Recap of Joint Meeting of City Council and Laguna Beach School District Board, June 6th, 2023 — 6/6/2023
School District Facilities Master Plan Update (FMP)
The topic of primary interest to the standing room only crowd was the district’s proposed Master Plan update at the high school.
First, a bit of background on the LBUSD FMP update: In August 2021 LBUSD hired a previously used consultant to assist in planning. In September 2022, the LBUSD rejected a $12M proposal that focused exclusively on capital improvements of district offices. Instead, they formed an ad hoc committee to assess facilities needs more broadly at all four schools and the district offices. On March 23, 2023 the district presented a $150M plan to the board and a group of concerned residents who had learned of the plan only three days prior to the meeting.
Seventy-five percent of the plan cost is earmarked for the high school campus facilities; new buildings for district offices, expanded administrative offices, a two-story parking structure topped with relocated tennis courts. The existing pool would be demolished to make room for a second two-story parking lot. The existing tennis courts would be demolished to create an Olympic-scaled aquatics center. This includes a 50-meter Olympic pool and a second 25-meter pool (the size of the present pool). All would impact the neighborhood with additional traffic, noise and light pollution.
The proposed new construction would consume the last green space on campus, block views, and negatively affect the aesthetics of the high school campus and surrounding neighborhoods.
The plan can be viewed at this link:
Residents told me that the district intentionally excluded community participation on the ad hoc committee. The proposal took the Laguna community by surprise since it was kept secret until the March 23, 2023 reveal. Residents expressed concerns about excessive spending, limited academic benefits, safety, and environmental impacts. Furthermore, incomplete, incorrect or no data were available defining actual needs or the reasoning supporting the plan.
Since residents were excluded from the FMP, they formed a community group, SensibleLaguna.org, to identify alternative solutions and create a platform for concerned residents. Since the initial release of the FMP, additional board meetings, workshops, and open houses took place at the school locations. Although these have resulted in “optional plans”, as of this writing, the LBUSD has taken the position that all options are still under consideration.
In April, members of the LBUSD board deemed the aquatics center “the lynchpin” of the FMP and directed staff to focus on that aspect. The board stated the current pool did not meet the needs of the student swimmers, and was aging, in need of repair and “crowded”.
Presently, a joint use agreement (JUA) with the city specifies that the city pays 70% of the costs of the pool in return for 70% community use managed by the City Recreation department. No members of city leadership, the city recreation department, parks and recreation committee, or any city committee were on the ad hoc committee. The school district has not requested increased use in the currently proposed two-year extension of the JUA.
Other important facts:
Approximately 50 high school students are enrolled in aquatics.
No high school sport requires an Olympic sized (50-meter) pool.
A 30-meter pool meets all high school sport standards.
The majority of high schools in OC have the same size or smaller pool than LB.
Pool use ranges from fully used, to vacant, and to occasionally closed “for lack of lifeguard staff”.
Detailed pool use by time was not available but is being gathered.
The high school campus is one of the smallest and is the closest to residences in the county.
Considerations requested by the local neighborhood and wider community of LBUSD are summarized below:
With declining enrollment, maximize use of existing building space.
Use empty classrooms after school hours for special education and counseling.
Make space in existing buildings by getting rid of unused, outdated equipment and records,
Avoid further intensification of use in the high school area.
Consider relocating district offices off the high school campus.
Consider leasing empty office space in town for administrators and non-teaching staff.
Alternatively, modestly remodel existing offices.
Additional parking is not needed.
Leave recently resurfaced tennis courts in place.
Build a pool up to 40-meters in its existing location.
Any pool remodeling must include light and noise mitigation.
Work with the city to build a second pool elsewhere.
* Be mindful of costs, safety, and the community environment.
A standing-room-only crowd gathered with nearly exclusive interest in the high school capital plan proposal. Almost every speaker commented on the community’s willingness and responsibility to support our schools and students. A nearly unanimous agreement prevailed that the overall cost, size and scope were unnecessary for student needs. On the recording, the FMP portion of the meeting starts at 59:00. I encourage you to watch and listen to the presentation and community comments.
See link below:
The creators of Sensible Laguna have committed hundreds of hours working with neighbors, contractors, planners and aquatics experts to find solutions to meet the needs of the school district, minimize cost and disruption, and respect the uniqueness of the neighborhood. They provide a detailed design to nearly double the capacity of the current pool in its existing location, improve supporting facilities, and avoid destruction the tennis courts. They also suggested creative approaches to avoid pool downtime. Go to www.SensibleLaguna.org for more information.
City Council indicated support for building a second community pool elsewhere and working with the district on combined student and community aquatic needs.
Let’s hope the LBUSD staff and board take seriously the concerns of the residents and the city’s offer for participation as they move forward.
City Councilman, George Weiss
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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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