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Commission OKs water reservoir replacement in South Laguna with aesthetic conditions

By SARA HALL

A water reservoir replacement project in South Laguna was approved this week by a city commission, as they discussed ways to mitigate the visual impact of the important infrastructure project.

After almost two hours, the Planning Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday (Feb. 1) in support of design review and a coastal development permit for South Coast Water District’s reservoir 2B replacement project, located at the top of an unpaved access road off Ceanothus Drive. 

SCWD board members unanimously agreed on November 17 to award a $564,100 contract to AKM for construction management and inspection for the reservoir 2B replacement project. The action also approved change orders up to $56,410 (10% contingency), if required.

The 77-year-old reservoir will be replaced with two new tanks that will double that site’s water capacity. The project also includes grading, retaining walls, improvements to an unpaved access road, a new underground electrical service feeder, and drainage improvements to address stormwater runoff in the open space/conservation and residential/hillside protection zones. The proposed project will provide additional operational, fire, and emergency water storage capacity and improve the safety of the existing unpaved access road for water district staff.

Ultimately, the project was approved with conditions:

–That consideration be given to a color that is appropriate for the background tonal values of the landscape.

–That an integral color or stain is utilized for all concrete surfaces, including the retaining wall.

–That there be a specification for restorative landscape treatments, consistent with the general character of the area.

The discussion focused on whether the aesthetics should be considered at all in their approval and, if so, to what extent. Overall, the majority of commissioners agreed that consideration should be given to aesthetics of the project. 

“Anytime there’s a major public improvement, and it only occurs once every 70 years, we should take the opportunity to think about how to enhance and blend it into the natural landscape, to the extent that’s reasonable to do,” Kellenberg said. 

Replying to a couple of commissioner comments that implied that it’s an infrastructure project and that the visual impact isn’t important and that this isn’t the time to address that aspect, Kellenberg strongly disagreed. Now is the perfect time to consider improvements because there is already work happening there, he said.

“We have one chance to make some modest enhancements so the visual aspect is improved,” Kellenberg said. 

Commission OKs water reservoir replacement reservoir 2B

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The current reservoir 2B in South Laguna is slated for replacement

Nothing they’re suggesting is too expensive, he added. 

“Nobody is suggesting we do anything special with the wall, other than maybe paint it the same color as the tanks,” he said. “And the tanks, they’re going to buy the paint anyway, why not pick a color that blends in with the landscape?”

Although not everyone on the dais was initially on board with the aesthetic-driven discussion.

While he can understand the aesthetic perspective, it’s not important for this particular project, said Commission Chair Pro Tem Ken Sadler. He has no objection to a different tank color, but it’s not necessary to include. Requesting a special texture or adding color to the retaining walls is “overkill.” 

“It’s a public utility project that’s much needed. It’s an old tank, ending its useful life (and) needs to be replaced,” Sadler said. “They probably very carefully looked at this in terms of placement of these for the maximum bang for the buck and making it as functional as possible.”

It might be a different story if it was in a more visible location, he added. The new tanks might be seen from Ceanothus Drive or even Coast Highway, he noted, but they will be on the hillside, not in a more noticeable location like at the top of the ridgeline. 

“It’s not highly visible unless you’re looking for it,” Sadler said. 

Just because they have the opportunity to ask for it doesn’t mean they should, he added. 

“It seems like sometimes we delve into these things and we feel like we’ve got to make a bigger deal out of some of it than there really should be,” Sadler said. 

Sometimes they ask too much of the applicant but not for sufficient reasons, he added. 

Commissioner Steve Goldman agreed 100% with Sadler’s reasons.

“This is an infrastructure project that improves the water service for us,” he said, it didn’t need a lot of comment.

Although others thought there was room for both considerations. 

“It’s a necessary infrastructure project, overdue at this point, kind of pushing up to the edge of possible failure,” said Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin. “I don’t think anyone questions the need for the project, from a water standpoint.”

She respects the engineering challenges there and agrees with Sadler that they sometimes “gild the lily,” or in this instance, “gilding the tank.” But it is visible from the road, she added, so they should try to conceal it in the landscape with color choices. None of the improvements are expensive, she added.

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Council to interview, appoint local residents to environmental, recreation, design committees

By SARA HALL

Next week, City Council will interview a more than two dozen residents applying for several committees and one board.

As the only matter of regular business on the Tuesday (Feb. 7) agenda, council will vote on 30 (or 31 if an alternate position is kept) appointments for seats on the Environmental Sustainability Committee, Recreation Committee, Housing and Human Services Committee, Design Review Board, Heritage Committee, View Restoration Committee, Parking, Traffic, & Circulation Committee, Audit Review and Investment Advisory Committee.

