Obama’s Major Disaster Declaration will aid with City repairs – jury out on households

President Obama issued a Major Disaster Declaration for California Wednesday that will make Federal Funds available for repairs and replacements of public disaster-damaged facilities. The declaration covers damages from Dec 17 through Jan 4.

The City estimates that its facilities suffered $1.3 million in related damage and replacement repairs in the 2010 Flood. City Manager John Pietig said in a prepared statement that it is unknown how much of that will be covered by FEMA under the declaration. Ten counties from Kern County south were specified by the declaration with the exception of Los Angeles County.

While the news is good for the City, assistance to individuals and households damaged remains “under review” by Washington. It is estimated that such losses in Laguna Beach are in excess of $10,000,000. A second declaration by the President will not be required – only a FEMA determination would be necessary.

City officials said Thursday that they were hopeful that FEMA will include low cost loans for individuals and households in the near future.

Pietig’s statement concluded, “This is great news for the City but we will continue to do what we can to secure assistance for our residents and businesses.  I want to thank our County, State and Federal officials who have worked with the Mayor and the City Council to represent the need for assistance in Laguna Beach.”

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers on Friday’s with notes covering many subjects.

Released: Jan 21, 2011

Temporary Animal Shelter - The temporary Animal Shelter [has] opened...  The hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week.  It is located at 2093 Laguna Canyon Road.  The phone number is unchanged and remains 497-3552.

Heisler Park Art in Public Places - On Thursday, Jan 13 the Arts Commission reviewed the 42 submissions to the call for qualifications for the Heisler Park Art in Public Places. The Arts Commission has selected four finalists to develop proposals. The selected finalists are Donald Gialanella (Topanga), David Ruth and Team (Oakland), Scott and Naomi Schoenherr (Laguna Beach) and Peter Shire (Los Angeles). The finalists [met] with a sub-committee of the Arts Commission on-site on Friday Jan 21 to review the site.

Coast Highway Work Next Week - Early [this] week Caltrans will be working on the northbound side of South Coast Highway between Nyes Place and Broadway. The work will involve pothole patching with some closures of the right-hand lane and some parking restrictions. The work is expected to be completed by Tuesday.

Artist Open Studios - On Saturday, Feb 5 and March 5, 2011, artists will open their studios from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This self-guided tour is free and a rare opportunity to peer into the creative spaces of over 20 of Laguna’s artists. A free trolley service will be offered on [both Saturdays] commencing from the Laguna College of Art and Design Parking lot located at 2222 Laguna Canyon Road. The College will also be offering free parking. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Lifeguard Headquarters and North Main Beach Restrooms – Last week the Coastal Commission approved revisions to the City’s Local Coastal Program that will allow for the replacement of the Lifeguard Headquarters, north Main Beach restrooms, and sewage generator and controls with modern facilities.  Since the last approval by the City Council had some changes to the conceptual design, it is necessary to re-stake the project and have the City Council take a final action.  The staking should be in place next week and the City Council will consider the changes to the conceptual design in March.

Applications for Recreation and Parking, Traffic & Circulation committees must be submitted by Feb 9

The City Council is accepting applications for three two-year terms on the Recreation Committee and five two-year terms on the Parking, Traffic & Circulation Committee. Both terms will run through Feb 29, 2013.

Interviews will be conducted on February 15, 2011, at 6 p.m. by the City Council at their regular meeting in the City Council Chambers. All applicants will be interviewed.

The Recreation Committee directs its efforts in the area of providing for the recreation and park needs of the community. Meetings are held bi-monthly on the first Monday of the month.

The Parking/Traffic/Circulation Committee acts in an advisory capacity on matters pertaining to parking, traffic, circulation, transit, the Parking Management Plan, and traffic complaints. Meetings  are held on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Laguna Beach residents who are interested in serving on one of these committees should obtain an application from the City Clerk’s office or on-line from the City’s website and file by Tuesday, February 9 at 5 p.m. Applications will not be accepted after the deadline.

Questions may be directed to the City Clerk’s office at 497-0705.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers on Friday’s with notes covering many subjects.

