City of Laguna Beach, please don't revoke South Laguna Community Garden Park funding

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The $500,000 reserve the Council has set aside to purchase South Laguna Community Garden Park land making it a permanent city-owned Garden Park was in jeopardy.  Budget cuts were discussed at the Council workshop on Tuesday, June 23, at 3 p.m. Three Council members (Iseman, Dicterow, and Whalen) unofficially announced that they will leave our funding in place at this time.  Blake and Kempf were against the decision.  The official vote will occur at this Tuesday's council meeting (6/30/20). Whalen made it clear that in a year, he would be reluctant to vote the same way again if we are unable to raise significant funds.

Because the city anticipates reduced revenues due to the pandemic restrictions, at their April 7 meeting the City Manager suggested eliminating the Garden funding and using that money for other purposes, but the Council deferred that decision until now.

The City has other funding.  Fortunately, the City’s General Fund Reserve of $13.2 million, Disaster Contingency Fund of $6.4 million along with the $1.8 million that can be reallocated from the Downtown Action Plan project are more than ample to balance revenue losses from the virus shut-down, and it is not necessary for Laguna Beach to defund important projects like the Garden. 

The Garden is a community asset.  The Garden is a testament to the ingenuity and community spirit of the citizens of Laguna Beach and we are asking that the Council not abandon their commitment—just when we need uplifting community spaces and our City’s support the most. (The Garden has hosted over 100 community outreach events, 50 educational workshops, and 200 Children’s Garden meetings over the last decade.  It’s important to keep it going!)

Now’s the time for you to let our City Council know how important the South Laguna Community Garden Park is for our whole city.

Here’s what you can do:
         1. Sign and share this petition.
·        2. Email all five Council members at CityCouncil@lagunabeachcity.net  Check out the letters written in April.  
http://southlaguna.org/garden/testimonials/letters-of-support/
·         3. Thank our three Council supporters and encourage them to keep voting for us! (Bob Whalen: bwhalen@lagunabeachcity.net, Steve Dicterow: sdicterow1121@yahoo.com, Toni Iseman: tiseman@lagunabeachcity.net)

To access Council meetings, click here for more information:
http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/council/default.htm

Where did the $500,000 come from? In 2014 the Council allocated a windfall of $251,252 to purchase the Garden Park land.  These funds came from the sale of inaccessible park land near West Street Beach.  Fortunately South Laguna representatives had discovered that proceeds from this sale could go to the City rather than the County.  To replace this sold park land, the council agreed to use this new-found money towards the land purchase, to create a permanent City-owned Garden Park.  In 2018 they added $249,100 for a total of $500,352.

There’s more!  Thanks to your support we have raised over $200,000 in private donations toward the Garden Park purchase. 

When will these funds be needed?  At this point it is a budget line item with no immediate draw on the funds anticipated.  While there is no deal now on the table to purchase the land, having the reserve in place makes it possible to negotiate a purchase should the opportunity arise.  It is critical that this reserve remain in place! And that the City continues its support of the Garden Park.

The City has helped the Garden Park in many ways since its founding in 2009—from waiving permit fees to assisting in contacts with the property owner expressing interest in negotiating a purchase.  

Step by step we are building support and accumulating funds to make Garden Park a permanent community asset.  Speak up now to avoid a giant step backwards!