top of page



Staff Reports Available

George Weiss: Staff Reports on City Council proceedings are always readily available. To read the Staff Reports on any of the items below, go to:




Upcoming Coastal Bluffs Education Event:
You’ve probably already heard about another landslide in San Clemente that has closed our coastal railroad tracks as well as those homeowners and renters in Palos Verdes who can’t return to their red-tagged homes due to hillside collapse.















 Above:  Picture of waves hitting a home at Table Rock during a recent storm
(the windows on the first and second floors were boarded up to prevent water intrusion)


GW: Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions of projects for me and City Council to work on in 2024.  It’s so helpful to hear about your concerns about managing the budget and spending on “large ticket items” like Laguna Canyon Road, the Promenade, sewage spills, staffing hires, etc., as well as a need for greater transparency and consistent processes in working with City Council, Design Review, the Planning Commission and City Staff.  Keep sending those recommendations—I appreciate your input.


In this recap we cover changes to the Conditions of Employment Policies and Benefits for Non-Represented Management Employees; Lang Park Pickleball Alternatives; Promenade on Forest Concept Review and Approval; and, Presentation of the Proposed Creek Estuary Project and Policy Direction. 


Notable Items from Public Comments

SCE Bulldozing of Open Space: Gene Felder, Janine Robinson, Gayle Waite and Carey Strombotne spoke about Southern California Edison’s (SCE’s) egregious destruction of preserved open space at the Top of the World. Janine and Carey were the first to discover the damage. SCE carved multiple 15 ft. wide, block-long access roads without notification to the City, LB Fire Dept. or the Coastal Commission nor permits from the City or OC Parks because of a possible emergency. Gayle Waite testified that this is not the first such violation by SCE. Previously in 2020, SCE destroyed habitat in the Pacific Horizon area of Laguna Beach. 

SEE PDF file: (Click here)



Above: Damage from SCE Bulldozers: Photo Courtesy of Janine Robinson


Gene Felder thanked Mayor Sue Kempf and Interim City Manager (CM) Sean Joyce for responding quickly to SCE’s unpermitted grading of the Open Space.  Mr. Joyce met with SCE who agreed to use helicopters to replace the electric poles and to repair the land within 60 days.


GW: Since only 10% of coastal sage scrub still exists in Southern California today, it makes sense that endangered open space that is part of a nature preserve should be treated with the utmost consideration. We must require SCE to do a complete restoration.  To review a short PP on this, go to my website:    


Pat Gallis: Reported that after 40 months the Kirby family’s case has been won.


Ron Glapion: an LCAD student film maker talked about how difficult it is to find low-income housing in Laguna Beach. 


Jacob Cherub: Noticing for agenda items that are of significant interest to the community should get more notice than the 3-day minimum required under the Brown Act. 


Matt Lawson: SCE needs to act quickly to prevent fires caused by utilities.


Brett Howser: He alerted Council that one of the Park Ave cottages caught fire at midnight in December, and that the fire may have been caused by a lack of inspection of two years of renovation work. 





Item # 7: Ratify New Conditions of Employment, Policies and Benefits for Non-Represented Management Employees: Passed 5-0


One change sponsored by the HR Director and Interim City Manager would allow the CM to provide up to 6 months of severance, (wages and health care coverage) at their discretion for management employees who were fired for cause or resigned for any reason. 


GW: In this case the Interim CM was resolving the need for a written policy update for non-represented management employees, such as the following day’s departure of Marc Weiner, the former Community Development Director, from his employment with the City. 




Item #9: Lang Park Pickleball Alternatives, Passed 5-0


City Staff, led by Michael Litschi and Alexis Braun, created a detailed, investigative report in which they outlined a number of options for dealing with the noise from the louder pickleball courts that replaced the earlier (and quieter) tennis courts, which are within 25 feet of senior residential housing and these residents’ peace and enjoyment of their homes. Mr. Litshi and Ms. Braun presented a number of possible options for resolving both groups’ concerns—pickleball players’ enjoyment of their game and senior residents’ enjoyment of their home environment. These options included reducing the hours of pickleball play at Lang Park; promoting the use of quieter paddles and having the city buy these paddles and sell them at cost; pursuing alternative locations for the Lang Park pickleball courts as well as additional pickleball courts at other locations; and, moving the pickleball lesson or games to the inside pickleball courts at the Laguna Beach Community Center. The council voted to do all but the latter, and allocate up to $80,000 to evaluate additional pickleball sites. 