Released: Jan 14, 2011

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries - On Wednesday, Jan 12 the California Coastal Commission denied the City’s request to amend its Local Coastal Implementation Plan to prohibit Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Laguna Beach. Although the Coastal Staff recommended approval of the amendment, the Commission voted 5-6 to deny the amendment.

Planning Commission approvals - On Wednesday, Jan 12, the Planning Commission approved the installation of a controversial telecommunication dish antenna at an existing site at 1100 Balboa Avenue by a 3-1 vote. The Commission also unanimously approved a new wine gallery/restaurant at the corner of Pearl and South Coast Highway.

From the City Manager’s office Jan 13:

Disaster Recovery Activities


The City of Laguna Beach is continuing to recover from recent storm events.  The following is an update regarding the event and various activities.

The current estimate of damage is now $12.3 million and involves more than 180 properties. (See below)

On Saturday, January 8, with the assistance of three bobcat and truck teams, underwritten by Mission hospital, 125 volunteers showed up to help clear mud and debris from heavily impacted properties in Laguna Canyon.

As a result of the continued need to dispose of mud and debris from the floods, the City is extending the free use of the ACT V site (1900 Laguna Canyon Road) for Laguna Beach flood victims through January 31, 2011.  Mud and dirt can be dumped in the parking lot for conveyance to landfills.  Trash and debris must be placed in the on-site roll-off containers.  Use of this facility is limited to disposal of flood related debris, not general disposal of trash and debris.

In order to assist residents and business with safely moving back into the properties, the City is extending the waiver of over-the-counter fees to repair or replace electrical, plumbing, drywall, hot water heaters, etc., through January 31, 2011.

The appropriate local, county and state declarations are in place to request the President to declare a federal disaster.  Until such a disaster is declared, no FEMA funds will be available.  Even after a disaster is declared, FEMA assistance may be limited.

The Laguna Relief and Resource Center is organizing volunteers and fund raising events.  Please contact them at 949-212-9155 to volunteer or donate funds to help flood victims.

On January 25, 2011, a presentation will be held for the public at the Susi Q Senior Center at 6:30 p.m. Information will be presented by teams regarding finance, insurance, low interest loans and landlord/tenant responsibilities in disaster situations.

The City is looking at future criteria to identify when it is appropriate to use the Alert Orange County system to request voluntary evacuations of portions of the City in advance of heavy storm events with a high potential for flooding.

Efforts are underway to ensure that inappropriate storage containers and other equipment and materials are removed from 20326 and 20342 Laguna Canyon Road.

Information will be provided to residents of Sun Valley regarding the property maintenance standards.  Efforts are also underway to ensure that the owners of the private creek remove debris from the creek.


Flood Damage Assessment

(As of Tuesday January 11, 2011)

71 businesses and/or commercial structures received damage.  Most of the damage occurred to the inventory of the stores.  Estimated losses and cleanup is $5.6 million.

91 residential properties received moderate to major damage.  While only one home has been “yellow tagged,” the water damage to interior walls and personal items is extensive.  The cost for cleanup and losses is estimated at $4.8 million.

22 “other” structures were seriously damaged during the floods.  These include:

• The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter The contents of the building (computers, files, phones, medicines, equipment, etc.) are a total loss.  The structure was severely damaged along with the pedestrian and vehicle bridges which lead to the facility.  The loss is estimated at $800,000.

• The Main Beach Lifeguard Tower and Boardwalk were heavily damaged.  The estimated loss is $250,000.

• Damage to the Police Department Property/Evidence Storage Facility adjacent to the creek is $100,000.

• Damage to the rear of City Hall from the mudslides is estimated at $100,000. (The slides also went into the Marine Safety storage area and the Police Department Vehicle Maintenance/Storage Unit.

• Several sewer pump stations throughout the community suffered damage.  The cost for repairs is estimated at $100,000.

• Costs for cleanup of the Downtown Streets and Laguna Canyon Road will exceed $450,000.

• Infrastructure repairs to various fencing in the downtown area near Beach Street, rental fencing for the Boardwalk area, and damaged fencing along City owned bridges along Laguna Canyon Road will exceed $100,000.

Total “Other Structure” damage will be in excess of $1.9 million.

The revised damage assessment is $12.3 million dollars.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

The City Manager’s office prepares a memo for Councilmembers on Friday’s with notes covering many subjects.

