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Council to vote Tuesday on raises for

themselves, board and commission members

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday will determine if they or members of the Planning Commission, Design Review Board and Arts Commission should get raises, and if so, how much.

Three options were supplied by staff:

--Increase compensation by the growth in the Consumer Price Index over the past 30 months, 7.7 percent

--Match the increases to the salary increases given employees over the past three years, 3.5 percent in January of 2016 and 3 percent in July of 2017 and 2018

--Increase the compensation by 5 percent for 2016 and 2017 (10 percent total), the maximum amount allowed council members by government code

The current annual cost of the compensations is $109,900. (Annual costs are approximately $68,895 for city council, $17,780 for DRB, and $22,225 for all commissioners.) The first option would raise the cost to $118,200; the second option would cost $120,400; the third option, $120,900.

Raises for board and commission members could be approved by resolution, retroactive to July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

An increase in the compensation for City Council members must be approved by ordinance. If approved, state law stipulates that increases would not go into effect until the start of new terms for a council member, December 4.


Council approves changes in the 2018-19 budget

By BARBARA DIAMOND

At its June 12 meeting, City Council approved most of the changes to the 2018-19 budget recommended by staff, based on a positive economic outlook for the city. 

Forecasts for major city revenues include a 4.5 percent increase in property taxes, a 4 percent increase in bed taxes, and a 2 percent increase in sales tax; the 20 percent General Fund reserve and the 10 percent Disaster Contingency remain intact. The adopted budget for fiscal year 2018-19 is $97 million. The General Fund, which is the city’s primary operating fund, is $64.3 million.

The rosy projections make possible the spending additions for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Approved additions included reducing the appropriation for a Community Development Historical Inventory consultant from $30,000 to $20,000 and using the $10,000 to fund salary increases for the City Council, the Planning and Arts Commissions and the Design Review Board. City Attorney Philip Kohn will also get an increase in his monthly retainer from $8,500 to $12,000 and in his hourly rate from $235 to $255. Marine Safety funding for part-time salaries will be increased by $10,000 to address busier activity on city beaches. 

The biggest change was the increase from $100,000 to $600,000 to pay for IT equipment, Cultural Arts grants recommended by the Arts Commission and funded by the Business Improvement District in the amount of $237,600, and Community Assistance Grants totaling $259,000 were approved for disbursement. 

City Clerk Lisette Chel Walker and City Treasurer Laura Parisi were awarded 5 percent Exceptional Performance payment.

Unfunded pensions remain a concern. The California Public Employees Retirement System, known as CalPERS, continues to be underfunded, and apparently isn’t expecting its investments to pay better in the future. The rate of return was lowered from 7.5 percent to 7 percent, which is expected to increase the city’s payment to CalPERS by an additional $2.8 million by 2024-25. 

However, in June of 2017, the council approved incrementally appropriate ongoing revenues above the budget estimates toward future increases in pension payments with the goal of $2.8 million by 2024-25.


Council denies appeal of Ranch Restoration Plan

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council unanimously denied an appeal on Tuesday of the Planning Commission’s approval of a restoration plan proposed for The Ranch.

Laguna Beach resident Mark Fudge did not blame the commission for its decision. He blamed the city staff.

“The Planning Commission did the best they could,” Fudge said in his five-minute presentation to the council. “Staff abused their discretion.”

Fudge based his appeal on six grounds: 

--Insufficient notice of the Planning Commission meeting 

--Categorical exemption from California Environmental Quality Act requirements

--Non-compliance with the city’s General Plan, including six specific policies

--No consultation with other agencies interested in the project

--Failure to consider a recent court decision which defined the scope of the project and required further work to be subject to CEQA.

Staff provided a lengthy defense of its position, claiming in its report that the grounds for the appeal were speculative and unfounded. The report further stated that Fudge provided no proof that the Planning Commission erred or abused its discretion in approving the plan, required findings to overturn a commission decision.

Design review, in this case conducted by the Planning Commission, is required for proposed native vegetation restoration plans. 

The restoration plan proposed by the Ranch was designed to mitigate what Coastal Commissioners had previously determined “were unauthorized tree trimming/vegetation removal activities in Aliso Creek” and the impacts from the removal of downed vegetation from the creek bank due to the January 2017 storms, according to a letter from The Ranch representative.

“The Planning Commission rubber-stamped a California Coastal Commission decision,” said Sharon Fudge, the appellant’s wife. 

He had also claimed the restoration did not qualify for the California Environmental Quality Act’s ”small habitat restoration” categorical exemption.

The exemption applies to projects that do not exceed five acres to ensure the protection of habitat for fish, plants or wildlife. 

“This project will affect the entire 19 miles of the stream,” said Sharon Fudge. 

However reviews of the project by a Coastal Commission ecologist, the Ranch’s ecologist, the commission and city staff determined the project affects 4.83 acres of restoration. 

Fudge declined to comment on the council’s decision or any further action he might take.


