Mailbag: Planning Commission needs spare member

It is true, very true, as Councilman Bob Whalen said, that "there is a steep learning curve when you go on the [Planning] Commission." ("Incumbents reappointed to Planning Commission," Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, May 31.) The Planning Commission is important as well because it is so frequently a stepping stone from which candidates run for City Council.

I would therefore suggest to the City Council that it give consideration to the creation of an alternate membership on the Planning Commission, which would allow a potential new member to learn, and would also allow the council — and the public — to evaluate her or his performance to determine whether, at the next opening, he or she should be appointed to a full term.

Along the same lines, and for much the same reasons, I would suggest also considering reinstating the alternate position on the Design Review Board.

Gene Gratz

Laguna Beach

* It's about time we closed nuclear plant

Edison's decision to shutter San Onofre is long overdue. This is proof-positive common sense sometimes can prevail.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Let's just get rid of everything fun in Laguna

At last a new vision for Laguna, brought to us by the view ordinance and anti-skateboard park folks, will give us the sterile environment so many of us have long craved.

The only problem is that I don't think they've gone far enough, but let's first start with a review of what has been proposed so far for the new Laguna:

1) Any tree caught within an inch or so above a roofline should be promptly decapitated at the owner's expense. Views — whether of sea, coastline, canyons, city lights or your neighbor's scanty attire while sunbathing in a backyard — take precedence over vegetation.

After all, trees are so messy. They shed leaves and twigs and tempt birds to perch, sing and doodoo on our lovely hardscapes. They really must go if we have any hope of having a pristine view and environment. Think of those magnificent lunar landscapes. Why shouldn't we have one of those?

2) We managed to get those wicked skateboarders off most of our streets, but then they tried to get a skateboard park at Moulton Meadows Park. Really, the nerve of those children and their parents. Isn't it bad enough that they already cause a ruckus with their soccer and basketball games? Not to mention that obnoxious cracking and ball-bouncing sound as those balls get hit on the tennis courts.

Where did any of them get the idea that children should even be out anywhere in Laguna? Forget the old adage that children should be seen and not heard. Let's make it "not seen and not heard" and keep them locked in their rooms in front of their computers so they can plump up and grow fat enough to die early and "decrease the surplus population," to borrow a line from good ol' Scrooge.

Rather than shouting down and booing those skateboarding kids at the City Council meeting like those mature, polite adults did — well, they were justifiably appalled at the idea of letting those children speak — we should have asked for more. Lock them up — if not at their schools, at least in their homes.

You've seen them on our beaches. They are messy and they make noise, just like the birds in the trees. Cut them all down and give us the clean and sterile.

To really make progress, though, we need to regulate a few more things if we're going to really have a fighting chance for a pristine Laguna:

First, the Village Entrance plan is just a start. Let's fence off the entire city with large parking structures in the manner of some of the planned communities to our east and north. In that way we can better manage anyone who comes in.

We might even want to explore requiring visitors to have a certain income level or amount of cash on hand before we let them into the city. We don't want any looky-loos who don't spend while visiting our shops and galleries.

Second, why should homeowners be able to paint their homes whatever color they want? How can you have a decent planned community if variation is allowed? Let's mandate a Laguna color for all homes.

Third, what about those dogs? Messy again. Well, maybe we can allow some of them if they're well-washed and carried in a little sack or stroller. Decorative jeweled collars would also be nice.

With this new vision of Laguna launched, we could finally shed that ridiculous art colony look and achieve a lovely, sterile state almost as good as hardscape —- if not the moon.

C. D. Laughton

Laguna Beach

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Trees provide 'many ecological benefits'

It is important, where possible, to preserve the large trees in Laguna. More than the views must be preserved.

The trees provide many ecological benefits that are important as well as stabilizing the vulnerable hillsides of Laguna Beach. For example, I think it is important that my uphill neighbor preserve the trees on his downhill slope.

Many years ago, before we built our house, this hillside slipped and deposited a quantity of earth in the street in front of our house. We need trees to keep this hillside and others stable.

We are trying to preserve trees at the bottom of our lot as well for the same reason — so that it does not endanger the property of the neighbor below.

When we constructed a pool in our backyard, it was recommended by our geologist that we needed to stabilize the earth that was relocated from the pool and keep it from slipping into the yard of our downhill neighbor.

Every year we have laced these trees and in recent years we have been assuming all the cost.

We want our neighbors to have a view from their living area and have tried to accommodate them, but we have not felt that this should extend to his downstairs tenants or the rooms not in use. At our neighbor's request we agreed to the removal of two large trees. We have trimmed another tree, much to the dismay of the neighbor on the other side of us who wished the tree to remain since it was blocking something he did not want to see.

I maintain that each tree that is removed or threatened must be evaluated for its benefits. Each tree has a unique role to play and that must be taken into consideration before it is destroyed.

Fran Chilcote

Laguna Beach

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Don't forget the utility poles

During the past few weeks we have read about the many suggestions and concerns regarding views. Trees and bushes have been the primary subject of much of that discussion, but, I have noticed the numerous times that people have brought up the utility poles and lines and how they too impact views.

I am wondering why the poles aren't now being addressed in a serious way as part of the view equity committee's agenda?

Whether it's a tree, a bush, or a utility pole — they all impact views. The poles are already part of the discussion and should be on the view equity agenda.

We need a committee to investigate how the poles can go and utilities can be undergrounded, restoring views and ensuring our safety and the dependability of services, without the costly, piecemeal, burdensome and unfair process now in place. No one seems to like how the current system works — so, let's at least look into our options.

Pat Carpenter

Laguna Beach

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Finding a solution for view ordinance

We are responding to several letters that were published in the local papers during the past few weeks, expressing criticism about the proposed view ordinance indicating fear and misinformation. First though we want to clarify that we do not belong to any organized group, and but express our own opinions.

This very complicated process has in no way resulted in a solidified ordinance yet. We have been to every meeting and are always impressed that every position is carefully considered and weighed. We have never witnessed bullying or harassment; however, the majority of attendants at the meetings are, like us, just concerned homeowners with legitimate complaints about substantial view obstructions. Many of us are also several-decade-long homeowners and not "Johnny-come-lately's."

We are not complaining about a single tree 600 feet away from us, but face entire obstruction of our views by simply neglected and inappropriate vegetation.

A lot of the older trees, had they been maintained properly during the past 10, 20 or more years would not create substantial problems now. There are many great examples of beautifully cared for specimens throughout town and this ordinance would encourage this type of maintenance.

This whole issue is not about the past — it is about the future of Laguna Beach. The Palos Verdes ordinance is important to this process because it established a vision that was centered around the idea that views are a unique, precious natural resource for the city as well as outside communities, for the benefit of residents and visitors alike, worthy of protection for future generations. This idea was upheld by the California Superior court when challenged by a resident.

Because of our topography, Laguna Beach features some of the most sought after and extraordinary views of coastline, ocean islands, canyons and mountains in the world.

There is a reason why these views are reflected in the economic value of Laguna Beach's real estate: People like views. People love and value views because they are rare and completely site specific. We cannot remember ever an ad for a home with a vegetation view.

This whole effort is about recognizing a problem and finding a solution for it. I encourage anybody to participate and share constructive ideas to help solve this dilemma.

Regarding the makeup of the view preservation committee, Laguna Beach is lucky to have these dedicated, extremely qualified individuals donate time and energy to the goal of finding a long overdue answer to a continually "growing" problem.

Paul and Annette Huling

Laguna Beach

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View Committee is fair and balanced

The commentary by Anne Cox on the View Committee makeup was so incorrect and biased it simply must be corrected.

First, the committee members were carefully selected by Mayor Kelly Boyd to provide a broad spectrum of backgrounds and positions. It does not contain a single long-time advocate of preserving Laguna's unique and magnificent views like myself and Frank Visca, who developed the first View Preservation Ordinance with the aid of dedicated residents some 20 years ago.

That first really complete view and safety ordinance died at birth, killed by a coalition of tree lovers, one who is serving on the current committee. The committee is as balanced as it could reasonably could be.

Ms. Cox is also wrong about Laguna's heritage. The real heritage of Laguna is one of magnificent open views provided by nature. Originally, our nearly bare hillsides rising from the sea provided views unique to this area. When people came they brought non-native trees, destroying many of those irreplaceable fantastic public and personal views.

If there has been any mocking of some comments made by those who have destroyed our views, it is only because some of the comments have been beyond nonsense. The right kind of trees in the right places, like all of mine, can be an asset. A tree in the wrong place is a curse and too often a huge fire hazard.

Dave Connell

Laguna Beach

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Mayor did good in creation of View Committee

We strongly support Mayor Kelly Boyd's desire for and leadership position in acquiring revisions to the City's View Ordinance.

We find it unconscionable that anyone would insinuate Boyd was acting irresponsibly by selecting and appointing individuals as a committee to draft a revision of the city's view ordinance dealing with trees and vegetation. In fact, the selection and appointment of the committee solely at the mayor's discretion received unanimous council approval.

The orders for the committee were to "work toward the goal we've heard tonight (Jan. 15) and that is putting teeth in an ordinance that's going to work." We presume the "goal" is a View Restoration and Preservation ordinance administered by the city. The city, not the Superior Court, will be the arbiter when property owners cannot agree on a solution to the view obstruction.

Several residents have expressed concern over real estate speculators sitting on their checkbooks until an ordinance with teeth is passed so they can rush in and buy a view-obstructed property, restore the view and flip it for a huge profit. Restoration via the ordinance's mandate is available to the property owner prior to selling. He/she can execute the restoration or sell as a potential view property using the view ordinance to restore the view.

Views are an important natural resource of Laguna Beach and deserve protection. Anyone who has attended the View Committee meetings knows that the committee members have widely differing opinions regarding key provisions of the View Ordinance.

Where is the beauty in overgrown vegetation and trees that have not been maintained? While trees that are well maintained and unobtrusive are beautiful and provide value to a community, the same can be said for an unobstructed view of the beautiful ocean, beaches and other landmarks in Laguna Beach.

It's ironic there is so much angst and concern about a view ordinance since the only reason it exists is because someone believes his/her vegetation is more important than another's ability to see clearly through or past it. To be fair and honest, we acknowledge that in some cases the vegetation is more important than the view. However, in all the cases we have heard of or seen ourselves, no reasonable person would side with the vegetation owner.

Why is there no concern about the significant reduction in value of the many property owners living with obstructed views?

Steve and Catherine Caporaso

Arch Beach Heights

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