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Summary: In this recap we cover the City Council meeting that lasted until 1 a.m. on the following topics:

The new dog barking ordinance; the Housing and Human Services Committee and the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee Workplans; the City contribution to the Woods Cove Assessment District for utility undergrounding; a request to convert two additional parking spaces for a new tapas restaurant on Forest; the ordinance for CA Senate Bill 9; approval of legal services for a new City Attorney agreement; and, two Design Review Board (DRB) appeals. Regular Item # 12 was withdrawn by Mayor Whalen, who sponsored the item, in the interests of time. 


CONSENT CALENDAR: (Items pulled by residents or City Council members) 


Item # 4 - Ordinance Related to Dog Barking, etc. Passed 5-0

Background: This ordinance creates standards for reporting violations of dog barking. A violation occurs if a dog barks continuously for 30 minutes or 60 minutes over a 24-hour period. 


GW: A resident, who has dog barking issues, spoke about this at City Council and wrote a letter explaining that the standards for reporting a violation were much too onerous since they required the person complaining to prove a dog was barking continuously for 30 minutes, or 60 minutes intermittently. The discussion also included the observation that since one can be quickly awakened at night by sustained dog barking, that the same amount of barking is less bothersome during the day. The standards should be different for nighttime versus daytime barking complaints. In the end, Jim Beres said that Animal Control will be flexible, and we agreed to try out the new standards. 




Item # 6 - Housing and Human Services Committee 2023-2024 Work Plan.   Passed 5-0

Background: The work plan of this hard-working committee consists of investigating prospects for a local housing trust; developing recommendations on affordable housing as well as workforce housing policies; promoting the development of accessory dwelling units; partnering with community organizations to assess the human services needs of the community; and meeting with the public to determine needs for human services.   


GW: Bravo to this dedicated group of residents for their past work and this ambitious plan. I raised two issues that I would like to see addressed: We have absolutely no data on whether the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) program has provided rental housing to anyone as the ADU ordinance was designed to do.  Current reports suggest that the majority of ADUs have been used to increase the living space of the original home. 


We also need a permanent funding source that sets aside substantial amounts of money yearly if we are to be successful in creating affordable or workforce housing. One potential funding source is to add a tax on the 2,000+ housing units that are owned as second homes by non-residents who do not rent the unit out as some Northern CA communities have done. A small assessment could bring in millions of dollars for housing and other worthwhile projects. 


Item # 7 – Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee (EDPC) Fiscal Year 2023-24 Work Plan.  Passed 5-0

Background: This eight-person committee serves as an advisory group to the City Council on matters involving disaster prevention, planning and preparedness. The workplan goals for this year include ten objectives in order to achieve the highest level of public safety. 


Please read all the objectives here:


GW: The Committee has done an outstanding job to achieve the goal of maximizing the safety of our community. This year marked a significant milestone as the long serving Chairperson, Matt Lawson, stepped down and Julian Harvey, long-time resident and former police chief of nearby city, has assumed the leadership role for this committee. 


Item # 8 – City Contribution for Proposed Underground Utility Assessment District (Woods Cove).  Passed 4-0 (GW recused)

Background: This district was established in 2014 and is the largest ever formed in Laguna Beach. The total cost of undergrounding is $15 million of which the City previously committed to providing $1.5 million. The resident district committee asked for an additional $1.2 million to be provided to cover costs of undergrounding Glenneyre, which serves the Laguna community as a secondary evacuation route.  


GW: Since I live in Woods Cove, I recused myself from voting on this item.  However, I fully endorse undergrounding efforts of utilities in all areas of the city, particularly after what we recently saw happen in Maui. In addition to the fire safety benefits, the other benefits to undergrounding are greater resiliency of the power grid, improvements in views for homeowners and pedestrians, and increased property values. Homeowners who cannot afford the assessment can have their payments deferred until their house is sold if they meet the established low-income criteria.


Item # 9 – Temporary Use Permit for Tango Restaurant at 305 Forest. Passed 5-0 

Background: There are about 24 parking spaces in Downtown that have been converted to outdoor dining spaces for restaurants. An additional 46 spaces were lost when the Forest Promenade was installed. Tango requested the conversion of two more parking spaces at 305 Forest for outdoor dining. According to the City staff presentation, Tango would be obliged to pay the City upwards of $18,000 a year for the use of these spaces and $4,000 a year in maintenance costs. 