Council will also consider extending the terms of Arts Commissioners Donna Ballard, Suzi Chauvel, Karen Wood, Laura Ford and one vacancy; as well as Planning Commissioners Jorg Dubin, Steven Kellenberg and Ken Sadler. The extended term for both groups would run until June 30 to fill during the June appointments.

The Environmental Sustainability Committee received more applications than any other committee. Next week, council will interview 17 applicants and appoint five residents to the ESC. Council also has the option to select one alternate to serve on the popular committee. 

Residents selected will serve two-year terms beginning April 1 through March 31, 2025.

The nine-person panel is tasked with researching, reviewing and advising the council on items related to protecting the environment and improving the community’s future sustainability. Members typically work in subcommittees to research issues and policies and prepare recommendations for the larger committee to submit to council. Most commit about 10-15 hours per month.

The applicants are: Liz Bates (also applied for HHSC); Fred Carr; Lisa Carr; John Ehlers (incumbent); Jolie Eisner (also applied for the Rec and Audit/Investment committees); Anne Girtz (incumbent); Andrew Graff (also applied for the Rec Committee); Sander Kushen; Lisa LaCorte (also applied for HHSC); Joan McFarland (also applied for HHSC); Judie Mancuso (incumbent); Paul Manina; Jacquelin Reed Mutter (incumbent); Dane Pfluegar; Morteza Rahmatian; Uwe Schramm and Ray Tang.

Councilmembers also have a lot to consider when they interview 15 applicants and choose four residents to appoint to the Recreation Committee for two-year terms beginning April 1 and serving through March 31, 2025. 

The terms of three current members will expire and there is currently one vacancy on the nine-person committee.

The group is tasked with advising City Council on issues regarding the recreation and park needs of the community.

Applicants are: Lauren Boeck; Karl Dumas (incumbent); Sarah Durand; Jolie Eisner (also applied for ESC and Audit/Investment committees); Andrew Graff (also applied for ESC); Michael Gruba; Elizabeth Hanauer; Matthew Jayson; Roger Kempler (incumbent); Gwen McNallan; Roxanne Moin-Safa; Carmen Salazar; Rania Sarkis; Jennifer Zeiter (also applied for Heritage, HHSC and Audit/Investment committees) and Kelly Zinser.

Council to interview, appoint local residents city hall

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will make 30 appointments to city committees next week 

Another group with a lot of applications is the Housing and Human Services Committee, which received 14 applications. Council will interview and appoint four residents to the for terms beginning April 1 through June 30, 2024.

The nine-member committee assesses and identifies housing opportunities and human needs for all segments of the community, provides input on the city’s housing element of the General Plan, informs and makes recommendations to the council and other community leaders and increases community awareness of programs to fill these needs.

Applicants include: Liz Bates (also applied for ESC); Cody Engle (incumbent); Joe Hanauer; Diane Harrison; Alexandra Jochim; Samir Khanna (part-time resident); Alex Kweskin; Lisa LaCorte (also applied for ESC); Joan McFarland (also applied for ESC); Jonathan Moore; Adam Redding-Kaufman; Stephanie Wander; Mary Jo Winefordner and Jennifer Zeiter (also applied for Audit/Investment, Heritage and Rec committees).

The Board of Adjustment/DRB received nine applications for three open spots on the five-member group. 

The terms of three board members will expire on March 31. On Sept. 21, 2021, council approved revised bylaws for the DRB, which implemented term limits of four two-year consecutive terms. Incumbent Debbie Neev is the first DRB member to term out and is not eligible for reappointment.

The new members will serve two-year terms beginning April 1 and run through March 31, 2025.

DRB considers design review, coastal development and variance requests. They primarily review residential development projects for compliance with the city’s zoning code, General Plan and local coastal program.

A substantial time commitment averaging 10 hours a week is necessary. Members not only attend meetings, but they are expected to visit the sites and review the project plans prior to the hearing. Board members are compensated with $392 per month.

Desired skills include the ability to understand and conceptualize architectural drawings, and visualize building mass and volumes based upon on-site staking plans. It’s also preferable if members have experience in the building trades, architecture, historic preservation, landscaping, planning and/or real estate.

Applicants are: Nicholas Brox; Mary Jo Coveny; Justin Drucker (also applied for the Heritage Committee); Tom Gibbs; Arianna Noppenberger; Julie Ross; Barry Schweiger; Kristine Thalman (incumbent) and Louis Weil (incumbent).

