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Mindful flushing

This November will decide the next few years for Laguna Beach as we vote on three of the five City Council seats. My vote will go to the candidate speaking the most about one word. This one word defines Laguna and the health of our Greenbelt and Bluebelt. It is the source of the air we breathe, the rainwater and distant snowmelt we depend upon to quench our thirst, water our crops and feed our community. The word also determines our economy, the high cost of rent and mortgages, the driving theme in local art and culture. The word I will be listening for is the “ocean”.

Pretty much everyone loves the ocean. It is beautiful while freely giving us cool coastal breezes as the rest of the country sizzles in record-breaking temperatures. It is both inspirational and meditative, a source of pleasure and restoration. Unfortunately, the ocean is also where we ultimately dump our wastewater after we flush the toilet, wash our clothes or do the dishes.

letter beanan cartoon

Environmental awareness and social consciousness guide us to consider our impacts to our surroundings. Mindfulness can direct our attention to the health of the ocean we love and move us to take sustainable action to protect what is so essential to our community, our health and our wealth – the ocean.

City Council Candidates will have the next few months before the November elections to express their awareness of the ocean’s importance to Laguna Beach voters. They can tell us why all of the city’s 1.6 million gallons of sewage conveyed to the Coastal Treatment Plant just inland of the Aliso Creek Golf Course is never recycled but sent as secondary sewage to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall. The city’s water district is the only South County agency without recycled water claiming “we are an old city”…like Dana Point and Newport Beach, both of which have added extensive recycled water programs funded by generous State grants and “new water” revenues.

Since South Laguna is served by South Coast Water District, much of our wastewater is recycled to irrigate the Montage Resort, Village Green Park and, recently, Mission Hospital. More is sent south to Dana Point for citywide use. Every gallon of wastewater “upcycled” as recycled water is one less gallon discharged to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall just 1.2 miles offshore. Inland cities and our cousins north of Nyes Place in Laguna Beach, however, add 10 million gallons each day to the underwater “Laguna Poobelt” plume. 

Some City Council Candidates will plead “there is nothing we can do” and get elected to do nothing about local ocean pollution. Others may take the next few months to add meetings to their campaigns with inland water districts and design new solutions to ocean pollution by bringing recycled water to all of Laguna Beach. A few leaders may even present a plan for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) with smart companies to design, build and operate improvements to the Coastal Treatment Plant and finally bring a perimeter recycled water system to prevent and suppress annual wildfires threatening our community.

Of course, not every City Council Candidate is skillful enough to regularly monitor the ocean’s health but they can have a designated swimmer or diver report to them the ever-changing conditions in local ocean waters. Candidates may come to realize the central role the ocean plays in Laguna Beach and promote an Ocean Commission to attract the world’s top scientists to study and improve the Laguna Bluebelt and recognize the value of a healthy ocean to sequester carbon and mitigate global warming while insuring a thriving and well hydrated Laguna Greenbelt and thriving community.

In this contested election, every City Council Candidate will want your vote so right now, your voice matters. If you care about the health of the ocean, let them know it.

Mike Beanan

South Laguna

Trolley tracks

Just to set the record straight – the lack of trolley service in North Laguna and The Coastal Trolley not stopping at 3rd Street in South Laguna is due to folks in surrounding areas plus what I believe is Village Laguna putting pressure on City Hall. These folks don’t want daytrippers in their respective areas. These same folks also do not want the City to provide better parking in town. If you dare want to come to Laguna, then park by the 405 Freeway and take our trollies into town. Forget anyone with disabilities or with children who want to use our beaches or even shop/eat in town. Toni Iseman has declared that we are a Coastal Town not a Coastal Resort. I am sure our many excellent hotels, restaurants, businesses and the folks who create our famous art festivals will be happy with this clarification.

