CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 9/20/2022
George Weiss: Among the issues I’d like to discuss in this most recent City Council Recap is the approval of additions to our public safety staff; the creation of an audit committee; and extending funding the City of Laguna Beach’s popular, albeit expensive, On-Demand Transit service. In addition, the Laguna Beach City Council approved acquisition of land for a new fire station and funding for consulting services for our solid waste disposal system. These items and more are covered below, and if you have questions or comments about anything addressed in this update or the work of the City Council, please reach out to me by email using GeorgeWeissCityCouncil@Gmail.com.
Item 6 – Enhancement to the Police, Fire, and Marine Safety Operations: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: The bulk of this item was to fund $648,000 a year for a new Police Lieutenant for LBPD, and a Deputy Fire Chief and a Senior Administrative Analyst for the Laguna Beach Fire Department. It also provided funding two Marine Safety rescue vehicles with help from a generous donation by Laguna Beach residents Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima.
I was fully supportive of adding the Police Lieutenant position, but not so much for the two new positions within the Fire Department. I found the staff report short on the benefits these new positions would have for public safety. I was not aware the Fire Chief’s job was so difficult that we needed a Deputy Fire Chief to manage four or more battalion chiefs. Same goes for the Senior Administrative Analyst. I just didn’t receive that much information on why these positions were necessary. As I began to question the Fire Chief, the City Manager intervened to answer questions instead.
I am always supportive of public safety, but the environment in the room was such that it inhibited reasonable discussion and thoughtful debate. This is a common occurrence when public safety items are on the Council agenda. Those in support — such as the Emergency Preparedness Committee — seem to think there is no reason to discuss an item and want it passed out of hand. To my thinking, this is a bullying tactic and certainly not the way the democratic process is supposed to work. Moreover, it’s a misuse of virtue signaling, allowing a group to assert that there’s a fundamental difference of support for public safety when there so clearly isn’t.
Note: I am genuinely concerned that the City has added a large number of employees, over the last year and in previous years, even as our population level has remained flat and that an increasing number of homes are part-time residences. More on this in a separate article to appear in the future update.
Item 11 - Amendment to Service Provider Agreement For Solid Waste Consulting Services: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: About two years ago, a section of the Laguna Canyon Channel between Laguna Canyon Road and Frontage Road (think Sawdust to Woodland Drive) collapsed. It was more than 50 years old, so it may have just reached its end of life. The California Department of Transportation, County of Orange, the Orange County Flood Control District, and the City of Laguna Beach are all involved. Most of the discussion centered on the trees, the pocket park near the Thurston Trailer Park, plant screening for residents, and resident parking during the proposed construction from September 2022, to May 2023.
The City Council sent the project back to the Laguna Beach Planning Commission with the following directions:
The City should work with the residents on a suitable parking plan during construction.
The landscaping, including the choice of trees, should be compatible with the Village entrance.
Steps should be taken to save as many of the seven large existing trees as possible.
The Planning Commission should review the required setbacks for conformity with the City’s General Plan and zoning.
Larger shrubs should be planted where needed to screen residents living near the areas impacted by the plants being removed during construction.
Staff Reports Available
George Weiss: Staff Reports on City Council proceedings are always readily available. To read the Staff Reports on any of the items below, go to: https://lagunabeachcity.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1817
Item 10 – Establish a Citizen’s Audit Review and Investment Advisory Committee: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: The City Treasurer is elected by the people to oversee more than $100 million in City funds. The investment options available to the Treasurer are strictly regulated by the state. Many of those regulations were passed into law because of Orange County’s 1994 Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the result of loose regulations and poor oversight. The County was trading in derivatives and lost billions doing so.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “A grand jury investigation would later find that Citron, who over the years won so many awards for his investment skills, relied upon a mail-order astrologer and a psychic for interest rate predictions as the county’s treasury began to falter.”
For the record, I support the creation of an Audit Committee — even one that is strictly advisory. For residents with financial skills, please consider serving on the Citizens’ Audit Review and Investment Advisory Committee, which will meet two to four times a year. Look for more information about this opportunity in a future update.
Regular Agenda Item 15 – Laguna Local On-Demand Transit Update and Proposed Service Plan: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: The current On-Demand Transit service has been incredibly popular among residents, although it’s not cheap. Still, it is important to provide options that keep additional cars from coming to the city center and other locations. City Council approved extending the service to South Laguna at a cost of $400,000 per year. Let’s all give the On-Demand Transit system and try.
Regular Item 18 – Zoning Ordinance Amendment Related to Design Review Board Streamlining: Passed 3-2
George Weiss: Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of heavy equipment coming from next door. You didn’t know your next-door neighbor is adding 50 percent more floor space to their home. But the truth is, anyone can add 50 percent more floor space without going through the City of Laguna Beach’s Design Review process. The good news is that, at least for historical homes, the up to 50 percent figure is applied to the original structure.
I’m all in favor of streamlining the process, but in these cases there’s no public notice involved and while there are criteria to be met, such as adequate lot size, window placement, etc., there are discretionary decisions that may impact neighbors
Regular Agenda Item 17 – Acquisition of 31796 South Coast Highway for use as a Fire Station: Passed 5-0
George Weiss: For several years, the City of Laguna Beach has been searching for a new fire station site to replace a facility that is nearly 75 years old. This new site is ideal because it meets all the requirements of the Fire Department — unlike the ‘Ti Amo’ site across the street, purchased by the City for $2.7 million without a proper appraisal and without City Council being informed of the need for space for an ambulance. The Ti Amo site did not meet standard fire department requirements for access and egress, and was an extremely unpopular choice for South Laguna residents.
Misinformation has been circulated from the City of Laguna Beach and other sources saying that the pending acquisition of 31796 South Coast Highway would trigger a vote if Laguna Residents First’s (LFR) Measure Q was passed. This is untrue. A simple “lot line adjustment” is all that is required. Eliminating an interior lot line makes one of the lots nonexistent rather than non-buildable. The City just needs to eliminate the interior line between lots 056-105-07 and 056-105-35. This is accomplished by administrative action at the front desk of City Hall. LRF’s Measure Q does not cover administrative actions of the City. The lot line adjustment process has been used countless times. As for the agenda item related to the purchase of the property, it passed 5-0.
Laguna Beach Live — a non-profit organization that strives to increase the awareness of and participation in diverse musical experiences, enhancing the reputation of Laguna Beach as a music town — is presenting two very talented opera singers at the end of October who are also Laguna Beach residents. Do not miss this chance to see and hear some great opera arias and duets. These two singers — tenor Arnold Livingston Geis, and soprano Oriana Falla — appeared last Friday at the Sunset Serenades at Heisler Park and received a standing ovation from the audience. See below for more information.
OPERA LAGUNA IN CONCERT - SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29 | 6:30 to 8 p.m.
The Sanctuary at NCC
340 St. Ann's Drive
Reception at 6 p.m.,
For more information, visit https://www.lagunabeachlive.org/blank-8-1
George Weiss: Election season is upon us. There are seven candidates vying for three City Council seats. I will be providing information on each candidate over the coming weeks as to my thoughts on who you might want to consider to fill these seats.
Do you find my City Council Recaps helpful? If so please share this recap with a friend.
Sign up for my recaps here: https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/
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: email@example.com or call 949-497-0309