CITY COUNCIL MEETING RECAP, June 27, 2023
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=2085
Summary of this CC 6/27/2023 Recap:
In this recap, I’m going to depart from my usual chronological presentation of agenda items to lead with some good news—the electrification of the City’s fleet along with a recharging plan for electric vehicles. You might recall that I brought this as an agenda item back in June 2021, and the Council directed City Staff to develop a feasibility study for transitioning City vehicles to electric ones and a Request for Proposals (RFP). Almost two years later, the data is in and presented with the Council’s approval---and, the City will be ahead of the regional and state level mandates for new vehicle 100% zero emission technologies purchases starting in 2027. (Scroll down for the complete story).
After recapping the Agenda Item #12 Fleet Electrification, I will recap some public comment items; the consent items including: the rejection of a claim filed by a resident; Service Provider Agreement for Playground Master Plan; Donation of two all-terrain vehicles for LBPD; and, the Laguna Beach Pride Event at Lang Park. This will be followed by a recap of the regular Agenda Items: #14 Road extension at 749 Marlin Drive; Item #15 Amendment to City Ordinance prohibiting all Plastic film bags at grocery stores; Appeals A Review of the Design Review Board approval of Coastal Development Permit at 761 Nyes Place, and Appeals B Design Review Board Approval of 466 Oak St.
Item #12 Fleet Electrification and Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Master Plan: Passed 5-0
Background: On June 29th, 2021, I sponsored an agenda item that would require the City to transition from fossil fuel vehicles to electrically powered ones and charging stations. City Staff developed and issued a RFP in February 2022 to select a consultant. The Council approved the selection of ICF Incorporated, who has extensive experience working with 50 cities’ municipal fleets to provide similar services. On June 27, the consultant walked the Council through the report and City Staff recommended we start by electrifying our iconic trolleys, consisting of 25 propane powered busses. See below:
The plan is to purchase electric busses over time while building our charging station capacity, which the consultant estimates will consist of 430 (public and private) charging stations. Including the 25 trolleys. we have 181 vehicles in the City’s fleet which will also be targeted for conversion between now and 2035 for battery-electric and plug-in hybrid EVs.
GW: Our City, an environmental leader with our Green Belt and Blue Belt, is now taking steps to improve our air quality in the City and the State, less ocean contaminants from oil and radiator leakage, and quieter streets. While electric vehicles cost more, as will the purchase and installment of electric charging stations, these costs will be offset over time by reduced operational (rising gas prices) and maintenance costs. Plus, our City Staff led by Michael Litschi, Director or Transit and Community Services, will be identifying potential funding sources for the EVs and public EV charging stations. (ICF noted that the City will not be responsible for creating all public charging stations, and our local business, Rivian has recently approached the City with a proposal to install EV charging stations in city-managed parking lots). This is a big step forward with lots of complex challenges to be overcome. The consultant will be hired to help write the transition plan.
Our local StuNews Laguna reporter, Sara Hall, has an excellent article detailing this Agenda #12 Item, (pdf click here)
Public Comments re. Skim Boarding at Aliso Beach
Background: A number of our local skim boarding contest champions, enthusiasts, and manufacturers, came to petition for more time and greater space on Aliso Beach to indulge in their passion and profession. They pointed out that when the County managed this beach, that the skimboarding cones were moved according to sand movement and break versus being in a fixed spot as they are since Laguna took over the management of this beach. They said that there have been rare to no accidents between skimboarders and swimmers, and that they have often been first responders helping rescue endangered swimmers caught in the shore break waves at Aliso.
Kai Bond, Captain of the Marine Safety Department, said that the fixed position of the cones was agreed upon by Council and makes it easier for Laguna’s lifeguards to manage Aliso Beach with swimmers in one location and wave rider/skimboarders in another. He reported that the County hadn’t informed him about adjusting the skimboarding cones for the sand’s movement and break.
