City Manager’s Update

Congratulations to Laguna Beach Police Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock - Jordan has been elected by his Emergency Manager peers to lead the Orange County Emergency Management Organization (OCEMO) as the Chair in 2018.  OCEMO consists of over 120 Orange County agencies including county, cities, school districts, special districts, etc.

The organization mission is “To promote, facilitate, and support the County-wide effort to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from disasters.”

Laguna Beach Police Corporal Cornelius Ashton to Receive the Prestigious and Coveted Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2018 Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate - Corporal Ashton was selectedfor his ongoing commitment, support and contribution in helping to eliminate hate and prejudice. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Corporal Cornelius Ashton

His efforts have been instrumental in promoting acceptance and in welcoming diversity within our community, and his unwavering dedication to fighting hatred and bigotry. He will be honored on March 13 at the ADL awards luncheon.

 Community and Susi Q Center Closed - The Community & Susi Q Center will be closed Sat, Dec 23, through Sun, Jan 7, for annual building maintenance. No classes or programs will be held during this time.  However, Community Services staff will be available Dec 26-28 and January 2-4, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Dec 29 and Jan 6, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Community Center to assist with class registrations, wedding permits, professional photo permits, etc.

Transit Holiday Schedule – Late Service on New Years’ Eve - On New Years’ Eve, no need to drive to your festivities, trolleys will be running late so we can take you! Trolleys will be following a modified schedule below for the Christmas and New Years’ Holiday shown below.   

Sunday, Dec 24 – 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 25 and January 1 – No Service

Sunday, Dec. 31 – 11 a.m.  – 1 a.m.

For detailed schedule information please visit: www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule - There will be no street sweeping performed on Christmas Day, Monday Dec 25, and parking restrictions will not be enforced.  On New Year’s Day, Monday Jan 1, street sweeping and parking enforcement will only occur in commercial areas. For more information, please contact Senior Fleet Maintenance Supervisor, Austin Comp at (949) 464-6637.

Heisler Park Bench Painting -Beginning this week, 37 wooden benches at Heisler Park are being sanded and repainted. The project is expected to be completed by Fri, Jan 5.  The project is being done in phases so that most of the benches will be available for the public at all times.  For more information, please contact Maintenance Supervisor, Wayne Chintala at (949) 464-6644. 

Wilson Street Closure - On Jan 2 and 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Laguna Beach Unified School District will close northbound Wilson Street between Saint Ann’s Drive and El Bosque for slope maintenance at Laguna Beach High School. Northbound traffic on Wilson Street will be detoured to Saint Ann’s Drive to Catalina and back to El Bosque. Southbound traffic on Wilson Street will not be impacted.  For questions, please contact Ryan Zajda of the Laguna Beach Unified School District at (949) 497-7700 Ext. 5213. 

City Hall Exhibitions - Selections from the Festival of Arts Permanent Art Collection are currently on display at City Hall. Pat Sparkuhl, Curator of the Festival’s Permanent Collection, selected works illustrating the diversity of the artists and artwork from early 1900’s to present day. The exhibition will be on display through Jan 19.

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 Sunday, 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 Avenue.  For questions, please contact Fire Administration at (949) 497-0700.

Holiday Trash Collection and Tree Recycling - For the weeks of Dec 25 and Jan 1, residential and commercial trash collection will be delayed by one day. Waste Management will collect and recycle holiday trees on the regular collection days at no charge starting on Tues, Dec 26, through Tues, Jan 16.  Please visit the city’s website www.lagunabeachcity.net/recycling for more information. 

Field Maintenance and Closures - Riddle Field is currently closed until Jan 29, and Alta Laguna Field is now closed until Jan 8, for annual maintenance and turf renovations. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762. 

Happy holidays!


Council agrees that taskforce is necessary to address complex Historic Preservation Ordinance issues

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

In Barbara Diamond’s absence, given her well-deserved vacation, I attended the Saturday morning City Council workshop during which staff briefed council members on the new Draft Historic Preservation Ordinance. 

The Draft Ordinance was formulated and recommended after approximately 22 public and Planning Commission/Heritage Committee meetings as well as months of research on the question of which structures should be regarded as historical.

For those in the room who fully understood the complex interactions between and among 1997 CEQA rules, the 1981 HRE, the 1989 HPO, and the HRC update, Secretary of the Interior criteria, California Historic Resource Status Codes, the Mills Act, and our Design Review Board, Heritage Committee, Planning Commission, and current Historic Inventory ratings (C, K and E) in determining what structures are of historic importance, I’m sure it was a very enlightening three hours.

And the work that the city staff had put into the presentation was impressive – it’s an incredibly complex issue with many components, legal and otherwise.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Legion Hall’s historicity is not in doubt – but it’s not usually that easy…

Unfortunately, despite the staff’s fine efforts, I’m still confused (I’m no Barbara, of course). However, I gather that I’m not alone in my confusion: many fellow Lagunans are also unclear on the basics of what is being proposed…and remained unclear after the workshop.

