CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 1/25/2022
Resolution Authorizing Chief Building Inspector To Enforce Fire And Panic Safety Building Codes
For R-3 Dwellings Passes 5-0
George Weiss: Historically our City has relied on Fire Marshall Jim Brown to inspect both commercial and residential (R-3) buildings for compliance with Building and Fire Standards – including emergency egress, firefighter site access, hydrant spacing/access, residential fire sprinklers and alarms and, when required, fuel modification plans.
The transition of this responsibility to the Chief Building Official and his Building Inspectors is now completed with the passage of this legislation. This delegation is mostly just eliminating the duplication of efforts. The fire safety inspections will be conducted by the Building Inspectors while they are inspecting all other life safety features, obviating the need to wait for the Fire Marshal several weeks later.
See the Staff Report here:
Service Provider Agreement Amendment For
Downtown Tree Lighting Program Passes 5-0
George Weiss: The City Council approved spending an added $18,100 for decorative lights (think white Christmas tree lights) on 21 Lower Broadway trees, which will be on at night year-round. This is close to $1,000.00 per tree, with the City paying the electric bill. Council did not receive any itemized costs for this or for the $112,000 lighting program which the City already provides to the Chamber Of Commerce to manage the Downtown holiday tree lighting program in the agenda bill. Some accountability for these expenditures are needed. Council, at Bob Whalen’s suggestion, modified the approval to include a report on using other forms of lighting on Broadway, such as tree well up-lighting.
Some Council members agreed that having Christmas lights on Broadway, while adding to public safety, is not the best or most aesthetically pleasing solution.
See the Staff Report at:
City-Operated Ambulance Transport Service
Budget Passes 5-0
George Weiss: In December, 2021, the City Council voted unanimously to have the Laguna Beach Fire Department provide citywide ambulance service, replacing our third-party contractor, Doctor’s Ambulance Service.
The City Council approved a first-year budget of $1,810,800, which will fund the lease-purchase of three ambulances (two on duty, one reserve) and the salaries, benefits, equipment and other incidental costs. The goal is to provide a superior response time and better services while creating a recruiting pool of talent for the Fire Department.
Will the program pay for itself? It looks like it on paper, but Chief Garcia said the Laguna Beach Fire Department will adjust as needed to meet the budget. He said it’s possible to use one ambulance 24/7 while the second ambulance works just a twelve- or sixteen-hour shift, thus reducing costs without any significant loss of response time.
To read the Staff Report, visit:
Resolution To Restrict City Council
Meeting Agenda Items Fails 4-1
George Weiss: For ten years or more, the City has been following an ad hoc process for City Council members to place items on the Council agenda. That process has ignored the 1968 resolution that says that any City Council member can agendize an item at one meeting for placement on the next City Council meeting. While this resolution from 1968 (68.88) is an old ordinance, it’s still valid and should be followed. With a 4-1 vote Council agreed to do just that.
The vote to retain the ordinance was achieved thanks to an outpouring of emails and calls in opposition to this a misguided resolution The revised process sought to limit the number of agenda items that could be introduced annually by each member to just four, and would have determined which items would be on the City Council agenda by a majority vote. This despite the fact that over the last three years, five City Council members brought forth only twenty- three items for discussion. That is less one less than one item for every three meetings.
The City Manager argued that the current 1968 resolution wasted valuable staff time and that the City Manager should be the primary arbiter to post agenda items in coordination with the Mayor and a majority vote of the City Council – thus posing the threat that the City Manager and any three-Council member voting bloc could silence minority-proposed agenda items.
As stipulated in California City government codes, it is the City Manager’s job to follow the City’s Council members’ agenda item lead, not block them.
Residents elect their City Council representatives to agendize issues that residents want discussed. It’s the City Council members’ responsibility to present these issues for public discussion and then vote on them – and not abdicate these policy-making responsibilities to City Management.
The good news is that a majority of the City Council agreed to this understanding due to the public’s cogent input.
Thanks again to all who took part in this effort to retain the rights of residents to have items on the Council agenda presented by their elected representatives.
To learn more, see:
Read the Staff Report and other documents here.
Previous Email Alert: https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/restrictingcitycouncil
Amendment Approved For Coastal Commission Revisions To Downtown Specific Plan Passes 3-2
George Weiss: The California Coastal Commission approved Laguna’s revised Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) which incorporated the Commission’s 22 recommended modifications. The City Council adopted the modifications and voted to approve the revised DSP. It now goes back to Coastal for final approval.
I voted against the revised DSP for two main reasons. First, it provides a financial incentive to convert retail stores (which rent, on average for $236 or more per square foot) into restaurants and bars (which rent on average for $729 per square foot). If you were a landlord, wouldn’t you want to get more rental income for your property? Plan on many more bars, restaurants, and DUIs – and far fewer resident-serving businesses. Incidentally, a majority of the Downtown buildings are owned by out-of-town landlords.
While any retail-to-bar/restaurant conversion still needs to go through the Planning Commission’s version of the Design Review Board process for commercial buildings, no additional parking is required above retail’s existing three spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor space. Bars and restaurants typically require far more parking spaces than simple retail stores, so you can plan on an ever-greater scarcity of parking.
The DSP also raises allowable building heights, so second and third stories can be built in certain areas of Downtown. While I support encouraging the construction of new housing units for local workers, seniors and lower income residents, the revised Downtown Specific Plan does extraordinarily little to promote the building of two- and three-story units that would qualify as affordable – especially at today’s construction costs. Again, if you are a landlord, wouldn’t you build housing units that grossed maximum dollars in rent? The changes to the DSP won’t result in any affordable housing, just high-priced apartments.
In 2020, the City was told by IBI Consulting that we had adequate Downtown parking, even as the promenade was already in place. The promenade eliminated 46 spaces which brought in $400,000 per year in parking meter revenue. With an added 26 spaces being used for outdoor dining, we have lost 72 parking spaces. Even though IBI says we have enough parking, Marc Weiner, Director of Community Development, has said that the City must replace the promenade parking to secure permanent approval by the Coastal Commission.
See the Staff Report at:
On Cigarettes And Vaping
George Weiss: In late 2021, I introduced an agenda bill that would prohibit the sale of cigarette and vaping products within our town. I did this for three reasons: environmental concerns (cigarette filters are not recyclable), to prevent kids from getting hooked on vaping, (they get these on the black market) and for fire safety. My bill was defeated 3-2. I recently learned that Assembly representative Cottie Petrie-Norris will be introducing a bill that prohibits the sale of filtered cigarettes (90% of sales) and single use vaping products. I may be re-introducing a revised prohibition for Laguna Beach sometime this year.
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