Laguna Beach City Council
CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 11/15/2022
Staff Reports Available
George Weiss: Staff Reports on City Council proceedings are readily available. To read the Staff Reports on any of the items below, go to: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1869
Summary: This recaps covers making the Pickleball Court at Lang Park permanent; amendments to the Housing Element; Transfer of the S. Laguna Beaches from County to City control; Laguna Canyon Road Improvements, including utility undergrounding; and Community News.
Community News First:
Toni Iseman Retires: After 24 years of service Toni Iseman, the longest serving Council member in the history of Laguna Beach has retired, which is a quarter of the time Laguna Beach has existed as a City. Twenty-four years is the age of our newest member of the Council, Alex Rounaghi. Toni helped him get elected, too. Bob Whalen predicted there would be throngs of people attending Toni’s last City Council meeting. He was right. It was a “standing room only” send off for Toni. The appreciative audience brought flowers and told stories, and the City’s own flower arrangement was magnifique. Toni was instrumental in saving the open space in the Canyon, and so many large and small projects that benefited residents and our community. My deepest gratitude to Toni for her extraordinary twenty-four years of public service.
Veteran’s Day Celebration, November 12th: Seeing the flyover of four US Airforce F-16 Fighter jets was worth taking time to come to this event. The 1st Division Marine Corp. Band played very well especially their beloved Marine Corp, “The Marine’s Hymn”, From the Halls of Montezuma”. This piece and some of the speeches on military service and personal sacrifice got many people teary eyed.
I served in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1973 but my full-time service lasted less than one year. Still, serving at the age of nineteen gave me the opportunity get to know the good and patriotic young men from states like Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Idaho, and California who became my fellow Marines. I urge all Laguna residents to attend at least one Veteran’s Day celebration. You will not be disappointed.
Lastly, a big THANK YOU to the American Legion Post 222, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868, the 1st Division Marine Corp Band Laguna Beach Police Color Guard, Laguna Boy Scouts and all who contributed their time to making this event a success.
Item 7 – Lang Park Permanent Pickleball Court Conversion: Passed 5-0 With Modifications
George Weiss: A 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association called Pickleball the fastest growing sport in America, with 4.8 million players nationwide (a near 40 percent increase from 2020). It is easier than tennis, uses less space and is more social with two person teams per side as the norm for playing. I support all sports and recreation activity that keeps people healthy physically and mentally. Pickleball does that and builds friendships through sport. At peak times twelve people would be playing on this court. I also might add that Three Arch Bay, a gated community in S. Laguna does not allow Pickleball courts within their neighborhood, even as they have a private tennis club within.
My reservation about making this court permanent is the noise created by the sport itself and the players. It is a social sport so people express themselves, which is good but can be heard as noise too. The court is only twenty-five feet from senior low-income apartments. These residents have complained that the noise made from the paddles striking the balls gets on their nerves and interferes with their right to enjoy peace of mind in their homes.
Eighteen residents (there are eighty in this community) signed a petition in opposition to make the courts permanent and some wrote handwritten notes as well. Council modified the decision to include hiring a acoustician to take readings of the noise levels and again after sound dampening panels are installed. Let us see if this solves the problem, but I am not optimistic. A resident testified that they used the same noise dampening panels to mitigate noise from an air conditioner and it did not work. I suspect that we will have to move this court elsewhere but let us see. We need to be sensitive to the needs of our resident senior citizens. See this article on the impacts noise has on health:
Item 16 – First reading of an ordinance amending the City’s Housing Element: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: This ordinance was mandated by the State to allow agricultural employee housing in the Sycamore Hills zoning district and other areas. The impact of this is negligible as we have no commercial agricultural in Laguna Beach. The other State mandate was to zone more land for emergency shelters by right (homeless housing). We already have forty-two sleeping cots at the Alternate Sleeping location. This expands the area around this location to provide more land for this purpose. The effect for the foreseeable future is also negligible.
Item 18 – Transfer of South County Beaches to the City of Laguna Beach: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: The County currently operates all beaches from Aliso Creek south to the city limits. In March 2023, the City’s Marine Safety Department takes over from the County. The County will also provide twenty-two million in funding for lifeguard services and maintenance. This will be good for our City and for residents. We get to set the hours, provide a higher level of lifeguard services, and set new regulations as we see fit. The Marine Safety Department under Chief Kevin Snow will be managing the transition and hiring of fifty part time lifeguards in the coming months. Thanks to Bob Whalen for working with the County to get this done.
Item 19 – Laguna Canyon Road (LCR) Improvement Project Update: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: Council approved spending $810 thousand dollars to Southern California Edison for design of utility undergrounding for LCR between El Toro and the SCE substation ¼ mile west of Canyon Acres Road. City Staff will also be submitting a federal grant application for $32 million. The City would also have to provide $14 million in matching monies. This amount may be reduced by as much as $3 plus million with SCE providing those funds. Grant funding is never certain so the amounts above could change.
City Staff said that $47 million would be enough to underground LCR. The designs SCE completes should help us get more precise estimates.
Other plans include taking over Laguna Canyon Road from Caltrans which would allow the City to make improvements that make this road safer.
Another option being considered is creating a reversable 3rd. lane to increase the flow of traffic in and out of town. Consider that one effect would be an increase in speed that two incoming or outgoing lanes would foster. This would decrease public safety and limit access to businesses in the Canyon. Please see the Staff Report for more details.
Item 20 – Referendum against Ordinance 1675: Council decided to defer this decision
George Weiss: Ordinance 1675 was developed by City Staff with recommendations from a resident group and Bob Whalen to counter the more comprehensive provisions of Measure Q.
The major provisions are:
Allows for lot combinations in Downtown of no more than 5,000 ft.
Within five hundred feet of the boundaries of Downtown projects no larger than 15,000 sq. ft. are allowed.
Buildings larger than 15,000 and up may be built beyond the five hundred of the boundaries of Downtown if these are made to look like more than one building.
The Laguna Beach Company has filed a lawsuit whose main allegation is that the 15,000 ft limitation is discriminatory and targets two major projects that have previously been proposed, the Museum Hotel project, a three story, block long building from Cliff Drive to Jasmine along N. Coast Hwy, and the Cleo Hotel project at Cleo and Coast Highway. (formerly the Holiday Inn). At Tuesday’s meeting Council decided to meet in closed session in December to consider options.
Appeal A: Appeal of DRB’s Adoption of a Negative CEQA Declaration in Conjunction with the DRB’s Approval of 337 Hawthorne Road: Appeal denied 3-2
George Weiss: This was a complex and difficult decision. It is possible that the City violated its own rules to approve this project. Instead of going into the details now, I will be authoring a fuller article on this once I have more CEQA training.
Do you find my City Council Recaps helpful? If so please share this recap with a friend.
Sign up for my recaps here: https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/
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: email@example.com or call 949-497-0309