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Staff Reports Available
George Weiss: Staff Reports on City Council proceedings are always readily available. To read the Staff Reports on any of the items below, go to:

2022_HolidayPalette_winner Alannah Twede.jpg

The three winners of the City’s Arts Commission 2022 Holiday Arts Palette Contest appear above and below.

My Remarks at City Council:

Thanks to the Chamber, our local businesses, and all the volunteers who made this year’s hospitality night a night to remember. The holiday spirit was alive and well with neighbors and new friends meeting up for impromptu caroling; rocking out to the tunes; enjoying the happy pooches in their holiday outfits; and, the kids’ eager to see Santa. What a launch for the holiday season!

Thanks to the LBHS football team for playing some of the finest football this City has seen in decades. Congrats Breakers on winning the SSCIF title!

Thanks to the residents who ran for City Council, and welcome to our new City Council members, Mark Orgill and Alex Rounaghi. It is an exciting team to start 2023 with. And, a thank you to Ken Domer for his service as Assistant City Manager, and a congratulations to our new Assistant City Manager, Gavin Curran. Congrats also to Mike Litschi and Aggie Nesh on their promotions.

Could we also add to Santa’s list the idea of a library panel made up of the City’s librarians, outside librarians, residents who frequent the library, and our Friends of the Library group to develop plans for using the County $$ to improve the library?

Summary: GW: In this recap we cover grant funding for homelessness, the swearing in of three council members, an appeal of a DRB approved project at two hundred Alta Vista, Hospitality Night, a $500,00 grant award and City Committee openings.

Extraordinary Business:


GW: Incumbent Councilmember and now Mayor Pro-Tem Sue Kempf along with Alex Rounaghi and Mark Orgill were sworn in as Council members. We have an opportunity now with the revised Council for a new start on equal representation and advocacy for residents as well as the local businesses (which had been receiving a stronger proportion of that support).

In a continuation of the break with the tradition of rotation, the Mayor, and Mayor Pro tem positions, were once again rotated between Bob Whalen and Sue Kempf. It is unusual in Laguna’s history to have the same people in the same positions---the 5th time as Mayor for Whalen. However, since he was the Pro tem in ’22, a training to be Mayor position, moving into Mayor again was expected by most of us.



GW: Outgoing Orange County Supervisor, Lisa Bartlett was honored for her eight years of service to Laguna Beach. Ms. Bartlett spoke briefly about how rewarding public service has been for her and hopes to take a long vacation after her term ends in early January 2023. She will then reengage with the S. Orange County community by working with non-profits and other organizations.

GW: GW: A dozen or so Laguna children were recognized for their Holiday Palette artwork at City Council. In addition, the Arts Commission 2022 Holiday Palette Award winners were announced previously, and their work included in this recap


GW: Kudos to Senior Administrative Analyst, Jeremy Frimond who worked for some months with the Orange County Administrator to secure $500,000.00 in grant money to reimburse the City for Covid related expenses incurred at the
(ASL) Alternate Sleeping Location. ASL has capacity to serve 40+ local homeless people per night. Church organizations provide meals nightly as well. ASL operations have been financed by Federal grant monies administered by Orange County then provided to the City.

For your information see summary below of what the City spends on the local homeless and homelessness in general. This includes grant funding and City funds as well.

CONSENT ITEM #13 – Coronavirus Aid Relief, CARES Act Community Development Block Grant:



Appeal A:

GW: A neighbor of 200 Alta Vista Way appealed this project for a new residence to the City Council to review the (DRB) Design Review Board’s 5-0 approval. It is on an unimproved site, meaning that no structure has ever been built on the site. The 200 Alta Vista Way site is fully vegetated and may be habitat for protected species.
The existing vegetation may be holding the soil in place. An Initial Study should have been done to assess the potential environmental impacts. It is also a steep hillside site at the corner of Alta Vista and Highland so a soil and geology study is necessary to determine the suitability of the site for a 2,700 plus sq. ft. home and 500 plus sq. ft. garage. (larger as the owner now wants to include an ADU)

