Regarding City Consultant’s Ballot Initiative Analysis

By Merrill Anderson

Once again Laguna Beach city staff has hired a consultant and the consultant has produced a report with glaring errors. Their target this time? The Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative. These errors in the report are so basic and egregious that they clearly invalidate any conclusions that the city tries to make.

They cite a potential $1.5 million to $2 million annual revenue loss to the city, presumably due to large hotel projects like the Museum Hotel not being approved (hint: residents do not want this monstrosity!). The report at least points out that the municipal service costs are not factored in here and the consultant does not estimate these costs. Therefore, the report does not reflect validated net revenue and doesn’t answer the question the consultants were asked.  Why? Maybe because many studies have shown that the city costs over $1.30 for every $1 gained in visitor revenue. Therefore, the Ballot Initiative could actually save Laguna taxpayers money!

In the Key Findings, the City claims that many recent applications would trigger a vote. This is wrong because it ignores the fact that when the Ballot Initiative is in place, developers will make sure that their proposed project meets the Ballot Initiative requirements before submission. For example, they’ll stay within height requirements or ensure rooftop equipment is appropriately setback from view. Developers will work within the generous guidelines of the Ballot Initiative.

Totally unexplored is the cost benefit to the city when the Ballot Initiative is voted into law in November. When developers self-correct and make the appropriate adjustments to their proposals before these are presented to the city, Laguna Beach city staff, committees, Boards and Council will no longer be drawn into back-and-forth struggles with developers who try to gain favor and permits to proceed with flawed projects. This will result in significant time savings for the city.

The city does not ask the most important question: “How will the Ballot Initiative benefit the quality of life for Laguna residents?”

For starters, the Ballot Initiative will increase our quality of life by reducing congestion and parking hassles brought on by proposed large scale development.

When will the city again put the needs of residents ahead of the greed of developers?

Not any time soon, which is why the Ballot Initiative is needed to empower residents to vote on large commercial developments.

Merrill Anderson, Laguna Residents First PAC

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