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Community News: Jim Otto



Jim Otto, Owner of The Sound Spectrum with long time Store Manager, Wave Baker.      


Tribute by Wave Baker:

Our love and gratitude for Jimmy Otto, a Laguna legend and the founder of the legendary record store, The Sound Spectrum. Jimmy passed away on Tuesday 7/11. He was 79 years old. In the Summer of Love, 1967, Jimmy brought vinyl records to Laguna from around the world.


He served us, educated us and inspired us with all genres of music for more than 50 years. He was also known as the reggae maester DJ with his moniker “white as a ghost, dreader than most” as he introduced ‘roots music’ to all in SoCal with his long running radio show broadcast by Saddleback College


Now he’s playing with Jimi, Janis, Jerry, Morrison, Marley and the others!

Jimmy is the heart of the Sound Spectrum, and our hearts will always beat with our love for serving up the music we grew up on.


Thank you, Jimmy forever!


Note: A memorial service is being held on this Tuesday, July 8th  from 5PM to 8PM at the Ranch @ Laguna Beach, hosted by Mark Christy. Another memorial service will be held in the coming weeks.

CONSENT CALENDAR (Items pulled by Council members and residents)


Item # 4 - Award of Contract for Design Services for Fire Station 4: Passed with Conditions 5-0


Background:  Previously City Council voted 5-0 to purchase a site at 5th St. and South Coast Highway for $6.1 million. There is a dentistry business on the site with an existing lease and the option to extend the lease another 5 years. The City is working with the tenant so construction on a new fire station could start in late 2024 or early 2025. PBK Architects were selected and have experience designing fire stations, and civic facilities nationwide. Their bid was $635.000.


GW: This seems like a competent firm with hundreds of civic projects completed. The concern is that this nationwide firm lacks knowledge of Laguna’s unique history and design considerations that residents may want. It is a big fire station at 9,250 sq. ft. with 6,472 sq. ft. devoted to living space for six firefighters at any one time. That is over 1,000 sq. ft. for each firefighter. Typically, fire fighters serve for 48 hours in rotation. Scaling back the building to lower the profile so that it fits better into the neighborhood and protecting the views of the neighbors would make it more compatible with the neighborhood.  


In response to the size and neighborhood compatibility raised by S. Laguna residents, the Council directed staff to meet with South Laguna Civic Association and the community at large. Additional community outreach meetings are planned. I asked noted architect, Morris Skendarian, to lead the effort on behalf of local architects to provide their input on the design, and he agreed. We all want a fire station that fits Laguna.


See presentation on this project here:


Consent # 6 – Adoption of Ordinance Rezoning 26 Parcels Obtained Through Proposition 12 Funding to Open Space: Passed 5-0


Background: State of California Proposition 12 passed in 2000 to provide funds to local agencies to purchase land for recreation and other uses. As a result, Laguna was able to purchase three hundred acres of privately owned hillside open space. Adoption of this ordinance makes this acreage permanent open space.


GW: A list of the properties purchased was provided in the staff report by parcel number, but a map of the properties would have been useful. We need to continue our efforts at a local level to purchase privately owned open space. The reasons are many: fire safety, preserving wildlife and native plant habitat, and maintaining existing views. Plus, open space is good for our health and well-being, too. A funding mechanism now in place provides for $250,000 yearly, but we need much more as many of these sites are selling for well over one million dollars each.




Item # 10 – Placement of Sewer Service and Residential Solid Waste Collection Fees as Special Assessments on the County Tax Roll: Passed 5-0


Background:  From the staff report: “The annual solid waste fee for a single-family residential household is $329.58 per year, equivalent to $27.47 a month. The sewer service fee includes a rate increase of 6% (2023) resulting in a new fee for these services of $910.41 a year for the typical single-family residential household, or $75.80 per month. It is important to note that the sewer service rate increase will impact residents in the northern part of the City from Cardinal Way to the northern city limits. For residents living south of Cardinal Way, sewer services are provided by South Coast Water District.”


GW: In South Laguna, the lowest rate base for sewer fees per household is $923.00. annually.  It is difficult to determine whether residents in S. Laguna will pay less or more than the rest of Laguna. We would need to do a longer-term analysis to determine this.


