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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 5  |  January 15, 2021

Historic Preservation Ordinance set for Tuesday’s council agenda


The introduction of the long-debated Historic Preservation Ordinance went from a tentative hearing to a more certain spot on Tuesday’s (July 14) agenda at the June 30 City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman’s request to delay the hearing until September as asked by Village Laguna was discussed and rejected by the council.

Village Laguna Board Member Anne Caenn asked the council to postpone the introduction and possible adoption of the ordinance until council meetings are held in public. 

Caenn said the council had made a promise to residents not to hear large, controversial items until the city resumed in-person meetings. However, City Manager John Pietig had announced at previous meetings that the pledge to residents was made under the assumption that the COVID-19 pandemic would not still be raging in July, but some city business should no longer be delayed.

Few, if any, ordinances have caused as much uproar as the proposed revisions to the preservation ordinance. Proponents and opponents packed the City Council Chambers for the hearings, very few adhering to the requests from the dais to simply raise hands in agreement with speakers and to restrain from cheers or catcalls. 

Historic Preservation house

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Historic house on Ocean Way and Diamond

The original ordinance was adopted in 1989, much of it based on the 1981 Historic Resource Document, which listed structures deemed to have historical value due to architectural merit, ambiance, age, inhabitants, or activity conducted there. The ordinance was determined to be out of date in 2013.

More than 30 meetings, including hearings by the Heritage Committee, Design Review Board, Planning Commission, City Council, and the Historic Preservation Task Force have been held since then.

Meetings were described by many as the most disruptive and raucous ever held in the City Council Chambers, as battles raged over inclusion as a historical resource without the owners’ request or permission and the basis on which homes were rated. 

“We are putting things on the agendas that can wait, when it is impossible for a member of the public to be there in person,” said Iseman. “There are people who find it difficult to Zoom. After every meeting, I get phone calls from people who are upset because they were on hold and never got to speak.”

Councilwoman Sue Kempf opined at the June 30 meeting it was because so many people were interested in the ordinance that the council should move forward on it.

The meeting agenda including the full text of the ordinance is available at the link here. 

The public may participate in the meeting via Zoom by calling (669) 900-900-9128 (the Webinar ID is 92925158960#) or clicking here.

The meeting may also be viewed live on Cox cable channel 852 and online on the City of Laguna Beach website at

The public may submit comments on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form:


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

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Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

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