Released: Jan 7, 2011

Dog Park Closed - The Dog Park on Laguna Canyon Road suffered significant damage during the flooding and will remain closed at least through the middle of the month as City crew work to restore the turf areas and repair damaged irrigation and drainage structures.

Slide Below Heisler Gazebo - An impending slide from the bluff below the Gazebo near Las Brisas has closed a portion of the beach below for safety reasons. The Gazebo itself is not threatened. A contractor will be hired next week to topple the loose material to remove the threat of material falling onto the beach.

Laguna Canyon Road Widening Delayed - The County’s plan to add a second outbound lane on Laguna Canyon Road at El Toro Road will be delayed again. The first phase of the project was scheduled to be completed before next summer. There was an irregularity in construction bids recently received by the County that will prevent the County from awarding a construction contract in time to complete the work before summer. The work is now scheduled to begin in September and be completed before the end of November.

State Inspectors – Inspectors from the state are checking contractors to make sure they are appropriately licensed.  Working without a license in a state disaster area is a felony.

New Building Official - After a recruitment process with 65 applicants, a new Building Official has been selected and will start on Monday, Jan 10.  Carl Hefner has a Bachelor’s degree and more than 25 years of experience in the building industry. Carl is a Certified Building Official and has many related certificates and a contractor’s license.  He most recently was the Deputy Building Official for the City of Sacramento.  He also has worked for the City of Davis, the County of Sacramento and the City of San Jose.

Skateboarding - On Feb 1, 2011, the City Council will consider a report from the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee regarding skateboarding regulations.

Laguna Beach Seniors Executives Director - The Board of Directors of the Laguna Beach Seniors appointed Nadia Babayi as the new Executive Director of the Susi Q Center.  Nadia brings over 25 years experience with corporate, non-profit and government organizations.  She served as Director of Development for Stop- Gap, a non-profit theatre group, and most recently was Campaign Manager/Team Leader for the Department of Commerce’s project with 12 cities in South Orange County (including Laguna Beach) relating to the 2010 Census. Nadia starts on January 10.

Community Assistance Grants - The application period for fiscal year 2011-2012 Community Assistance Grants is now open. The application is available on the City website and submittals are due Friday, February 25.

OCTA has recently released the 2010 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for public review - OCTA is asking county stakeholders for feedback.  They invite everyone to log on to the project website at http://www.octa.net/lrtp_overview.aspx View the documents and complete a quick 5 question survey!  This is a great opportunity for county residents, employees, and commuters to get involved in shaping the Transportations System of the future! OCTA will host a public meeting to provide more details about the plan and allow the public to provide their feedback. The public comment period closes in Jan 31, they encourage everyone to log on to the project webpage!!

City of Laguna Beach

Key Accomplishments

January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2010

The City Manager’s office sent out the following in a press release: “Each year, the City lists its key accomplishments for the preceding 12 months. In keeping with that tradition, I have attached a list of significant projects and programs, which the City accomplished during calendar year 2010.”

The list:

Community Development


Adopted many specific recommendations proposed by the Business Assistance Task Force.

Adopted numerous changes to the Zoning Code regarding procedures, definitions, setbacks and nonconforming structures.

Adopted an enhanced booklet of design review principles and guidelines.

Instituted a comprehensive customer service effort in Community Development.

Prepared an environmental impact report for the Village Entrance Project.

Amended the hedge height ordinance.


Public Facilities


Undergrounded the utilities on Lookout Drive and Poplar Street.

Created 15 new parking spaces on Cliff Drive by making it a one-way street.

Reconstructed all of the alleys north of Boat Canyon.

Adopted a 20-year plan for improvements to the sewer system.

Replaced the alarm system at all of the 25 sewer pump stations.

Installed a quick-connect emergency power device at the Irvine Cove pump station.

Created an underground utility district for the Big Bend portion of Laguna Canyon Road.

Purchased utility undergrounding credits from other cities at $.55 on the dollar.

Repaired, relined or replaced about 45 sections of metal storm drains that were deteriorated.

Repaired and resealed about 30% of the City’s streets including those in all of South Laguna, North Laguna from Broadway to Boat Canyon, the neighborhoods around the high school, and Top of the World.

Raised the apparatus doors at Fire Station One.

