CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 10/24/2023
Summary: In this recap I summarize what residents said at public comments; Agenda #9 on Fire Pits at Aliso Beach: the Agenda #10 fate of a tree at 387 El Camino Del Mar; the potential move or relocation of the pickleball courts at Lang Park to mitigate noise for those living within 25 feet of the courts in Agenda Item #11; a proposal on State legislation on ADUs; and, a Resolution condemning acts of terrorism Against Israel. I conclude with a brief section on two community events: Lyric Opera of Orange County and the Brooks/Oaks Street Halloween extravaganza.
Let me start first with an important opportunity for you to provide input on our next City Manager. Before Friday, November 10, please take the online public survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZTN7V7 to provide input on what you feel are the most important qualities the next City Manager should have. This confidential survey is being conducted by an outside consultant, Ralph Andersen & Associates, the firm tasked with leading the City Manager candidate search by the City Council.
Items of Interest from Public Comments
Roundup Spraying: A number of residents, Ramin Pejan, Jinger Wallace, Chris Catsimanes, Charlotte Maserik, and others spoke for a moratorium on the use of Roundup, which includes Glysophate as well as other chemicals, on all city property. Previously, S. Laguna residents submitted a petition with 350 signatures supporting this. City staff is working on a proposal that will hopefully satisfy residents while still providing the necessary fire mitigation needed for public safety. Ramin noted that the City of Irvine does not use Glyphosate.
High School Pool Expansion: Steve McIntosh, Gary Kasik and Steve Brown spoke in favor of the City building a second pool, and Jim Chew wrote in support, rather than expanding the current pool at the high school to 50-meters with a big grandstand. Kasik said that the LB School District was using a flawed process that resulted in bad (inaccurate) data to justify building a 50-meter pool at the high school. He pointed out that residents already experience unwanted impacts from the current pool such as noise, start times for water polo at 6AM, intrusive lighting, etc. Doubling the size of the pool will only exacerbate and the negative impacts on the neighbors. Brown noted that it made financial sense to build second pool since it would save the City $600,000 a year rather than the much higher maintenance costs of a 50-meter pool. He also noted that Sensible Laguna has submitted evidence-based data and solutions for an additional pool, and asked that they be included on the pool committee with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem.
Pedestrian Safety and Traffic accidents: Kate McMahon spoke about an accident at Aliso Creek that injured two people and the need to address safety concerns as Caltrans builds out the extensive sidewalk project from Moss Ave south on PCH. She spoke about essential safety features needed on Coast Highway at Aliso Creek such as medians, stop signs, and lower speed limits.
Item # 9 Discussion of Fire Pits at Aliso Beach: Deferred 5-0
Background: The County had fire pits at Aliso Beach, but no one in the City was sure of how many. The Council agreed to install four fire pits with a diameter of 5-feet each and also allow Lost Pier Café to rent out four gas burning fire pits under their supervision. These Council decisions are conditioned on final approval pending a CEQA assessment and the approval of a Coastal Development permit.
GW: I voted for this but also suggested that we sunset the use of fire pits at some point if air pollution issues continue to increase in our community. A couple of residents, Joanne and Robert McMahon, who live up from the beach reported about the fire hazard and smoke. This item should be revisited at a later date to determine the impacts. It’s both a safety and environmental issue that needs more discussion, and could probably benefit from input from the environmental committee.
Item # 10: Review of Tree Removal Continued from Oct 10th meeting: Removal approved by 3-2 vote (I dissented with Councilmember Orgill in favor of a Level 3 assessment)
Background: The tree being proposed for removal stands near the iconic roundabout at the intersections of El Camino Del Mar, Catalina and Los Robles.
The arborist noted that he was absent when sidewalk construction took place so that he could not supervise the construction crew to assure the crew cut the roots in accordance with best practices. The arborist stated that this tree now poses a moderate risk of failure due to possible cutting of anchor roots. He also noted that the tree is leaning, and that he thought the leaf growth and color was less than robust. The City Arborist said he did a Level 2 review since the October 10th meeting and his views regarding removal of the tree had not changed.
GW: I suggested we do another test as the tree seems to be healing very well from the sidewalk work by the construction crew. This and other trees around Laguna’s only roundabout were planted when the El Mirador neighborhood was developed. They are mature lemon-scented gum trees that provide shade and a cathedral-like feeling for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. There was no evidence presented that demonstrated that the anchoring roots were cut on this tree nor that the tree was suddenly leaning more. In fact, this tree stayed upright and intact during our ’23 high windstorms and rains. Lemon-scented gum trees often lean slightly, so this characteristic plays only a small role, if any, in assessing the overall health of the tree. See pictures below of the tree the arborist submitted that were taken in August 2023, and another photo taken in early October by a neighbor. It would be a shame to remove one of these trees as their aesthetic value come from their group setting around the roundabout.
Trees have ways of healing after being hit by cars, being burned in fires, cut by saws, and in this case having the roots potentially damaged to build a new sidewalk. In October 2022, a planned burn in Sequoia National Park to eliminate excessive vegetation severely burned three giant sequoias that were over 500 years old.
“Officials said they took the proper precautions but that the trees appeared to have been weakened by years of drought, making them more susceptible to a pulse of heat that roasted their massive trunks and killed much of their canopies.”
In October 2023, a team of experts hiked to the Orphans to examine them. Both had plenty of green in their crowns and had regrown foliage since the fire, said Kristen Shive, a fire ecologist and assistant professor at UC Berkeley who has studied how much crown damage giant sequoias can sustain.”
So, trees can come back even when severely burned and suffering from years of drought. Ours can, too, and has already made a robust recovery.
See this URL to read the complete article:
What Residents Said: (From October 10th) Chris Reed, Ruben Flores, Ann Christoph, Bob Borthwick, Cathy Jurca sent letters opposing the removal and saying that the tree is too important to the public landscape. We need good shade trees to cool the land and pedestrians during periods of increasing heat. Picture taken by City Arborist, August 2023
Picture taken by City Arborist, August 2023 (image leveled)
Picture taken in early October 2023 by Catalina Ave. resident, Chris Reed.
Item # 11: Pickleball Courts at Lang Park: Passed 5-0
Pickleball Courts at Lang Park:
Background: Three years ago, pickleball courts were converted from a tennis court at Lang Park. These courts are within 25 feet of senior low-income apartments, and the residents have been complaining for years about the increased noise pickleball creates. The Council agreed to install acoustical panels to lower the noise levels some months ago, but unfortunately these panels did not adequately solve the noise problem.
Council received letters from community members who enjoy playing pickle ball as well as from residents living nearby complaining of the noise. Thirteen people spoke about the positive impact playing pickleball had on their lives and the fun and exercise it provides. Seven people spoke about the negative impact the pickleball noise had on the enjoyment of their homes, and one mentioned that 3 Arch Bay had shut down their pickleball courts because their residents didn’t like the noise.
Based on this testimony Council took the following actions: Directed staff to look at converting a 3rd tennis court at Alta Laguna (there are 6), or at Moulton Meadows, while also searching for additional sound mitigation solutions for Lang Park. Staff will also take a preliminary look at building pickleball courts at the corner of Wesley Drive and Coast Highway.
GW: I requested this agenda item to find a win/win situation for pickle ball players so they would have enough courts to play on—and, to protect the property rights of residents living within 25 feet of pickle ball courts. I have never voted against pickle ball courts, but am in agreement with Mayor Whalen. He requested during the November 2022 meeting a one year follow up to see if the acoustics panels had effectively mitigated the sound. He said at the 10/24/23 meeting that it is now apparent that the Acoustiblocks on the 12-foot-high fence between the residents’ homes and the pickleball courts have not worked.
Councilmember Orgill reported that Google searches show that the recommended distance between pickle ball courts and residences be 100-200 feet, not the 25-foot distance that currently exists at Lang Park.
We have also learned from the LSA Report that “the repeated impulsive noise of the paddle hitting the ball is perceived by the human ear to be more intrusive than traffic noise”, and further the use of three courts at the same time with the racket noise and cheering can be slightly above noise standards. It appears that the increased number and use of the pickleball courts at Lang Park within 25 feet of residences is what has led to noise complaints.
Council voted to ask staff to get a CEQA analysis done to see if one additional court at Alta Laguna could be converted to pickleball, so that the current pickleball courts at Lang Park could be returned to tennis courts and new pickleball courts built at Lang closer to Wesley and PCH with a 200 foot+ distance from residences. Staff will also investigate whether or not additional sound mitigation options at the current Lang Park pickleball courts could work, such as building the existing 12-foot sound fence higher as Mayor Pro Tem Kempf suggested.
Resolution Condemning Acts of Terrorism Against Israel, and Urging Action to Protect Innocent Civilians; Passed 5-0
GW: As a new Middle East war rages, Councilman Rounaghi brought this resolution forward as a way of expressing our solidarity with Israel against Hamas’ acts of terrorism against them. The resolution also calls for taking actions on both sides to protect the lives of innocent civilians. The number of deaths continues to climb with no end in sight of the war. Emil Monda read a moving letter written by Rabbi Goorevitch from Laguna’s Chabbad Jewish Center expressing his appreciation for this resolution.
See this article for an update on the casualty numbers:
October 30th: Lyric Opera of Orange County presented a condensed, concert version of Mozart’s masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro, at the Susi Q on Monday. This was lots of fun and extremely well done. See this URL for more information on future performances: https://lyricoperaoc.org/
The Marriage of Figaro in a Concert Performance at the Senior Center
October 31: Happy Halloween! Thanks to our wonderful neighbors on Oak and Brooks’ street, who decorated their houses and gave out buckets of goodies, Laguna was able to parade their costumes and their kids trick or treat safely on pedestrian-only streets. Thanks also to our Police Force for keeping out the cars and the streets safe for pedestrians. Go to the end of this newsletter to see a shot of one of those decorated homes.
Saturday, November 11: Veteran’s Day celebration at Heisler Park at Monument Point, starting at 10:45 a.m.
Tuesday, November 14: Climate Action and Adaptation Plan from 6-8 p.m. at the Susi Q where the City will address their strategies to address climate change.
This picture was taken at the house located on Brooks Street.
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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.
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