City is working on plan to mitigate natural disasters – and locals’ involvement is needed to make it stronger

The disastrous impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston and the surrounding areas is a stark reminder to Lagunans to be prepared for all manner of natural disasters, from floods to fire to mudslides – not to mention earthquakes.

Emergency operations coordinator Jordan Villwock tells Stu News that 

the City of Laguna Beach is working on a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP), a five-year strategic plan to improve local resilience to hazard events, the first such plan in Laguna’s history.

“Public input is extremely important while writing hazard mitigation plans; no one knows the hazards better than those who live and work within the community!” Villwock notes. 

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Submitted photo

Flood, 2010…

Residents are invited to attend workshops at Susi Q, 380 Third St, to offer their input in upcoming meetings. A Community Kick-off Meeting will take place on Thurs, Sept 14, and a Hazard Profiles Open House will be on Wed, Oct 18. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m.

 “These workshops are designed to engage the community, receive feedback, and put together a beneficial usable work plan for the next five years,” Villwock adds.

Public safety officials and City staff, with support from members of the Laguna Beach Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee, other affected agencies, and technical consultants, are developing the plan. 

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Submitted photo

Mudslide, 2005…

The Hazard Mitigation plan will summarize the natural and human-caused hazards that pose a threat to the community, including drought, flooding, earthquakes, and wildfires. 

In addition to protecting Laguna Beach from current and future hazards, having an LHMP will allow Laguna to be eligible for grants from FEMA for additional hazard mitigation efforts. It will also make Laguna eligible to receive additional disaster relief funding from the State of California, per CA Government Code Section 8685.9.

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Submitted photo

Wildfire, 2015….

The City plans to release a draft of the plan for public review in Jan of 2018, with final adoption planned for the summer of 2018, following approval from the California Office of Emergency Services and FEMA.

Development of the plan, (the first such plan for Laguna), is being funded through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

Adds Villwock, “Additionally, if people are unable to attend the workshops and would like to provide input they can take our survey at

To learn more about the Hazard Mitigation Plan visit:

City Manager Updates

Trolley Tracker App Updated- An update to the Trolley Tracker is now available on the Visit Laguna Beach mobile app. New features of the updated Trolley Tracker include separated route information and a map of each route, a locator marker on the map pages so that riders can view where they are in relation to the route, and arrival times for each bus stop on each route. To update the tracker on a mobile device, the update to the Visit Laguna Beach app can be downloaded in the Apple Store or Android Store from the device.  If you have any questions regarding the updated tracker, please contact Paula Faust at 949-497-0303.

Downtown Street Closure - The crosswalks on Forest Avenue and Park Avenue at South Coast Highway will be closed from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on August 21 for pavement repairs. Affected businesses have been notified.

Forthcoming Change on OCTA Route 89 - OCTA has announced minor changes to its Route 89 that travels north and south to Laguna Beach along Laguna Canyon Road.  Effective February 2018, on weekdays, the service frequency will be increased from every 35 minutes to every 30 minutes during the peak and midday.  Due to very low ridership on a few trips, OCTA also proposes to eliminate last northbound trip departing at 10:27 p.m. and last southbound trip departing at 9:34 p.m. on weekdays; and the first northbound trip departing at 6:12 a.m. and first southbound trip at 4:57 a.m. on Sundays.  For additional information or to provide comments to OCTA, please visit

Poetry Moves You - The City of Laguna Beach Poet Laureate, Kate Buckley presents Poetry Moves You. The Poet Laureate has selected excerpts from poems that have been installed alongside the trolley schedule at the Bus Depot on Broadway and the town maps along Forest Avenue. We hope they will inspire as you make your way through beautiful Laguna Beach. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

LPAPA Art Exhibition at City Hall - The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association has installed an exhibition of its members new paintings on the first floor of City Hall located at 505 Forest Avenue. The exhibition can be viewed Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and alternative Friday’s 7:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. through October 6.

Planning Commission reviews revisions to Downtown Specific Plan


Months of work by the Citizens Ad Hoc Committee to improve the Downtown Specific Plan paid off at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

Planning Commissioners were more impressed with revisions proposed by the committee than changes suggested by MIG, the consulting firm hired by the city.

Committee recommendations included ways to help the retail businesses more smoothly deal with the“economic shifts,” from brick and mortar to online shopping and still maintain Laguna’s unique identity. 

“The committee is comprised of three Chamber of Commerce Board members, three Village Laguna Board members and three business people with expertise in land use in the downtown, five of whom previously served on the Planning Commission,” said committee member Norm Grossman. 