Laguna Beach Beautification Council honors Keith Kesler and his war on graffiti on Thursday, June 21

After reading about Keith Kesler’s war on graffiti in last week’s edition, Laguna Beach Beautification Council President George Weiss decided Kesler should be recognized for his single-handed work in helping to keep Laguna graffiti free. In just 10 months, Kesler removed 1,000 tags and continues to be relentless in his quest to banish all graffiti from town.

On Thursday, June 21 at The Laguna Beach Beautification Council (LBBC) Awards, Kesler will be presented with the “Harry Lawrence Award” for his selfless work on graffiti removal throughout Laguna Beach. The event will be held at The Ranch at Laguna Beach.

Weiss says, “Laguna’s public art, elegant edifices, and imaginative seating areas for vista viewing have been under attack by anonymous taggers who deface these works with graffiti. Unknown to most Lagunatics, we had a stealth, anonymous super hero scrubbing away these disfigurements when they appeared, Keith Kesler.”

Laguna Beach fence

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

Keith Kesler ridding LB of graffiti, one tag at a time

“While he deserves a cape and more for his work ridding our town of this graffiti blight, LBBC can only provide ‘The Harry Lawrence Award’ in recognition of his work at our annual LBBC Awards event next week,” Weiss says.

Since 1967, the LBBC has been awarding residents and businesses Beautification Awards for their contributions in beautifying Laguna Beach. The Harry Lawrence Star of Excellence Award was conceived in 2013 as a way to honor the memory of Harry, and to acknowledge a resident or business that has shown exceptional passion for the beautification of Laguna Beach.

The LBBC Awards evening begins with an antipasto buffet at 5 p.m. (no host bar available), and the awards presentation starts at 6 p.m.

The cost for Friends of LBBC is $35 per person, which includes the buffet and one beverage, payable by cash or check on the day of the event. Make checks payable to Laguna Beach Beautification Council.

RSVP by June 16 to Ellen McKessar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 510-3093.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is located at 31106 Coast Hwy.

For more information on LBBC, go to www.lagunabeachbeautificationcouncil.com.


City Manager’s Update

Art-Inspired Writing Contest – Laguna Beach Literary Laureate Suzanne Redfearn invites local poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to Jeff Rovner’s photograph Kalaywa Monastery, Yangon, currently on display at City Hall. Two selected winners will each receive $250. The deadline for entry is Friday, July 27. For more information, visit http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art.

Laguna Beach Summer Trolley Service Starts June 18 – Start your summer fun early by riding the Laguna Beach Trolley. Trolley service will start daily on Monday, June 18 with Canyon service running from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Coastal service running from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.  For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley or call (949) 497-0766.

Laguna Beach Village Entrance Project – The construction plans and specifications for the Village Entrance project are being finalized for public bidding today, Friday, June 15. The award of the construction contract is anticipated to be presented at the August 7 City Council meeting. The plans and specifications are available for public viewing at www.lagunabeachcity.net/villageentrance.


The City Council is now accepting applications to serve on the Personnel Board

The City Council is accepting applications to serve on the Personnel Board.

Laguna Beach residents who are interested in serving on the Personnel Board should obtain an application from the City Clerk’s office or online from the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net and file in the City Clerk’s office no later than Friday, July 13 at 5 p.m. Questions may be directed to the City Clerk’s office at (949) 497-0705. Applications will not be accepted after the deadline

Interviews and appointments will be conducted on Tuesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. by the City Council in the City Council Chambers, 505 Forest Avenue. All applicants will be interviewed. Applicants may be contacted by City Council members prior to the interviews and appointments so please be prepared to make a brief statement about your desire to serve on a committee.

Two (2) two-year terms on the Personnel Board begin July 25, 2018 through September 30, 2019. The Personnel Board hears appeals relative to any disciplinary action, dismissal, demotion, reduction in pay or suspension. One of the two selected will serve as an alternate member.


City Manager’s Updates

Fourth Annual Road Safety Expo – The Laguna Beach Police Department invites you to the 4th Annual Road Safety Expo this Sunday, June 10 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. This free event will encompass safety information for all roadway users including skateboarders, cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. 

The Road Safety Expo will include a BMX freestyle team performance, skateboard clinic, auto-extrication demo from the Laguna Beach Fire Department, bicycle obstacle course, raffles, and much more.

City Managers Road

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy LBPD

Road Safety Expo will be fun!

Police Department Scholarships – On Friday, June 8 the 2018 Laguna Beach High School Honors Convocation will take place at the high school. Following a competitive process, the Officer Jon Coutchie Charitable Fund will be awarding a $1,500 college scholarship to a student seeking a degree in Criminal Justice. 

Additionally, eighteen Laguna Beach High School students submitted essays to the Laguna Beach Police Department Juvenile Crimes Detective to receive the Arthur B. Harward Memorial Scholarship, which focuses on abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Two LBHS students stood out and both will receive $1,200 scholarships to assist them with their college education.

Laguna Beach Summer Trolley Service Starts June 18 – Start your summer fun early by riding the Laguna Beach Trolley! Trolley service will start daily on Monday, June 18 with Canyon service running from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Coastal service running from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.  For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley or call (949) 497-0766.

