Council concedes city must comply with state mandate on ADUs: How much still undecided

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Beach City Council on Tuesday wrestled with ways the city could best deal with state-mandated development of accessory dwelling units without altering the town’s unique character.

Clearly struggling with what they felt was the hijacking of local control, the council voted on six recommendations that will be reviewed by staff, spiffed up and returned to the council on July 10, before being sent to Sacramento for approval. 

“The City’s hands are tied,” said Chris Quilter, past president of Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. “We could see them writhing in agony, but their choices are limited. But they came up with the outline of an ordinance that can be submitted to the state with a straight face.”     

For openers, the council directed staff to prepare a resolution to accompany the adoption of the ADU Ordinance that designates the city’s Main Line (the little blue buses) as “public transit” for purposes of the proposed ordinance. The State exempts the usual parking requirements if the ADU is within a half-mile of public transit. 

Council directs staff on a variety of issues

The council directed staff to process applications for ADUs within existing structures in accordance with subdivision (e) of Government Code section 65852.2, including the requirements for an independent exterior access from the existing residence and for sufficiency of side and rear yard setbacks for fire safety purposes. In addition, owner occupancy for either the primary or accessory dwelling units shall be required.

Staff was directed to evaluate proposed impaired access areas to determine if there are some areas in which no ADUs should be allowed due to public safety concerns, and to prepare a map showing these locations.

No action was taken on proposed incentives intended for deed-restricted occupancy by low- to-moderate-income people and seniors.  

Staff was directed to develop an enforcement and monitoring program to be presented to the City Council for consideration at a future meeting.

No action was taken on a proposed Junior Accessory Dwelling Units Ordinance. The motions alone took 40 minutes – the hearing was much longer. More than 20 speakers from the audience expressed their opinions on how the city should accommodate the state law. Some speakers supported compliance, others opposed ADUs based on safety issues – and some of them live in the same neighborhood.

Bluebird Canyon resident Pamela Adams opposed ADUs and if they are approved, said occupants should not be allowed to park on the street.  

Cody Engle, who lives on the same street as Adams, favors ADUs in their neighborhood, but he too stipulated no on-street parking, as well as owner-occupied units.

Engle is a board member of the Laguna Beach Seniors, which supports the ADUs as a means for city’s elderly to remain in their homes. 

“To ignore [the state law] is to invite a lawsuit”

“To ignore (the state law) is to invite a lawsuit,” said Engle.

The less combative Quilter said, “We wanted council to understand this is an opportunity, not a threat. (ADUs) are the best, cheapest and simplest way to comply with state law and provide affordable housing for people we don’t want to lose.”

Artist Carrie Woodborn said Laguna is losing more and more artists who simply can no longer afford to live here. 

“It is a tremendous loss,” she said. 

Losing people is what Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson fears. He reported that more than 40 people lost their lives in recent fires.

“Our committee recommends careful scrutiny of additional ADU development in neighborhoods designated in our Safety Element as having critical development patterns in respect to emergency responder access,” said Lawson.

Court Shannon believes excluding areas from the development of ADUs should be based on clear findings supported by substantial evidence. 

As for State interference: “The state wouldn’t tell cities what to do if the city was doing the right thing in the first place,” said Shannon.

The state law went into effect in January 2017. It will be at least another two months before the revised ordinance comes back to the council for approval.  

And only a few more months after that the state will issue new laws and the council and the community can get to reprise Tuesday’s meeting. Oh joy.


City Manager’s Updates

Caltrans – Coast Hwy Lane Closure - On May 11 and May 14 - 16, Caltrans will be conducting geotechnical investigation work between Aliso Way and 7th Avenue on Coast Highway. Work will be conducted on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Intermittent closures of the northbound curb lane can be expected. One northbound lane will be maintained for travel during this period. Southbound lanes are not affected.  

For more detailed project information, please contact Michael Liao, Caltrans Engineer at (562) 665-1328.

Artist-Designed Banners - New artist-designed banners are now on display throughout the city. The 2018 selected banners by artists Al Esquerra, Kelly Hartigan Goldstein, Bill Atkins and Cydette Vikander can be viewed at Main Beach.

Call to Artists: Council Chambers Banners - The Arts Commission is inviting artists to submit designs for the Council Chambers Banners. Designs must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 14 at the reception desk at the Community and Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. For more information, please contact Michael McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

*Both banner programs are sponsored by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.


