CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP — 9/21/2021
First Reading Of Ordinance Adopting
Defensible Space Amendments To
Municipal Fire Code Approved 4-1
George Weiss: The State of California AB 38 requires cities to adhere to fire prevention Defensible Space guidelines or create their own that are in accordance with the state’s guidelines. Laguna’s Fire Department created guidelines for regulating foliage near homes and buildings which it says are much less stringent than those that would be imposed by the State. After reviewing the guidelines and many letters written by professional landscapers, I’m skeptical that this is the best ordinance for residents. For example, no evidence was presented to back up the claim that these measures would make the site 20% more likely to save a home from fire. When I asked how the baseline for removing landscaping plants would be determined, no answer was given. More on this later in the near future.
Amendment To Design Review Board’s By-Laws Passes 5-0
George Weiss: Among the small changes to the by-laws, one stuck out – that being a term limit provision which specifies that a member of the Board can serve a maximum of four consecutive terms and then must sit out for two years before being considered for re-appointment. In the past, appointees could serve unlimited terms, and some have served continuously for over 20 years. I congratulate the Design Review Board members for adopting this provision. I will be introducing similar provisions for all Boards, Commissions and Committees and the City Council. Adopting this will allow other talented residents to serve in these important positions.
Laguna Canyon Road Improvement
Project Update Passes 5-0
Improvements to Laguna Canyon Road, such as a reversible middle lane, undergrounding, and bicycle and walking paths will be investigated by City Staff as well as the City taking over responsibility for the road from Cal Trans. The potential costs for undergrounding are estimated at $71M and the cost of creating a bike and walking path at $43M.
George Weiss: I support undergrounding utilities in the Canyon for safety and aesthetic reasons but still want to know how this can be funded. There will be infrastructure money coming from the Federal government and the State that could help with funding. The bike and walking path would be created because of undergrounding which will take place on the north side of the road and take away some of the open space, while improving access to that open space for residents and visitors.
SELECTED ITEMS FROM CONSENT CALENDAR
Four New Eagle Scouts
George Weiss: Four very accomplished teens were honored for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. One was only 13 years old. Congratulations to these new Eagle Scouts, each of whom built projects that benefited our community;
Scout Zachary Chestelson built a storage unit and restored several other units for the Laguna Presbyterian Pre-School. Scout Jared Hammett constructed a rolling percussion storage unit with special storage for marching harnesses, drums, and marimbas for the Laguna Beach High School band. Scout Elliott Leeds made 16 wooden music stands for the Laguna Beach High School and Thurston Middle School Jazz bands. And Scout Vincent Ewing created multiple interpretive education materials geared for kids at the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park—Nix Nature Center.
Service Provider Agreement For
Business License Tax Administration
And Audit Services Passes 5-0
The City will be contracting with Mini Services LCC and HdL Companies to provide business license software and administration services, making the process for business easier and more efficient.
George Weiss: While discussing this item and comments made by resident John Thomas, City Council directed the Director of Administrative Services, Gavin Curran, to review the business license fee schedules for other cities. Mr. Thomas’ contention is that our business license fees are 25% of what other cities charge and there is a potential to raise these fees commensurate with what other cities charge.
Service Provider Agreement For Community And Business Surveys Passes 5-0
The City Council approved a contract for $32,400 with Pollco/National Research Center, this firm has experience doing survey work for local governments.
George Weiss: This will be first resident survey in the history of our town. This is great news.
District Attorney Admonishes City Council For Brown Act Violations,
Imposes Consequences For Lack Of Transparency
George Weiss: As a result of my concern regarding the City’s actions during the closed session held on June 29, 2021, I received the following letter from the District Attorney. I am pleased that that City Council and City government will be required to increase transparency. While the District Attorney said there was significant evidence that I potentially violated the Brown Act, I believe this is not the case.
As mentioned in a previous update, only four topics are allowed to be discussed in closed sessions: real estate transactions, labor negotiations, personnel issues, and litigation. Any other topical information discussed outside of these for categories is not subject to the confidentially restriction. At the closed session on July 29, the official posting was “Litigation”. Litigation was not discussed but an update on the progress being made at Hotel Laguna and a vote on removing the stop work orders was and therefore that discussion was public information. I will be writing to the District Attorney to clarify this.