At the meeting I asked Community Development Director, Marc Weiner, how DRB members determine if provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) should be applied. I was informed that the DRB relies on city staff to make this decision. That is fundamentally wrong as DRB is an independent decision-making body that should be trained to make these decisions with input from the city staff. City Council members must be trained in CEQA as well. Marc Weiner also said that single family homes in Laguna are typically exempt from CEQA. However, there are several exceptions to the CEQA exemptions as follows:


(a) Location. Classes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 11 are qualified by consideration of where the project is to be located -a project that is ordinarily insignificant in its impact on the environment may in a particularly sensitive environment be significant. Therefore, these classes are considered to apply in all instances, except where the project may impact on an environmental resource of hazardous or critical concern where designated, precisely mapped, and officially adopted pursuant to law by federal, state, or local agencies.
(b) Cumulative Impact. All exemptions for these classes are inapplicable when the cumulative impact of successive projects of the same type in the same place, over time is significant.

(c) Significant Effect. A categorical exemption shall not be used for an activity where there is a reasonable possibility that the activity will have a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances.

(d) Scenic Highways. A categorical exemption shall not be used for a project which may result in damage to scenic resources, including but not limited to, trees, historic buildings, rock outcroppings, or similar resources, within a highway officially designated as a state scenic highway. This does not apply to improvements which are required as mitigation by an adopted negative declaration or certified EIR.

(e) Hazardous Waste Sites. A categorical exemption shall not be used for a project located on a site which is included on any list compiled pursuant to Section 65962.5 of the Government Code.

(f) Historical Resources. A categorical exemption shall not be used for a project which may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.

GW: City Council remanded this project back to DRB as the boundary of the property was found to be inaccurate. The City accepts site boundary maps as accurate if signed off by a licensed surveyor. In this case the County’s records show a one-foot variance from the survey submitted by the applicant. It is seeming prudent that City staff should check County records to verify all survey submissions. In addition, the applicant now wants to expand the project even more by adding a ADU. After DRB reviews the project, I am hopeful they will require an Initial Study and require the applicant to develop a construction plan. This site sits at the corner of two narrow hilly streets, so the major excavation needed, and construction will have major impacts on traffic flow, and noise affecting the quality of life of the neighborhood.



City Committees Need YOU

GW: There is a lot of knowledge and skills in our community, and your abilities would be a big help on the following committees that have open positions. You can apply to any of the following by January 20, 2023. Click below for an application to provide to our City Clerk, Ann Marie McKay

Interviews for these positions will be held at the Feb 7 Council Meeting.

Design Review Board (Reviews residential variance requests from our zoning Code)

  • Positions open: Three

  • Term: 2-years from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2025

  • Meeting times: 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of the month

Environmental and Sustainability Committee (Researches ways to protect the environment and improve our community’s sustainability)

  • Positions open: Five alternates

  • Term: 2-years from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2025

  • Meeting times: 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month

Heritage Committee (Reviews applications for the City’s Historic Registry and researches historic preservation)

  • Positions open: Three

  • Term: 2-year terms for two, and one for a 1-year term starting from April 1, 2023

  • Meeting times: 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month

Parking, Traffic & Circulation Committee (Reviews parking management plan, and parking and traffic complains)

  • Positions open: Three

  • Terms: 2-years from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2025

  • Meeting times: 6 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of the month

Recreation Committee (Reviews recreation activities and park needs for our community)

  • Positions open: Four

  • Term: 2-years from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2025

  • Meeting times: 6 p.m. second Monday of the month

View Restoration Committee (Hears property owners claims about views they have lost since owning their property due to vegetation growth blocking it)

  • Positions open: Four

  • Term: 2-years from April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2025

  • Meeting times: 5 p.m. second Wednesday of the month

Housing and Human Services Committee (Make recommendations about housing/human needs and identify housing opportunities)

  • Positions open: Four

  • Term: 15-month term from April 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024

  • Meeting times: 6 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month

Citizens’ Audit Review & Investment Advisory Committee (Reviews results of annual financial audit and Investment policy, identifies any internal control weaknesses, and provides advice on investment strategies)

  • Positions open: Three

  • Term: Immediately through June 30, 2025

  • Meeting times: Quarterly--two Audit reviews and two Investment reviews and other meetings as needed

See this URL for more information:

“Stay tuned as our voters unite, enriching Laguna together. Much will change in the next two years”.


Happy Holidays!


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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

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: or call 949-497-0309

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.

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