Confusion and misinformation abounds

Essentially, most residents want to know the basics: a) whether their house is on the Historic Inventory or not; b) if it is, why, and what that listing might cost them financially, should they wish to remodel (and on the other hand, what benefits this status might bring); c) whether it is it possible to remove their home from the listing (very important); d) what changes are currently being proposed, why, and how the changes might affect them both negatively and positively and e) how Laguna’s character might change were there no such ordinance.

And they don’t want uncertainty about the status of their homes now or, importantly, in the future, as structures as well as Lagunans themselves all grow older and become more…historical.

Council member Bob Whalen summarized the questions that the City Council still needed to have definitively and simply answered as follows: “What policies are now in place? What changes are recommended? And what are we required to do legally?”

By the end of the workshop, the City Council, faced by the complexity of the issues, came to a unanimous decision: to appoint a taskforce to review the matter and make recommendations.

Key issue: Voluntary vs mandatory inclusion on list

A key issue, raised by many residents during the public comment period, was whether being included on the Historic Inventory should be voluntary or mandatory. 

“Today, being a historic resource is not voluntary [if you were placed on the 1981 inventory],” Community Development Director Pfost explained in a follow-up email. 

In other words, your property will still be historical – but with new staff recommendations, the implications of that status may change.

At the workshop, Pfost noted that staff is recommending an appeals process, which has not been in place up to now.

Mayor Kelly Boyd noted that inclusion was determined in 1981 based largely on street views, not a full evaluation of each property, and made by residents who did not necessarily have the professional qualifications needed to make those decisions.

Questions about the list being mandatory or voluntary included: If mandatory, should the city be required to assist owners with the extreme financial burdens often encountered in trying to conform roofs, say, and windows, to their historical forms, one resident asked?

If voluntary, would property owners inevitably make changes that would alter the character of Laguna and potential damage property values? Would the Design Review Board be sufficient to safeguard Laguna’s visual character?

Property rights and values a concern

Residents expressed a variety of concerns, including property rights and property values. ”Why have others the right to decide what to do with my property?” one resident asked. “Who will have authority to make these decisions?”

Becky Jones recommended that a citywide inventory be done to identify which structures are historical and which aren’t. Barbara Metzger noted that residents should be made fully aware of the promises they need to make in order to get the incentives for listing their properties on the Historic Register.

Others warned that changing the Register to be a voluntary listing would endanger the ability of the City to protect Laguna’s neighborhood character.

Bob Chapman, realtor and former Planning Commission member, made his point succinctly, “[Let’s start with] the visual outcome we want to have, set up Historic Preservation Guidelines. We don’t have that now.”

Certainty and transparency is needed: that seemed to be the consensus. 

What seemed clear also is this: staff is recommending an appeals process; the appointment of a historic preservation planner; the development of a Historical Style Guide; and that C properties be reevaluated as 6Ls based on CEQA criteria.

I think. But don’t quote me.

All agree on setting up a taskforce

At the end of the public comment session, Steve Dicterow suggested a taskforce be set up. “I think we are actually at the beginning of this process,” he said. “Maybe we made a mistake, went about this the wrong way around. We need to fully understand the laws, get a clarification of state mandates and what discretion we do and don’t have.

“I will not vote on this ordinance until I have a better understanding. We need give-and-take on this. It’s working well for the View Restoration taskforce right now.”

Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede agreed that a taskforce would be the best way to go. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he noted. “Today the issue has been made a lot clearer, thanks to staff working nonstop.”

Toni Iseman mentioned that many people aren’t aware of the benefits of being listed on the Historic Inventory. “But we have to fix things, take a look at all the details so we can address the issues.”

Iseman agreed that putting together a taskforce would be the best way to proceed, as did Bob Whalen. 

“This was a good discussion, it’s a complex and confusing issue,” Whalen said. “We need simplification, clarity. Let’s set up a taskforce, yes, with an [appropriate] time limit and [give it clearly] articulated guidelines.”

Mayor Kelly Boyd wrapped up the meeting. “Let’s get setting up a taskforce with guidelines onto the agenda for our second meeting in January. I’m a real property rights guy, so I’ll be watching carefully. What a headache, and thanks to the staff and Planning Commission and others for all their hard work on this.” 

Notes: 

CEQA = California Environmental Quality Act

C = contributive; K = key; E = exceptional architectural examples


City Manager’s Update

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, 2017, 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 City Council. Public comment will be held at the end of the meeting. 

Laguna Beach Firefighters Still On The Thomas Fire - We still have two engines assigned to the Thomas Fire in Ventura/Santa Barbara Counties. They are currently doing structure defense on the east side of the City of Carpentaria. We anticipate that we will have personnel committed past Christmas unless there is a significant change in weather conditions.