City manager trolley

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Catch the trolley this summer!

Laguna Beach Village Entrance Project – The construction plans and specifications for the Village Entrance project are being finalized for public bidding on June 15. The award of the construction contract is anticipated to be presented at the August 27 City Council meeting. The plans and specifications will be available for public viewing on June 14 at the following link: www.lagunabeachcity.net/villageentrance.

SCE Pole Replacement by Helicopter – On Wednesday, June 13 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a pole located in the backyard of the property at 495 Panorama Drive. A helicopter will be used between the hours of 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. to remove and replace the pole. The landing zone and staging area for the helicopter will occur within the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which will require the closure of portions of Spur Ridge Trail. 

Also, portions of Eleanor Lane, Fayette Place, and Panorama Drive will be closed to non-residents during the hours of the helicopter operations. Affected residents have been noticed in advance by SCE. For questions or concerns, please contact SCE representative, Alex Arteaga, at (909) 974-4620.

Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force (HPOTF) – The HPOTF held their first meeting on Thursday, May 31. The second meeting of the Task Force is scheduled to be held on Monday June 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. For information about these meetings and any future meetings, please visit the City’s webpage at http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/cd/preserve/hpotf.htm      

City Hall Paintings – On Friday, June 15, two Joseph Kleitsch paintings in the City’s permanent collection will go on exhibit at the Laguna Art Museum. The Museum will be replacing the two loaned pieces with works by Roger Kuntz, located in Conference Room A. The painting exchange will be through November.

Sunset Serenades: World Music – The final Sunset Serenades: World Music Performance will be this Friday and will feature L ’Esprit D’ Afrique. The concert is held at the Heisler Park Amphitheater starting at 6:30 p.m. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net

Parents’ Night Out (PNO) – Parents, call it a break from the kids; kids call it a break from your parents. The City of Laguna Beach is hosting its quarterly Parents’ Night Out on Friday, June 15 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. For this evening, the Community Services Department is offering a new special with the Laguna Playhouse for a 2-for-1 deal on tickets to see Clybourne Park on June 1, only. 

Tickets at this price can only be purchased through the City of Laguna Beach as a PNO package for $60 which includes the two tickets and one PNO child registration. The children will have a blast enjoying games, movies, arts & crafts and dinner. Pre-registration is required 72 hours in advance. To register, call (949) 464-6645 or visit, www.lagunabeachcity.net – click “recreation classes.”


City Hall exhibition “Red Hot” will be on display now until June 28

The Artist Fund at Festival of Arts presents the exhibition “Red Hot” at City Hall, which will be on display through June 28.

City hall guardians

Guardians of Red Canyon, Lynn Welker

The public is invited to attend the artist reception on Thursday, June 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and vote for their favorite piece.

The Artist Fund provides both disaster-relief grants for Festival artists in need.


City will review Downtown Specific Plan Update during Planning Commission meeting this Wednesday, June 6

The City will continue its efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update this Wednesday, June 6, 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 public correspondence and issue areas related to Section V: Land Use Districts of the existing DSP document. Topics covered will include: the intent and purpose of land use districts, permitted land uses/required entitlements, permit processes, findings and special findings for certain uses, allowable changes in permitted use category per City Council resolution, and definitions. 

For more information on the Downtown Specific Plan Update project, please contact Wendy Jung, Senior Planner at (949) 497-0321 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


City Manager’s Updates

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Continue to Review Portions of Section V: Land Use Districts – The City of Laguna Beach will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wednesday, June 6 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 public correspondence and issue areas related to Section V: Land Use Districts of the existing DSP document. Topics covered include: the intent and purpose of land use districts, permitted land uses/required entitlements, permit processes, findings and special findings for certain uses, allowable changes in permitted use category per City Council resolution, and definitions. 

For more information on the Downtown Specific Plan Update project please contact Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at (949) 497-0321 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Queda Way Retaining Wall Replacement – Construction is underway to replace a deteriorated retaining wall at the south end of Queda Way. The project also includes roadway drainage improvements to help prevent flooding of private properties. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of July. For more information, please contact the project manager, Tri Nguyen, at (949) 497-0741.

Downtown Street Restriping – The Public Works Department will be repainting the downtown street legends and striping in preparation for the summer season. This work will start Thursday, June 7 and continue through Saturday, June 9.  All work will be done in the early morning hours to minimize traffic impacts. 

Moulton Meadows Field Maintenance and Closures – Moulton Meadows Field will be closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations through Monday, June 25. If Please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762 with any questions.

It’s Time to Renew Your Shopper Parking Permits – Residents who have participated in the shopper permit program should receive their 2018-2020 Shopper Parking Permit application in the mail the week of May 28. If you do not receive an application or are interested in the program, visit the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net and click on the “Shopper Permits” icon located on the City’s homepage.

 From the website, residents can purchase parking permits online or by mail by downloading a PDF version of the information packet and application. The cost is $80 each for the first two shopper permits and $150 each for the third and fourth permit. Please make checks payable to the City of Laguna Beach.

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