Community Commentary: Driftwood saga helps prove initiative is bad

Cindy Frazier's article, "Free acres of parkland may not be the best gift," Sept. 23, was very revealing. If you are a registered voter in Laguna Beach, you must read this before voting on the Open Space Initiative.

In summary: Late last year, the California Coastal Commission issued a cease-and-desist order against the owners of the Driftwood Properties, 155 acres of beautiful Laguna Beach land overlooking the ocean and Aliso Canyon, putting a halt to any and all future development and convinced them to sign a pledge to hand over the land to the public.

The Athens Group, representing the owners, offered to deed the property as open space, at no cost to several entities including the city of Laguna Beach, County of Orange, California Coastal Conservancy, Laguna Canyon Foundation, California Coastal Commission and others.

None of these entities have indicated they are willing to accept the land. Why? Because there are costly drainage and geologic issues, along with wildfire and liability concerns, requiring substantial expenditure to fix and yearly maintain. The Coastal Commission has declared it can never be developed. Why would anyone want to take over the Driftwood Properties financial liability or any other vacant properties responsibility since the land will forever be open space due to zoning, building codes and Coastal Commission requirements?

Frazier stated in her article that Elisabeth Brown, president of the Laguna Greenbelt Inc., one of the sponsors of the Open Space Initiative, said that at least some of this parcel would definitely qualify for acquisition under the tax measure. Why should we buy and maintain this unbuildable property when everyone else, including the city of Laguna Beach, doesn't want it?

By voting "no" to this forced tax on the property owners of Laguna Beach, these investors like the Driftwood Properties won't have the Committee for Open Space to dump their financial liability. Let these investors continue to pay the expenses to maintain their properties as open space. Let's not give them an opportunity to get our tax dollars to bail them out of their bad investment.

Say "no" to the millions of dollars it is going to cost us for the next 20 years to maintain this ridiculous trumped up initiative. Don't be deceived by omission of the facts on this initiative. Vote "no" on the Open Space Initiative.

JILL COOPER is a Laguna Beach resident.

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