“Our common goal was to keep the downtown special.”

Flexibility in downtown commercial uses is needed, staff says

Planning staff was supportive of committee recommendations that provide for added flexibility in downtown commercial uses, according to the staff report.

“Our recommendations include modifying the conditional use permit process to limit CUPS to a much smaller set of uses, such as restaurants, and increase the number of allowed uses,” said committee member and downtown property owner Kent Russell. 

The commission was asked to weigh in on issues primarily related to economic vitality, principally ways to keep the downtown Laguna-centric while making it simpler and less expensive for new businesses to be approved or existing business to make changes in merchandise or marketing techniques. 

High rent is a factor in the downtown, said Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson. 

“When I am out of town I ask businesses if they ever consider going to Laguna and they say, ‘Are you going to pay my rent?’” 

Commissioners were asked to provide direction on “saturation” (too many of the same type of businesses) and formula-based businesses.

  The recommendation by the committee to investigate hiring an experienced retail specialist was well-received by commissioners who were conversant with the job description.

“An independent analyst can help us look at the big picture,” said commission Chair Susan McLintock Whitin.

Balancing resident vs visitor serving businesses

Balancing the resident serving and visitor serving businesses was one of the six key policies reviewed by commission. 

“What’s there that is resident serving?” asked Commissioner Anne Johnson.

The resident serving requirement has been eroded, particularly in the block between South Coast Highway and Beach Street, according to committee member Barbara Metzger.  

“We still have resident serving businesses at the inland side of Ocean and it’s worth preserving the district there as an incentive to establishing new resident-serving uses in the downtown and keeping the ones we have,” said Metzger.

City staff also requested commission input on the committee’s recommendation to expand the number of uses that could be approved administratively, thereby reducing the number of uses that require a CUP. 

Consideration of parking requirements will be discussed at a later date when parking, circulation and public transportation are addressed. A discussion of the development of the Central Bluffs, the block from the Hotel Laguna to Legion Street was also tabled.

Wednesday’s commission meeting was one of a series on revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan, a determining factor in development.

Planning Commission public hearing for the So CA Gas Advanced Meter project scheduled on Aug 16 

The Planning Commission will conduct a study session on the proposed Southern California Gas Advanced Meter project, which would upgrade residential and commercial gas meters in the City with “advanced meter” technology for remote natural gas usage tracking. The Commission will hold a public hearing at its Wed, Aug 16, meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers located at 505 Forest Avenue.  

Southern California Gas has submitted applications to establish data collectors throughout its local service area (all developed areas of LB excluding South Laguna). The data collector units resemble small cellular installations and will be subject to the City’s Wireless Communications Facilities Ordinance. 

The purpose of the study session is to review the master plan and discuss potential collocation opportunities, siting preferences, staking requirements and other considerations prior to scheduling any site-specific application for a public hearing.  

The data collectors will require a Conditional Use Permit and Planning Commission Design Review, and in select circumstances a Coastal Development Permit. For each application, a public notice identifying the date and time of the public hearing will be mailed to neighbors in accordance with City noticing requirements.

Planning Commission meetings are open to the public. They are also broadcast on government channel 852 on Cox, streamed on the City’s website, and archived on the City’s website for future viewing. 

To view a copy of the staff presentation for this item, please refer to the City’s website: It will be available by 5:30 p.m. on Fri, Aug 11.

Council approves “small things” recommended by the mayor to reduce traffic


The City Council on Tuesday approved Mayor Toni Iseman’s recommendations to City Manager John Pietig to investigate and report on ways to improve circulation downtown, lessen the impacts of construction and clear holdups on the highway. 

Isman’s directions to the city manager:

*Bring to the council options on how to reduce congestion downtown due to commercial food and beverage delivery trucks, including enforcement and restrictions on times of deliveries

*Come back to the council with graduated fines for different violations

* Return with options to reduce congestion and the carbon footprint associated with residential construction, including staging plans, hauling routes, a requirement for certified brake inspection documents and the impacts of excess excavation

A directive to Pietig to talk to Caltrans about prohibiting left turns off of Pacific Coast Highway unless there is a left-turn pocket was added to Iseman’s original recommendations by Councilman Steven Dicterow. 

“Small changes can make big differences,” Iseman said. 

However Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd, former owner of the Marine Room, did not completely agree with Iseman’s definition of small changes. He said limiting delivery times makes no sense and he voted against Iseman’s recommendations. 

