City Council will review the Draft Historic Preservation Ordinance on Sat Dec 16 from 9 a.m. – 12 

The Laguna Beach City Council will receive an introduction to the “Draft” Historic Preservation Ordinance on Sat, Dec 16, from 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Avenue. Staff will provide an introductory presentation regarding the Ordinance and will be present to answer questions from the Council. The City Attorney will also be present. Public comment will be held at the end of the meeting.

Since Sep of 2015, through a series of community workshops, the City of Laguna Beach has been in the process of drafting an update to the City’s current Historic Preservation Ordinance. On Oct 18, the Planning Commission recommended the City Council adopt the “Draft” Ordinance with modifications.

City Council meetings are open to the public. They are also broadcast on the government channel, streamed on the City’s website, and archived on the City’s website for future viewing. To view the staff report for this item and the revised “Draft” Ordinance, refer to the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net. These documents will be available by Fri, Dec 8.


City Manager’s Update

Modified Trolley Service on Coast Highway - Starting Fri, Dec 8, the weekend Coastal Trolley will have more stops. All coastal trolleys will service transit stops along Coast Highway, although only select trolleys, as noted on the trolley, will proceed to the Ritz Carlton. This should simplify the services for riders. 

Catalina Street Roundabout - The City of Laguna Beach will be hosting a public workshop to gather public input on the landscaping design of a converting the temporary roundabout to permanent at the intersection of Catalina Street, El Camino del Mar, and Los Robles. The workshop will be held in the Community Room of the Community and Susi Q Center on Dec 14 at 6 p.m. Questions can be directed to Tom Sandefur, P.E., at 949-497-0792 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Laguna Beach Firefighters Respond to Ventura County & Prepare at Home - The City has two of our fire engines on the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Division Chiefs Weinert and Valdez are also assigned to the fire. On the home front, we have up-staffed all of our engines and staffed Squad 2 as a paramedic unit. Today, the region is expected to experience an especially bad Santa Ana wind event. The CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers have been staffing a fire watch and information station at Alta Laguna Park. The Police Department has posted Beach Patrol Officers at the park at night to continue the fire watch. 

The Fire Safe Council has posted red flags for the Red Flag Warning throughout Laguna Canyon and they are also doing fire patrols.  As with the last Red Flag Warning, parking restrictions have been implemented for the Diamond/Crestview neighborhoods.

Special thanks to Emergency Operations Specialist Jordan Villwock, Civilian Services/Administrator Jim Beres and Police Chief Laura Farinella for their support!

City Council to review proposed revisions to the Historic Preservation Ordinance - The Laguna Beach City Council will receive an introduction to the “Draft” Historic Preservation Ordinance on Sat, Dec 16, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Ave. Staff will provide a presentation regarding the Ordinance and will be present to answer questions from the Council. Public comment will be held at the end of the meeting. 

Spark of Love Toy Drive - The Laguna Beach Fire Department is proud to again participate in the annual “Spark of Love” toy drive. This event is currently under way and goes through Sun, Dec 24.  All four of the City’s fire stations will be accepting new, unwrapped toys and sports equipment for disadvantaged children in our County.  The City’s fire stations are located at 501 Forest Avenue, 285 Agate Street, 2900 Alta Laguna Blvd., and 31646 2nd Ave.  For questions, please contact Fire Administration at (949) 497-0700.

Riddle Field Maintenance and Closures - Riddle Field is currently closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations until Jan 29. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

Winter Quarter 2018 Registration Activities - Registration is now available for all Winter 2018 recreation activities for all ages.  To register and see the list of programs available please visit: https://secure.rec1.com/CA/city-of-laguna-beach/catalog/index.


The City presents public input on Downtown Specific Plan at Planning Commission meeting on Wed Dec 13

The City of Laguna Beach will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan Update on Wed, Dec 13, during the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 505 Forest Avenue.  

City staff will present the public input received to date regarding Downtown Specific Plan Section III, Topic 11 – Central Bluffs, for further consideration and discussion by the Planning Commission.  

Additional meetings will occur in 2018 to review draft amendments to other sections of the plan. This meeting and future meetings play an essential role in obtaining input from the community and direction from the Planning Commission, and to identify the City’s priorities for the future of the Downtown.

For more information on the Downtown Specific Plan Update contact

Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at (949) 497-0321.


Council to gauge community commitment to undergrounding: two distinct measures are proposed

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday voted to pay consultants almost $250,000 to determine community support for undergrounding overhead utility lines and prepare ballot measures to support funding.