GW: Laguna is home to world class skimboarding and champion skimboard and wave riders. In fact, the sport was invented in Laguna Beach with Victoria Skimboards leading the way. Aliso Beach has been the key beach for years for skimboarders learning and practicing their skimming and wave riding. The Council directed Staff to increase the hours for skimboarding, and work with the skimboarding community with the goal of providing skimboarders with optimum time and space while protecting swimmers.
My Comments at City Council prior to the start of the 6-27-23 Meeting:
Noise is a real issue for many residents and has a negative impact on health with some of the worse noise caused by vehicles, particularly cars and motorcycles that have been modified to be louder. It’s a quality of life and health issue that is very difficult to regulate. Paris, France, however, is trying to do just that by implementing technology that will capture the license plates of loud vehicles.
Mayor Whalen said that Caltrans would like to explore using technology to help reduce noise along our 7-miles of PCH. If Caltrans is slow to implement this new technology, we could explore doing this on our own. We would not be able to issue speeding or excessive noise tickets yet, but we would be able to issue warning letters and capture data about who is causing the noise. We have seen several pedestrian deaths on Coast Highway over this last year, and making PCH safer is a top priority.
CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS PULLED FOR DISCUSSION BY COUNCIL MEMBERS AND THE PUBLIC
Item #3: Legal Claim by Ms. Patricia Sweeney: Council rejected the
claim 4-1 (I dissented)
Background: At a City Council meeting on February 7th, 2023, in response to comments made by Michele Monda requesting that her November 2022 California Public Records Acts request regarding the City Manager’s traffic stop be fulfilled, the City Manager (CM) made the following response:
City Manager’s Public Comments: “Mayor and Council: Mayor, with your authorization I’d like to respond to Ms. Monda and her allegations, okay? So, I prepared a written statement because I want to be concentrated on the truth. Over the last several months four Laguna Beach residents: Ms. Monda, MJ Abraham, Nancy Swensson, and Trish Sweeney have continuously cyberbullied and harassed me on social media. And, at Council meetings they have been trying very hard to create a hostile work environment for me and defamate (sic) my character. Their latest attempt is spearheaded by Ms. Monda, and her family is to try to make a news story out of a traffic ticket that I received last November.” Read the City Manager's full statement here: https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/dupuisrespondstotrafficrecords020723
GW: Many of us were surprised by the City Manager’s response to a public records act request. We were also dismayed to hear four residents named and accused of cyberbullying and harassment from the public dais, and assumed we would be shown some written or verbal evidence to support the City Manager’s accusation. None was offered then nor has been since this public accusation.
According to reports, many people criticized and verbally attacked these four women because of the CM’s statement, including Ms. Sweeney, who filed a claim with the City and hired an attorney to clear her name. Ms. Sweeney has requested a retraction and public apology for a false accusation, as well as for being slandered and defamed in a public, videoed venue.
We on Council, the City Staff, and the City Manger serve our community, and that community has first amendment rights to question public officials on their decisions. Those questions can get pretty lively, heated even, but that’s the nature of the democratic process to argue, disagree, and come to a resolution. None of us are allowed to engage in name-calling or labeling from our positions as public officials and managers.
The State’s required prevention of harassment and abusive conduct training (and testing) is much more rigorous for Managers than it is for those in nonsupervisory positions. Part of the reason is that Managers are held to higher professional standards since their behavior models how their staff are expected to behave. The video and recording of the CM’s comments on February 7 seem worthy of an apology versus a multi-thousand-dollar legal defense by the City for the CM’s public statements. It is for this reason that I voted to uphold the claim.
Item # 7: Service Provider Agreement for Playground Master Plan: Passed 5-0
Background: From the Staff Report: The Capital Improvement Program has $150,000 available to prepare a Playground Master Plan. The master plan will evaluate the existing City Playgrounds and identify short and long-term repairs required to maintain the playgrounds in good repair. The master plan will also result in a priority list containing cost estimates to assist the City in the long-term capital program planning and budgeting for playgrounds. Cost: $139,160.00 to $149,160.00.