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Council identifies 2023 priorities, brainstorms on city vision, values and mission statement

By SARA HALL

During a special meeting over the weekend, Laguna Beach City Council identified a number of priorities for the year and, along with input from executive staff members, created a draft mission statement, vision and set of values for the municipal organization.

At the annual planning workshop on Saturday (Jan. 28), councilmembers named their top priorities

The workshop is a great opportunity for the council to take a step back and look at the organization on a higher level, Mayor Bob Whalen said in his opening remarks. 

“This year in particular, I think, is exciting because we’ve got two new members of the council,” Whalen said. “There’s a lot of talk and optimism, I think, about a new tone and a reset heading forward.”

It’s important to take that optimism and tone and turn it into action, he added, and an agenda to move forward on for 2023.

Councilmember suggestions for priorities were in addition to a list of recommendations from city staff. 

“We have a really good list of things so far,” said Councilmember Alex Rounaghi.

Rounaghi and his fellow councilmembers were very supportive of implementing the housing programs and projects listed in the priorities matrix included in the meeting agenda.

“But I think something that’s not in there is identifying a city-owned site and moving forward with an RFP to develop affordable housing on that site,” Rounaghi said. 

Last year, council identified three possible sites, he pointed out.

Following up on those potential sites should be a priority, agreed Councilmember George Weiss. 

Now that the city has a new staff person dedicated to housing programs, it needs to be a renewed focus, the council agreed. Jennifer Savage started as the housing coordinator, a new position in the city, on January 17. Her primary responsibility is to develop the city’s housing programs, including a senior and affordable housing program, another identified priority for the council.

In the job posting for the new position, city officials added that the specialist will also lead the effort to develop and implement the city’s 6th Housing Element, support the creation of new market-rate and affordable units, serve as liaison to the Housing and Human Services Committee, develop tools to map and track market trends and stay current with changes to local and state housing legislation. Council previously made housing a top priority for the entire city.

In another housing priority item, Rounaghi said he was interested in initiating the second phase of the Downtown Specific Plan update, which would modify the regulations to allow additional housing in the Downtown. 

“That’s not to say that we want to add all of our housing in the Downtown, but I think we can look at adaptive re-use and there are some areas of the Downtown where you could have a second story,” he said. 

It was put on hold when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, explained City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. To help out businesses at the time the city bifurcated the larger DSP and held the housing portion back.

After Saturday’s planning session, staff will restart the effort where they left off, she noted.

Council identifies 2023 priorities Dupuis speaking

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Manager Shohreh Dupuis speaks to the crowd during the workshop 

Another shared priority among councilmembers on Saturday was developing a commercial district beautification and maintenance ordinance. The project will be managed by the new assistant director of community development and will commence once the position is filled. 

The city could try to incentivize and make it easier for the owners to fix up their properties, noted Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf.

“What I’d like to see is a carrot and stick approach,” she said. 

Some of the sites are in disrepair and don’t look very good, she added. 

There was a proposed ordinance drafted in 2019 that can be used as a starting point, Dupuis noted. 

Although there weren’t a lot of specific comments on the project, councilmembers agreed that an update of the city’s open space and conservation element should also be a priority this year. 

They’ll first identify what staff and consultant resources are required, Dupuis explained. If they can’t get to it by mid-year it will go into next fiscal year’s budget, she added.

Communication was also a popular priority that councilmembers wanted to focus on in the future. 

“I want to make sure that we kind of ‘over-communicate’ to the community so they don’t get the wrong impression on things,” Kempf said.

They’ve shared some information on Nextdoor, have plans to distribute a newsletter to all registered voters in Laguna Beach, and are working on more video and attention-grabbing social media posts, Dupuis explained. 

All five councilmembers were also interested in developing a facilities master plan.

Staff needs to do research and determine how much that will cost and the resources needed to complete the study, Dupuis said. 

“We need to do a lot more homework,” she said. “We know that it’s going to be an extensive effort.”

The master plans should look at every property the city owns and consider their current use, potential in the long-term and if there are any improvements or rehabilitation needed. 

Councilmembers also agreed to the idea of forming a subcommittee to study the use of St. Catherine’s and other facilities. 

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Council approves interim use programming for South Laguna campus

By SARA HALL

An interim use plan for a closed Catholic school property that the city recently purchased was approved this week, but not without some disagreement on the timeline.

Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday (Jan. 24) and approved an interim use plan for the former St. Catherine of Siena School campus at 30516 Coast Highway. Councilmember George Weiss dissented, saying that he liked the idea but thought it was premature.

