CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 5/2/2023
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: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=2028
UPCOMING MEETING ALERT: You are invited to shape the Forest Avenue Promenade by providing input next Wednesday, May 17th, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Susi Q Community Center when the designers present their concepts for a permanent promenade.
Summary of this Recap: In this recap we discuss the July 4th Fire Works Show; Emergency replacement of the Promenade decks; Bonds for Diamond St. Underground Utility Assessment District; Community Development Workplan; and, Review of (Design Review Board) DRB’s approval of 1902 Ocean Way’s landscaping plan.
#Consent Item 7: Fireworks Show for July 4th – Passed 5-0
Everyone enjoys a good fireworks show, particularly to commemorate the founding of our great Nation. This celebration and fireworks show draws a number of visitors to Laguna for the event, and this year the Council had some reservations about the impact that this number of visitors have on our community--ranging from the $40,000 costs of the fireworks plus the costs associated with the event for police services and public works services, such as trash pickup.
GW: In addition to requesting an analysis of the total costs, which Mayor Whalen, agreed was needed, I also asked if there was a way to make the fireworks, which produce a lot of smoke pollution, more environmentally friendly. Mayor Whalen asked staff to investigate alternatives, such as a Laser Light Show in 2024 and to have a fuller analysis done of the total costs before next year’s event.
#Consent Item 8: Emergency Contract to Replace Promenade Decks, etc. – Passed 4-1 (I dissented)
The Promenade was installed in June 2020 using plywood and Douglas fir to build the platforms and enclosures for about $200,000 dollars. City Staff claims that these existing structures are in dire need of replacement because the recent storms are the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, and have prompted them to declare an emergency. The City staff walked the site with a Public Works employee, and they reached the conclusion that repair was not an option.
However, on questioning it was learned that our certified building inspectors working for the Building Department had not been asked to examine the Promenade decks and enclosures. They were also not asked to assess the $260,000 single bid for replacing the decks.
GW: Since we are redesigning the Forest Promenade (see the opening meeting alert) at a cost of $376,000 for consultants on the design and are spending an estimated $5-10,000/ month for maintenance, it seemed fiscally prudent to ask for a certified building inspection as well as bids for replacing the decks. As many of you remember, the City lost $300,000/year in parking meter revenue from spaces where the Promenade is and hasn’t yet required any commercial building owners or Promenade restaurants to share in the costs of maintenance or the outdoor enclosed space for their patrons. Why gift public funds to one set of restaurants when other restaurants in our community funded and maintained their own outdoor dining during the pandemic? Fair treatment for all is an American value we all hold dear.
I said I would vote for this $260,000 emergency expenditure if the costs were shared with the restaurants that were using these facilities. Since it was deemed that these costs couldn’t be discussed or assigned until the budget meeting, I voted against these expenditures.
Regular Item #9 – Bonds for Diamond St. Underground Utility Assessment: Passed 5-0
Nineteen residents within this small district have voted to underground their utilities. The forthcoming construction and related expenses will be funded via the sale of $2.25 million municipal bonds which the City Council voted to approve. The residents will pay back this funding through additional property taxes over a period of years.
Regular Item #10 – Community Development Workplan for Updates to General Plan, Zoning Code, and Specific Plan: No vote needed.
GW: City government wants to make eight updates to the above, and these will be brought back to Council for further deliberation. Instead of me describing each of the eight projects please read up on them at this URL: (only four pages)
If you have comments, please send them to the City Council or me.
Regular Item #10 – ADU and JADU Coastal Program Amendments:
The rules regarding ADUs and JADUs have aroused some controversy. Residents who spoke at City Council pointed out that the City’s revised regulations would allow for up to 1,000 sq ft., heights of up to 25 feet, and rooftop decks if certain conditions were met. Setbacks could also be less than normal under certain conditions. Resident James Burnes pointed out that some of these conditions exceeded the state’s regulations, which the City is required to abide by, but does not need to exceed the State’s mandate.
GW: Are JADUs (these must be incorporated within the footprint of the house) being used to increase the size of the house which would not normally be allowed? I asked the Community Development Director to provide data on the number of units (ADUs and JADUs) that have been completed since we started this program---as well as how many permits were issued and how many projects were in the pipeline. We need to know the impact ADUs and JADUs are having since they were intended to increase the supply of rental housing. Thus far, we have no idea of whether ADUs and JADUs have done that or are just being used to Increase the size of the home, or accommodate family members and friends when they visit.
Review B: 1902 Ocean Way approval of Landscaping Plan Appeal: Carried 3-2 (Mayor Whalen and I opposed.)
GW: The following is taken from my Recap of January 10th, 2023: (See update following this):I asked for a review of this project which is a historic home built in 1932. This was written by Clark Collins: “1902 Ocean Way Home owned by John & Lois Solomon.
‘An example of the 1930’s Normandy Revival Style, it was home for the Solomons for more than 60 years. John Solomon was a long-time, very prominent lawyer & resident of Laguna Beach. He was President of the Laguna School Board, Chairman of the Art Museum Board of Directors and a member of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the Festival of the Arts.
One of the challenges of historic preservation is that it sometimes appears arbitrary. Detractors of the Inventory frequently claimed that it was just a drive-by survey by citizens with no knowledge of historic preservation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Funds for the survey came from the U.S. Department of Interior with matching amounts from the State and County and it was done with a standardized methodology supplied by the State. The effort was coordinated by Eric Jessen, a noted historian; Karen Turnbull, a local historian; Kathy Les and Hal Thomas of the Heritage Orange County and numerous local architects & business owners as well as consultants. The Inventory was an integral part of the development of the Historical Element of the City’s General Plan.
I would argue that there is significant evidence that the property is a historic resource as defined by CEQA and that a historic evaluation needs to be completed before any changes to the exterior of the home should be approved. The proposed project completely changes the exterior of the home and would negatively impact its historic integrity.
The City needs a process by which they can evaluate the most significant structures that were on the Inventory. Currently there isn’t one. Until there is a process, decisions on modifications to the exterior of these properties need to be made based on facts. An historic evaluation needs to be completed for 1902 Ocean Way to determine whether this property is truly an historic resource. If it is, then changes to the exterior must comply with CEQA.”
GW UPDATE: I asked for a review of this project because I thought that exterior changes passed by administrative approval should have been combined with the Landscaping Plan and reviewed by DRB in totality. This was a case of piecemealing and should not be allowed. DRB also approved removal of the San Onofre Retaining Wall and allowed its removal without specifying what will replace it. That should not be allowed either.
More News: Parking and Transportation:
The City held a workshop or rather a listening session on Wednesday at the Senior Center. This will be covered in a separate recap to be sent out next week. In the meantime, please review the latest version, (see link below which was supposed to be posted on the City’s website. It is not there yet but the previous version is. (we weren’t told what was changed based on input from the two previous listening sessions). We do know that the subcommittee added the Presbyterian Church project even though it was previously being deliberated separately. Also see attached article by James Danzinger.
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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.
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