I feel Village Laguna has way too much power in City Hall as evidenced by what I believe are back room meetings and decisions made as a result of their pressure. A good example of this was Tuesday, August 7 City Council meeting. Watch for Item 10 – during the staff report it was disclosed that after the public hearing on the subject of replanting trees – a private meeting was held with Ann Christoph, Bob Borthwick and Ruben Flores and staff. Their conclusion was to only have 10 trees planted of the 37 on the list by the city. At the last minute they gave us/City staff a break.

We, folks who feel the same way I do, think that Village Laguna’s strategy for this election is: Get Village followers on the Council, the landscaping is to be done by Public Works where pressure can be given by guess who to ensure only eucalyptus trees be planted, and we (meaning the rest of us) will pay for all their elaborate expensive schemes no matter what the cost. Just leave those utility poles up, keep the homeless wandering around town, forget any more upgrades to our streets, etc. and cross your fingers we don’t have another fire like ‘93 when Ann Christoph was mayor. 

Remember – Be careful who you vote for – there may be serious consequences based on your vote locally, statewide, and nationally.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Village Entrance is a huge step forward

Thanks to the City Council for proceeding with the Village Entrance construction project. This is a huge step forward. I and many others are pleased that we will be seeing improvements very soon. Thanks also for rejecting the two fence proposals and asking for additional options. 

It is very disappointing that the Council was unable to go ahead with restoring the Digester Building, but neither of the options that were presented to them were reasonable.

The Council was correct to reject the paint, patch, window repair and stair construction option for $433,174. Despite this high cost the improvements would not have made the building appreciably better and they would not have met the historic restoration standard.

The base bid of $100,723 for painting and patching is an extremely high cost for minimal improvements and no long-term benefit. 

I suggest that the Council remove the $100,723 from the contract and use these funds for the next steps to restore the Digester building:

--Commission a historical report by an architectural historian.

--Hire an architect to prepare complete restoration plans

--Have those plans reviewed by the Heritage Committee and Planning Commission.

--After approval of the plans solicit bids/separate prices on parts of the restoration (for example, exterior restoration, plumbing and electrical, interior restoration and sludge removal.)

These tasks could all be completed by next year and at that time the Council could review the bids and decide which of these items should be accomplished during phase 2 of the Village Entrance project.

This approach would provide for every expenditure going toward making progress on restoring the building, rather than on expensive patch and paint that would have to be redone in the future.

Ann Christoph

Laguna Beach

CEQA and historical preservation: response to Larry Nokes

I write in response to Larry Nokes’ letter that seeks to outline the City’s obligations regarding the protection of historic resources under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In his letter, Mr. Nokes argued that unless a property is listed on a national, state or “valid and voluntary” local Register, the City is under no obligation to treat it as a historic resource. The thrust of the letter is that Laguna Beach has, and can continue to have, a voluntary local preservation program that requires owner consent. This argument has been made frequently during discussions about the City’s proposed updates to the historic preservation ordinance, but it is incorrect. The City Attorney refutes it in a recent Memo (May 8, 2018), addressed to the Historic Preservation Task Force, which clarifies state laws and regulations regarding historic preservation. While it is true that owners must consent to have their properties listed on the Laguna Register, “properties that are eligible for the City’s Register are identified as historic resources” for purposes of CEQA (my emphasis). Moreover, if the City has reason to believe that a property over fifty years old may be a historic resource, it must be proactive in making that determination. The City Attorney also makes it clear that “the Historic Resource Element [of the City’s General Plan] does not suggest that the process is always voluntary.”

Historic resource evaluations cost money, and Mr. Nokes finds it unfair that owners must pay for them and be subject to possible delays, even if they do not want to put the property on the Register. I agree that it would be advantageous to address these issues, as do staff; among the changes proposed to our historic preservation program, the cost of the evaluation would shift to the City and the approval process would be streamlined. I hope that City Council will acknowledge the validity of the City Attorney’s legal arguments and allow the process of revising the historic preservation ordinance to move forward.

Catherine Jurca

Laguna Beach

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