CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 10/19/2021
Conditional Use Permit With Parking Giveaway For White House Remodel Passes 3-2
George Weiss: The White House property owner (Jules Marine of Newport Beach) and local architect Morris Skendarian gave a presentation to the City Council for the White House remodel to turn the site into a Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen. The Westlake Village applicant and founder of Finney’s, Greg Finefrock, was scheduled to join via Zoom, but did not show up. This was unfortunate since I believe that the public and City Council should have an opportunity to see and speak with the person requesting a conditional use permit for a new restaurant in town. It would have been helpful to hear Mr. Finefrock’s views, particularly after Mr. Marine (the property owner) declared, “Lines on the street are great. DUIs, big noise come with the business.”
The Finney’s Crafthouse and Kitchen with its locations in Westlake Village, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Burbank, Orange and Porter Ranch is advertised on its website as a family-friendly sit down or take-out restaurant. The closing hours at all of its restaurants are no later than 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. However, for the Laguna site they were asking to be open until 1:30 a.m. Luckily, Mayor Bob Whalen, asked that the restaurant operating hours be no later than midnight. All of the other Finney’s aren’t open past 11 p.m., so it’s difficult not to question why later hours are necessary for a family-friendly restaurant in Laguna.
The applicant/operator also wanted to have 143 seats in the restaurant – up from the allowable 90 seats—(a 62% increase) AND a parking variance for 21 more parking space credits. I was in support of the 90 seats, yet Mayor Bob Whalen proposed a compromise of 120 seats, which was approved. I still remain troubled that the parking for this new restaurant could be pushed into our neighborhoods, and that the business hasn’t had to pay any fees to help us create additional parking for their patrons. Residents shouldn’t have to pay to build businesses’ parking.
Typical Finney’s chain restaurant interior.
Bottom Line: If the City gives away parking as occurred in this case, it becomes a windfall for the property owner. The parking variance provides a valuable, permanent, irrevocable entitlement to the property owner, who isn’t even required to provide upkeep of the property. Why should this entitlement be permanent? The City has already given away so many free parking spaces because of grandfather clauses, credits, and parking variances that the town can ill afford to lose any more.
The original staff report can be found at:
Laguna Beach Tourism And Marketing District
Annual Budget Approved 5-0
George Weiss: The Laguna Beach Tourism And Marketing District (formerly known as Visit Laguna) works to increase hotel tourism In Laguna Beach and is funded by a 2% tax on the daily rate hotel guests pay. This tax also provides annual funding for Arts Commission Programs, Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Art Museum and Cultural Arts Funding Grants Program. The latest report shows that hotel guest stays from fiscal year 2020 to 2021 collected taxes of $2,597,740. This is great news as it represents a significant increase over tax revenues that were expected to be $1,474,000.
This year, the Laguna Beach Tourism And Marketing District will be launching a new program, “Leave No Trace.” This is an educational outreach program targeting Laguna’s 6.5 million annual visitors, to educate them on the need to pick up after themselves after using our beaches, ocean and open space recreational areas.
Signage at prominent locations will be placed and local organizations such as the Laguna Blue Belt, Green Belt, Laguna Ocean Foundation, Laguna Canyon Foundation and the City’s Environmental and Sustainability Committee will likely be playing a supporting role to help make this program a success. Cleaning up our environment should be the responsibility of everyone and that is exactly what this program hopes to achieve.
See the staff report for more information at:
Environmental Sustainability Committee 2021-2023 Workplan Passes 5-0
George Weiss: This committee of nine dedicated resident volunteers has four subcommittees: Climate Change, Wildlife Protection, Public Communications, Ocean Health, and Waste. The committee’s two-year plan includes updating the Climate Protection Action Plan, with the goal of reducing Laguna’s use of fossil fuels by migrating to renewable energy, encouraging the use of electrically powered transportation, recommending increases for the number of renewable energy powered homes and buildings, and other projects that will reduce Laguna’s carbon footprint.
The Public Communications Subcommittee will focus on educating the public in all areas in which the committee has active projects. Members have already meet with the Laguna Beach Tourism And Marketing District to help with the “Leave No Trace” messaging program which will be launching soon.
The Waste Subcommittee will be making recommendations for the solid waste collection services that the City is now reviewing. The City’s current contract with Waste Management will expire in 2023. Laguna may renew this contract, but as Mark McAvoy, the City’s Public Works Director, has pointed out, the City faces new regulations for recycling kitchen waste, so this is a good time to consider our options and review our costs.
My personal goal is to see if the City can find a way to keep as much of the kitchen waste from restaurants, food stores, etc., from leaving Laguna Beach. The City should be able to recycle that waste and make use of it for compost, which can then be applied to the town’s landscapes and parks. Food waste is the best source of compost. If there’s an excess, I am confident residents will buy it.
The Ocean Subcommittee will work in an advisory role with the Laguna Beach Tourism And Marketing District and the City on “Leave No Trace.” The Ocean Subcommittee will also have a part to play as the California Marine Life Protection Act will need to be renewed in 2023
The Environmental Sustainability Committee meets the third Monday of every month at 6:00 p.m., on Zoom, but soon to be in person. Its meetings are open to the public.
To learn more, see the staff report at:
Resolution Approving General Plan
Amendment 21-8858 To Amend
The General Plan Safety Element
George Weiss: There is a lot to read in this document, but the most important items are on page 48 which lists the Implementation Programs/Actions the City will undertake to improve emergency preparedness leading to a safer Laguna Beach. This is a policy document, so it does not make any new laws or regulations.
To access the document, please visit:
Resident And Business Surveys
Pass With Revisions 5-0
George Weiss: Laguna Beach has not had a comprehensive resident survey in its entire history. The City conducted one in 2012, but with a limited focus on cultural arts. The new resident and business surveys will be completed in the coming months. We also need to complete a City employee survey.
Please see the survey which is embedded in the staff report at:
Arnold Hanno Has Left
With great sadness we learned that Arnold Hanno, an inconic figure in our town, has died. Arnold was an editor, baseball writer, novelist and local activist. He left us on Sunday, October 24, at 5 a.m. at 99 years old. More information to follow in the next recap.
Main Beach Press Conference Held To Permanently Ban Off-Shore Drilling
George Weiss: Monday, October 18, at Main Beach, where Mayor Bob Whalen, State Senator David Min, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, and many other notables outlined a plan to ban further offshore oil drilling along California’s Coast. Thanks to Judy Mancuso and Dave Min for organizing this event.
Oil extracted along California’s coast accounts for a mere .3% of the U.S. annual consumption of oil and 5% of the gas used in California. In a speech by Jane Fonda, now 80, she spoke about the known dangers to our ocean and beaches from oil spills, further stating that oil workers and their jobs must be preserved by transitioning to them to the renewable energy industries. The sooner the nation advances from oil and natural gas (another contributor to climate change) to renewable energy by electrifying vehicles and installing solar, the better it will be for everyone.
“Around 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton,” stated Brenda María Soler-Figueroa, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that live on the surface of oceans and lakes – so maintaining the health of our ocean should be a top priority.
Halloween Event For Kids Sponsored By Chamber Of Commerce
George Weiss: On Wednesday, October 20, the Chamber Of Commerce sponsored its annual Halloween Trick Or Treat event for kids in Downtown Laguna Beach. Kids gathered at Main Beach for the event and then paraded through Forest Avenue gathering Halloween treats. This event wasn’t just for kids as witnessed by the many parents in costumes. A fun event for all families, for sure. And their dogs!