GW: I pulled this item as I was skeptical about spending this amount of money to assess eleven locations, averaging about $10,000 per evaluation. Perhaps the agenda item needed more information about the complete scope of the work? However, since it will be done only once every 15 to 20 years, I voted to proceed. I look forward to the deliverables that the consultant will provide.
Item #8 Acceptance of Donation to Purchase 2 All-Terrain Vehicles for LBPD: Passed 5-0
GW: Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima have again made a generously donation to our City---this time, $24,000 in league with the Laguna Beach Police and Community Foundation to purchase non-road vehicles. The vehicles will be used in open space and beaches where accessibility by standard police vehicles is inadvisable.
Item #10 Approval of Laguna Beach Pride Event at Lang Park: Passed 5-0
Background: Laguna Beach Pride 365 is requesting the use of Lang Park for its annual LB Pride event on Saturday, August 12, from 2-10PM. This will be a big event as the entire park will be reserved for it with live music, a stage, tables and chairs, food trucks, sale of alcoholic beverages and other goods by 15-20 vendors. There will also be inflatable bounce houses, and light towers.
GW: This promises to be a fun event celebrating our LGBTQ community. Craig Cooley, one of the organizers, is still looking for sponsors, donations, and volunteers. Go to this url for more information: https://www.lagunabeachpride.org/
Item #14 Road Extension at 749 Marlin Drive: Denied 4-0: (The missing vote was because Mayor Pro-Tem, Sue Kempf recused herself because she lives within 500 feet of the property)
Background: In 1988, Mr. Merrick Leckey purchased property that borders Marlin and Alisos in the Portofino neighborhood. The access for the legal building site is on Alisos but access from Marlin Drive would have allowed for a larger and easier to build project. However, the restrictions to the site from Marlin were made by a City Planner in the early 1960s that recognized that the pattern of development in this neighborhood would be compromised if access were allowed from Marlin. Residents who lived in this area also spoke against the project because it was not compatible with the neighborhood.
GW: I asked staff how big a project would be allowed if the site were accessed from Marlin---would it be a “3,000, 4,000 or 5,000” square foot home? No estimate was provided. The City Council decided to deny an easement as the owner could build a house from Alisos, which is a legal building site.
Item #15 Amendment to City Ordinance prohibiting all Plastic Film Bags at Grocery Stores Passed 5-0
Background: When Laguna Beach banned the distribution of single use plastic bags, plastic bag manufacturers figured out a way around this by creating a thicker plastic bag that was deemed reusable. However, these new thicker, filmed bags, like the original ones we banned, are not recyclable. It made sense to add these thicker film bags to the ordinance.
GW: Kudos to John Ehlers and the members of the Environmental and Sustainability Committee for this legislation. City Staff will now determine the impacts of the prohibition and bring the item back to Council at a future date.
Appeals: A – Appeal of Design Review Approval 761 Nyes Place: Denied 5-0
Background: This project went through 3 Design Review Board (DRB) hearings and many modifications were made as requested by two neighbors. One neighbor was still not satisfied that a remaining issue concerning the placement of a kitchen window had not been addressed. The window faces the bedroom window of the neighbor’s daughter’s room but is 5 feet forward and about the same distance down and 15 feet apart. It was suggested that this would cause a loss of privacy.
GW: The council agreed this was not a great loss of privacy, and that curtains and blinds that pull from the bottom could alleviate the privacy concerns.
Appeal / Review B: Review of the Design Review Board Approval of 466 Oak St. Passed 5-0
Background: Due to the project being owned by Megan and Louis Weil, one of whom, Louis is on the DRB, this project was automatically slated for review by the City Council. Three issues were raised: 1-Maintenance of a draining pipeline under seven homes. 2-The height of the trees and other greenery. And, 3- view equity.
GW: The council voted to require the Weils to maintain the drainage pipeline. In addition, since this drainage pipe conducts City street water from up the hill, the Mayor asked Public Works to investigate changing the flow of the street drainage. Second, the Council set certain height and pruning requirements on the trees and other vegetation on the property. And, three the Council noted that the view equity issue was not seen as an issue for neighbors.
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