“Restaurants open at different times,” he said. “You have to be in business to understand.”

Pietig encouraged a dialogue with the Chamber of Commerce about the proposal. 

As for fines: Civilian Administrator Jim Beres reported that new technology for giving traffic fines is soon to be implemented. The technology also enables increased fines for repeat offenders.

Paul Columbus, one of the five members of the audience to speak on the recommendations, said residents should be involved in determining remedies. He called it crowd sourcing – but including old-school methods such as mailers and suggestion boxes,

Iseman suggested that Stu News could participate. 

Resident Rita Conn supported the use of traffic circulation directors to expedite crossings. Unfortunately they cannot be stationed in the middle of the intersection of Broadway and the highway, said Iseman. That is where many would most like to see them, but they would be restricted to the sidewalk, she said. 

No date was set for Pietig to return to the council with the requested information.

City Manager Updates

City’s Summer Breeze Seeing Record Breaking Ridership- The City’s Summer Breeze program has already surpassed last year’s total ridership by 18 percent with four more weeks of service remaining. The Summer Breeze provides free parking and a free bus ride into Laguna Beach from a parking lot located at the 405 freeway and SR-133.  For more information on the Summer Breeze program go to

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Review Draft Amendments (Section III, Topic 3) The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wed, August 16, during the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The Planning Commission will review and discuss MIG’s recommended draft amendments to Section III:  Issue Statements and Policies, Topic 3 (Downtown Commercial Uses) of the existing DSP document.  A copy of the draft amendments is available to view on the City’s website:  For more information on the Downtown Specific Plan Update project please contact: Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at (949) 497-0321; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Cress Street Sidewalk Improvements -Construction will begin on August 21 to extend the sidewalk on Cress Street from Bluebird Park to Temple Terrace. Minor traffic delays can be expected during working hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of November.

Caltrans Coast Highway ADA Sidewalk Improvements- On August 28, at 5:30 p.m., the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) in partnership with the City of Laguna Beach will be hosting a public outreach meeting at the Community and Susi Q Center to provide information, answer questions, and obtain public input regarding an upcoming Americans with Disabilities (ADA) sidewalk improvement project.  The project limits are along Coast Highway between Ruby Street & Ledroit Street.  If you have any questions or are unable to attend the meeting and would like to provide comments, please contact Yvonne Washington, Caltrans Public Information Officer, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

CERT Training - The next Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Class will start on Tuesday, Sept 5. The CERT program consists of 25 hours of classroom and hands-on training, and it concludes with a disaster exercise to apply the skills and knowledge obtained during the classroom sessions. Training includes the following topics: Disaster Preparedness, Light Search and Rescue, Fire Safety, Disaster Medical Operations, and much more. If you are interested in learning how to be better prepared and want to join the class please register through the following link: or through the recreation course sign-up on our City’s website. Any questions can be directed to Jordan Villwock, Emergency Operations Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 497-0389.

Poetry Reading at Festival of Arts - The Festival of Arts is celebrating its 85th anniversary on August 13. The celebration ceremony will include a poetry reading by Laguna Beach Poet Laureate, Kate Buckley. Events will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Festival grounds located at 650 Laguna Canyon Road. This event is open to the public and admission is free throughout the day. The Poet Laureate program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Sunset Serenades - Sunset Serenades will return to the Heisler Park Amphitheater on Cliff Drive, Friday evenings in September. Enjoy live music overlooking the ocean from 5:30 p.m. to sunset.

9/8: Tommy Kowalczyk - Rock and Classical Piano

9/15: Jason Feddy sings The Laguna Beach Police Blotter

9/22: Ginger Root - Summer grooves from the Chapman University band

9/29: Jodi Siegel - Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist

This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. 

Juried Fine Art 2017 - The 2017 Laguna Beach Juried Fine Art Exhibition is now accepting submissions. The exhibition is open to Orange County artists 18 years of age or older. Entries must be made via by Sept 9. This Program is funded by the Lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. For more information contact Michael McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Fall Quarter 2017 Registration Activities - Registration for fall 2017 recreation activities for all ages started Monday, August 7.  To register and see the list of programs available please visit:

Parents’ Night Out - On Friday, August 25, from 5:30 - 9:30 p.m., the Laguna Beach Community Services Department will be hosting its quarterly Parents’ Night Out.  For registration and information please visit:

Unanimous council support for Paris Climate Agreement applauded


It was a rare night for the Laguna Beach City Council. 