Field Maintenance and Closures - Riddle Field is currently closed until Jan 29 and Alta Laguna Field will close from Dec 18 – Jan 8, for annual maintenance and turf renovations. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

Cross Country Championships - Laguna Beach athletes, led by Coach Fred Pichay, competed at the Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation (SCMAF) Cross Country Championships this past Sunday at Legg Lake in Whitter Narrows Park. All the athletes medaled in their age group. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

(L-R) Megan Keary, Cooper Buckhorn, Maesen Silva, Luke Anderton, Kate Salinas, Christopher Drews, Coach Fred Pichay

Laguna Beach High School and Community Tennis Courts - The tennis courts are currently closed for routine resurfacing and will re-open on Friday, Dec 22, 2017. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

SCE Pole Replacement by Helicopter - Southern California Edison (SCE) will be using a helicopter to replace a pole in the open space between Top of the World and Arch Beach Heights; shown as the yellow circle on the attached map.  

The work is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Dec 20.  The pole is located within the County Park and SCE has obtained permission from the County for the work. SCE will be doing preparatory work in the area on Dec 19.

Holiday Trash Collection and Tree Recycling - For the weeks of Dec 25 and Jan 1, residential and commercial trash collection will be delayed by one day. Waste Management will collect and recycle holiday trees on the regular collection days at no charge starting on Tues, Dec 26, through Tuesday, Jan 16.  Please visit the city’s website www.lagunabeachcity.net/recycling for more information. 

Community and Susi Q Center Closed - The Community & Susi Q Center will be closed Sat, Dec 23 through Sun, Jan 7 for annual building maintenance. No classes or programs will be held during this time.  

However, Community Services staff will be available December 26-28 and January 2-4, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Dec 29 and Jan 6, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Community Center to assist with class registrations, wedding permits, professional photo permits, etc.

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 Sunday, 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 Ave, 285 Agate Street, 2900 Alta Laguna Blvd., and 31646 Second Ave.  For questions, please contact Fire Administration at (949) 497-0700.


Commission approves council’s Village Entrance plan—with caveats

By BARBARA DIAMOND

If the City Council expects the Planning Commission simply to rubber-stamp the Village Entrance project and budget approved by the council on Dec 5, it will be disappointed.

The commission approved on Wednesday, as recommended by city staff, a conditional use permit, design review and coastal development permit, without which the project could not move forward. 

“We had a mandate from the council to move the project along,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson. “We were mindful that if the project didn’t get started next September, it would have to be put off for a year.”

Subcommittee created

However, the Commission expressed concerns about several aspects of the proposal and voted to create a sub-committee to work with staff and the project design team to ensure that commission recommendations do not get lost in the translation. 

“This is a big project and the planning commission should feel good about what we recommend,” said Commissioner Sue Kempf.

Commission Chair Susan McLintock Whitin and Commissioner Roger McErlane were appointed to the sub-committee. 

Whitin is on record as critical of the look and feel of the proposal, which she said connects to neither a Laguna Canyon nor a Civic Arts District identity. 

“It doesn’t feel rustic to me and it doesn’t feel artistic,” said Whitin. 

Commissioner Ken Sadler weighed in on the use of corrugated metal as a design element, a nod to the old metal buildings previously on the site and ready to fall down, he said.

“Rusty and rustic are not the same thing,” said Kempf. 

Both commissioners were referring to rusted corrugated panels proposed as facing for a retaining wall. 

Proposed lighting also found no favor with Sadler. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Close-up of Digester building within the proposed Village Entrance project

Plans call for 60 poles to meet legal requirements. Project Manager Wade Brown informed the commission that the proposed lighting is the minimum required for safety. He said putting in bollards, as had been suggested, would make the park look like an airport runway and would adversely affect the budget. 

Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis said three times as many bollards would be needed to cast the same light as the poles and be more costly. 

The proposed tree palette of only sycamores and oaks was also a sore subject. All the commission members, landscape architect Ann Christoph and tree activist Ruben Flores encouraged diversifying the proposal.

“One side of the street is evergreen,” said McErlane, referring to the Festival of Arts landscape, “the ‘parking lot’ is deciduous. Add some evergreens.”

Few people supported the use of a chain link fence along the channelized Laguna Canyon Creek.

“There should be some other option to hide it a little better,” said Sattler.

Options for the old sewer digester building also were discussed, ranging from refurbishing only the exterior paint to finally cleaning out the interior and installing restrooms inside.

“The ($8.4m) project budget does not support any renovation beyond patching and painting,” said Wade. 

He suggested that the Planning Commission may recommend that the council consider a future capital improvement project be developed and put into the city’s 10-year plan. 

Former Planning Commissioner Barbara Metzger was appalled that complete restoration of the building would be put off to an uncertain future date as suggested by Wade.

Some consternation was expressed that the item on agenda did not identify the project as the Village Entrance, describing it only public and private parking areas to be enhanced by landscaping, new paths, center median improvements; changes in the ingress and egress to the site, circulation and parking locations; new ancillary structures and a new bridge.


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.

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