Election 2012: Candidates talk out more city issues

The Laguna Board of Realtors and Chamber of Commerce held a fast-paced forum Oct. 4 in the City Council chambers.

Topics covered included homelessness, development, trees, historical preservation and issues facing young families.

Laguna Beach businesswoman Joan Gladstone moderated the forum, which included no opening statements and only two minutes for closing statements.

Candidates Steven Dicterow, Jane Egly, Verna Rollinger, Robert Ross and Robert Whalen discussed their long-term solutions to homelessness in Laguna and how they would reduce the cost of the Alternative Sleeping Location.

"The problem didn't need to be fixed with that place in the canyon," Ross said. "We could use empty buildings."

All of the candidates, except Rollinger, said the county and the state needs to get on board; the burden is too heavy for Laguna to carry alone.

"They are citizens and deserve city services," Rollinger said. "I am extremely proud of what the city has done."

Egly, Whalen and Rollinger support permanent housing for the homeless



The Design Review Board got a favorable review from all candidates.

"Problems are inherent in design review," Dicterow said. "Applicants want something. Neighbors don't."

He credited the Design Review Board Task Force with easing some of the tensions.

Whalen said council appointments determine the board's interpretations of city regulations and effectiveness.

He recommended proper staff assistance to the board.

Uniform guidelines don't work in Laguna, according to most of the candidates.

Dicterow said different neighborhoods have different guidelines.

The guidelines are uniform, they just aren't applied uniformly, according to Rollinger.

Egly said the city has a helpful handbook on design and construction guidelines. Property owners need to understand that maximum lot coverage or square footage is not guaranteed.

"If they want to build a 6,000-square-foot house on Oak Street, it won't happen," Egly said.

None of the candidates would require a licensed architect to be appointed to the board.


Trees and Views

"One thousand homes have lost their views due to vegetation," said Dicterow, who was once the chair of the Tree Board, which tried to arbitrate neighbors' disputes, mostly without success.

"People who buy homes with a view have a right to a view. If the view is obscured when the house is bought, it's a different story," he added.

Dicterow said Laguna's tree ordinance had no teeth, although other communities have more effective ordinances that have been found constitutional.

He cited Palos Verdes.

"Palos Verdes has no trees so it has no problem," Egly said.

Rollinger said tree ordinances are not one-size fits all.

"Trying to regulate growing things is a nightmare," she said.

Ross said let old eucalpti die and don't plant new ones.

He would like them banned and no more large trees of any kind planted.

As for issues facing young families, the consensus was raising their children.

"There are a lot of single-parent families in Laguna and what to do with them after school is a problem," Whalen said.

He recommends membership in the Boys and Girls Club, in which he has been active for years.

"Drugs and alcohol are major problems," Dicterow said.

He suggested more interaction between the school board and the city and healthy activities.

All four of the candidates agreed historical preservation is important.

Ross said it becomes a tyranny if the register takes property, which it has no power to do.

Recommendations were discussed to make Laguna a 12-month destination city.

"Emphasize more art programs off-season," Whalen said.

Ross suggested bringing in film production.

Talk next turned to the purchase of Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road.

"We wouldn't have to buy them," Rollinger said. "I think Caltrans would be thrilled to get rid of them.

"In a percent perfect world, I would [be] 100% in favor — we would have jurisdiction," Rollinger said. "But liability has to be considered."

Dicterow said he loves the idea.

"We shouldn't have to pay anything: they should give it to us," Ross said.

Safety would be enhanced by city ownership, Whalen said and Egly added particularly for walkers, if it became a complete street.

Meanwhile, the South Laguna Civic Assn. on Tuesday separately interviewed the candidates.

"We questioned them about issues of importance to us and told them things about South Laguna that the rest of the town might not know about," said association President Bill Rihn. "One example: South Laguna gets its water from the South Coast Water District, but we don't get to vote for the board of directors.

"We have been disenfranchised," he added.


Twitter: @coastlinepilot

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World