Mailbag: Spirit of Burning Man captured in column

Many thanks for the well-thought-out, skillfully written column in the Coastline Pilot on Burning Man by Billy Fried (Sept. 13).

We have heard various accounts of the festival for years, but none of them enlightened us so clearly about the spirit and feeling of Burning Man. My wife and I appreciate Fried's efforts and applaud the piece.

Don Sheridan

Laguna Beach

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Live-work building is too ugly

Laguna Canyon is the main entrance to our wonderful town and we need to try to maintain as much of its original beauty as possible.

Most of us would agree that the drive into town is refreshing and starts residents and visitors feeling good about where they are going.

Unfortunately I believe the structure proposed as artists' live-work space would, if built as the developer has outlined, be a large step in the wrong direction. Take the staking of the proposed new structure next to Canyon Animal Hospital, between Big Bend and El Toro Road. It is huge, boxlike, flat roofed and not very attractive.

Providing live-work space for artists is a wonderful idea that our town should wholeheartedly support but I believe everyone and especially artists would agree that the structure should also be pleasing to the eye.

Pitched roofs would be a big help. Looking closely at the staking also reveals that large mature trees on the site will need to be removed. The concept is good but it needs to be done right. Let's don't create the feeling of entering an industrial area.

Take a look, and if you agree, you can express your feelings at the Planning Commission meeting 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25. There is still time. Write the Planning Commission a letter if you can't attend.

Ralph Haun

Laguna Beach

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Stop personal attacks and let's talk

Kudos to Larry Nokes and others for their clarification and sanity concerning the Village Entrance Project.

It is always difficult to counter the "Chicken Little" mentality. Nokes is correct that the City Council vote is just the latest action to explore, officially, the distinct possibility of proceeding with a project at the disused site in Laguna Canyon.

I look forward to the information that will be presented in October. Until then, the critics are welcome to continue to disseminate their inaccurate and misleading vitriol against the project. In my experience, these people are not really afraid of change; they are dead set against anything that is not their idea.

Yes, these same folks opposed all of the projects and more that were listed in Nokes' letter. However, the most significant project that these folks stonewalled more than 20 years ago was the Top of the World water reservoir.

In concert with the Village Laguna three-vote majority, they prevented that project from going forward until the night of Oct. 27, 1993. Despite the numerous City Council meetings on the project and deadlocked votes, the project finally got the go-ahead shortly after that disastrous fire.

I, too, have concerns about the Village Entrance Project. However, I voted for every one of our current council members because I am confident that they keep in mind the best interests of our entire community when making decisions. There is a long process ahead for this project and I am confident that the council members will deal with all of the concerns one way or the other.

The project may or may not go ahead, but the irresponsible opposition is trying to block a proper dialogue. The personal attacks on our duly elected council members are sophomoric and narrow-minded. The personal attacks should cease and intelligent discussion of the issue should be observed by all.

Tom Slattery

Laguna Beach

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Sometimes elected council is wrong

I love living in a town where residents have the belief that their voice matters. Currently this collective voice is directed toward the proposed high-rise car park.

In the early 1970s, we had a business-oriented City Council, a mind-set we see in some members today. In the 1970s, because they were elected, council members felt they had the power and right to change the zoning and land uses of ocean-front property from residential to high-rise towers.

Their target location started just south of Main Beach and proceeded south. Think Miami.

Residents went to City Council meetings, wrote letters to the editor and made phone calls to council members saying we do not want high rises lining our beachfront. The only recourse open was the initiative process — letlagunavote.com.

Michael Hoag

Laguna Beach

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People shouldn't automatically fear new ideas

Great thanks to Allan Simon for putting a fine point on a current topic of great debate: The Village Entrance Project.

However, his conclusion urging the City Council to rescind its vote and go back to "square zero" is, respectfully, not the right recommendation. What the majority of the council did in voting to move forward with the project was exactly that: take the next step in the development of the plans necessary to move forward on an improvement the city desperately needs.

Simon is correct in noting that the project has been studied, publicly debated and approved along the way, and even subjected to an environmental impact report. He's also correct in reflecting that at the time of the vote, the finished design was not established, the schedule had yet to be determined and while the financing concept was defined, specific financing was not in place.

What he does not mention is that each of these next critical steps will be noticed for public hearing and comment once they have been proposed, and will be voted upon by the appropriate city bodies after public comment is received.

It would have been irresponsible for the City Council to have spent time and money establishing a final project design, working drawings and a construction budget, as well as locking down financing without first voting, as a council, to move the concept forward.

As part of the process of the council moving the idea forward, the first iteration of the design will be unveiled at the Oct. 1 council meeting. If approved, this is followed with the hiring of a project manager, preparation of working drawings, evaluation of construction costs and development of a critical path.

