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Hansen: Form united front and move on

November 27, 2013|By David Hansen

Going back at least 50 years, all Laguna Beach city projects have had one common denominator: pain.

You can also add suffering, gnashing of teeth, frustration and anger if you want.

Contrary to the image of a tranquil seaside village, behind the scenes in Laguna Beach there is an ongoing city planning nightmare.

Just to be clear, it's the residents playing the biggest roles.

The latest example is the proposed Village Entrance parking structure, which went down in spectacular failure last week.

Regardless of the pros and cons of the "final" Village Entrance Project outcome, step back for a moment and consider that the project has taken:

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•Some 20 years of planning effort.

•More than $1 million spent on studies and designs.

•Untold staff hours and public input.

And where are we? Pretty much back to square one.

And why? Because this is what we do in Laguna.

"Any project in this town is difficult, period," said City Manager John Pietig. "The lifeguard headquarters project has taken more than a decade. The corporation yard probably took close to a decade. The community senior center project took a number of years."

Are we better off for it? It's debatable.

Here's the thing: Do you think Irvine debates for 10 years every time it adds another couple thousand homes in a new subdivision adjacent to Laguna?

The point is Laguna should not rubber-stamp projects like our master-planned neighbors. But while we bicker, they keep building.

As I talk to people around town, everyone seems to agree that we are at a tipping point. Our infrastructure and other amenities we take for granted can no longer sustain the type of external pressures we face.

Regardless of whether we are talking about more parking or better roads or alternative transportation models, if nothing gets done, then that itself is an action — and one we do not want to take.

"It seems like you can't do anything without a battle going on," said Dave Connell, who considers himself a centrist when it comes to city matters. Connell was on one of the original committees involved with the Village Entrance Project, but he was against the latest plan.

"It's a town with many divisions that are highly organized and don't want anybody else here but themselves," he said. "If you start with that as the basis, then everything else becomes contentious. I see no end to it, I'm sorry. I've been through so many of these wars. I see no resolution."

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