CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 4/26/2022
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:
George Weiss-Sponsored Agenda Item For Laguna Beach Affordable Housing Funding
Passes 5-1 With Direction
The City Council voted to have Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Whalen and me meet with the City’s Housing And Human Services Committee and City Staff to discuss and recommend options for creating a permanent funding source for affordable housing. Below is the text of the Agenda Item. Once established, this fund would foster the creation of a privately sponsored Housing Trust that would act in partnership with the City to develop affordable housing. If you have an interest in supporting affordable housing in any way, please contact me by email or phone.
"The recent City-sponsored Resident Survey indicated a high level of support for affordable housing, with 67% of residents sampled expressing support for affordable housing, while the On-Line Community Survey reported that 74% of residents support this.
“Building affordable housing is complicated and financially challenging. Cities that have successfully built affordable housing projects had multiple sources of funding, notably from City funds or donated land and funding from the private sector through a non-profit housing trust, supplemented by grants from County, State and Federal funds.
“Currently the average total collections from this source amounts to over $400,000 per year and these monies now go into the City’s General Fund. A permanent source of funding for affordable housing will serve to help create a climate that will foster the creation of private sector funding, making the goal of creating affordable housing in Laguna Beach achievable.”
CONSENT ITEMS FROM
THE COUNCIL AND THE PUBLIC
Service Provider For Assessment Of
Electric Vehicle Fleet Approved 5-0
George Weiss: On June 29, 2021, I sponsored an agenda item that would require the City to transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electrically powered ones that use charging stations. It’s taken eleven months for City Staff to develop an RFP (issued in February, 2022) and then select a consultant. Thankfully, the Council approved the selection of ICF Incorporated, which has provided extensive fleet services to 50 municipalities. I look forward to reporting back to you on the progress we make to electrify our city’s fleet.
Update Of Solar Application
For City Properties
George Weiss: At the June 29 meeting, the Council voted 5-0 to allocate up to $100,000 to conduct an assessment of solar use for City buildings and properties. I asked the City Staff about the progress being made and was told that a Staff Report would be presented to the Council in May or early June.
Contract Awarded For
LED Street Light Conversion
George Weiss: The City is converting existing City-owned street light fixtures to LEDs in the coming month. Four hundred and forty-three fixtures will be converted to natural light LEDs. You shouldn’t notice the difference in lighting, but the City will be saving considerably on electric bills. I added this motion. No vote was taken. The savings on power is expected to be 60%.
Lease Agreement For More Public Parking In South Laguna Passes 5-0
George Weiss: The City Council approved a five-year lease for 52 public parking spaces at 30802 Coast Highway. Expect the opening in July, 2022.
Mental Health Awareness Month
George Weiss: May has been declared National Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s all be sensitive to this complicated affliction and use our kindest, best selves when encountering it in others and those who deal with it in their daily lives.
Proclamation Recognizes 43rd Annual Professional Municipal Clerks Week, May 1-7, 2022
George Weiss: From the City’s Website – “The mission of the City Clerk's Office is to provide unbiased, high-quality customer service in a timely manner, to provide a welcoming environment to residents, City Staff, City Council, and visitors, and to serve as the City's source for informational, historical, legislative and election services, while performing the functions and duties of the Office in accordance with State, County and municipal laws.”
If you have a question about City government, if you need a document, or anything else, please know that our City Clerk, Ann-Marie McKay, is there to assist you professionally and capably.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 949-497-0309
Caltrans Projects Update
George Weiss: Caltrans provided a report on improvements being made on Highway 133 and Coast Highway. Road widening between El Toro Road and the 73 will be made during the off-summer season until completion in 2025. The improvements involve better drainage, bike lanes and widening of the roadway. Curb and sidewalk improvements in North Laguna have been on hold for many months as the contractor has been non-responsive. So Caltrans is working with a surety company to find another contractor that will complete the work. Target completion date is now May, 2024.
Sidewalk improvements for South Laguna all the way to Moss Point are on schedule to start in October, 2022, and be completed in 2025. Signal improvement at Broadway, Thalia and Cress Streets are also planned, with completion this year for Broadway and Thalia, and by September, 2024, for Cress St.