Public Comments:
The vast majority voiced their support for keeping the Lang Park courts open and evaluating other sites. 


GW: I voted to approve this item but have serious reservations about the Lang Park Pickleball courts as they are 25 feet from residences. “Acoustical engineering firm Spendiarian & Willis describes the noise from pickleball as a highly impulsive sound, in the same category as metal or wood hammering, small arms gunfire, pile driving, and pavement breaking.” Most experts’ research shows that pickleball courts should be located 250-500 feet from homes. That should be the standard our City uses. Shorter hours will help, but can the use of quieter paddles be enforced? I continue to be in favor of closing these courts after we find good alternative locations, enough to satisfy the demand of this growing sport.

For those interested please read the City of Denver’s Recreation Department’s Pickleball Analysis and Recommendations at this URL:

Item #10:  Promenade on Forest Concept Design Review and Approval, (Council did not approve either design and voted to Continue this Item)


Background: The staff report presented two designs, both of which called for the removal of most trees on Forest (no pun intended) Ave. The designs received 6 letters in support along with two speakers in favor, and 13 letters in opposition to the designs and 19 speakers in opposition.  Some of residents’ comments about the designs were as follows:
















Above: Forest Avenue Promenade, Courtesy of the City of Laguna Beach. 


What Residents Said and Wrote: 

Cathy Jurca: “…where do we find these consultants with their “twee” designs? Is the idea really to turn Forest Ave. into a Rainforest Cafe?”


David Schroeder: “Forest Avenue, as it existed before the Covid pandemic was a historical treasure, unique in Southern California, which should not be abandoned. Regardless of other considerations which have been discussed at length, the street has a heritage worth preserving as it was. It is the very worst kind of hypocrisy for the city to maintain any type of control over residences or business properties for historical reasons and then to gut the historical center of the city itself.” 


The Shoe Cellar: "The Shoe Cellar, at 245 Forest Avenue, wishes to register our strong objection to the parking spaces on Forest Avenue being taken away. This lack of parking has affected our business greatly. We do not believe that taking away the parking to put in seating that only benefits the 3-4 restaurants, and hurts the merchants, is in the city's best interests.” 


Violet Sarhad: I have completely lost my mature clients who used to park their cars on Forest, shop, put their bags in their cars and then dine.” (Ms. Sarhad is the owner of Violet Boutique) 


Margaret Brown: “Over 90% of closed streets are returned to traffic use, which I feel will ultimately happen here.  Meanwhile we have a high-priced food court which is not resident serving.”


David Raber: “I am not in favor of the current promenade plans.  As you know, the public workshops were very tightly managed. If the objective were to create a dialogue to find out what residents really wanted, the execution of those workshops failed to accomplish that purpose.”


Josephine Torbensen: “I hope you are able to see that the two designs that were presented for the permanent Promenade do not fit in with Laguna’s character.” 


Mark Curry: “We just wanted to express that we often use and appreciate the Promenade and hope that it can be made permanent.”


(See attached pdf document to read all of the resident comments made by email and in person.)


GW: This project hasn’t been handled well nor as promised.  Resident input was limited in the workshop choice of paving stones and lighting fixtures versus solicitation of conceptual ideas (we’ve got a lot of great designers and architects living in this City) or even whether the Promenade was wanted and at what cost to residents.  


While the City has spent more than $405,700 to build the Promenade twice (both as emergency measures), we still do not have any data on how many residents and how many visitors use the Promenade. My guess is 90% visitors and 10% residents. After more than three years of use, shouldn’t we know? We also don’t know if crimes have increased in the downtown area because we no longer get reports on where crimes are occurring in Laguna Beach.

Here is a breakdown of the costs as provided by the Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer, Gavin Curren. 


Cost of Building the First and Second Promenade:

  • 1st Build: $145,700, approved by the City Council on May 12, 2020.

  • 2nd Build: $260,000, approved by the City Council on May 2, 2023.


Maintenance Costs from Initial Installation to Present:

  • Maintenance costs are approximately $150,000 annually. 


Cost for Security Services:

  • Security services for the Promenade were discontinued in May 2021.

  • The city spent approximately $121,000 between June 2020 and May 2021.


Lost revenue from parking meters is up to $206,800 annually:

  • Forty-seven spaces were removed for the Promenade, generating a revenue loss of up to approximately $206,800 annually. ($4,400 per space). 

