CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 8/10/2021
Resolution To Support Ending Child Marriage Under 18, No Exceptions Passes 4-1
Between 2000 and 2015, more that 200,000 minors were married in the U.S., comprised mostly of girls marrying adult men. Between 2014 and 2019, the number was 13,000.
George Weiss: We may know that rare couple that married right after high school and are still married today. These lucky people found their partner early and the love was mutual. Not so with the thousands of young women under 18 who are married off by their families, most unwillingly. If one is not old enough to vote, he or she is not old enough to make the very important decision to marry. I know there will always be exceptions to this, but it makes a lot of sense to set the minimum age for marriage at 18 to curb “child marriages.”
Mayor Whalen’s Call To Censure
Councilman Weiss Passes 3-2
George Weiss: The Brown Act was created to ensure transparency of the Council’s actions with the public (Section 54950). The only exceptions are for personnel issues, labor negotiations, real estate, and litigation, which are allowed to be discussed in closed session (Section 54957.1).
The latter, “litigation,” was listed as a closed session agenda item on June 29 and noticed as: "Conference with Legal Counsel regarding anticipated litigation”. However, litigation was not discussed. Instead, in violation of the Brown Act, the Council was presented with an un-agendized item regarding permitted and unpermitted work being done at the Hotel Laguna. Rescinding the existing "stop work orders" was also discussed, and then a vote was taken to allow work to continue. No detailed plans for the renovation of the Hotel Laguna were offered. No planning commission review and no review by the public of this decision was disclosed at the open City Council session right after this closed session – as is required by the Brown Act.
When I could not get an answer in closed session and follow-up emails as to why we didn’t have plans for the renovation of the Hotel Laguna, or receive an explanation as to why the planning commission and public reviews weren’t being conducted, I sought advice from experts on land use, development, and City Council protocol.
I did not see how I could vote in good conscience on these unsanctioned motions.
Plus it is a violation of Section 54957.7.for a City Council member to vote and pass an un-agendized item without the public’s knowledge or input since “the legislative body may consider only those matters covered in its statement [agenda]”.
There are two solutions to these closed session problems: first, there needs to be much greater transparency with the public in open City Council sessions so that agenda items aren’t secreted away in closed sessions that fail to meet the Brown Act’s provisions.
Importantly, according to the Brown Act, any topic discussed during closed session that is not on the agenda is not considered confidential, so my consultations with experts were a permitted action rather than a violation of closed session confidences.
A second solution regards preferential treatment. There needs to be equal treatment for all businesses and residents in Laguna Beach—not exceptions made for one development without the public’s knowledge or input.
Pacific Edge Hotel’s Conditional Use Permit, Planning Commission Design Review And Coastal Development Permit – All Approved 5-0
This is an old hotel property which sorely needed upgrading. The developer intends to spend $50M to refurbish the property. That’s great news and we welcome that investment. While there will be 25 additional rooms, there will be no change in the height or overall footprint of the site. The plans submitted were detailed and the staff report was professionally well written by the City’s Senior Analyst, Anthony Viera.
George Weiss: Although I voted for the project, I still have concerns about the parking. According to the City’s codes, the parking requirements of 220 spaces is sufficient. But considering the total number of rooms (156), the number of restaurant seats (172), and the number of hotel workers on site (106), the numbers don’t add up. Fortunately the hotel will be leasing spaces at the neighborhood Congregational Church site, and there is a provision that parking will be reviewed six months, one year and two years after the renovated hotel opens. The other issue I have is that the six affordable rooms won’t be in Laguna. Instead the hotel will donate $600,000+ to assist in renovating affordable guest cabins at Crystal Cove State Park.
Parking, Traffic, Circulation Committee’s Recommendations For Signage And Restrictions Passes 5-0
To improve public safety, the Committee recommended and the City Council approved of the installation of a yield sign at the intersection of Alta Vista Way and Solano Way. The City Council also approved a five-foot and three-foot parking restriction for resident access at 32056 S. Coast Highway and 115 La Brea respectively.
George Weiss: Residents at the two properties cited above complained that parked vehicles were blocking access to their homes’ stairways. The residents petitioned the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee, which then made these recommendations to City Council. I’ve had residents call me about installing speed bumps on their street near LBHS, as they say there’s too much speeding. If you have a suggestion or issue related to parking or traffic, please attend the Parking, Traffic Circulation Committee’s monthly meeting on Thursday, August 26 from 6-9 p.m. For details, see: https://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cals/default.htm?ViewBy=7&CalDate=8/26/2021&EventDateID=91949
City Approves of Firefighter Labor Agreement, 5-0
For some months, the City has been negotiating a new labor agreement with the Firefighter’s Association, and it’s now been approved and ratified by all parties. The agreement provides for salary increases over the next three years that will keep firefighter’s salaries competitive with those in neighboring cities.
George Weiss: Increases in salaries amount to 2.5% effective August 9, 2021, 3% effective January 2022, an additional 3% effective July 2022 and another 3% in July 2023. The Firefighters had previously agreed to withhold increases during the pandemic for a six-month period.
Monarch Butterfly And Pollinator Garden Approved For Heisler Park
A group of residents has proposed to the Recreation Committee that the City should install a monarch butterfly garden at Heisler Park. The City Council has approved this motion, and a 200 square foot garden will be installed slightly inland from the whale sculpture. Funding is being provided by a third party.
George Weiss: Monarch populations have plummeted by 80% over the last decade. Hopefully this garden will help promote their return to normal populations. The City will be planting and maintaining this garden in the coming months and it should be completed by Spring 2022 for the enjoyment of all. In the interim, Tree Of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano has had supplies of milkweed plants, the main plant that monarch’s use to lay their eggs. Supplies of these plants are available. Please consider planting some to help the monarch come back from their steep population decline.
Trolley Rental Rates Announced
Did you know that any resident or business can rent a city trolley for a special event? The cost is $145 per hour this year, with rates going up incrementally by $7-$8 dollars until 2025, at which time the cost will be $176 per hour. A three-hour minimum is required. For details, call the City at 949-431-5935.
George Weiss: Someday in the next few years, I’m hopeful that the trolleys will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries.