CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 11/02/21 and 11/10/21
 

RECAP OF SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – 11/2/21

Fiscal Impact Study For The

Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative Approved 3-2

 

George Weiss: At a previous City Council meeting, I voted to allocate monies for a study to review the fiscal impact of the Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative if it were to pass. It makes sense to provide residents with an analysis of the impacts – but not just those of the Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative.

 

This study does not cover the costs of city services needed to mitigate congestion, add parking, or add additional police, fire and marine safety personnel. Nor will it address the financial and personal impact costs of evacuating more people in the event of a disaster.

 

This is deceptive, as the study will overlook the City’s savings on any project approved quickly by adhering to the ballot’s specified requirements.

 

The study will not address how large retail developments or mixed-use projects, such as the previously proposed Museum Hotel, would affect the success of existing small businesses.

 

The Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative provides some protection for existing small businesses by curbing intensification of use.  If residents want large developments, let them vote on them. If the projects are good, residents will approve them.

 

Going back 20 years to analyze the financial impact of a older ballot initiative on large commercial development when this newer ballot initiative wouldn’t be effective until January 2023 will not teach us anything.

 

See this agenda item at::

 https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1507&meta_id=115107

Establishing Protocols For

Closed Session Meetings

Pursuant To The Brown Act

Passes 4-1

 

George Weiss: Mistakes were made---as the City Attorney told the DA that he and the Mayor had agreed the closure on June 29, 2021 was not “best practices” and closure proceedings needed to be tightened up.  While the DA’s initial recommendation for recordings of closed sessions would be preferable since accurate note-taking is difficult, we will now have the Assistant City Manager taking notes during the meeting.  It is hoped that these notes will be compared against those taken by all the City Council  members, so comparisons can be made and accuracy confirmed by all in the closed session.

 

The DA’s letter was silent on any Brown Act violation by me, and the lack of any admonition regarding my open disclosure of the closed meeting discussion confirms a legal inference that my disclosure was protected under State Code 54963 ( e) (2). I did not violate the Brown Act, and should not have been censured for revealing information that wasn’t protected and had been revealed earlier by the City Manager in a Village Laguna presentation.  

 

See CA Legislative Government Code 54963 at:

 

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&sectionNum=54963

 

As I said in my remarks at the City Council meeting, I hope that the District Attorney’s finding of Brown Act violations and our vote to follow the DA’s guidelines for closed door sessions will result in greater transparency and accountability.  We’re elected to City Council to serve residents and the community.  When the public makes comments or writes letters, let’s address this in open session so that people know that they are heard and their suggestions considered.  Let’s move forward with this common purpose of service and renewed civility to one another.

 

RECAP OF SPECIAL CITY COUNCIL MEETING – 11/10/21

Cost Of Services Study Results –

No Vote Taken Or Required

 

George Weiss: This study examined the fees charged by Community Development, Water Quality and the Fire Department for various services.

 

Overall, the study revealed those services only take in $2.2 million in fees, while the cost of those services is $7.7 million, leaving a shortfall of $5.2 million.  I will concentrate primarily on Community Development fees here, as they form the bulk of the costs to residents and businesses.

 

The City has not updated the fees charged for a host of services, such as doing a “Zoning Plan Check” for a minor remodel. The current fee for small projects such as minor hardscape, pool, landscaping, deck, minor remodel, or replacing a skylight costs $417 dollars, while the proposed new   fee would increase 300% to $1,260. Other fee changes such as processing an appeal of a decision by the Design Review Board or Planning Commission to the City Council would go from $748 to $5,707. (Not a typo.)

 

There are many causes for the discrepancy in actual costs versus the fees charged. First – the complexity of the City’s building codes. Community Development Director Marc Weiner said these need to be simplified, but that effort would take years.

 

Second – inefficiencies in the City’s business processes may take up an inordinate amount of staff time.

 

Third – No software programs are fully operational yet which could improve efficiencies in processing permits, plans and other service requests. Software is being implemented as I write this, and Mayor Pro-Tem Kempf’s initiative to improve business processes using Lean Six Sigma tools will also help, along with the department’s own efforts to streamline the steps needed to process a service request.

 

Many residents spoke objecting to the changes, and a few spoke in favor, but said the new fees collected should be used for improving infrastructure for fire safety.

 

The Council recommended looking at an hourly rate with a cap for fees being charged. We also recommended a fee scheduled based on the size of the project, considering whether it was a commercial or residential project, and to keep appeal costs reasonable. City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said staff would follow these directions and review the verbal recommendations made by Mayor Bob Whalen, other council members and me. I will be asking for a summary of these recommendations as reflected in the video transcript of the meeting.

 

To review the Staff Report, visit:
 

https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1517&meta_id=115641

Taco Stand (Taco Bell Remodel)

Conditional Use Permit Passes 4-1

 

George Weiss: The plans for remodeling the project certainly improved the look of this 1978 building. I am a big fan of outdoor dining, and this project delivers that. While remaining a Mexican food menu, the focus of the restaurant will change from fast food to indoor and outdoor casual dining (food delivered to your table but ordered at the counter).

 

The number of seats increases from 16 to 45, of which 33 will be outdoors, facing Coast Highway. At 45 seats, the restaurant is required to provide 17 parking spaces, but asked for an Outdoor Seating Parking Credit of five spaces. The restaurant will also have 10-12 employees at the site during busy days and four to six on other days. A provision made in the Conditional Use Permit demands that employees use three of the site’s 12 required spaces. So, what does that do for the neighborhood parking?

 

I opposed this project, seeing it as another City Council parking giveaway that would further reduce parking in the El Mirador neighborhood. The Golden Dragon Restaurant is under construction across the street in the former Mosun building. It has 100 or so grandfathered parking spaces, but no parking on site. Again, these 100 spaces are supposed to be inconveniently foisted on adjoining residential neighborhoods.

 

There is little street or other parking in this area except for private parking at $15 to $20 a day at the Neighborhood Congregational Church. This parking is mostly used by visitors going to the beach.

 

Mayor Bob Whalen stated that a City parking lot was needed in this and other areas. The implication was residents will be tapped to pay for it instead of the landlords who are causing the problem and benefiting the most from the parking giveaways.  The City must stop these parking space giveaways or make businesses and/or tourists pay their fair share.

 

To see the Staff Report, go to:  

 

https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1517&meta_id=115644

Extension Of Temporary Outdoor Dining And Parklet Program Passes 5-0

 

George Weiss: This City-sponsored agenda bill asked that the restaurant parklet program be extended for two years due to the many challenges restaurants faced during the pandemic. Restaurants will pay a $1,000 fee and seven dollars a square foot annually. The Council agreed to a two-year extension but will look at the fees after the first year.

 

Mayor Bob Whalen and I both felt that we have already done a great deal to help restaurants financially by providing $2 million in City grants and almost a year of free outdoor parklet space. We were also mindful that many of these restaurants also received free Federal funds.

 

 I asked if there was any data that the City had – such as sales tax revenue – that showed the financial condition of our restaurants, no data could be provided to substantiate the reason for what is clearly “a gift of funds.”

 

I support outdoor dining, but restaurants in other cities, like Carmel are paying $900 per month for one car space, and Carmel has no metered parking.

 

After this one-year period, assuming we are mostly over Covid, I will demand restaurants pay a fair and reasonable cost for the use of public space. It’s both a fiscally responsible and fair to do. It’s also unfair to restaurants that cannot have outdoor street dining, such as those located on Coast Highway. Plus, it’s unfair to retail stores which do not benefit at all from outdoor dining.

 

To review the Staff Report, see:

 

https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1517&meta_id=115648

Rivian IPO Is The Sixth Largest

In The History Of The

New York Stock Exchange

 

George Weiss: The Rivian automotive company’s IPO raised $12 billion and valued the company at over $100 billion – making its stock value greater than Ford or General Motors. Importantly, Rivian purchased the Laguna Beach South Coast Twin Theater last year and is in the process of a complete renovation. The theater will function as both a showroom and 150-seat movie theater.  Its exterior design will bring back to life what it looked like in 1935.

 

For more information about Rivian’s IPO go to:

 

https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/ev-maker-rivian-set-high-profile-market-debut-after-mammoth-ipo-2021-11-10/

COMMUNITY NEWS

 

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. No public funds were expended on this website..