CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 2/15/2022
City Council Options For Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative Petition: First Part Passes 5-0,
Second Part Passes 4-1
George Weiss: The City Council voted to place the Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative on the November 2022 ballot so residents can vote to approve it or not. At the same time, City Council directed Staff to create an alternative plan that the City Council will discuss and may place on the November 2022 ballot.
The Laguna Residents First Ballot Initiative is a democratic effort that would allow residents to vote on and approve or disapprove of the development of exceptionally large commercial projects in Laguna Beach. Equally important, it would protect the height limits in town and restore much-needed parking requirements.
Although I did not vote for Part 2, I hope the City can produce an alternative plan that is better than the one written by Laguna Residents First. I doubt that is possible, but I will keep an open mind.
Of the twenty-eight or so speakers, seventeen residents spoke in favor with facts and figure to back up their arguments, while the eleven against it used emotional terms like “Draconian” or said it would stop small stores from opening or would result in more boarded up stores. That is not true.
Most of those opposed were either developers, commercial lenders, business owners, or attorneys who lobby for entitlements. There will be ample time for Laguna Residents First to educate the public about the ballot initiative. I encourage you to go to the Laguna Residents First website and read the initiative at:
Full Disclosure: I was a co-founder of Laguna Residents First and resigned prior to running for City Council. I fully support the ballot initiative and will be working hard to ensure that residents are educated on how it will help preserve the quality of life we moved here for.
Read the Staff Report here:
Virtual Meetings Findings Of City Council And City Committees, Boards Pass 5-0
George: The State of California amended an existing law that would allow for the continued use of teleconferencing for meetings. This provision is effective until 2024. The City Council needs to approve this every 30 days. Adopting this resolution allows residents to remotely take part or speak in person at Council meetings and allows residents to sit in the Council Chambers during meetings. Spacing of in-person attendees will be necessary. Hopefully, as we exit the Covid pandemic, its future impacts on our way of life will be lessened and will be like dealing with the annual flu.
Read the Staff Report and resolution here:
City Council Adopts Local Coastal Program Amendment 19-4482,
Downtown Specific Plan – Incorporating Parking, Artist Work/Live Modifications Approved By The California Coastal Commission
George Weiss: This item was pulled from the consent calendar and discussed by the City Council. While a lot of work went into the modifying the Downtown Specific Plan to meet the Coastal Commission's requirements – and most of those changes are good – I could not vote for it, as it had some serious flaws.
While the City Council members and the public have expressed concerns about parking and the many entitlements given to landlords, the revised Downtown Specific Plan reduces the parking requirements for retail and restaurants. This supplies a tremendous incentive to convert retail to restaurant use while ignoring the parking demand new restaurants will create.
As stated by a City-hired consultant, the annual sales of a Downtown retail store is about $236 dollars a square foot, while the annual sales of a restaurant is over $700 a square foot. If you were a landlord, could you get more in rent from a retail store or a restaurant?
Many believe this change will turn Downtown into a food court. We already have more fast-food restaurants Downtown than we had in the past. Subway is moving into Catsmosphere, Chipotle wants to move into the space Tommy Bahamas once occupied. The White House, a sit-down restaurant, will become more of a fast casual dining restaurant (the seating chairs have no backrests) with eleven additional parking spaces given to the landlord in perpetuity for no valid reason.
It is incongruous that the City Council recently approved a two-member committee consisting of the Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem to look for parking solutions for the entire City. If we have plenty of parking as the revised DSP decision to reduce parking requirements says, why look to develop more parking lots around town? Why is the City looking to buy the library site if not to build a parking structure? We do not need to own the building to keep it as a library – or do we?
Read the Staff Report here:
The Coast Inn: Design Review
22-0043, CUP 22-0044,
Revocable Encroachment Permit 22-0046 And Categorical Exemption Pass 5-0
George: This project has been in the works for many years. Most recently the City Council approved the modifications the Coastal Commission required for the Coast Inn project to be approved. This paves the way for building permits to be issued.
I still have many concerns about this project, and again they are mostly about parking. The project has been scaled back as it was previously approved by City Council with a rooftop deck and pool. In a prior version of the project the rooftop deck would have allowed 200+ people on the deck, either visitors or hotel guests. It would also have generated a whopping 1,300 to 1,500 trips a day based on a City’s consultant’s report.
Here is the problem, The Coast Inn has no parking for its rooms, no parking for its staff, and no parking for a big and popular restaurant (Bear Flag) that will be in the space formerly known as the Boom Boom Room. In addition, where will the construction staging site be for the demolition and construction?
Access to the beach at Mountain Street must be protected, so the options are not so good. And Coast Highway cannot be used for staging either.
Read the Staff Report here:
Agenda Item For Discussion
Sponsored By Toni Iseman:
CEQA Training Sought
George Weiss: The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires public agencies to “look before they leap” by considering the environmental consequences of their discretionary actions.
CEQA is intended to inform government decisionmakers and the public about the potential environmental effects of proposed activities and to prevent significant, avoidable environmental damage in Laguna Beach. Councilwoman Iseman suggested that the City could provide some on-line training which is fine, but it certainly would be more effective to have CEQA training from a professional. If the City does not sponsor this training, and even if it does, Toni Iseman and I agreed that it would be beneficial to hold CEQA training.
Agenda Item For Discussion
Sponsored By George Weiss:
Earlier Posting Of Agenda Items
George Weiss: Providing additional advance posting of City Council agendas gives the public greater access to and participation in the City’s business, which is also the public’s business.
For decades, our City has published the agenda on Thursday afternoon prior to the Council meeting being held the following Tuesday. This meets the minimum requirements of the Brown Act. Changing the noticing so that it will be posted much earlier will allow people to better plan their participation. I have spoken to people who said they would have liked to have input on an item or speak about it, but that they were travelling that weekend and did not have the time to prepare.
We made some progress on this and it may come back to the Council for further consideration. Unbeknownst to me and everyone else except John Thomas, there is a preview of the upcoming City Council agenda just after the Official City Council recaps on the City’s website. Unfortunately, it is just word or two with no explanation of the item. I believe City Manager Shohreh Dupruis agreed to bring this back to the City Council with recommendations expressed by us.
Woman’s Club Celebrates
100-Year Anniversary in 2022
Did you know that the Woman's Club of Laguna Beach is celebrating its 100-Year Anniversary in 2022? The club was formed in 1922 as a non-profit organization to provide an environment for women to gather, socialize and engage in community service and education. It currently has 140 members. The club's community outreach mission is focused on providing support and assistance to children of lower-income families in our community through various programs and activities.
Two little-known facts to share about the club:
2. The Woman's Club, together with the Assistance League of Laguna Beach, donated the funds in 2015 to purchase Ranger – the first K-9 used by the Police Department. Ranger recently passed away due to cancer, but he was a beloved addition to our Police and community. Postscript: Another K-9 will soon be joining the Police Department through the generous donations made by residents.
Memorial Service For Noted Laguna Author And Environmentalist
Attend Arbor Day Celebration –
Sponsored By The City Of Laguna Beach
Save The Date: A celebration of life will be held on Saturday March 12, 2022, at the Neighborhood Congregational Church in Laguna Beach.
Arnold Hano passed away on October 24, 2021, at 99 years old, and this Celebration will follow his 100th birthday. A noted professional writer and lifelong human rights and environmental activist, Arnold Hano lived in Laguna Beach with his wife Bonnie since 1955.
The program will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., with doors opening at 1:30 p.m. The reception will follow from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.
When: Monday, March 7, 2022, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Bluebird Park, Cress Street at Bluebird Canyon Drive
See attached flyer: