Dear fellow Laguna Beach residents,
For close to thirty years I’ve had the incredibly good fortune to call Laguna Beach my hometown. In 1993 with a small amount of savings and a backup job at Romeo Cuccina, I opened the Peter Blake Gallery. In 1995 I moved to North Laguna and re-established the historic Gallery Row. It was there with my friend and fellow gallerist Bill DeBilzan that we started the First Thursday’s Art Walk. This monthly cultural event is enjoyed by both residents and visitors to this day. In 2001 my former wife and I opened Fetneh Blake down the street from the gallery, a boutique that carries some of the finest designers in the world. Both my gallery and Fetneh’s boutique are highly respected nationally and internationally. Both give local residents an opportunity to acquire world-class art and fashion here at home. Both businesses are known for their lack of compromise or concessions. Over the last 25 years I have worked tirelessly to provide quality and service that are second to none. As a merchant, I am proud to have added in a meaningful way to the fabric of our business community!
This fall I will ask you, the residents of Laguna to vote for my candidacy for City Council. I am not a politician and have never aspired to hold public office. I’m running because I love this town and am concerned that in some ways we are losing our soul. That spice of life that has driven artists, writers, musicians, aristocrats, the poor, straight and gay, and everyone in between to come to our little town, bask in it’s ethereal light and take in its spectacular hills and shoreline. Those of us who are blessed enough to call this home know how special it is. I ask you for the privilege to work on your behalf to sustain its magical atmosphere. Many have paved the road that I seek to travel on. Some of those same groups whose dedication to our common goals and dreams, are still in existence today. Unfortunately what started out in the 70’s with dedication and success, today threatens our future. These political activists (Village Laguna) and their supported candidates (Toni Iseman & Ann Christoph) are misinformed and out of step with the current residents. They are convinced that only they know what’s good for Laguna. They ignore the fact that all of us want a small and quaint town but differ in terms of our desired sophistication levels and cultural vibrancy. They have bullied us and diminished our property rights and have made it impossible for great resident serving businesses to even consider coming here. Great architects and builders will not consider projects here. Archaic regulations have resulted in stagnation and have sown discord amongst neighbors. These unqualified arbiters and failed policies have resulted in the architectural monstrosities that are visible throughout town. I aim to reform the despised Design Review Board by reducing the arbitrary and discretionary "unwritten rules" and will establish clear and concise guidelines. I will rescind the unlawful restrictions on residents attempting to remodel unimportant older shacks and will truly focus on protecting architecturally significant structures. Inclusion on historical registries will be at the sole discretion of the homeowner and will not be subject to the whims of unqualified historical activists. I will empower our planners to lead with vision and not be puppets of the group whose favorite word is NO. I will protect our heritage trees, not plant anymore fire hazardous eucalyptus and strengthen our view ordinances so that our views of the ocean will always be there to be enjoyed by everyone. I will see to it that City Hall greets and serves current and future residents like family and will remind them that they work for us. We don’t work for them!
In the last decade we have also experienced a surge of transient criminals and an exponential rise in petty crime. Well intentioned homeless advocates have convinced us that we can, and should do more. We have also been compromised by the mishandling of the legal challenges spurred on by the ACLU and other homeless advocates who do not have Laguna’s best interests at heart. Once elected I will redirect the compassion to the residents and not the addicts and thugs who roam the canyon, Main Beach and our neighborhoods committing crimes and negatively affecting our safety. I will work tirelessly to restore the quality of life that is our right and not a privilege to negotiate with others. The homeless advocates will have you believe that we should continue to help and serve the “vulnerable”, that we do not have a crime problem and that we should build permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless in our town to better accommodate the under-served. I unapologetically disagree with all of these options and will fight every attempt to turn Laguna into another Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Venice or any other coastal community in CA that has accepted this scourge. We will continue to help those who seek assistance and want to better themselves with the enthusiasm and commitment that our compassionate residents have always shown. We will do everything in our power to make homelessness in Laguna what it was, and has always been, a few of our residents who’ve fallen on hard times and need a helping hand to get back up again. Progressive thinkers and homeless activists can experiment with programs that eliminate sobriety and work requirements, forego transitional housing for permanent housing, arrange for clean needles and continue to support the diluted criminal justice system that has made it impossible for the police to arrest and enforce the low level “non-violent” crimes that threaten our safety. I will not be swayed by any of these arguments and place little faith in their so called “successes.” One only has to look at the cities with the worst homeless problems to see what happens when communities give in to over providing for transients. More to come! I will keep an eye on the Friendship Shelter and will make sure that they and the progressive elites and misguided socialites know that we will not tolerate the erosion of our community of 23,000 at the hands of 100 transients who are not from Laguna. While Toni Iseman mingles at their 30th anniversary gala at the Montage this October securing campaign contributions, I will be working to restore law and order for our residents and their children. I will also work to clean up the squalor in the Canyon and at the ASL and will have police patrolling the area to ensure our safety.
