CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 6/7/2022
Volunteers For City Advisory
Committees Now Being Sought
George Weiss: The City has a number of citizen advisory committees that need the talents of residents who want to make Laguna a better place to live. Committee members serve for a term of two years and meet monthly. Here is a list for your reference:
Arts Commission, Design Review Board/Board of Adjustment, Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee, Environmental Sustainability Committee, Heritage Committee, Housing and Human Services Committee, Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee, Personnel Board, Planning Commission, Recreation Committee, South Laguna Water and Sewer Committee, View Restoration Committee.
Please consider serving on one of these committees. The City Clerk can send you a notification when openings occur.
For more information, go to:
First Reading Of An Ordinance Adopting Military Equipment Use Policy Passes 5-0
George Weiss: This ordinance is required to comply with Assembly Bill 481. The ordinance requires law enforcement agencies to obtain approval from the applicable governing body prior to funding, acquiring, or using military equipment. The term “military equipment” as used in AB 481 does not necessarily indicate that the equipment has been used by the military or that the agency has acquired these items from a military or government source. This is a little confusing, so please go the Staff Report under Item 13 for more information on LBPD’s current inventory of items covered under this ordinance.
Two Proposed Concept Plans For The Forest Promenade To Be Developed – Passes 5-0
George Weiss The City Council discussed two plans and voted to proceed with the next steps, which include vetting the designs with the public. Council previously approved funds for design work. The cost of the project will be at least two million as much as 3-4 million. (I do not object to the cost as Laguna deserves the best and we have the funds to create a plaza that will be exciting and attractive for everyone.) Stakeholder interviews were held prior to these options being put forward, but no resident input was solicited. This is very disappointing, the cost is significant, and the lost revenue from removal of street parking is $400K to $500K yearly revenue. Meanwhile, while certain lucky restaurants are paying only $1,200.00 per year for the use of public space.
Stakeholders were defined as shop owners and managers, City Council members and City Staff. Not residents.
Residents will have three opportunities to comment on the two designs in September, but by then, only minor changes are likely to be adopted.
See recent Indy article about this:
Also, many, most, or all trees now in the promenade will be moved (I hope) or removed as one of the concept designs calls for distributing the trees throughout the site. I am fine distributing the trees, but it would be better to move the resident trees even though the cost will be greater. Large trees are valuable and should not be destroyed. There are companies that specialize in relocating trees and this should be done for most of the trees on the Forest Avenue promenade. See picture.
Orange County Housing
Finance Trust (OCHFT) Update
George Weiss: Manager of the Trust, Adam Eliason, gave an update on this organization and their work. The City is a member along with 21 Orange County municipalities. The trust provides gap funding for housing projects meeting its criteria, (up to $2M per project). The Trust (OCHFT) was formed in 2019 as a Joint Power Authority between the County of Orange and the cities throughout the county. OCHFT was created to fund housing, specifically assisting the homeless population and persons and families of very low and extremely low income. I will be delving into how Laguna Beach can take advantage of this group’s funding and will report back in a future recap.
For more information, visit: https://ochft.org/
(Items Discussed By Council Members Or The Public)
Dee Perry Being Recognized By Laguna Beach Woman’s Club As 2022 Woman Of The Year
George Weiss: Dee Perry taught in the Laguna Beach School District for 37 years. She is serving a second term on the Laguna Beach School Board and is an advocate for students, parents, and citizens, so their views can be heard School Board decisions are aligned with these view.
On June 17, Dee will be honored at a luncheon hosted by the Women’s Club. Tickets for the event are available at this site: https://ochft.org/ Please consider joining this organization as well. I am told that men can also join as members.
Proposed Sale Of Ti Amo Property
Sponsored By Councilwoman Iseman
George Weiss: Last year, the City purchased the Ti Amo property for $2.7M as a site for a new fire station. A study which the City paid $100,000 for showed that the site could be used as a fire station, but it would need underground parking and special reinforcement of the ground floor to hold the weight of fire trucks and is too small to also fit an ambulance. Parties have agreed that it is not a suitable site.
Although I voted to buy the property, I later expressed my doubts about the suitability of the site and proposed we decline the purchase. The purchase was a bit rushed. The City Manager, acting as the head real estate negotiator, did not get an appraisal – so now we do not know if the property is worth the purchase price. The Council was not informed of fire department’s plans to install in-house ambulance service at the time the purchase was being considered.