  • It is important to note that the estimated decrease in meter revenue does not necessarily correlate to a reduction in the number of vehicles paying to park downtown. It is reasonable to assume that some vehicles paid for parking at other locations, such as lots or meters within the downtown area, offsetting this revenue loss. 


Total projected costs to build out options 1 and 2:

  • The rough estimate for construction, including soft costs for final design, project management, and material testing, is $3.3 million. This amount has been appropriated in the Capital Improvement Budget.

  • The RRM contract is for $376,990, of which $220,098 has been spent. 


GW: To be fair the increase in tax revenue to the city, as reported by Mr. Curren, is $100,000 which we can assume to be mostly from the restaurants. In reviewing these numbers, resident John Thomas (a wiz with financial data) made this comment: 

“If sales tax from the businesses on lower Forest has increased $100,000, that means that gross revenue has increased $10,000,000. If so, is charging dining fees of $138,000 per year adequate? That is 1.38% of the increased gross revenue. Since rent to a restaurant often approaches, and can exceed, 10% of revenue, is it “a gift of public funds” to charge only 1.38%?” 

Another significant cost element that is missing is the additional security costs provided by LB Police Department. 


Lastly, Mayor Sue Kempf was recently quoted in the OC Register saying this: “We want the whole street designated for (liquor sales) where restaurants can serve alcohol without having to rope areas off,” said Kempf. “We want it to be elegant and simple.”

See the article here:


GW: It would seem that the Mayor’s vision of the Promenade includes making it an alcohol zone where one can drink anywhere on the Promenade. Is that what residents want? Will those waiting for a table be able to have drinks before dinner in the public space on the Promenade? Would residents be allowed to bring their own drinks to the Promenade? How do you keep people with drinks or those who brought them from leaving the area? Would residents be required to purchase a drink from a restaurant and then use the public space to imbibe it? 

Laguna Beach already has more places to buy alcohol than any matching sized city in California. We have over 140 bars and restaurants sharing 170 Alcoholic Beverage Control licenses in Laguna Beach. We also have the highest number of DUIs per capita among 101 cities closest in population in California.

My Conclusion: The Promenade should be scaled back to be a normal street during the day with parking, so retailers have a chance to survive. (Three prominent retailers spoke at the Council meeting saying they have suffered loss of business due to the lack of parking and signage). 

Resident John Albritton pointed out that in Europe, streets are converted after 5PM and tables brought out for restaurants, and on weekends the streets are closed for special events. That is exactly what we need to do with the Promenade. Let us move slowly by building a hybrid Promenade. Moving slowly makes sense, too, as 90% of similar street plazas have failed.




Item # 11: Presentation of Proposed Aliso Creek Estuary Project and Policy Direction, Passed 5-0


Background: The Laguna Ocean Foundation (LOF) has been pursuing this restoration project for close to ten years. This presentation asked the Council for consideration to have LOF submit a Concept Review application to initiate the development review process, authorize the CM to sign the Concept Review application as the property owner, direct staff to agendize an update for a future Council meeting and waive application fees of $13,825. 






















Above: Aliso Creek Estuary as painted by William Wendt in 1935


GW: I support having the Council taking the next step. So far, the city has contributed $100,000 towards this project and that money will be used for a CEQA review, assuming Council approves the Concept Review application. The Council had a spirited debate on whether this project was viable, its potential costs and whether it provided value to our community. The estimated cost to restore the estuary is $15 to 20 million with most of that money being secured through state and federal grants. Still, we do not know the total amount the City would have to contribute. We will find out and have all our other questions answered in the next review in — September 2024. 


All representations made in this email reflect the views of the author and are not official statements of the City of Laguna Beach or City Council.
Any mistakes or  omissions are the sole responsibility of the author, George Weiss. No public funds were expended on this website.

Do you find my City Council Recaps helpful? If so please share this recap with a friend.

Sign up for my recaps here:


Disclaimer: All representations made in this email reflect the views of the author and are not official statements of the City of Laguna Beach or City Council. Any mistakes or omissions are the sole responsibility of the author, George Weiss.


Have a question about city government, need a document, or help finding the right person to talk to or anything else, please know that our City Clerk, Ann-Marie McKay is there to assist you professionally and capably. Email: or call 949-497-0309

bottom of page