Mailbag: With columnists go a little local flavor

What a shame to lose columnists James Pribram and Catharine Cooper! I frequently pick up the Coastline Pilot when I am in Laguna Beach because I love its local flavor as described by Pribram and Cooper — much as I used to pick up the San Francisco Chronicle, not for the news, but to savor Herb Caen.

My love of Baja California began with Jack Smith's columns in the Los Angeles Times (followed by Cooper's stories of her vacations there) and led to many wonderful Baja trips of my own.

A day or two after picking up a copy of the Aug. 26 Coastline Pilot at Coyote Grill and reading the farewell columns by Pribram and Cooper, I opened my L.A. Times to find a Coastline Pilot tucked inside for the first time.

So, I surmise, the reason management has chosen to drop Pribram and Cooper's columns is to broaden the Pilot's appeal? If so, I must protest that the reason for my loyalty to a newspaper, whether that paper is small or large, local or cosmopolitan, lies far more in my allegiance to the columnists that give it a unique flavor than to the news I can read anywhere.

Pribram and Cooper, I will miss you. And I predict that the Coastline Pilot will soon also disappear from my experience, although less missed by me for having already dropped you.

Jeanne Harris

Laguna Niguel

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We must fight automobile erosion

Have you ever sat motionless in Laguna traffic wondering where the guy in front of you is from? You might have thought if he weren't driving a car, Laguna's streets would be a little less crowded, or you thought he's one of those 4 million summer visitors.

Well, here is a surprise: Moving citation data from the Laguna Beach Police Department shows the guy in front of you is 94% likely to be from California, 43% likely from Laguna or our closest five neighboring cities, and 26% likely to be a Laguna resident. So don't blame traffic on visiting Oklahoma drivers. The problem is us.

Naturally, most people get around Laguna by driving because the alternatives to driving are oh-so inconvenient. How inconvenient is sitting in traffic motionless? Let me deliver the final clue now: Ever consider yourself as part of the problem? If your answer feels like a confession, that's good. Press on.

So how did we arrive here today, with a transportation system that shows its inadequacies, despite years and years of refinements, paid consultants and parking shuffles? Since the 1950s, Laguna Beach has experienced an erosion of city infrastructure caused by the automobile.

Erosion begins with little bites first: left-turn pockets, one-way streets, bigger intersections, road widening, straightened roads, faster speeds, greater LOS (an engineering term I call Level of Suffering). Then come the desperate bites swallowed whole: the bypass road, the expressway, the toll road, more expressways, the mega-transfer lot and the smart card-activated underground robot parking garage (made in Germany).

Building automobile infrastructure is in direct opposition to what I'll call transit infrastructure: bus lanes, crosswalks, bike paths and pedestrian sidewalks. The preponderance for automobiles causes a dynamic effect: The more space provided for cars in cities, the greater becomes the need for cars. Still more space is allocated for them, both when they are moving and when they are idle.

Laguna has not been immune to automobile erosion; look at an aerial photograph of the Festival of Arts grounds, and you will be astonished to see 80% of the livable space is paved over for parking spaces and Laguna Canyon Road. The actual festival buildings are packed into the remaining 20%.

Irvine development is planning 5,000 more homes near the Orange County Great Park.

Guess what? Those folks plan to drive to the beach.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

The writer is the chairman for the Task Force for Complete Streets.

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Letter writer shows his hypocrisy

I've read local resident Dave Connell's rants over the years in your pages, but for the first time I feel compelled to comment.

Connell has shown himself in the Sept. 9 edition to be the very definition of a hypocrite, (Mailbag: "Only ban needed is one on view pollution"). He decries the "bans" on plastic grocery sacks and outdoor lighting, but in the same letter calls for "bans" on tall trees.

Isn't it funny how we hate the laws that restrict the freedoms that matter to us, but yearn for the restrictions we think are worthy?

The definition of a hypocrite.

James Dorf

Laguna Beach

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Writing is cheap; action is what counts

It is ironic that on the very same page of the Sept. 9 edition on which Dave Connell's letter appears ("Only ban needed one on view pollution") there also appears the editorial "Activists played a key role."

The editorial explains how in 1971, faced with the prospect of a slew of high-rises on the beach, a small band of dedicated people banded together to start an initiative campaign to counter the City Council and impose a 36-foot height limit in the oceanfront zone, obtained the signatures to place the initiative on the ballot and then conducted an election campaign. It was successful and preserved the ocean views that are such a significant part of Laguna Beach's character, right down to the present day.

It should be obvious to Connell by this time that City Council — for whatever reason — is not going to initiate a tree ordinance (in plannerspeak, a view preservation, or a view preservation and restoration ordinance).

His only recourse, therefore, is to do what Village Laguna did in 1971 — form an initiative drive to have the issue presented to the voters. I'd sign it, as would many people in town who I know, who agree strongly with Connell's position.

I would also vote for it, and campaign for it, as I believe would many Lagunans. All it takes is for someone, like Connell, who feels strongly about the issue, to organize the effort. The path has been shown to you.

The time has come to stop just complaining and actually do something — something, moreover, that can actually be accomplished.

Gene Gratz

Laguna Beach

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