Council Member Iseman proposed getting an appraisal and placing the property up for sale. We compromised by deferring this action until a more suitable site was found for the fire station.
It turns out that selling a City-owned property is not easy. First the property must be declared as “surplus” (no longer needed). Then it must be offered for sale as an affordable housing site. One must wait 90-120 days after this to place the property up for sale. Exchanging the property for another requires going through this same process. Yikes! The City Council did not know this going into deliberations to purchase the property, which is unfortunate.
Parking Master Plan
George Weiss: The Staff report says a purchase order has been issued to 2022 transportation planning and engineering consultants Fehr And Peers who will assist the subcommittee with technical tasks and financing options for a parking master plan. Since the subcommittee was formed in January. Council members Bob Whalen and Sue Kempf, who comprise the subcommittee, have been meeting monthly. Except for one public listening session, the meetings are not open to the public.
A second public listening meeting was promised but has not materialized. There was an assumption by the public that an overall plan would be proposed – not a series of one-off solutions.
Presbyterian Church Parking Structure: It is odd that weeks after the listening session a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) was passed by the Council on a 3-2 vote to build a parking structure 33 feet high and hundreds of feet long across the street from the Suzi Q Senior Center on Third Street. The MOU states that the City must pay off the mortgage for one of the parking site properties at a cost of $1.9M.
Here is a summary of the costs including financing:
$9.8M construction + $2M entitlement and design + $2M cash payment to pay off the mortgage + $ 8.6M land rent = $22.4. According to appraisals, the three church properties the City is leasing for $8.6M are worth $7M.
Debt Service (principal and interest) = $17M
Total: $22.4M + $17M = $39.4M
Considering the record high inflation, we are experiencing, the final cost of the project will be much higher. See my previous City Council Recap of May 10 or go to my website for details on this project.
Financing options for future parking structures include increasing the sales tax, increasing business license fees (Laguna’s are among the lowest in the State) to forming a business improvement district. The first two options require approval by voters and the third option must be approved by landlords who would tax themselves to provide revenue for the improvement district.
Also of concern: one City Councilman who helped draft the long-term lease agreement for the proposed new parking lot has a close personal relationship with the landowners’ representative, while another Councilman has a nearby business location that will stand to benefit from this parking lot. While not a true financial conflict of interest, even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided or at least stated for the public record.
My guess is that the subcommittee will find a need for parking structures along Coast Highway in the Hip District and other areas. This will help the Coast Inn, as the developer is waiting for this to be approved before renovation of the site, which could proceed now if the developer chose to. That project was approved without requiring ANY additional parking for the twenty-eight guest rooms, hotel staff or the Bear Flag restaurant, which will occupy the former site of the Boom Boom Room.
Tree being relocated to make room for a road. We can move existing trees to keep the shade and sequester carbon.
City Of Laguna Beach To
Celebrate 95th Anniversary
Laguna Beach will celebrate this event on June 29, 2022, at the Main Beach cobblestone area from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Music and speeches by Council members on Laguna’s history will be on the agenda, along with some giveaway items for the public. Mark your calendar and come early to enjoy the celebration.
The noticing is a problem for Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Whalen and me, as we will be out of town that day and are unable to cancel our plans.
In preparing for the 95th Anniversary Celebration, the City Council approved an emergency declaration allowing for the replacement of the Main Beach cobblestones. City Staff had numerous complaints about the condition of the cobblestones, so it’s obvious this was not well planned out. As a result, it’s going to cost us $153,000 to quickly replace the cobblestones now with pressed concrete, and then replaced again later with more-appropriate real cobblestones in 2023.
Transportation For Laguna Audubon Area:
George Weiss: A young man who has just graduated from LBHS and his mother spoke on the need for City-provided transportation services to the hundreds of Laguna Residents who live beyond the 73 Toll Road off of El Toro Road.
At a minimum, the City should provide morning and late afternoon transportation services to the residents in this area. We currently provide trolley services for visitors and residents and a special pick and delivery transportation to the areas of Bluebird Canyon (290 or so homes), Arch Beach Heights and Temple Hills. Let’s give Laguna residents who live in the Canyon the ability to keep their cars at home and get a ride from City-provided transportation.
Circus Bella Is Swella!
Do not miss the free fun performance by Circus Bella. This is a repeat performance from last year– a smash success for kids and adults. All the fun of a Circus without the elephants. Saturday, June 18 at Bluebird Park, 5:30 pm. Come early and enjoy a picnic.