Since announcing my candidacy, many informed residents have mentioned that our budget has escalated beyond where a community of 23,000 should be. Being fiscally responsible and living within our means should be, and will be, an achievable goal. We will start with a professional audit and decide if we are properly budgeted and determine were cuts need to be made if we’re not. The focus of this community's resources will shift to those who are paying the bulk of the property tax that fuels our 100 million dollar budget. We have been at the mercy of these activists who pay next to nothing in property tax and want full control of our town. This generation of obstructionists from the 70’s bought in early and became millionaires from future generations of homeowners. Ironically these activists aim to control the families who pay the bulk of Laguna's budget through their enormous property taxes. Not while I’m on the Council! I’m going to level the playing field for all Lagunan’s regardless of how long we've been residents. The taxpayers of Laguna Beach will not pay for the outrageous demands of Ann Christoph like the street front lot (South Laguna Community Garden) nor will we threaten to take it, or other property through eminent domain like some have illogically and unlawfully threatened. Same with Village Laguna’s other pet project, the restoration of the sewer (Digester) to the tune of over a million dollars. These taxpayer funded atrocities give us insight into how absurd this group and these candidates have become.
Although I’m not opposed to under-grounding utility poles and potentially widening Laguna Canyon Road, we will not enter into an open-ended sales tax increase or bonds that threaten our ability to borrow in the event of a disaster. We will not enslave our next generation with taxes that will take decades to pay back. We will protect our community and provide for its safety responsibly. We will not pay for the under grounding of residential utility poles for a select group of residents like Toni Iseman who do not want to pay their fair share after others have already paid theirs.
As a councilperson I will fight for affordable housing for our elders, artists and millennials coming home from college. I will work with local developers to envision the Canyon serving this purpose side by side with local artisan’s and artist's live work studios. All development will be small in scale and will fit within the rural context that we have sought to protect. We will not cower to groups who feel that the Canyon is a place governed like a sovereign nation by a few politically motivated activists that answer to no one. The Canyon belongs to all of Laguna and will serve our needs as we see fit. We will retain the open space and will designate the areas that are conducive to our needs both as environmental stewards and responsible visionaries for our community’s future growth. We have, and always will protect the environment. We will continue to ensure a blue and green belt that can and will be enjoyed for future generations to come!
Finally, I ask you to consider our town’s future on November 6th with a clean slate. I invite you to join me and two other new candidates as we embark on a future that will restore our beloved Laguna’s soul and ensure our future quality of life. Vote out Toni Iseman, and do not allow Ann Christoph to return. Together we can eliminate the stranglehold that Village Laguna has had on our local government. For fifty years they’ve controlled our community and unfortunately they refuse to pass the torch. At this time, they’re feeling threatened politically and are acting desperately to retain their power. They’re enraged and resorting to misleading residents through false and negative advertising against my candidacy. For the record, I will NOT change the height restrictions for buildings. I am NOT in favor of glass and steel high-rises. I am NOT in favor of mansionization. I am NOT going to turn our downtown into Rodeo Drive. Main Beach will remain our "Window to the Sea” only without syringes, feces and cigarette butts in the sand. Wealthy developers will NOT sway my vote and I am beholden to no one. I will let my 30 years as a resident and the 25 years of my gallery’s business practices stand as a testament to my reputation. For all of these years I have not made enemies in our town and you will find no one who’s had an unfair business arrangement with me. I read the pathetic Letters to the Editor written by Village Laguna board members and can’t help but wonder about the example being set for our next generation. They have made running for office a sacrilege rather than a privilege. They’ve accused me of being angry, strong willed, ill tempered, unstatesmanlike and every other unflattering label they can apply to my personality and frankly, after enduring the last four months of their verbal abuse, I have to admit they’re right. I have engaged in blustery discourse with opponents who lie and spin words and I have stood my ground and brought the fight directly to them regardless of the ramifications on my candidacy. Know that I am a fighter and will fight for each and every one of my constituents. Unlike these political operatives, I am not a seasoned politician and do not have decades of favors and connections that are first in line when opportunity knocks. I am registered as an independent and unlike Toni Iseman do not gush at partisan politicians when they wave their hands. Over the last few years the political landscape in Laguna has shifted. We have become a more politically moderate community. There is no room for political extremists in local politics, especially at the City Council level.
My friends and fellow residents I ask you from my heart and soul to help support a new and exciting vision for our future. We have a huge battle on our hands to make this shift but as Victor Hugo said, “No army is powerful enough to stop an idea whose time has come.”
I believe our time has come!