Election 2012: Discontent among local Dems

The Laguna Beach City Council election is nonpartisan race, but you would never know it based on some of the campaign literature and rhetoric.

Steven Dicterow, who has identified himself as the only Republican candidate, is endorsed by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and supported by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa).

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Orange County denied Mayor Jane Egly its endorsement because she has accepted donations from Republicans as well as Democrats, according to Audrey Prosser.

"Follow the money and you know what the candidate stands for," said Prosser, a former president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.

A club membership meeting, at which endorsements were to be voted on, was canceled and the board of directors announced its endorsement of Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger.

Prosser, who spoke against Egly at a meeting of the county Democrats, said the club cannot endorse a candidate who has not been endorsed by the county party.

She also posited that Egly did not deserve party support because she does not consistently vote the party line, despite Egly's endorsement by the Elections Committee County of Orange PAC, which supports gay and lesbian issues favored by Prosser.

"The City Council may be nonpartisan, but the Democratic Club isn't," Prosser said. "That's the crux of it."

The club's position has created a schism.

"I did not renew my membership when I got wind that the club was not supporting all three Democratic candidates for the council," said Peggy Wolff, who hosted an Obama fundraiser in September, independently of the club.

Voters could have been told to pick any two. All three are well-qualified, Wolff said.

"I am 48, and I was one of the younger members of the club," she said. "It is not attracting younger members, I think, because it has become super affiliated with Village Laguna."

"Our downtown is beautiful because of them, but every tree doesn't have to be saved, and every shack is not historic," she added.

Sue Kempf, who also hosted the Obama fundraiser, said she is interested in forming a new Democratic club in Laguna Beach.


Final candidates forum

Top of the World and Temple Hills residents questioned the five City Council candidates on issues mostly related to the neighborhoods Tuesday night.

The forum was sponsored by Top of the World Neighborhood and Temple Hills Community associations, held in the City Council Chamber and attended by about 40 people. David Raber moderated.

Following opening statements by the candidates, the first two questions were posed by association representatives

"How would you solve the question of open space acquisition if Measure CC doesn't pass?" asked Ron Chilcote, a member of the THCA board, which supports the measure."

"Try again," was Mayor Jane Egly's advice. "If it doesn't pass, go back to the drawing board. One of the complaints I have heard is that the timing is wrong. Maybe in a couple of years there will be less pressure from the economy."

Egly also opined that more planning is needed for maintenance and care taken that Joe Blow's price doesn't go from $30,000 to $300,000.

"I think this is the perfect time for the measure," said Rollinger, a resident of Temple Hills for 30 years. "We've paid off the bond for Laguna Canyon, and the best time to buy property is when prices are low," she said. "And open space increases property values."

Robert Ross opposes the tax: In his opinion, Measure CC stands for Coastal Commission, but he would like to see the city acquire Rimrock Canyon.

Steven Dicterow also opposes Measure CC, but he agreed that Rimrock is special, and he would pursue acquisition if elected.

Planning Commissioner Robert Whalen will not vote for Measure CC, but said if elected and the measure was approved by the voters, he would implement it.

TOWNA President Piero Wemyss said the neighborhood is concerned about five parcels on Alta Laguna Boulevard and asked the candidates if they thought the city planning department is the best it can be.

"I don't think anything is the best it can be," Rollinger said.

The design review process is complicated and ideas for improvement would be welcome, she said.

"More staff and more education is important," Egly said.

Whalen said the commission on which he sits faces problems similar to the Design Review Board, but is not as contentious.

"Good staff reports are critical," Whalen said. "That will happen now that the city is committed to more staff input."

Dicterow also said the design review process takes too long and it costs too much.

"Bring the public in earlier," he said. "I think it should not only be user-friendly, but neighbor-friendly."

The process drags on and on and on, according to Ross.

Questions then were taken from the audience.

