Creating a City Vision by the People

Understanding The Power of Creating a City Vision by The People
(Citizens, Organisations and Other Stakeholders)

Preface: I was asked to build this process as a first step of how to create and distill a clear city vision by the people. I refer to Laguna Beach (the “City”) as sample because I live there. The City has a cultural history, but since there is no overall direction, creating even the most appealing cultural direction would ultimately be no more than a hit or miss.

The Power of a Vision: I just heard that there are two developers suggesting new village entrance projects (in discussion since the 1960’s), with 350 plus parking spaces each. The City also agreed on a new cultural plan with 41 goals. This plan is similar to the “Vision 2030” document of 16 years ago with almost nothing being implemented. Why does it seem we are not moving forward like we supposed to? This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of a future vision/ direction to all the people that love their City enough to getting involved. Today, we have too many problems to fix that we forgot to look to the future and this keeps us from moving forward. Without an overall vision there is no common ground/direction on which we can all agree. This leads to dividing and stalling a community from moving forward. Who is really ready for another decade of focusing on different ideas guessing to see what sticks, or fighting them?

The Overseen Flaw:  Without a future vision of the City, it seems we are trapped and have lost our ways by giving all attention to current problems, or to what we don’t want. Our motivation comes from fear-choices born of losing our quality of life. A powerless dance that creates a purgatory of uncertainty, indifference and stagnation. I want to motivate and unite all interested stakeholders to combine their efforts to help City Council create a vision that supplies a direction for the future (examples). This includes defining our feelings and the conveniences we would like to experience living in this city in years to come. 

A Wiser Solution: Let’s Step Off the Game Board and Create a New Game. City residents and stakeholders would be wise to present what they want their future city to look and feel like. Present those futures to City Council to have it declare a clear future vision/direction for the City for the next 5, to 15 years. Deciding on an elected future also affects solving our current problems and their priorities now. For example, if the Council decides the City should be a tourist trap then the aforementioned 350 parking spots might not be enough. On the other side, if the City wants to be a culturally relevant player, we might not need this project and could think up alternatives. Do you see how much impact the lack of our leader’s clear vision/direction has? A vision influences the potential of how much time and resources are wasted, what we all do, and how relevant we all can and can not become for the City we love.

Fixing Problems Without Direction: Each Council member usually runs on different platforms, but as a whole, most politicians have forgotten that creating a future vision is the heart and soul of a city’s quality of life. Not choosing is a choice that keeps everyone in limbo, forcing the involved to act by guessing a direction (where there is none).  

An Overall Vision is Declared by the City Council. A vision conjures up feelings of a future that citizens can relate to. It is a people’s’ common motivator, without attached details or execution plan. Only a weak vision needs to be promoted by selling its details or projects. Focusing on random singled out issues got us in many uncomfortable experiences in the past. John F. Kennedy did not give details on how to get us to the moon, but people could align with his vision, understood the direction and created solutions united by this higher goal. Listen to remember the power of JFK’s vision.

The Flow of Execution: Vision – Function – Form.
Vision is a feeling of a direction, people can relate to, that reaches beyond gender, race, lifestyle or political affiliation. It is not dependent on a certain amount of money. Obama’s CHANGE campaign, even though not complete because of the lack of direction (where to change to), most people resonated and united behind the word “change.” Laguna College of Art and Design’s (“LCAD”) vision is to become the “Juilliard of the Visual Arts.” If LCAD raises $5,000 or one million, it will always move toward the direction of its visioned goal, either slower or faster.

A Mission is the Function of a Vision. It is an action plan to execute/fulfill certain goals that support and are aligned with the overall vision. For example, LCAD hires every year three guest Artists from around the world to teach rare master painter techniques to be implemented in LCAD’s curriculum. It creates a fund raiser to pay for the guest lecturers.

Form determines what fits best to the function and vision. Form supports function and the overall vision. For example, Established guest artists teach rare painting techniques is a more suitable form to support LCAD becoming the “Juilliard of the Visual Arts,” than having a creative experiment of a group of students dismantling a car.

History Does Not Feed Us Forever. The City still has a high ”cool factor” but most is a remnant of the past. No matter what the City chooses, I hope I can stimulate your passion to create something outstanding that connects us all in our beloved City. For exemplary execution of a cultural vision physically and online, look at Switzerland’s Zermatt Unplugged Festival  which was 8 years ago nothing but a tiny sky town located halfway to the Matterhorn.

I hope I could help getting a sense of what there is to do. Creating a future vision is not brain science, especially when we keep it simple. All it needs is taking time to think and follow the steps. Even without a final vision we have thought about our City and in this process we gained clarity to do what we all have to do with more insights and impact. Please share if you agree that a vision would support the City’s quality of life.

The next step would be getting together and discuss and clarify this document that everyone interested aligns to its process.

For a the Step by Step Process of a City Vision click here

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Michaell Magrutsche is an Austrian-Californian multimedia artist, creative consultant, art educator and former Cultural Arts Commissioner of Newport Beach living in Laguna Beach on and off since 1988.