Note: In July 2024, fees for solid waste disposal will be billed directly to residents.


Item # 11-First Reading of an Ordinance Amending the Laguna Beach Municipal Code Related to Dog Barking. (and more) Passed 5-0


GW: The major changes to the prior ordinance is the creation of measurable barking time that would constitute a violation. Here are the new rules: “Incessant barking for 30 minutes or more in any 24-hour period, or intermittent barking for 60 minutes or more in any 24-consecutive hour period would be a violation.” See the other changes by reading the staff report here:


Item # 12 – Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites and Housing Element Programs Update (No vote taken)


Background: Approximately 36% percent of Laguna residents, or about 8,000 residents, rent. Of that number, we have approximately 130 affordable rentals that are subsidized for senior and low-income residents. We need more and hopefully this can be accomplished by allowing more units at Lang Park where National Church Residences currently provides about 80 units and is proposing to add 31 more.


GW: The Unified School District’s Bus Depot in Laguna Canyon and Parking Lot 2, (at Ocean across from Wells Fargo Bank), was also discussed. But, to build affordable housing we need a funding mechanism that would set aside $1-2 million or more per year. The second element needed is the creation of a privately operated housing trust or fund that can partner with the City. Councilman Alex Rounaghi announced this was under development. Taxpayers should not be expected to pay 100% of the costs involved. Let us get both done and build affordable housing. We lost fifteen units of affordable low-income senior housing in 2020 so we have catch up work to do.


Item # 14 – Service Provider Agreement for Downtown Specific Plan Update Phase II Environmental Review: Passed 5-0


Background: Phase I of the revised Downtown Specific (DSP) plan was approved in 2022 citing previous consultant studies that said we had enough parking. Using the findings of those studies, Council lowered the parking required for restaurants and other businesses. Phase II of the revised DSP primarily addresses infill housing (Infill housing is the insertion of additional housing units into an already-approved subdivision or neighborhood) and would allow for housing in all areas of Downtown from heights ranging from 24 to 36 feet. City Staff thinks these changes may allow upward of 200-400 additional units of residential housing. Currently there are about four hundred units of residential housing in the Downtown.


The Staff Report included CSG Consulting’s “Updated Proposal” on this item:


GW:  The intent of Item 14 is to provide a CEQA review of Phase II of the revised DSP to help streamline the review of individual projects so separate CEQA reviews will not be needed for individual projects.


Adding housing to Downtown is a promising idea but as usual the devil is in the details. There are subsidies from the State and Federal government to help finance affordable housing. In my opinion these changes are good, but may have only a minor impact on creating any new workforce, artist work live, or affordable housing for seniors and others.  I’m concerned that new market rate housing will dominate.  Unless there is a benevolent landlord or developer who wants to do this, most of the new housing will be rented at market rates. Market rates for downtown vary, but it is likely any new units will rent for $3,000 or more monthly or be developed as million-dollar plus condominiums.


Item # 15 – Proposal by Councilmember Alex Rounaghi to Consider update to the Transportation, Circulation and Growth Management Element, Reconsider the Roles and Responsibilities of the Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee, and Establish a Citywide Safety Pledge: Passed 5-0


Background: The City has not updated its Circulation and Growth Management Element since 1999. With large increases in the number of visitors (now at 6.5 million annually) coming to Laguna, updating this element seems a like good idea. City Staff, led by Mike Litschi, has done an admirable job in this area by making private lots available to the public during off hours, establishing remote parking so visitors can park their cars outside of town and be bussed in, and by providing new forms of local transport making it easier to leave your car at home.


GW: There is still much work to be done. Since the number of visitors is expected to increase every year, we must strategically plan so that residents’ quality of life is maintained. Councilman, Alex Rounaghi’s proposal also included a recommendation to increase the responsibilities of the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee, and to have pedestrians, bikers and drivers take a safety pledge.


The Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee is composed of a talented group and of highly trained local residents and can do much to help with solving the vexing problems of parking, traffic, and circulation. Kudos to Councilman Rounaghi for proposing these changes.


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. No public funds were expended on this website.

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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.


Have a question about city government, need a document, or help finding the right person to talk to or anything else, please know that our City Clerk, Ann-Marie McKay is there to assist you professionally and capably. Email: or call 949-497-0309

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