CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 6/29/2021
City To Consider Replacing Outmoded Vehicles With Zero Emissions Models: Approved 5-0
Transportation is the single most significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in Laguna Beach and a major source of air pollutants.
The City has already made efforts to reduce its carbon footprint by buying or leasing 18 hybrid and one fully electric vehicle.
Taking this one step further, the City Council unanimously approved moving forward to assess its current fleet and determine which vehicles can be replaced by electric or other zero emission vehicles. A consultant will be chosen to assist the City in this effort, so expect next steps to be part of a City Council discussion in the coming months.
George Weiss: I sponsored this agenda item for a number of reasons, chiefly to reduce the number of polluting vehicles the City operates. I expect that electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will operate at lower cost and reduce road noise. Road noise has been identified as a significant issue in Laguna Beach. Finally, Rivian, which is renovating the movie theater and will be using part of it as showroom for its vehicles may become a supplier for some of the City’s fleet, if their vehicles meet the cost and use standards.
Second Reading Of Street Performance Ordinance To Be Revised: Passes 5-0
Although the City Council approved this ordinance on June 15, another reading was required. At the second reading, it was determined that the ordinance was too restrictive, so the City Council directed the City Staff to revise it.
George Weiss: The City Council had received several emails suggesting that the proposed ordinance would prohibit “Michael, The Greeter” from performing on his sidewalk venues. Similar concerns were raised about performance locations that would be available based on the new restrictions. I asked Staff if they could name a few locations and the Pepper Tree parking lot was the only spot mentioned – certainly not sufficient to allow street performers to do their thing. Staff will be coming back with revisions in an upcoming City Council meeting.
Two Ceramic Art Benches Accepted By City For Installation At Heisler Park: Passes 5-0
Two Marlo Bartels-designed benches will be installed at Heisler Park just below Las Brisas in memory of Clifford Elwood Hathaway, a longtime resident who served on the Laguna Beach School Board. Installation dates for the benches has not been announced, but look for them in the coming months.
George Weiss: Marlo Bartels is a renowned ceramic artist whose work is showcased at the Festival of the Arts and in places around town, including the Promenade. Check out his work at www.marlobartels.com. The benches at Heisler will be a welcome addition to the public art pieces in the park.
Municipal Sewer Rates To Be Raised:
The City has invested over $60 million in sewer system capital improvements since 2002. This revenue has funded much-needed sewer improvements, resulting in a significant reduction of sewer spills. Additional funding of $34.3 million is needed over the next five years to fund additional improvements. As a result, sewer rates will be going up over the next five years by 5-6%, with increases in sewer rates of up to 6% over the next fourteen years – which includes the previously mentioned five-year rate increases. A total of $61 million is needed to fund improvements over that 14-year period.
George Weiss: Laguna Beach has a complicated sewer system with 25 lift stations, 27 urban water diversion devices, and many miles of sewer pipes that eventually feed into the South Coast Wastewater Treatment Authority Plant located in the open space behind The Ranch At Laguna Beach. An inter-connection pipe that will connect to the sewer system that serves South Laguna Beach is one of the projects that will make sewer spills less likely. In case of a failure, this would be used to send waste to an inland facility and keep our ocean safer from potential spills. I recently toured the treatment plant behind The Ranch and learned that the area was originally slated to be developed with homes and that the land for the plant was donated. It is certainly unfortunate that a wastewater treatment plant is in a wilderness area that’s prone to high fire risk. Only seven or so staff members are needed to work full time and during the evenings and weekends to run the plant, as it largely runs autonomously.
Plans For New Caltrans Coast Highway Sidewalks To Be Updated: Passes 5-0
The good news is that South Coast Highway will have new sidewalks where none previously existed, providing safer walking for residents and visitors from Moss Street to 5th Avenue. In addition, three and perhaps four landscaped medians will be built between Montage Resort Drive and Wesley Drive (350 ft.), between Aliso Beach and Camel Point Drive (450 ft.), and between West Street and Catalina (300 ft.). A fourth is being considered, with the possible locations still being reviewed. The City will be contributing up to $5.3 million to complete the sidewalk segments needed and other improvements.
George Weiss: This project has been in the works for many years, and it is exciting to know that it will be completed in the next few years. Expect parking meters along some or much of the new sidewalk, the fees helping offset visitor impacts. Hopefully, this will beautify South Laguna and provide the public access and safety that has been missing for decades.
Site For New South Laguna Fire Station To Be Further Analyzed: 5-0
The City evaluated 14 properties and is currently in escrow for a site at 31727 Coast Highway (the Ti Amo restaurant). The City Council directed Staff to continue to evaluate other sites while completing an environmental report on the site in escrow.
George Weiss: Staff did a lot of work evaluating the 14 sites and is to be commended for its thoroughness. Still, the Ti Amo site has some issues that residents addressed during the discussion of this item. Chiefly, the location is on Coast Highway with no side street access, as is desirable for modern fire stations. The site has 10,100 sq. ft., while the ideal size for a modern fire station is half an acre. Of course, it is hard to find and finance a site of this size, but the fact that the new fire station would be used for the next 50-75 years needs to be considered. The current fire station has been in operation since 1947 and the new one should have a similar lifespan.
Temporary Downtown Evening
Parking Spaces Acquired
The City has leased 35 spaces for evening use at the former Laguna Drug parking lot on Ocean Avenue, which can be used by residents who have a shopper’s permit beginning July 1, at the cost of $34,00 over three months. Some of these costs will be recovered though parking fees.
George Weiss: While helpful, we do need more resident and visitor parking during the daytime. The City will be negotiating a lease extension for some of these spaces soon. My position on parking lots is that everyone who benefits should pay their fair share. The cost should not fall solely on residents.
Contractors Protest Non-Payment
For Work On Hotel Laguna and
During public comments, many contractors said they completed work for Mo Honarkar’s Terra project and Hotel Laguna, but were collectively owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work.
George Weiss: I am concerned that even though Mr. Honarkar’s business entities have received PPP loans for over $5 million, he may not be paying his contractors for their work. I will be investigating this and reporting back in future recaps.