A harmonious and vocal audience applauded the council’s unanimous vote in favor of a resolution of support for the Paris Climate Agreement and the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda.

“I have never been in room before where I agreed with so many things being said,” commented Famin Pejan. 

Pejan was one of the 34 speakers who urged the council to support the agreement and sign on to the mayor’s agenda. 

“Tonight was exhilarating,” said Barbara MacGillivray. 

And that was before the council voted.

The council unanimously approved the resolution with four amendments proposed by Councilman Bob Whalen that he said would better reflect the values of the community.  

*Section 1: The city hereby supports the goals of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda including adopting and supporting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement;

*Section 2: The city commits to reduced Green House Gas emissions through the ongoing implementation of its Climate Protection Action Plan;

*Section 3: The city commits to periodic updates to its Climate Protection Action Plan to identify additional policies and programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the city, residents and visitors, and to provide a sustainable local environment; and

*Section 4: The city clerk shall certify the adoption of this resolution. 

In a second action proposed by Whalen, staff was directed to explore available resources to assist the city in measuring its greenhouse gas emissions and to identify additional strategies to reduce emissions generated by the city’s residents and visitors.

Audience members, including environmental activist Chris Prelitz, who criticized the pre-amended resolution, mostly wanted the council to go further, specifically supporting a stronger commitment by the city and more compelling language in the document. 

There was also support for rewriting the city’s Climate Protection Action Plan, basing an update on more current data gathered since the plan was first approved.

Bluebelt Coalition spokeswoman Jinger Wallace said the city need look no further for an update than the proposed changes to the city’s Sustainability Element of the General Plan, pending review by the Planning Commission. 

Additionally, the city’s Environmental Sustainability Committee has developed a two-year work plan. 

“This will probably take them through the end of calendar year 2018, but if we want to begin to review the action plan – which will take public input – I could see them being the group to hold the meetings, but I think we are looking at 2018,” said Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede. 

City Manager John Pietig said it would be prudent to look back at previous experiences when two or three committees reviewed environmental proposals before which body – and how it would work with other bodies – is determined for an update on the action plan.

The Chamber will hold its “Artsy August” happy hour tomorrow, Wednesday Aug 9 at [seven-degrees]

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce invites residents to their “Artsy August” happy hour, taking place on Wed, Aug 9, at 5:30 p.m. at [seven-degrees] located in the heart of the city’s festival district.

The Chamber will be hosting two other local Chambers: the German American Business Associatio (GABA) and the Orange County Iranian American Chamber of Commerce (OCIACC).

This year’s event will feature a selection of small bites, beer & wine, raffle prizes and silent auction. Each attendee will also receive a free ticket to the Sawdust Art Festival, to be enjoyed that evening, or any other date during festival season. The Chamber recommends taking the trolley, which stops a few steps from the event.

Seven-degrees is located at 891 Laguna Canyon Road. Admission is $15. For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, visit the Chamber’s website,, or contact the Chamber at (949) 494-1018. The public is welcome to attend.

As host of the event, the Chamber of Commerce promotes, represents, and supports local businesses, and advocates on their behalf. In its 100 year of operation, the Chamber also serves as the business resource center for the community.

Council will consider extension of city, Susi Q pilot program at Tuesday meeting


A pilot program that partnered the city and Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. to upgrade and streamline services at the Third Street Centers will be evaluated by the City Council on Tuesday. 

Extension of the program has been recommended by city staff, which reports that the experimental program has made a positive difference in programming, customer service and overall operating efficiencies at the Third Street Centers.

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede and representatives of the seniors developed an agreement to enhance the partnership by increasing efficiency, identifying cost savings and providing improved customer service at the Community and Susi Q Centers.

Staff cites improved service at the front desk, which is now provided by city employees. It is estimated that the arrangement saves the seniors $18,000 a year.

Among the senior-specific goals of the project are to ensure that Laguna’s older residents are aware of and find diverse, affordable and convenient programs at the center, reflecting their interests and needs.

A survey conducted by the seniors will focus on programs and center priorities to make certain that the goals of the pilot program are achieved now and in the future. 

Programs and services offered at the center will continue to be listed in the city’s Community Services brochure. Consideration of an icon to identify senior-specific information in the brochure has been tabled at this time is included in the lengthy report which is available for review on the city’s website

The report and recommendation are on the program is on the council’s Consent Calendar, which will not be discusses at the meeting unless it is “pulled” by a member of the council or the public.

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