City to require permits to remove trees and will double fines to $6,000

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council decided on Tuesday to make it more difficult to remove certain trees, and more expensive.

A draft ordinance was approved that requires a permit to remove trees that are on the Heritage List, were included in an approved landscape plan, are privately maintained in the public right of way or provide shelter to nesting birds. Violations of the ordinance will result in fines in addition to the cost of replacement. “Make them suffer,” said Chuck Trevison.

Fines for the removal of tree without a permit or in violation of a permit will be doubled when the new ordinance is approved. A tree with a trunk diameter over 12 inches and up to 24 inches the fine will be raised from $3,000 to $6,000, plus a $100 fine for the first violation and the cost of a replacement tree. Ouch!

Under the terms of the ordinance, a replacement tree must come in 12-gallon box minimum. 

Replacement trees may be suggested by the property owner and a certified arborist may be consulted to advise on the species and size of the replacement or a request to exclude replacement. Replacements must be planted within 30 days after the removal.  

“An ordinance is not a deterrent if people don’t know about it,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow, prompting City Manager John Pieitig to respond, “We will have to do a citywide mailer.”

Trees on private property will not subject to the ordinance.

Passage of the ordinance requires a second reading and takes effect 30 days after the final reading and approval.


Draft Tree Removal Permit Ordinance will be discussed at tonight’s Council meeting

The City Council will review staff recommendations tonight for a draft ordinance to amend the Laguna Beach Municipal Code and establish a Tree Removal Permit process for Heritage trees, design review approved trees and privately maintained trees in the public right-of-way.

Fines and penalties for removal of these trees without first obtaining a permit are included in the draft ordinance, Chapter 12.06. 

The City Council meeting will be held tonight (Tuesday, May 8) at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Ave. 

To view a copy of the staff report for this item, please refer to the agenda posted on the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.


Council to consider recommendations for Accessory Dwelling Ordinance

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will consider on Tuesday recommendations to determine the future of accessory dwellings and their junior partner in Laguna Beach.

Five staff recommendations and alternate proposals to three of them will be reviewed.

“It’s going to be a hot session because of opposition to the staff recommendations to Council, which challenge state law,” said Cody Engle, Bluebird Canyon resident and Laguna Beach Seniors Inc board member.

First recommendation:

Define “public transit” as “a fixed-route service open to the public at large and includes transit stations, bus stations, bus stops, such as Orange County Transportation Authority, or another fixed route service as adopted by City Council resolution as it pertains to Chapter 25.17 of the city’s municipal code.”

Second: 

An ADU within an existing structure shall:

(Staff recommendation) Comply with all other standards of the ADU ordinance related to lot size, unit size and parking; or

(Alternative) An ADU within an existing structure shall be permitted provided it meets the minimum size restriction; or

(Alternative) All development provisions are no longer applicable if an ADU were incorporated into an existing single-family residence or accessory structure, including lot size, unit size, parking, and within a zone for single-family use on a single-family lot.

Third:

Consider one the following three options regarding lots located in impaired access areas:

(Staff recommendation) Approve the draft ordinance to not allow a parking exemption for lots located within impaired access areas and that parking must be provided for the ADU; or

(Alternative) Exclude lots in the R-1 and RHP zones located within impaired access areas from having an ADU; or

(Alternative) Maintain existing ordinance requirements for a minimum lot size of 6,000 square-feet with no exclusions within impaired access areas identified within the General Plan.

Fourth:

Approve an incentive to establish affordable units by reducing the minimum lot size from 6,000 square-feet to 4,000 square-feet when deed-restricted for low- to moderate-income persons or seniors (62 years and older).

Fifth:

Direct staff to develop an enforcement and monitoring program that will be brought back for the City Council’s consideration at a future meeting.

Laguna Beach Seniors fear adoption of too-restrictive measures

Laguna Beach Seniors board member Cody Engle is concerned that the council will adopt measures he feels will be too restrictive – limiting ADUs by location and by lot size. He communicated his concerns to council members and to Stu News.

“Some of the council members, led by Rob (Councilman Zur Schmiede), are suggesting that ADUs ought to be prohibited based on a ‘public safety’ theory that increased density in the ‘impaired access’ sections of the city is a safety risk,” Engle emailed.

