Community Commentary: Taking action was worth it

Columnist David Hansen's "The power of one local voice" (Jan. 6) hit the nail on the head.

We found ourselves embroiled in a neighborhood dispute in Arch Beach Heights for almost all of 2011. A neighbor-to-neighbor conflict turned into an extremely unpleasant neighborhood affair that tried to turn us into villains and complainers, a situation that caused us tremendous stress and anxiety.

As 32-year residents and business owners who are deeply invested in and love this wonderful town of Laguna Beach, we had to make exactly the choice Hansen described. We had to get involved and be part of a process on two fronts, which involved the City Council, Planning Commission and Design Review Board.

We did not know how the process worked and were intimidated and strapped for time, as Hansen described. The decision came down to either submit to bullying or stand up for what we believed was right and save our little part of Laguna Beach.

It took almost the entire year, and we learned a tremendous amount about how our city works. From this experience we can tell anyone who has a legitimate idea and is willing to work for it that they will find a very supportive network at the city.

The common fear of having to "deal" with the city is founded in fiction. Everybody along the way was helpful and pleasant and prompt; City Manger John Pietig, the council members, planners, staff and commission members all helped us along the way and were accessible for questions.

We learned about the amount of time that Planning Commission and Design Review Board members volunteer on our behalf and with what detail every situation gets addressed.

It was a time- and energy-consuming journey, but it was worth it. The beauty of democracy is that it works and more people should get involved to stand up for what they believe in.

It certainly worked for us, and we thank everybody who helped us along the way to preserve our little part of Laguna Beach.

PAUL AND ANNETTE HULING are Laguna Beach residents.

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