GW: Local retailers spoke out against removing any more parking spaces on Forest noting that the removal of parking has had a negative impact on their businesses. Council agreed that we must be more careful about approving additional dining parklets since we don’t want to harm our vibrant retail shops or turn Downtown into a food court.  I suggested a compromise trial of allowing Tango to convert one parking space for their outdoor dining and retaining the current short-term parking spot for visitors picking up items from a retail store.  However, no other Councilmember supported this option. 


Item # 10 – Ordinance Amending the Regulation of Single Family Residential One- and Two-Unit Development, California Senate Bill 9.  Passed 5-0 

Background: SB 9 allows a single-family lot within a R1 zone to be converted into two separate parcels, allowing for the construction of two homes where there was only one and, in some cases, a third home if the lot size is large enough. These new home additions can be approved without a discretionary review or a DRB hearing. 


The proposed housing must meet certain requirements: *It must not require the demolition or alteration of housing that restricts affordable rent for moderate-to-very-low-income tenants. *It must not include the demolition of more than 25% of any existing exterior structural walls. *And, it must not be located within a historic district, on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or within a site that is legally designated as a city or county landmark, historic property, or district. 


GW: SB 9 provides limited guidance and development standards, so local agencies can only impose objective and necessary restrictions to protect public health and safety. The Community Development Dept. has set standards by imposing some parking requirements, size minimums and limits, and eight other measures. It would be useful to determine how many residential lots could be converted or split in order to understand the impacts of SB 9. 

Council exempted the Residential/Hillside Protection Zone in Laguna Canyon which has 87 homes, as this area is designated for agricultural, conservation, recreational area use, and not primarily residential.


Appeal A – Appeal of DRB for 2471 Riveria Drive (Irvine Cove). Denied 5-0

GW: This appeal involved some view loss for the appellant located at 2495 Monaco. The view loss was deemed not significant, and the appellants’ remaining views excellent. Also, the Irvine Cove Architectural Board, elected by Irvine Cove residents, approved the plans.


Appeal B: This complicated appeal for a residence at 22350 Third Avenue will be covered in a separate newsletter. 























Mule deer in Aliso and Woods Canyon (Picture courtesy of Laguna Canyon Foundation)


The Humanizing Impacts of Nature (edited excerpt from the Natural Communities Quarterly, July 2023.)


GW: At a recent Environmental meeting hosted by Senator David Min, I was introduced to an Orange County based organization, the Natural Communities Coalition. It’s a coalition of major landowners in Orange County whose mission is to protect, preserve and restore open space. 


Read the complete newsletter here: 


What is it about nature which seems to make people happier and friendlier? If you are a frequent visitor to the Nature Reserve of Orange County, you have likely experienced the positive, approachable, and respectful behaviors most trail users demonstrate while spending time in the wilderness. 


Contrast this experience to walking in urban areas, such as shopping malls, or bicycling along busy roadways.  Why is it people are predictably congenial in nature and randomly erratic outside of it? In the search to find an answer to this question, the term “biophilia” popped up. Evidently, biophilia is a combination of two words from ancient Greek meaning “life” (bio) and “love” (philia). German psychologist Erich Fromm and American biologist E.O. Wilson both used the word biophilia in their work. For Fromm, biophilia was used to describe the psychological orientation to being attracted to all that is alive and vital. Wilson’s view of biophilia is that it’s the innate human connection to and affinity for nature. Wilson believed humans have an instinctive bond with the natural world, and that this connection is crucial for overall well-being and the functioning of society. 


The opportunity to connect young people to nature holds the promise to instill a lifelong appreciation and respect for the environment. Scientific studies over the past decade have revealed nature exposure has a positive impact on health and well-being. Some of the findings include that nature reduces stress, improves mood, enhances cognitive function, and heightens physical and mental well-being. The biophilic elements in our surroundings, such as open spaces and natural lighting, promote a healthier living and working environment. 


Next time you are out on the trails, and you happen to meet others who are friendly and enjoying the moment, you can logically reason biophilia has something to do with it.

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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.


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