articles in this week’s Coastline Pilot relative to the City Council decision to attempt to close most of our Laguna coastal waters to fishing, thanks to the concerns of local citizens. I reflected upon my early years in Laguna (I arrived in 1962) and the hours spent successfully fishing, and pulling in good sized opaleye, sheepshead, etc. from rocky points off our coast. I no longer fish the immediate coast as my interests changed, perhaps in tandem with the catch becoming less abundant, but I still spend ample time enjoying the big natural swimming pool we in Laguna are lucky to have at our door steps.
This leads back to the controversy that seems to revolve around whether increasingly tainted waters (although the waters off Laguna Beach are far clearer than those of many of our neighboring cities), or over-fishing, is the cause of the decline of fish species/numbers. I concluded that it’s a bit of both "” and therefore believe that the council’s decision is the correct one. Let me tell you why.
While swimming, I wear goggles and peer down into our beautiful waters as I move along. As usual, I continue to notice a consistency. There are very few fish more than 4 inches in length "” other than sting rays "” that are visible from the surface. With one exception: the garibaldi.
That lovely little (most are 5 to 10 inches in length) golden orange beauty that is still in great abundance among our reefs "” or so it seems "” by comparison with any other local specie of ocean fishes. Why do I think that’s germane to the recent controversy? The garibaldi has been protected since the time I arrived in Laguna and appears to be holding up in numbers. Of course, this is not scientifically based, and an ocean biologist may have just cause to debunk my findings, as they are derived strictly through consistent personal observation. The survival of this species seems proof to me that a measure of protection has worked, much like the success of some land species, such as the timber wolf.
Naturally this does not mean that our less pure waters are taking some toll. But the experiment of closing the waters to fishing seems to make great sense, as we have increasingly more fishing pressure with more sophisticated equipment than we did years ago, particularly as that relates to diving gear. And fishing will still be permitted beyond our immediate shores. So, let’s give the closure a chance to do its thing. Maybe in the years ahead the Garibaldi will have more company, even if they’ll not have a rival for color.
Has design review really improved?
Did you watch the City Council meeting Nov. 17? There was a wonderful presentation from the Design Review Task Force regarding the Design Review Reform Program.
They issued their final report titled, “Design Review Reform Program Comprehensive Implementation Review." It was obvious to the City Council and citizens of Laguna Beach that the task force contributed significant time and effort to improve the process with the objective of making the Design Review experience less contentious for all concerned parties. The council individually lauded their efforts, and there was optimism that this long-standing process issue would finally be improved.
Then there was a break for a short recess and the council took up an Appeal of Approval of Design Review 09-126 at 30812 Driftwood Drive.
Let me go on record, I barely know the applicant or the appellant and have no personal agenda regarding this property. We watched the extensive testimony from the local political action group supporting the appellant, including speakers far removed from this particular street and, of course, this is their right.
Then we watched the homeowner’s attorney present a comprehensive summary of the previous Design Review discussions concerning neighborhood compatibility, mass and scale, view equity, privacy, etc.
The homeowner reportedly addressed all the neighbors’ issues in order to comply with the DRB direction he was provided over several meetings. Ironically, there are at least two other homes on the street that were approved by DRB over the last several years that appear to have greater issues than those claimed against this applicant. After careful evaluation, the final vote of Design Review after three hearings was unanimously (5-0) in favor of the homeowner before this appeal.
However, after spending the previous hour applauding the new, improved Design Review process, the majority of the City Council (with the exception of Kelly Boyd) struggled over perceived issues in order to be politically correct and apparently not to offend the political action group that had paraded to the podium with their orchestrated speeches.
Needless to say, the council voted 4 to 1 (Boyd the “No" vote) to remand the project back to Design Review for the fourth time, causing the homeowner further legal and design expense for a two-year-old project. Do you think the city’s Design Review Process is really improved? I had hoped it would be.
Parking structure won’t solve traffic
With all the disagreement over the solution to Laguna’s traffic problem, imagine what Disney would do at the Magic Kingdom.
Imagine if every visitor could drive their cars from Fantasyland to Tomorrowland, and you could watch America On Parade down Main Street through the windshield of your car like a drive-in movie. What would Disney do to cope with the cars? Would Disney add more parking spaces? Would Disney start digging a subterranean parking garage? And where would Disney put it, under the Matterhorn maybe? Would Disney hold free-parking weekends to attract more visitors? And what would happen to Magic in the Kingdom?
Just like Disney, the City Council should consider alternatives to the single occupancy vehicle (SOV) before wishing on a star for yet another ineffective, expensive infrastructure solution to a selfish behavioral problem. Both visitors and Laguna residents should remember the consequence of driving in Laguna and look for an alternative to the SOV. Look in the Magic Mirror Laguna; if you are part of the problem, you can be part of the solution.