Installed a new roof on Fire Station 4.

Replaced the siding and roof at Fire Station 2.

Obtained a grant to re-landscape and beautify Broadway from the bus depot to Forest Avenue.

Updated the fuel dispensing equipment behind City Hall.

Secured all local approvals for a new lifeguard headquarters, public restrooms and sewer pump station at Main Beach.

Dedicated the Arch Beach Heights View Park.

Secured $2.5 million in grant funding for improvements to Heisler Park.

Initiated construction on the third phase of the Heisler Park renovation.

Installed a more energy efficient, super oxygenation system at the Bluebird SOCWA Pump Station.

Completed a major renovation of the Bluebird SOCWA Pump Station.

Invested, located and constructed a new manhole along a lost section of sewer line located in the steep terrain of Hidden Valley Canyon.

Initiated the replacement of the emergency power transfer switches at both the Bluebird SOCWA and Laguna SOCWA sewer lift stations.


Public Safety


Obtained grant funds to replace old portable radios.

Initiated a program for funding of firefighter training through Santa Ana College.

Received a State grant to replace emergency extrication equipment.

Achieved a Class 3 fire protection rating from the Insurance Services Office.

Upgraded the computers in patrol cars.

Completed a multi-year effort to scan old paper reports into the computer system.

Created a civilian supervisor position to oversee Parking and Animal Services.

Initiated the “Ready, Set Go” fire inspection and fire safety program.

Participated in Golden Guardian exercise with Mission Hospital.

Created a booking fee reimbursement program.

Obtained grant to purchase Laser Radar Units.

Commissioned biological studies to extend the fuel modification zone and remove invasive plants in Oro Canyon.

Conducted three sobriety checkpoints to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence.

Established a temporary animal shelter on Laguna Canyon Road.

Awarded a contract to renovate the animal shelter.




Initiated a free, all day parking lot, ten months of the year for downtown employees and visitors.

Purchased the Hopkins Trust parcels on Bluebird Canyon Drive for open space.

Acquired four lots in Arch Beach Heights to add to the view park.

Relocated the emergency homeless shelter from the Act V lot to 20652 Laguna Canyon Road (Verizon parcel).

Extended the summer trolley service to serve Three Arch Bay.

Restructured the sale of City property on Olive and Linden Streets and concluded that sale.

Acquired four additional lots in Arch Beach Heights including the Lutz parcels which will be incorporated into the new view park.

2002 City Council turned down over $9 million from OC & abandoned a viable project to improve downtown channel

The project may have prevented last week’s flood downtown

Last week’s flooding in the downtown area was remarkably similar to the flooding of Jan 10, 1995. Storm runoff during an El Niño event poured over the channel opening on Beach Street between Broadway and Ocean Ave and created a 1-2 foot high stream of rushing water on downtown streets.

The problem with the Laguna Canyon Channel is simple. It’s like trying to put 10 pounds of something into a five pound bag – when you do that – something has to give.

The capacity of the channel above downtown is 2200 cubic feet per second (cps) and at Beach Street the capacity is 800 cps. That’s a reversal of the accepted design for a flood channel where the downhill portion will have a capacity larger than the upstream. Sort of like putting five pounds in a ten pound bag.

Laguna Flood Photo

Photo by Jim Rue

Laguna Canyon Channel at Beach Street on Dec 22

The US Army Corps of Engineers and the County of Orange had been studying possible improvements for the Laguna Canyon Channel for nearly a decade in 1995. That flood event, which was also a featured report on all national news network shows showing swift water rescue boats puttering down Ocean Ave, pushed the button to get the channel fixed.

In 2001, the County presented the City of Laguna Beach with a viable project where the Corps of Engineers would be the lead agency. The project had a price tag of $10.8 million and the City’s portion was $1.8 million, which then City Manager Ken Frank told the Council was available.  After several hearings by the City Council in 2001 and early 2002, a final Council meeting was held in June of 2002.

Until that meeting, the project appeared to have enough Council votes to move it forward. But when the votes were counted, the Council voted 4-1 to abandon the project.

Cheryl Kinsman was the one vote. “I think it can be said that it was a decision by the majority – a bad decision.