Weiss’ comments were echoed by several public speakers, who urged the council to wait until after the scheduled open house events in February to approve an interim use plan. The city should first get community feedback and learn more about the local recreational needs, some of the speakers agreed. 

While other residents and a majority of councilmembers were excited about the use plan and wanted to quickly make use of the new property.

“When we bought the property, it was clearly outlined by the city manager and staff at the time that there was going to be an interim use and a long-term use, and so this is not new,” said Mayor Bob Whalen. “None of these are long-term uses that we can’t end in a period of a week or two.”

 The programming is essentially allowing immediate use of the gym and the already established facilities, he commented, and they heard from residents on Tuesday that there is a big need for that type of space.

“Let’s get it going,” he said.

The city spent $23 million on the site, they want to get use out of it immediately, agreed Councilmember Alex Rounaghi.

“I don’t think anyone here [on the dais] is thinking that the uses that we’re picking today are going to have any impact on the decision that we make in the future.

“We have to involve all the different stakeholders and make a really good decision,” Rounaghi said. 

Long-term uses of the property will be considered as part of a comprehensive city facilities master plan.

Council approves interim use programming St Catherine aerial

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

City council approved an interim use plan for the former Catholic school campus in South Laguna

The approved use plan takes advantage of the available office spaces and recreational areas without making any structural changes on the property, which provides approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space.

Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Gavin Curran said staff tried to make the best use of the what’s existing at the campus.

“With the interim uses, we tried not to modify the property,” Curran said. “We really just wanted to take advantage of what was at the facility.”

The plan calls for opening the gym building four days a week with hours subject to change based on final programming. The recommendation included the immediate use of the two offices for recreation staffing and the remainder of the building for recreation programming. 

Rounaghi suggested working to keep the gym open for use seven days a week, possibly partnering with the Boys & Girls Club to help staff it.

“There’s so much demand for gym space,” he said. 

The program for the gym and the large performance stage could begin in the spring or summer with limited hours. Proposed programming could include: Adult drop-in basketball; indoor pickleball with temporary lines and nets; youth recreation classes and cultural arts programming on the stage. By summer, there could be portable skate ramps in one of the courtyard areas, wedding ceremonies performed in the chapel and opening the facility for extended public hours.

The gym could also provide space for fire and police training and a safe refuge location for residents forced to evacuate from their homes during an emergency.

In the main building of the campus, city staff suggested using the administrative area, the first floor of the building, and the employee lounge for city operations, which could include fire administration and an emergency operations center. The kindergarten room, library, and three classrooms on the second floor would remain available for community youth and programming.

No interim use was proposed for the lower building (the former middle school classroom area); staff recommended that the city allow nonprofit and other organizations to use the classrooms daily, weekly, or monthly through a use license agreement. Tuesday’s action also authorized the city manager to develop an interim rental program and fee structure with an agreement that is mindful of any long-term uses prioritized as part of the facilities master plan.

The outdoor area includes a basketball court, play structure and tables. The plan calls for programming the space for summer or spring recreational activities, including a small mobile skate park.

Councilmember Mark Orgill suggested staff interview some young skaters before installing the skate park to ensure that the style of equipment is what they would want and would be used. 

It’s definitely going to get utilized, noted Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf, because there’s a big demand for a skate park.

The mobile skate parks are very flexible, Curran confirmed. 

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Packed council agenda includes interim use plan for St. Catherine campus, Ti Amo surplus property declaration, donation for pride lifeguard tower, traffic calming measures

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a packed and varied agenda tonight.

At tonight's meeting (Tuesday, Jan. 24), meeting, during both regular business and the consent calendar, council will consider: An interim use plan for the former St. Catherine of Siena School campus; declaring the city-owned former Ti Amo restaurant site as surplus property; accepting a donation to fund artwork for a pride lifeguard tower at West Street Beach; traffic calming measures for Temple Hills and Bluebird Canyon drives; proposed modifications to the Village Entrance Landscape Plan; an ordinance prohibiting the sale, public use, and distribution of certain balloons and resolution re-adopting the revised 6th cycle Housing Element.

The biggest item of the night is last on the agenda: Interim use plan for St. Catherine of Siena School campus at 30516 Coast Highway.

The property provides the city with a unique opportunity to increase services for the community, according to the staff report. The suggested use plan takes advantage of the available office spaces and recreational areas without making any structural changes. Long-term uses of the property will be considered as part of a comprehensive city facilities master plan.

The property is comprised of four buildings built in 2010, which provide approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space.

A team of city staff from all departments met several times and carefully developed a proposed interim use plan, according to the staff report. If approved, the plan would use approximately 17,000 square feet of indoor space and would not require significant changes to the buildings or rooms; however, small scale interior improvements such as cleaning, painting and replacing damaged equipment would be necessary.

Packed council agenda includes interim use plan St Catherine

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Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

An interim use plan for the former Catholic school campus in South Laguna will be considered at the council meeting next week 

Staff is proposing opening the gym building four days a week with hours subject to change based on final programming. The recommendation includes the immediate use of the two offices for recreation staffing and the remainder of the building for recreation programming. 

The program for the gym and the large performance stage could begin in the spring or summer with limited hours. Proposed programming could include: Adult drop-in basketball; indoor pickleball with temporary lines and nets; youth recreation classes and cultural arts programming on the stage. By summer, there could be portable skate ramps in one of the courtyard areas, wedding ceremonies performed in the chapel and opening the facility for extended public hours.

The gym could also provide space for fire and police training and a safe refuge location for residents forced to evacuate from their homes during emergency.

In the main building of the campus, city staff is proposing to use the administrative area, the first floor of the building, and the employee lounge for city operation, which could include fire administration and an emergency operations center. The kindergarten room, library, and three classrooms on the second floor would remain available for community youth and programming.

No interim use is proposed for the lower building, the former middle school classroom area; staff is recommending that the city allow nonprofit and other organizations to use the classrooms daily, weekly, or monthly through a use license agreement. If approved, the action would also authorize the city manager to develop an interim rental program and fee structure with an agreement that is mindful of any long term uses prioritized as part of the facilities master plan.

The outdoor area includes a basketball court, play structure and tables. Staff is recommending programming the space for summer or spring recreational activities, including a small mobile skate park.

The grass field/parking area has two single-use restrooms connected to the rest of the campus with stairs and an elevator. The area can provide approximately 70 parking spaces for overflow parking or parking for larger events. The field would need a material like gravel, pavers, or engineered pervious material concrete. The estimated improvement cost is between $50,000 and $100,000 and is recommended to be funded by the parking fund.

If approved, the item will also appropriate an additional $10,000 from the general fund for maintenance and cleaning, and increase estimated recreation fee and rental fee revenue by $15,000; appropriate $100,000 from the parking fund available fund balance for improvements in the parking areas and authorize the addition of one full-time maintenance worker position and one full-time recreation supervisor position to the fiscal year 2022-23 adopted budget to program, manage and maintain the property.

Community members have also requested to tour the property, prompting staff to prepare it for two or three open house days in February.

The property also contains many books, equipment and other materials not needed by the city, which would need to be either disposed or donated. The city will encourage local nonprofits and other community groups to attend the open house days and place their contact information on an interest list for the items. Popular items will be managed through a lottery-type process.

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Packed council agenda includes interim use plan for St. Catherine campus, Ti Amo surplus property declaration, donation for pride lifeguard tower, traffic calming measures

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a packed and varied agenda next week.

At the Tuesday (Jan. 24) meeting, during both regular business and the consent calendar, council will consider: An interim use plan for the former St. Catherine of Siena School campus; declaring the city-owned former Ti Amo restaurant site as surplus property; accepting a donation to fund artwork for a pride lifeguard tower at West Street Beach; traffic calming measures for Temple Hills and Bluebird Canyon drives; proposed modifications to the Village Entrance Landscape Plan; an ordinance prohibiting the sale, public use, and distribution of certain balloons and resolution re-adopting the revised 6th cycle Housing Element.

The biggest item of the night is last on the agenda: Interim use plan for St. Catherine of Siena School campus at 30516 Coast Highway.

The property provides the city with a unique opportunity to increase services for the community, according to the staff report. The suggested use plan takes advantage of the available office spaces and recreational areas without making any structural changes. Long-term uses of the property will be considered as part of a comprehensive city facilities master plan.

The property is comprised of four buildings built in 2010, which provide approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space.

A team of city staff from all departments met several times and carefully developed a proposed interim use plan, according to the staff report. If approved, the plan would use approximately 17,000 square feet of indoor space and would not require significant changes to the buildings or rooms; however, small scale interior improvements such as cleaning, painting and replacing damaged equipment would be necessary.

Packed council agenda includes interim use plan St Catherine

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

An interim use plan for the former Catholic school campus in South Laguna will be considered at the council meeting next week 

Staff is proposing opening the gym building four days a week with hours subject to change based on final programming. The recommendation includes the immediate use of the two offices for recreation staffing and the remainder of the building for recreation programming. 

