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Out of the Blue: The loss of civility

April 10, 2014|By Billy Fried

Many people assume I have designs on political office since I often use my column to advance my opinions.

Now why would I want to go and ruin a perfectly good gig?

Truth is, who would want these thankless jobs, where half the population loves you, the other half loathes you, and everything you try to do to better the city gets undermined by a loud and uncivil minority, who call you names and make accusations about your honesty?

Take for instance the artist live-work project on Laguna Canyon Road, which has been put through the ringer by opponents in the surrounding neighborhood. Opponents have tried to dredge up every imaginable charge to derail the project, including the insinuation that the developers have engaged in criminal activity.

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Still, after dozens of hearings and modifications, the project was approved by the Planning Commission. But of course it was then appealed by members of the canyon association to the City Council, which heard it last week and denied the appeal.

Finally, end of story, game on, and we get housing for 30 promising artists collaborating in a shared work space, further sustaining our legacy of nurturing artists in a town that is impossibly expensive for all but the most successful of them.

Win. Or so we thought.

This week, in a desperate Hail Mary, the opponents are crying foul, saying that the whole project must be annulled because Linda Dietrich, one of the planning commissioners, should have recused herself from voting because it was a clear conflict of interest.

Here's what they sent our city officials: "All of our City Council members, all of our appointed planning and arts commissioners, plus our DRB [Design Review Board] are forewarned that criminal charges can be filed, sanctions (fines and jail time) are possible in these instances of intentional fiduciary lapses. The state takes the oaths of these members seriously; breach of those oaths has consequences."

Wow, so Dietrich could be fined and sent to jail over this breach of her voluntary, unpaid job? Who would want to even answer to those charges?

Dietrich is a dedicated public servant who served on the Arts Commission and the artist live-work task force to help find affordable housing. She remarked off-handedly at a meeting that she has a prejudice because she was on the Arts Commission, and has thus supported this project from the beginning.

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