Council members unanimously approved the expenditure to test public acceptance of either of two measures proposed for the 2018 ballot: one to fund undergrounding along evacuation routes by a general obligation bond, and the second to form a special district to pay for undergrounding all neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.

Both require a vote of the people. 

With pictures on overhead screens to remind them of the devastation of the 1993 fire in Laguna and the more recent Santa Rosa fire, the majority of speakers from the audience at Tuesday’s meeting supported undergrounding.  

“There is lot of talk about the Village entrance…but it won’t matter if there is no village to enter”

“We are at higher risk than Santa Rosa or the fires now burning near Los Angeles,” said Matt Lawson, chair of the city’s Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee.  “There is a lot of talk about the Village Entrance, but it won’t matter if there is no village to enter.” 

Councilman Bob Whalen, an early advocate of a bond to rid the city of overhead utility poles along major evacuation routes, reiterated his position. 

“I feel strongly that we have to go to the voters and ask for support for a city-wide measure to fund evacuation routes,” said Whalen. 

He rejected the possibility voiced by former City Council candidate Judie Mancuso and resident Robert E. Elster that the proposed survey of residents would be spun to get the response the council wanted. 

“Spinning gets the exact opposite of what you want, which is to find out what the community wants,” Whalen said.  

Mancuso also disagreed that overhead utilities are solely responsible for fires. 

She cited cigarettes and campfires as causes for fires. Resident Bob E. Elster said earthquakes could result in fallen poles that might not start fires, but could delay evacuation and access by first responders. 

LagunaBeachCHAT founder Michael Morris predicted a torrent of opposition to the bond.  “Everyone needs to get behind undergrounding evacuation routes, but a bond is unconscionable when the council refuses to tighten its belt,” he said. “This project can be funded out of existing funds on a pay-as-you-go basis.”

Clarifying who will pay for what: a key goal of survey

Consultants will survey at least 500 community members, but the number may be increased as recommended by members of the audience, who mostly supported the proposal to hire experts to guide the council through the process from polling to preparing ballot measures. 

Part of the process is to reassure property owners who have already paid to underground their neighborhoods that they won’t be charged to underground other neighborhoods. That is the purpose of seeking public support for a Community Facilities District. 

All property owners would share the costs to underground the evacuation routes, determined by council to be a public benefit. 

“The bond requires a two-thirds vote; that is a high bar,” said Whalen. “I think there will be support for the evacuation routes. As for the neighborhoods, we’ll see.”

Titles and seats switched on the dais

Mayor Toni Iseman relinquished the gavel and the center chair on the dais to Kelly Boyd, who was unanimously elected mayor for what he has said will be his last year on the council.  

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede moved into the chair to Boyd’s right hand, elected mayor pro tem. Zur Schmiede will be up for re-election in 2018.


Council plans to test community support for funding citywide undergrounding

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The council will consider on Tuesday spending roughly $242,000 for consultants to determine the level of community support for citywide undergrounding and the development of a general obligation bond for the 2018 election to fund the project.

Proposed contracts with consultants include an agreement not to exceed $123,700 with TBWB Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz and Associates (FM3) to develop and implement a survey on a bond measure and report back to the council, and an agreement not to exceed $97,500 with David Taussig Associates for special tax consulting services. Approval of $20,800 for project expenses due to unforeseen circumstances is also recommended.  

Appropriation from Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting 

A $242,000 appropriation from the Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting services is proposed to pay for the consultants.

Efforts have been underway since late October to determine options for funding the undergrounding of utilities along major evacuation routes and in neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.

Those efforts, according to a staff report, have resulted in recommendations to find out how the community feels about the creation of a general obligation bond and a Community Facilities District to fund undergrounding. 

A general obligation bond would be used get rid of overhead utilities that could cause a hazard along evacuation routes. Property owners citywide would be billed. The district would be used to fund undergrounding in neighborhoods still serviced by overhead utilities and would be paid for by those neighborhoods. 

Both require a vote of the people.

Also, City Manager will seek council participation in Coastal Commission hearing

The California Coastal Commission has finally set a date to hear the city’s request for certification of an ordinance amendment regulating short-term lodging in Laguna.

City Manager John Pietig is seeking council participation in the Dec. 16 hearing.

The commission has indicated an interest in hearing from elected officials whenever new regulations are proposed, according to Pietig. He considers it important for commissioners to hear council members speak on public policy and land use issues related to short-term lodging, the regulations adopted by the city and the reasons for the adoption. 

