Activist intends to force vote on Village Entrance plan

Onetime Laguna Beach council candidate promises to gather enough signatures to qualify the issue for the ballot.

August 08, 2013|By Barbara Diamond

Former Laguna Niguel council member Paul Merritt signaled his intent Tuesday to seek sufficient signatures to force a referendum on the Laguna Beach City Council's 3-2 approval in June of a parking structure and park at the village entrance.

But the city attorney for Laguna Beach said he thought Merritt's effort could be futile.

"Not every action taken by a City Council is subject to referendum," City Attorney Philip Kohn said. "One of my concerns after just perusing the submitted materials is that I don't believe that there was any action taken by the City Council at the June 11 meeting that is subject to a referendum."

Merritt, a onetime Laguna Beach City Council candidate also known as Paul Merritt Christiansen, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

He was among the 12 opponents of the parking structure who spoke against the project at Tuesday's council meeting. spokeswoman Rita Conn said Wednesday that City Council members have been informed that the group does not support Merritt's petition, which is titled Let Laguna Vote.


"At this time we are organizing those community citizens that oppose the [Village Entrance Project] parking structure into a cohesive whole," said Conn, reading the communication to the council. "At all times we expect our members to be courteous and respectful to our elected officials.

"It is our intent to continue to inform you [the council] and the public of new information as it comes forth," she said. "We believe that you will incorporate this information into your decisions regarding this project."

Objections to the project include concerns about the geology, hydrology and possible pollution at the site of the proposed parking structure and the increase in the cost since the project was first recommended by the Village Entrance Task Force 18 years ago.

"An article by John Pietig (published by the Coastline Pilot on Aug. 2) answered a lot of questions," said Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda, speaking as a former member of the task force. Kollenda, who has a foot-thick file of documents pertaining to the task force hearings and recommendations, said plans for the project were studied for a year, including input from engineers, before a project very close to the one approved at the June 11 meeting was recommended.

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