Lorna Shaw asked what can be done to ensure residents safe evacuation in an emergency when Temple Hills has no sidewalks for pedestrians and speeding cars present an everyday danger.

Ross said pathways on old city maps should be opened to the public and the gate to Somme du Monde should be taken down.

"For everyday safety, sidewalks should be extended," Dicterow said. "Traffic calming may be something to look at."

In an emergency, people will get down the hill any way they can.

"They are not going to worry about private property," he said. "They will just go."

Whalen said Park Avenue was a parking lot during the evacuation of the city in 1993.

"We have to develop neighborhood evacuation plans, maybe cordon off a lane so buses can get up there and get people out," he said.

Whalen also suggested that the county could help evacuate folks down the other side of the hills to Woods Canyon.

"We want police, firefighters and CERT teams up there," Egly said. "Pathways sound like a good idea, but they were never dedicated to the city and that can lead to legal problems."

She reminded people about designating an out-of-state phone number for family members to contact, when in-state phones are not working.

"We should spend more time on how to get people out of town and more time on how to exist if they can't get out of town," Rollinger said.


View blockage by trees

Whalen said buyers should document their views at the time of purchase in case of future disputes.

"The city should pass a right to a view ordinance with teeth," said Dicterow, one-time chair of the council's tree board that tried to mediate disputes between neighbors.

The board was not effective and was abandoned.

"In the old days, if a tree got in a view, a copper bullet was shot at night," Ross said. "Now it is just a litigation trap."

Rollinger said asking the city to police thousands and thousands of trees would be a nightmare.

"Councilman Kelly Boyd is bringing this issue before the council and invited the audience to come to the meeting and help find a solution," Egly said.


Complete Street Plan for Glenneyre

Dicterow, Ross and Whalen said they didn't see lane reduction and roundabouts to replace stop signs working as well as the present configuration.

Egly and Rollinger support the proposal on a trial basis.

"If the residents don't like it they will let us know," Egly said.


No parks in Temple Hills

"What can we do?" Fran Chilcote asked.

The pocket parks recently created in Laguna Canyon and on Park Avenue were cited.

"Look for small lots and see if you can get the city to upgrade them," Whalen said.

Egly suggested approaching the council when it sits down with as the Laguna Beach Water District board of directors and ask if a small corner can be opened on district property without compromising security.

Security is an issue, but maybe something could be built on top of reservoirs if they were underground, Ross said.

Council members need to work with neighborhood associations and be opportunistic, Dicterow said.


Thalia Street undergrounding

Great idea for safety as well as aesthetic reasons, the candidates said, but prohibitively expensive and residents would have to foot part of the bill, if not all of it.

Hit up the state for a mandate to Edison to pick up the tab, Whalen suggested.


Enforcement of defensible space

"The city needs a Safety Committee to develop recommendations," Dicterow said.


Design Review approval deviations

Carol Buss said a project in her neighborhood has multiple violations, which have been reported to no avail.

"Email Verna or me tomorrow and we will go forward," Egly said. "That is the major role of council members: getting emails and directing them to the right person."

What about a special complaint number at City Hall?

Shaw said New York has a 311 number for calls on any issue and the caller is directed to the proper resource.

It's worth considering, said Ross, Rollinger and Egly. Dicterow would like more study. Whalen didn't comment.


Recycling options for unserviced streets?

"Michelle Clark, Laguna's representative to Waste Management is working on it," Rollinger said.

Whalen said Waste Management could do the sorting.


Lower speeds on Temple Hills Drive

"You can't let children cross Temple Hills Drive by themselves," Rader said.

Excess speed is one reason to create Complete Streets, which have been shown to slow traffic, Egly said.

"Move the roundabouts from Glenneyre," Whalen joked.

Dicterow said speed isn't a problem just in Temple Hills.

Speed bumps might help, stop signs not so much, he said.

"The answer is a traffic cop," Ross said.

Rollinger said the residents should take the issue to the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee for a hearing.


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