The program for the gym and the large performance stage could begin in the spring or summer with limited hours. Proposed programming could include: Adult drop-in basketball; indoor pickleball with temporary lines and nets; youth recreation classes and cultural arts programming on the stage. By summer, there could be portable skate ramps in one of the courtyard areas, wedding ceremonies performed in the chapel and opening the facility for extended public hours.

The gym could also provide space for fire and police training and a safe refuge location for residents forced to evacuate from their homes during emergency.

In the main building of the campus, city staff is proposing to use the administrative area, the first floor of the building, and the employee lounge for city operation, which could include fire administration and an emergency operations center. The kindergarten room, library, and three classrooms on the second floor would remain available for community youth and programming.

No interim use is proposed for the lower building, the former middle school classroom area; staff is recommending that the city allow nonprofit and other organizations to use the classrooms daily, weekly, or monthly through a use license agreement. If approved, the action would also authorize the city manager to develop an interim rental program and fee structure with an agreement that is mindful of any long term uses prioritized as part of the facilities master plan.

The outdoor area includes a basketball court, play structure and tables. Staff is recommending programming the space for summer or spring recreational activities, including a small mobile skate park.

The grass field/parking area has two single-use restrooms connected to the rest of the campus with stairs and an elevator. The area can provide approximately 70 parking spaces for overflow parking or parking for larger events. The field would need a material like gravel, pavers, or engineered pervious material concrete. The estimated improvement cost is between $50,000 and $100,000 and is recommended to be funded by the parking fund.

If approved, the item will also appropriate an additional $10,000 from the general fund for maintenance and cleaning, and increase estimated recreation fee and rental fee revenue by $15,000; appropriate $100,000 from the parking fund available fund balance for improvements in the parking areas and authorize the addition of one full-time maintenance worker position and one full-time recreation supervisor position to the fiscal year 2022-23 adopted budget to program, manage and maintain the property.

Community members have also requested to tour the property, prompting staff to prepare it for two or three open house days in February.

The property also contains many books, equipment and other materials not needed by the city, which would need to be either disposed or donated. The city will encourage local nonprofits and other community groups to attend the open house days and place their contact information on an interest list for the items. Popular items will be managed through a lottery-type process.

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Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce installs 2023 board members

Photos by Scott Brashier

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen, Councilmembers Sue Kempf and Alex Rounaghi along with members of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce gathered to officially welcome the 2023 Chamber of Commerce board members at C’est La Vie.

Laguna Beach Chamber Erin and Bob

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Laguna Beach Chamber’s CEO/President Erin Slattery and Mayor Bob Whalen welcomed attendees to the 2023 board installation

Laguna Beach Chamber swearing in

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(L-R) 2023 Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce board members Jeffrey Redeker, Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Mark Meisberger, Valerie Lynn, Doug Vogel and Reinhard Neubert getting sworn in by Mayor Bob Whalen

The swearing-in ceremony was performed by Mayor Bob Whalen and included chamber board members in attendance, Chairman of the Board Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold,Vice Chairman Mark Meisberger, Treasurer Jeffrey Redeker, Secretary Doug Vogel and Directors Valerie Lynn and Reinhard Neubert.Board members in absentia were J.J. Ballesteros, chairman elect; Hasty Honarkar; Lynda Halligan Olsen; Tyler Russell and Julie Laughton.

Laguna Beach Chamber Gail and Ash

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2022 Ambassador of the Year Gail Duncan with Ash Alvandi, district director from Senator Dave Min’s office with a special certificate

Laguna Beach Chamber board members

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Laguna Beach Chamber board members for 2023 (L-R) Valerie Lynn, Jeffrey Redeker, Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Doug Vogel, Mark Meisberger, and Reinhard Neubert at C’est La Vie restaurant

The highlight of the evening was when the chamber presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Gail Duncan.“Gail has not only been our biggest cheerleader as we participate in events but has been chief volunteer helping us achieve success,” said Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold.“Gail is instrumental in several local organizations including the Assistance League and The Rotary Club, just to name a few.”

Laguna Beach Chamber Doug Paula Ash

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(L-R) Board Members Doug Vogel and Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold with Ash Alvandi, district director from Senator Dave Min’s office

Laguna Beach Chamber trio

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(L-R) Joelle Pedue, Chamber marketing and events manager; Gail Landau, owner/founder of Catmosphere Laguna, Inc.) and Ed Steinfeld, KX FM Radio Morning Show host

Ash Alvandi, district director from Senator Dave Min’s offices attended and presented certificates to board members and Duncan.

