CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 5/18/2021
CURRENT NEWS —
May 24, 2021
George Weiss On The
Forest Avenue Promenade
My initial objections to the Forest Avenue Promenade were that residents were blindsided by this project: NO residents were told of the project in advance and they were not involved in any of the planning, discussions or initial decision making – just City Staff, Chamber folks, and businesses behind closed doors.
If we are to operate as a true representational government, then residents must be involved in decisions of this magnitude and city governance must be transparent.
Form follows function, so city officials need to understand what residents and the business community want.
The Promenade should not add to the commercial feel of Forest Avenue. People should not feel like they have to buy food or something from a retail store. That will happen naturally, so the Promenade should not feel like it's designed as a commercial space.
The space needs to be "family friendly.” There should be some area set aside that is designed for kids between 2-12 or so. Furniture there should be scaled for children.
The kids’ space should also engage children and arouse their curiosity. So science, arts, music, and environment attractions should be considered.
There also needs to be an area for adult entertainment, performance art, (even comedy), and music.
The visual arts should be considered as a holistic design element throughout the Promenade.
A design that breaks up the rectangular form it now takes should be considered. An attractive box is still a box. The design should allow for some curved design forms to break up the monotony of a rectangle.
Restaurants should be allowed to have some outdoor seating. We all like the outdoor cafes that have sprung up at restaurants all over downtown.
But restaurants must pay for on street dining and the use of public space. It’s a question of fairness.
We should also consider creating an assessment district that provides half the funding needed to build and maintain the Promenade.
We will not know the cost of the Promenade, but it might be $2-$3 million.
The cost to build and maintenance it should be shared between residents and businesses.
Parking is another matter since we are losing 46 spaces at the Promenade. And if street dining is made permanent, we may lose another 20 parking spaces on Ocean and other streets. A Downtown District may be necessary to provide half the funding for parking.
In summary, I support making the Forest Avenue Promenade permanent, but I want to make sure that there’s transparency, that all stakeholders are involved, and that the costs are allocated fairly and managed wisely.
Police Chief Robert Thompson Resigns After Less Than Five Months
George Weiss: There are many details regarding this resignation that City officials are not releasing. Consequently, I will not be able to comment on this issue at this time. City transparency is missing yet again.
City Revenues Improve, Budget Balanced
Thanks to Laguna’s improved revenues the 2021-2022 Proposed Budget is now balanced. This allows the city to adds back services that were cut last year due to the pandemic, plus new services described in Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan
George Weiss: Final review of the budget is scheduled for June 15.
$376,990 Contract Awarded For
Forest Avenue Promenade – Passed 5-0
The City Council voted to provide $376,990 for services related to developing a high-level space plan for the promenade. The plan calls for preliminary entitlements and engineering plus designs to optimize outdoor dining, retail, performance and gathering spaces. Three public meetings will be scheduled for residents, business owners and visitors to provide input. RRM Design won this contract and will facilitate the public meetings.
George Weiss: There’s substantial support for this project, however, it’s a major endeavor and it’s going to be challenging to balance the needs of retail stores, restaurants and residents. Outdoor dining is clearly popular, but the Forest Avenue Promenade must be much more than a food court. It should serve the needs of residents, families, retail stores, restaurants and visitors, plus provide a place for everyone to meet and celebrate Laguna’s charm and sense of community. See my memo on this topic posted elsewhere on my website.
Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan
Passes Second Reading, 5-0
This legislation will go into effect shortly. Some consideration for variance in the shade structures when used by families with children was added. The plan itself will provide for more trash receptacles, street trash pick-up, modified park operating hours, additional year-round lifeguards at three popular beaches, and a ban on the use of plastic food containers, bags and other single-use plastics on City beaches, parks and trails. For more details, see: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1370&meta_id=107143
Search For New Waste Collection
Company Approved, 5-0
The City Council approved an appropriation of $150,000 to hire a consultant to facilitate going out to bid for Laguna’s waste collection service. Waste Management has been Laguna’s vendor for 28 years and more if you count the previous vendor that was purchased by WM. The State of California has mandated recycling of food waste, so this is a good time to test the market. WM’s contract ends on June 30, 2023, and starting in July 1, 2022, rates for residents will be going up by about 21% to cover the additional costs of food waste collection.
George Weiss: Normally I’m not a big fan of consultants, but with the State’s mandated changes, this is an optimum time to test the market for a new vendor and use the services of a consultant to uncover potentially cost-saving options. Unfortunately those who already use backyard composting will have to pay as well unless the city finds other options. This also give us an opportunity, if feasible, to see if a more equitable rate structure can be developed based on the size of the container being used. Right now, every resident who has the smallest containers pays the same price as a resident that uses the largest container. There may also be an opportunity to turn commercial kitchen waste into compost. Possibly separating commercial kitchen waste collection from residential may have benefits. We will see.
Parking Ticket Processing
The City is expanding its contract with Data Ticket Inc. to provide administrative citation processing services for $10,000. per year. This expansion of services would cover code enforcement citation processing now being handled by City employees. Savings are expected to exceed this amount.
George Weiss: Currently, out of every average $43.00 parking ticket, Laguna only receives about half that amount. That’s due to the $12.50 processing fee and the fact that 25% of tickets are not paid on time or at all.
Dornin Investment Group
Buys $195.5M Property Loans
Dornin Investment Group has purchased a $195.5M non-performing loan secured by a portfolio of 18 separate properties located throughout Southern California. The discounted price was approximately $132M.
George Weiss: While this post does not state it directly, it is believed many of these properties have been owned by 4G Ventures or other Mo Honarkar business entities.
Coastal Commission Finds Substantial Hotel Laguna Construction Issues
Having recently stopped current construction on the Hotel Laguna due to unpermitted work, the Coastal Commission has posted a schedule for typical appeals by developers on its website: “The average time for appeals that do not raise a substantial issue is 2 to 3 months. For appeals that raise a substantial issue, it takes approximately 6-8 months on average to reach a final decision. It may take longer to resolve more complicated appeals.”
The City of Laguna Beach is also addressing permitting issues. Unfortunately, the hotel’s first floor restaurants and lounge will not be open by Memorial Day as was anticipated.
George Weiss: While speaking during an open microphone moment, I regrettably made comments and told a fellow City Council Member how I was voting on a Design Review Board appeal. I regret this and have apologized to the Council and the appellant. It is my endeavor to always acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them.