Opponents of the project would have the public believe the council's vote was a vote to start construction. That assertion is simply not accurate.

Hopefully, those who want the council to rescind the vote will remember the same hue and cry against the Montage, Treasure Island Park, Main Beach Park, and even The Suzi Q senior center. Yet we overcame our fears, and all of these projects were ultimately vetted through a process and became venerable elements of the city.

It is easy to understand why people are frightened of new ideas — change brings with it uncertainty. In this case, they should be afraid of the old ones — no change will result in a long-term disaster in Laguna Beach. Parking already is a problem in Laguna. Population in Orange County is growing, and the population at our very own gateway is growing.

The beautification and parking area proposed for the barren corner of Broadway and Forest Avenue is necessary additional infrastructure. The current concept takes a blighted corner near our City Hall and across the street from some of our most iconic institutions and turns it into something beautiful, useful and necessary. We will have a safe, lighted walkway, beautifully landscaped, in a location that welcomes people into the city — and much-needed parking.

Let the process proceed. It will not be the end of the conversation, but it is a necessary first step. If the proposed design is too ugly, it won't be built. If it is too expensive, it won't be approved. If the revenues don't make sense, it will be reevaluated. And if it does not make sense, it will be rejected.

But we should not take the step of just refusing to consider it without facts.

Joe Hanauer, Laurence Nokes, Morris Skendarian, Aaron Talarico, Matt Lawson, Tim Carlyle, Mike Kinsman, Marshall Ininns, Shaena Stabler, Kenneth Fischbeck, Kristine Thalman, Mary Ferguson, Gerry Perez, Cody Engle, Debbie MacDonald, Mark Orgill, Peter Blake, Pat Kollenda, Glenn Gray, George Nelson, Stevan Gromet, Thomas Neptune, Anders Lasater

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Entrance plan doesn't make economical sense

I recently read an opinion piece signed by 23 notable Laguna business folks advocating the Village Entrance Project. Notably, they neglected to mention the $65 million price tag. 

For this "Gang of 23," $65 million seems to be a minor detail. Funny how spending public money can be so enjoyable when it isn't coming from your bank account. The Gang of 23 mentioned Main Beach Park, The Suzi Q and The Montage as comparable decisions by past City Councils. This comparison is questionable since each of these projects benefited the entire city. 

It is obvious that the Village Entrance Project provides minimal, if any, benefit to North and South Laguna, mid-town or Top of the World, to name a few neighborhoods.

The Gang of 23 also commented on the "blighted" corner near City Hall and conveniently forgot the other Canyon blight, such as the Edison substation a short distance away. And don't forget the Forest/Broadway intersection with the mishmash of storefronts.

And how about that revenue bond issue? The Gang of 23 loves a high-priced bond issue that will bypass voters and cost more than general obligation bonds. But hey, it's not the Gang's money and not their problem because parking fees will cover all sins. Or will they?  Counting on 25 years of parking revenue to cover a bond issue is fiscally irresponsible considering the many unknowns.

Perhaps the Gang of 23, as hard-core supporters of this impractical and uneconomical project, are not well read on the potential economic challenges to California coastal cities caused by rising sea levels. 

A recent study published in the journal Climate Change stated, "Smaller beaches in towns like Laguna Beach stand to lose $14 million annually because of narrowing beaches."

Let's put this beast out on the table and let Laguna vote.

Victor Opincar

Laguna Beach

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We need the parking for locals and visitors

I thank the City Council members for their leadership and hope they stay the course.

Laguna Beach elected many of them on a campaign promise of getting this done. I think the city will benefit tremendously from increased parking downtown, creek enhancement and restoration, and a beautiful pedestrian park between the village and the festivals. 

The addition of the park will also serve as a more beautiful village entrance — a big improvement over our current strip parking lot.

I am appalled by the conduct of some who oppose this project. I resent the misleading signs quoting $65 million. I resent them passing out pamphlets at the farmer's market and music events — completely inappropriate. And mostly, I resent their inability to wait and consider the proposal before jumping on the opposition bandwagon. 

Our town has agreed for years we need more parking. It has been identified as our biggest problem for as long as I have been around. I agree with those who want more parking in outlying lots and those who want additional bus and trolley service. 

But, we also need more parking downtown for residents and visitors. Many residents limit our downtown trips during the summer and most weekends to the morning hours. I know I can find parking downtown before noon and so I limit my trips to that time. What a shame and a lost opportunity for local businesses and nonprofits. 

Leadership is painful and the Village Entrance is certainly proving that point. But councils and city staff over the years have persevered and delivered Main Beach, our greenbelt, Montage and Treasure Island Park and so much more.  I am very impressed with the leadership in Laguna Beach and completely appreciate the service. Hang in there.

Mary Ferguson

Laguna Beach

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