“Turns out that 47 percent of the R-1 houses (in Laguna Beach) are in impaired access areas, mainly narrow streets, or limited access such as Bluebird Canyon. Last week the City sent notices to 1,278 of 2,596 homes in the impaired access areas, telling them that the council was considering this issue.”

Engel also noted that notices of the hearing were sent only to owners of lots of 6,000 or larger square feet, the size lot stated in one of alternatives. Notices were not sent to owners of smaller lots, although those owners can create an ADU within “existing space,” according to Engle.

“It appears that under the state law the city cannot invoke the ‘safety’ argument for what is created in existing space. The State’s theory seems to be that if a home is legal on the lot, an ADU created within the home is legal,” Engle wrote.

Matt Lawson, chair of the Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Committee supports limitations on ADUs, based on safety issues. 

“ADUs may be fine in safer parts of the city, but it is not a good idea to house our most vulnerable residents – including the elderly and those without vehicles – in the most imperiled neighborhoods in a city, 90 percent of which has been designated within the highest wildfire risk category,” Lawson said Monday.


Council reappoints incumbents to two commissions, two committees

By BARBARA DIAMOND

All incumbent applicants for two city commissions and two committees were reappointed by the City Council at a special meeting on Tuesday.

Appointments are for two years, starting July 1.

Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede chaired the hearing in the absence of Mayor Kelly Boyd. 

He told the applicants that when a committee or commission is doing a good job, it is difficult for the council to replace incumbents and he urged all un-appointed applicants to apply again at the next opportunity. 

The three open seats on the Housing and Human Affairs Committee were filled by incumbents Marc Bruderer and Gail Duncan and 23-year resident Marisa Peasley, who also plans to start a foundation for the homeless.

Five applications were filed for the three seats on the Planning Commission.

Incumbents Anne Johnson, Ken Saddler and Sue Kempf were reappointed. Kempf is also a candidate for City Council and if elected would be required to resign from the commission.

Six applicants were interviewed for the four open seats on the Arts Commission, which were filled by incumbents Donna Ballard, Suzi Chavel, Karen Wood and Michael Stice, who will serve as an alternate. All four are active participants in the arts, fulfilling a commission requirement.

Applicants were asked by Councilman Steve Dicterow if Laguna still qualified as an art colony. All four appointees gave an unqualified yes. 

Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee incumbents Robert Elster, Matt Lawson and Tim Templeton were reappointed for another term. They will be joined by Ernest Hackmon, who had not been selected for the Planning Commission. 

More in-depth information about the applicants is available on the city’s website www.lagunabeachcity.net.


City Manager’s Updates

City Council Review of Draft Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance - The City Council will review Planning Commission and staff recommendations for a draft ordinance amendment to Chapter 25.17 of the Laguna Beach Municipal Code and an amendment to the City’s Local Coastal Program relating to Accessory Dwelling Units, also referred to as the Second Residential Unit Ordinance. 

The City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 8 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Ave. To view a copy of the staff report for this item, please refer to the agenda posted on the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.

City Council Review of Draft Tree Removal Permit Ordinance - The City Council will review staff recommendations for a draft ordinance to amend the Laguna Beach Municipal Code and establish a Tree Removal Permit process for Heritage trees, design review approved trees and privately maintained trees in the public right-of-way. Fines and penalties for removal of these trees without first obtaining a permit are included in the draft ordinance, Chapter 12.06. The City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Ave. To view a copy of the staff report for this item, please refer to the agenda posted on the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.

Cress Street Beach Access Stairs Repair - Beginning Monday, May 7, the Public Works Department will perform repairs to the lower half of the Cress Street beach access. Repairs include patching chipped, cracked and broken concrete. The repairs will be followed by coating the lower staircase with a polymer sealer and coating system leaving a surface with the appearance of newly placed concrete. The work will be done in phases and the City does not anticipate any closure of the stairs during the project. The City expects to complete the work by Friday, May 18. For more information, please contact Deputy Director of Public Works Dale Schuck at (949) 497-0735.

Coast Highway Lane Closure - On Tuesday, May 8 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., the Laguna Beach County Water District will be closing the northbound number 2 lane of Coast Highway, between Oak Street and Cress Street, to replace a meter cover. For questions, please contact the Water District at (949) 464-1041.