SCE Recent Power Outages Update
George Weiss: SCE explained the reasons for the outages that occurred on April 1, 10, and 13. The April 1 outage affected over 2,400 customers, mainly Downtown. The cause was identified as a failed transformer and cable in an underground structure that had suffered water incursion. The City Council and City Officials expressed concern about the impacts of these outages on businesses and residents. For me, it points to the need for building local resilience and reliance in our power supply through the installation of solar and battery storage. We haven’t done enough to build local power resilience. I will be pushing to achieve that with provisions in the Climate Action Plan and with actions we may be taking to secure clean power from a Community Choice Energy program. More about this in a future recap.
Grapes For Grads
George Weiss: “Laguna’s Premier Annual Wine Tasting Event” will be held this Sunday, May1, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Festival Of Arts, 560 Laguna Canyon Road. Admission is $50 per person in advance or $60 at the door. This event provides funding for Laguna Beach High School and Laguna College of Art and Design student scholarships.
For more information go to: www.grapesforgrads.com
George Weiss: This building was originally the site of a Masonic Hall, then Mosun’s Restaurant with its nightclub, Club M, on the second floor. Some years ago, the building was sold to Mr. Zhao, a mainland Chinese national who recently received a green card to live in the US.
In 2016, after sitting vacant for years, the site was given permits to remodel. It was deemed to be a minor remodel by the City, but in 2018, this classification was disputed by the Coastal Commission which declared it a major remodel.
The City agreed that a mistake had been made and agreed to classify it as a major remodel. This is not the first time a misclassification has been made. In the residential case of 11 Lagunitas, a similar situation occurred, and this project was litigated all the way to the California Supreme Court. The owners were fined one million dollars and must take down what the courts determined was a now illegal seawall. Although 11 Lagunitas case was not about parking, it was about making the proper determination of what constitutes a minor or major remodel. We need to get it right and too often have not.
In the case of the Red Dragon, it’s all about parking. If you are deemed to be a minor remodel, you get to keep your grandfathered parking, which is over 100 spaces for this building. As a major remodel, however, it has no approved parking and new requirements must be specified.
The rules on parking need to be changed, and that is one of the reasons residents have created the Laguna Residents First ballot Initiative which forces businesses to provide parking. Without proper requirements, parking is forced into adjacent neighborhoods, typically disrupting life for residents. The negative impacts of this were apparent when Club M was operating, as patrons leaving the nightclub created a nuisance for the El Mirador neighborhood.
Conditional Use Permit For The Red Dragon Restaurant At 680 S. Coast Highway Passes 4-1 With Modifications
The Red Dragon’s building is beautiful and will be a high-end Chinese restaurant serving Hunan cuisine. Mr. Zhao said that the dinner’s would be about $75 per person, not including alcohol. Hunan cuisine is one of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese cuisine and is well known for its hot and spicy flavors. It will be a bit pricy, but personally I love Chinese food and look forward to sampling its fare.
With all of its parking credits eliminated, the Red Dragon has had to appeal to the City Council for a variance for parking and three other non-conforming conditions.
The Council granted the variances with the following conditions. The restaurant will be open only for lunch and dinner, not breakfast, as the owner wanted. The hours of operation will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The owner had wanted to close at 11 p.m. on weekends. No take-out will be allowed, and all parking will be by valet.
The Red Dragon will also have to provide 52 spaces of parking for its customers and 30 spaces for its employees. There is a bar and two full kitchens on the first floor. At capacity, the restaurant is allowed to seat 197 people, but will have only 150 seats. Mr. Zhao had wanted 197 seats for dinner.
The Council directed Mr. Zhao to produce a parking plan (with signed contracts) so the plan can be discussed and approved. Valet parking is tricky in this case due to the public transportation pick-up location on Cleo St., so the Council wants to be certain this plan will work.
Note: The El Mirador Neighborhood Association (the oldest residential sub-division in Laguna Beach) played a significant role in modifying the conditions. Congratulations to this group for working on behalf of the surrounding neighborhood to modify the project so its impacts to the the neighborhood are minimized. Working behind the scenes with this group was a pleasure for me as well.