Amendments to the municipal code, which is part of the city’s certified local coastal program, must be approved by the coastal commission. The city requested certification on Sept. 27, 2016.

The city council had adopted in August amendments to the existing ordinance that prohibited short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. Limiting the rentals to commercial areas was the most controversial change. 

Short-term lodging remains a contentious issue

Short-term lodging was, and still is with some folks, a contentious issue in Laguna Beach. 

First regulated by ordinance in Laguna Beach in 1999, short-term rentals were permitted in some residential neighborhoods. By 2015, an estimated 36 short-term permits for 81 properties were in effect. Opponents claimed many other unpermitted units, including rooms in private homes, were being rented for stays under 30 days, the definition of short term rentals. 

Beginning in May of 2015, the City Council alone held eight public meetings over the next year and a half on proposed changes to regulations governing short-term rentals. The Planning Commission and a council sub-committee headed by Councilmen Steven Dicterow and Robert Whalen also held meetings.

If the council concurs with Pietig’s opinion that it is vital for its members to appear on behalf of the city at the commission hearing, a vote is required. 

The item is included on the Consent Calendar, which is approved without discussion unless “pulled” by a member of the council or the public.


City Manager’s Update

Use Laguna Beach Transit for Hospitality Night, tonight - Forget about traffic and take the free and convenient Neighborhood Trolley to downtown for Hospitality Night. The trolleys run until 11 p.m. on Fridays so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. For those in the North and South Laguna areas, just walk to Coast Highway for our Coastal Route service to downtown.  

For detailed schedule information, see our website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley, or for real time arrival information download our Trolley Tracker app on your smart phone. 

World AIDS Day Ribbons - Since 2005, the Arts Commission have annually recognized World AIDS Day on Dec 1 by installing black and red ribbons on public art installations. This year the ribbons will be installed on four sculptures in the downtown area. 

Public Works Deploys New Portable Irrigation Unit for Trees  - The Public Works Department has purchased a portable 200 gallon spray tank and pump for irrigating street trees. The primary use will be for watering young trees, for providing watering to trees that are experiencing drought stress, and to fill tree watering bags that provide slow deep irrigation to trees.  

Camel Point Beach Access Dead Trees Removal - On Sat, Dec 2, Orange County Parks is scheduled to remove two dead eucalyptus trees at the Camel Point Beach Access. The tree removal work will require the closure of the southbound outside travel lane of South Coast Highway of approximately 1000 ft. starting at Camel Point Drive, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. One southbound lane will be maintained for travel and northbound lanes will not be affected during this period. Questions and concerns can be directed to Kris Burbidge, Project Manager, with West Coast Arborist at (714) 920-0567.

Cultural Arts Funding - The City of Laguna Beach is currently accepting grant applications from non-profit organizations for cultural programming based in Laguna Beach. The deadline to submit an application is Feb 5, 2018. Applications must be submitted on-line at www.lagunabeachcity.slideroom.com

2017 Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibitors - The Arts Commission reviewed 188 palette designs from children ages 5 – 14, the following artists were selected for display at City Hall through December: Addyson Mackay, Lexi Breault, Lauren Trautenberg, Tessa Anderson, Allie Borgerding, Reagan Hannus, Paige Laws, Audrey Calef, Ace Halpern, Mia Gwin, Emma Chi-Sing, Taylor Brook Jones. The selected designs can also be viewed at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art.

Winter Quarter 2018 Registration Activities - Registration is now available for all Winter 2018 recreation activities for all ages. To register and see the list of programs available please visit: https://secure.rec1.com/CA/city-of-laguna-beach/catalog/index.

Moulton Meadows Field Maintenance and Closures - Moulton Meadows Field is currently closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations until Dec 8. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.


Council to test community support for funding citywide undergrounding

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The council will consider on Tuesday spending roughly $242,000 for consultants to determine the level of community support for citywide undergrounding and the development of a general obligation bond for the 2018 election to fund the project.

Proposed contracts with consultants include an agreement not to exceed $123,700 with TBWB Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz and Associates (FM3) to develop and implement a survey on a bond measure and report back to the council, and an agreement not to exceed $97,500 with David Taussig Associates for special tax consulting services. Approval of $20,800 for project expenses due to unforeseen circumstances is also recommended.  

Appropriation from Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting 

A $242,000 appropriation from the Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting services is proposed to pay for the consultants.

Efforts have been underway since late October to determine options for funding the undergrounding of utilities along major evacuation routes and in neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.

Those efforts, according to a staff report, have resulted in recommendations to find out how the community feels about the creation of a general obligation bond and a Community Facilities District to fund undergrounding. 

A general obligation bond would be used get rid of overhead utilities that could cause a hazard along evacuation routes. Property owners citywide would be billed. The district would be used to fund undergrounding in neighborhoods still serviced by overhead utilities and would be paid for by those neighborhoods. 

Both require a vote of the people.

Stu News loves to hear readers’ opinions on the issues of the day. Letters to the Editor should be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for possible publication in our Letters section.


Council adds 3rd meeting to December calendar

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will meet Saturday, Dec. 16, in addition to regularly scheduled meetings on Dec. 5 and 12. 

A workshop on the contentious Historic Preservation Ordinance amendments will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday in December – far from the first workshop on the proposed amendments to the ordinance and possibly not the last hearing.

The city has been fiddling with the ordinance at least since 2013. It has been reviewed, revised and reviled at hearings before the Heritage Committee, the Design Review Board, and most recently by Planning Commission, which alone held six hearings.

Nobody appears to like the version the commission recommended for approval by the council at a really ugly meeting in October. 

Village Laguna and the South Laguna Civic Association oppose lowering the standing of C-rated homes to no rating as a historical resource, per the California Environmental Act, also the position of the city Heritage Committee.

Let Laguna Live! organized a successful clamor for C-rated homes to be excluded from any constraints when owners propose alterations. But C-rated structure owners still object to the Planning Commission’s decision that any home 70 years or older should be reviewed when remodels are proposed, even if not on any list as a historical structure.

C-rated homes are described as those that contribute to neighborhood character. Properties rated E, the top rank, and K are valued for characteristics of a time period, region, construction method, or represent work of an important creative individual, or one has lived in the home.

Owners E and K rated structures are eligible for the city’s Historic Register and perks such as reduced parking requirements and waived building and permit fees. 

Oh, and by the way, the long-time ratings of E, K and C were changed by the commission to a numerical identification: 1 through 5.

Regular meetings

The agenda for the council’s Dec. 5 meeting will begin with a joint meeting with the Planning Commission. One topic to be discussed: the Village Entrance: one of the few city projects that has generated even more review than the Historic Preservation Ordinance.

An Appropriation for the Village Entrance is also set for the agenda.

The last scheduled council meeting for 2017 will be held on Dec. 12. A conditional use permit for the Coast Inn and outdoor displays are on the proposed agenda.


City to approve longer trial period & entertainment for Park Plaza

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Park Plaza trial period will be extended to Dec. 31 and entertainment will be permitted in the temporary parklet between South Coast Highway and Laguna Avenue, as requested by Laguna Beach businessman Billy Fried.

Fried made the requests at the Nov. 14 City Council meeting on behalf of Transition Laguna, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Beautification Council, three groups that organized the project. The required conditional use permit for entertainment is in the works, according to City Manager John Pietig.

“I anticipate approval of the CUP,” said Pietig, who has been supportive of the project. “I also plan to approve the extension of the trial period through December.”

Musical entertainment and other cultural events will be limited to five Saturdays, starting on Dec. 2, Fried said.

The extension will cost the city $25,000 in addition to the $50,000 budgeted for the project, according to the original agreement.

Fried also announced at the Nov. 14 meeting, committee plans to improve landscaping and furniture.

Organizers selected the furniture and plants. The city supplies containers for trash and recyclables.

City officials in September agreed to temporarily ban vehicles from Lower Park Avenue, a link from South Coast Highway to Laguna Avenue and Glenneyre Street for a six weeks trial period.

Organizers convinced the council that the plaza was worth a try, but not everyone agreed.

“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Susan Elliott. “I drive home that way. It’s better than turning at Cliff (Drive). And soccer moms won’t sit there – there will be too many tourists.”

Realtor and former Planning Commissioner Bob Chapman said blocking vehicles on South Coast Highway from turning onto Lower Park Avenue presented challenges. 

“We should look at the plaza as potentially permanent – or why do it at all?” said Chapman.

However, Police Chief Laura Farinella supported the parklet concept. 

“I consider the proposal a positive,” she said.

Farinella also supported Fried’s recent proposal to extend closing time at the Plaza to 2:30 a.m. to accommodate businesses that stay open until 2 a.m., Pietig said.

The extended trial period and improvements will be funded by a $10,000 donation by an anonymous resident, Fried announced.

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