“I remember clearly thinking to myself ‘how could we be letting this happen? We’re giving away nine million dollars,’” Kinsman said this week.

She said the opposition that swayed the Council that June came from some downtown businesses concerned about loss revenues from a 9-month construction project on Broadway and environmentalists. The latter expressed concerns over what would be done with any contaminated soil that might be left over from abandoned gas stations that had once been where Main Beach is today. Steve May, then the city engineer, said the County project would have an element to handle that. The County would have limited the City’s exposure to costs for contaminated soil removal to no more than 25% of the total.

“Roger von Butow and Surfrider Foundation said they would come back to us and have a better way to make improvements and the funding to pay for it. Back then Roger came before the Council time and again and every time I asked him if he had the project and money with him. He never did…” she said.

The four Councilmembers who voted to abandon were Wayne Baglin, Steve Dicterow, Paul Freeman and Toni Iseman, who is a current Councilmember.

Iseman did not return a call Thursday.

At the time, Iseman said she was opposed in part because the planned improvements wouldn’t handle a 100-year flood. The term has to do with “storm frequency recurrence levels” not a term of time per se.

In a report to the City by consulting firm The Keith Companies in Sept of 1996 concerning the 1995 flood event, it was stated that the storm frequency recurrence level then was “…a 10 to 15 year storm level.” The planned 2002 improvements by the County would have amply contained that level.

Councilmember Elizabeth Pearson was elected and Baglin was defeated in 2004. Pearson said she and Kinsman approached the County after she was elected to see if the funding were still available. “It felt as if they were laughing at us for asking. The money had long before been allocated to another project in some other city,” said Pearson.

Kinsman summed up her feelings saying, “So we end up with an 80-year-old flood control channel.”

The channel was built in 1929.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

Released: Dec 30, 2010

City Storm Response Costs – A preliminary tally thus far is that the City has incurred about $400,000 in costs for contractors to clean up mud and debris and spent another $50,000 in overtime for City employees.  Additional contractual services will be necessary to continue cleanup efforts but at a much lower magnitude.  These figures do not include the cost to repair any City facilities or infrastructure.

Cars and Containers Removed – The final containers were removed from the private creek in the Sun Valley neighborhood by the owner of the containers.  The creek is now clear of railroad containers and cars.

Friday Meeting for Victims – There will be a meeting on Friday for victims of the rainstorms at 1 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

Promotion in Finance-Administrative Services Department – The Finance Division is pleased to announce that Kelli Van Eyke has been promoted to full-time Office Specialist Cashier.  Kelli has been with the Finance Department as a part-time Office Specialist for the past three years.  Her previous duties included assisting in payroll, accounts payable and cashier back-up.  Her experience and enthusiasm will serve the Counter well.  She started as Cashier on Dec 27.

First Friday’s Flicks at the Forum – The Arts Commission will be screening the documentary film “The Radiant Child – Jean-Michel Basquiat” on Friday, Jan 7, 2011 at 7 p.m. at the Forum Theatre on the Festival of Arts grounds. The screening is free and will be followed by a post film discussion. This program has been funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Artist Open Studios – On Saturday, Jan 8, 2011 artists will be opening their studios from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This self-guided tour is free and is a rare opportunity to peer into the creative spaces of 24 of Laguna’s top artists. It’s also a great chance to buy local art, right from the source. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Lifeguard Headquarters and Main Beach Restrooms – On Jan 12, 2011, the Coastal Commission will consider an amendment to the City’s Local Coastal Program, which would allow this project to proceed as approved by the City Council.  This project combines the current restrooms at North Main Beach and a Lifeguard Headquarters facility into one building.  These modifications would allow the beach and bluff near the existing restrooms to be restored to a natural condition while providing modern facilities for lifeguards.  The Coastal Commission meeting will be held in Long Beach.

Right Place at the Right Time – On Wednesday evening, Sergeant Eric Lee was positioning his police vehicle at Broadway and Coast Hwy at the Village Mart, to watch for the suspect vehicle used in an armed robbery of the Jack-in-the-Box.  The same suspect suddenly walked out the front door of the store with the clerk behind him yelling, “He has a gun.”  Sgt. Lee quickly took the suspect into custody clearing over 30 similar robberies in the county!

Shaena Stabler is the Owner and Publisher.

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