C’est La Vie provided delicious appetizers and a beautiful venue.

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachchamber.org.

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Water District commission OKs modern management system, adding two new staff roles to oversee implementation

By SARA HALL

The Laguna Beach County Water District Commission voted 5-1 (Commissioner Mark Lewis dissented) on Tuesday (Jan. 10) and approved a $109,220 contract with CentralSquare Technologies, LLC, for the implementation of a computerized maintenance management system, the addition of two new staff positions, the adoption of a resolution amending the district’s job classification plan and budget adjustment.

The board of directors (comprised of the five current Laguna Beach City councilmembers) will consider the item at their January 19 meeting. 

Most of Tuesday’s discussion revolved around creating, budgeting and filling an operations support specialist position. Staff recommended adding two new full-time positions (the support role and a CMMS administrator) to oversee the implementation, ongoing development and use of the new system.

Overall, commissioners supported the transition to a CMMS as a much-needed move for the district.

The system is overall pretty old, Commissioner Deborah Neev noted, so the update is good news. 

The district is currently using a lot of paper, Commission Vice Chair Walter Stender pointed out, so the system change should result in an immediate and secondary cost savings.

CMMS is a tool used to manage work orders and assets, LBCWD General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten explained. 

All organizations utilize some type of asset management system, but some agencies, including LBCWD, do not have a formal computerized maintenance management system, Van der Maaten explained. Instead, the district utilizes paper documents, spreadsheets and a limited software package named Sedaru Workforce to store information regarding when maintenance is performed on certain assets. 

A formal CMMS is a relational database that allows management of information specific to maintaining assets and facilities. A more formal maintenance management system may consist of organized work orders that document the details of the maintenance that was performed and can be used to execute, not only the work order process, but also organize information to help organizations perform their activities in a more cost-effective, preventative manner.

“The use of a CMMS is really an industry standard that we are really behind on,” Van Der Maaten said.

CMMS is commonplace and proven in the water industry, he added. Van Der Maaten was involved in his first CMMS implementation about two decades ago, he noted. 

“This is, by no means, new; but it is an absolutely critical tool to move us to a more modern approach toward asset management,” he said. “We likely should have moved in this direction a long time ago, as many water agencies have. In fact, many districts are probably in their second or third generation of CMMS. And it’s time we moved into modern times in how we manage our assets and how we set and manage our key performance indicators.”

Water District commission OKs district building

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LB County Water District commissioners approved a contract this week to implement a computerized maintenance management system

Thousands of CMMS products exist, but only a small subset of these products is most applicable to water utilities, Van der Maaten explained. Throughout the water industry, it’s an important tool to provide a centralized asset management system to collect field data, track asset performance, schedule reoccurring preventative maintenance and record asset maintenance history, which is then used to inform and optimize maintenance, renewal, and replacement decisions and to further ensure the safe and reliable delivery of water. 

The CMMS software offered by CentralSquare Technologies, LLC, is called Lucity, which is well-known CMMS software for water and wastewater utilities that has a substantial customer base, Van der Maaten said. Lucity has extensive maintenance and asset management functionality that is more specific to water and wastewater utilities than most other CMMS software alternatives. It also has GIS integration, excellent references and customer service experience, and integrates well with other applications. 

The district could change software down the road, if that’s what they wish to do in the future, since it’s just a tool. There might be slight changes over time, Van der Maaten noted. 

“Having the data and the processes and the people that use it are the most important thing that you get to hang onto,” he said. 

Having dealt with management maintenance systems, Lewis agreed that moving away from paper and automating things is generally a smart move, but the district needs to be careful with the transition. They need to manage it in a way that it doesn’t become too big and get out of hand, he added. 

“You can also get such a robust system that you become a slave to the system as opposed to it becoming an asset to you,” Lewis commented. 

This system is made for the industry and he believes it’s the right size, Van der Maaten replied.

“It’s not running us, it’s meeting our business needs not the other way around,” he said. “We’re not going to modify what we do to fit the software.”

That’s why the CMMS administrator position is so critical, Van der Maaten added, otherwise the agency would be at the mercy of the software they purchase. 

The administrator position is a new need, skill set and work demand that they can’t use existing staff to fill, Van der Maaten said. The operations support specialist could possibly be filled in-house, but they would need to backfill the position, he said.

“I don’t think that you could simply just move somebody over and not backfill that (position), we’re going to still need (that work done),” Van der Maaten said. 