Southern California Edison Pole Replacement - On Monday, May 7 between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing an Edison Pole at the Monterey Drive/Poplar Street intersection. Portions of Poplar Street and Monterey Drive near the intersection will be closed during the work. For questions or concerns, please contact SCE representative Erik Hall at (949) 308-8763.

Annual Composting Classes - The City’s solid waste hauler, Waste Management, will offer the second of four free composting classes planned for 2018 on Saturday, May 5 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Lang Park, located at 21540 Wesley Drive. Compost and worm bins will be available for purchase during the class at a discounted price.  

For more information, please visit the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/recycling, or contact the Waste Management class instructor, Lisa Ryder, at (310) 874-2499.

City Photo Contest - The City’s 2018 Photo Contest is now open. The City is looking for your perspective on our City’s vibrancy, vitality, and livability fitting the theme “Daily Life in Laguna Beach.” Photographs may be entered in three categories: Sunsets, Daily Life, and Environmental. The First Prize photo will receive $500, and additional winners will receive $100 each. Entries must be submitted online by June 6. For rules and information about how to enter, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/photocontest.

Summer Camp and Summer Recreation Activities Registration - Registration for summer 2018 recreation activities for all ages, adult softball and youth summer camps opened on Monday, April 30. To register and see the list of programs available please visit https://secure.rec1.com/CA/city-of-laguna-beach/catalog/index.


Council, Planning Commission to meet jointly tonight

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Planning Commission has a list of suggested items to discuss with the City Council at the joint meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. tonight, Tuesday, May 1.

Parking studies and traffic demand on potential large projects tops the list.

Three hotel projects along Coast Highway and a mixed-use project on Laguna Canyon Road are in the planning stages and traffic and parking are public issues, according to the commission. The commissioners want to know what, if any, thoughts the council has on how the demand may be accommodated when the projects come before the commission.

“The joint meeting is a good chance for us to get together with the council, which the Brown Act prohibits except under these conditions,” said Anne Johnson, a commissioner since 2000, whose application for another term will be reviewed at the council’s 5 p.m. interview and appointment hearing. 

Round-up of topics proposed by the Commission

--Citizen participation in and sub-committees for major projects.

The commission opined that public and commission workshops would be helpful held sooner rather than later in the approval process – the rigorous public debate on the California Environmental Quality Act vis a vis revisions to the Historic Preservation Ordinance comes to mind. 

--The increased parking on some Laguna Canyon properties. 

The commission is concerned that excessive, unpermitted parking is cluttering up the visual experience of driving along Laguna Canyon Road and wants to know if the city can control it.

--Should a limit be set on the time new projects on the agenda can be heard?

--Better communication between council and commission.

--Council priority projects.

A public comment period is scheduled for the end of the meeting.

The agenda for the meeting is available on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.


City welcomes new Fire Chief Michael Garcia

The City of Laguna Beach is pleased to welcome Michael Garcia as the City’s new Fire Chief. Garcia brings over 32 years of fire experience to the position, and began his service to the City as of yesterday, April 30.

Garcia’s experience includes 28 years with the Long Beach Fire Department.  He has 20 years of supervisory and management experience, with over eight years as a member of the Long Beach Fire Department Command Staff, holding positions of Assistant Fire Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, and for a period as the Acting Fire Chief.  

“Chief Garcia brings an impressive amount of fire experience to the City of Laguna Beach,” said City Manager John Pietig. “I look forward to his leadership as we assess the department and develop plans for the future.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

New Fire Chief Michael Garcia

Garcia’s background includes expertise in the areas of fire operations, administration, fire prevention, emergency preparedness, staff training, and community relations. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Vocational Education from California State University, Long Beach. Mike lives with his wife and their three children, and says he has always enjoyed Laguna Beach.

“There is just something special about this town, the people here and the intense sense of community,” Garcia said. “I am honored and humbled to serve and protect that community as Fire Chief for the City of Laguna Beach.” 

Garcia took over duties as Chief from Acting Fire Chief Tom Christopher yesterday, April 30. Garcia is the City’s 19th Fire Chief, and will have a salary of $192,000 per year.

The public is invited to meet Chief Garcia on Thursday, May 3 at Fire Station One (located at 501 Forest Avenue, next to City Hall) from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

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