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Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce to hold ribbon cutting at Boys & Girls Club to celebrate new Well Space 

On Thursday, Jan. 26at 5:30 p.m., join the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce in aribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration for the new Well Space createdfor middle school students at theBoys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach’s Canyon Branch.An RSVP is required. This space was created byDesign with a Purpose, a501(c)(3) organization with a mission to provide healing environments to families and children in local communities by transforming the interior space of their homes or classrooms.

Young people today face myriad of challenges, pressures, feelings of being alone and lots of uncertainty. The result is reflected in the increased mental health issues that they are reporting. In addition, middle school years bring the extra complexity of navigating what it is like to become an adult, and the trial and tribulations that can accompany learning how to make healthy decisions on your own. To help address these issues, reduce stigmas and promote healthy relationships with oneself and others, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach collaborated with Design with a Purpose to give middle school students a safe, inclusive and nurturing environment that they can proudly call their own. Within this space, the designers used a multitude of wellness design techniques and strategies to provide a safe and healing environment for kids. Middle school students know they can always count on Club staff to be there for them and support them through whatever they are going through.

Laguna Beach Chamber Well Space

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Courtesy of Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

The new Well Space is createdfor middle school students at theBoys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach’s Canyon Branch

Pam Estes, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club remarked, “Our middle school students have named their newly renovated space ‘The Loft,’ and you can feel the positive vibes as soon as you enter. There is a room that includes areas for making art and music, gaming, homework, playing D&D [Dungeons & Dragons] and just hanging out with friends. There is another room that is dedicated to mindfulness and wellness activities including restorative circles, yoga, meditation, and social and emotional skill building programs. We are so proud to be able to offer this experience to young people and grateful for our partnership with Design with a Purpose and Deana Duffek’s leadership in bringing health and wellness to teens across Orange County.”

According to Duffek, founder of Design with a Purpose, “A Well Space is a safe and welcoming oasis where all students can connect to support resources and information on a variety of physical and mental health topics, promoting whole-person wellness. Creating Well Spaces on school campuses and within our after-school programs increases access to critical resources children and youth need to thrive in all dimensions of their lives – and enables us to reach a larger population before any physical or mental health issues escalate. We are honored to work with the Boys & Girls Club team to coordinate such an important space for our local Laguna Beach kids.”

To RSVP to the ribbon cutting, email Laurel Kessler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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City of Laguna Beach and Police Employees’ Association reach tentative labor agreement

The City of Laguna Beach’s negotiating team has announced it has reached a tentative three-year labor agreement with the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association (LBPEA). On Wednesday, Jan. 4, LBPEA membership overwhelmingly voted in favor of the tentative agreement, providing a compensation package which is expected to address issues of recruitment and retention of police officers, and incentivize professional growth and development in law enforcement. 

“At its core, this agreement is about supporting public safety, and we are pleased to offer the Police Officers and other employees in our Police Department a generous compensation package that reflects their level of dedication and commitment to this community,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “I’d like to thank our city negotiating team, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis and the Police Employees Association for diligently working together toward an agreement that is strongly supported by our Police employees and offers them the elevated compensation and quality of life enhancements they deserve for the great work that they do to protect us every day.”

The terms of the agreement are the highest ever offered to the LBPEA in recognition of their outstanding work – and provide a generous total compensation package that is expected to put Laguna Beach at #2 in Orange County for Police Officer compensation and have an immediate impact in attracting and retaining department personnel. The labor agreement provides approximately 19% increase in Police Officer salary and benefits, with 10% effective January 1, 2023, and 13% increase in Professional Staff’s salary and benefits over the contract’s three-year term. 

Highlighted provisions of the agreement include:

–A 15% increase in salary for Police Officers over three years plus 1.5% increase in salary for Peace Officers Standards & Training (POST) certification. 

–A 12% salary increase for Professional Staff over three years.

–An increase in the city’s contribution to Retirement Health Savings. 

–An increase in pay for specialty assignments, including School Resource Officer, Detective Officers and Sergeants, Department Training Officer, and Corporal and Sergeant supervising the Neighborhood Enhancement Team. 

The LBPEA agreement is expected to increase the budget by approximately $400,000 in FY 2022-23, $1.1 million in FY 2023-2024, and $1.7 million in FY 2024-25. 

The tentative agreement will go before the Laguna Beach City Council for consideration at its January 10, 2023 meeting. If ratified, the agreement will be effective from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2025. 

The LBPEA is a professional labor organization representing approximately 91 City of Laguna Beach Police Department employees.

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