Pietig named new City Manager

Assistant City Manager John Pietig will be the new City Manager as of Dec 13 it was announced Thursday by Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson. Pietig, 44, has been the Assistant City Manager here for the past 9 1/2 years and has 21 years in municipal administration including the two previous years before coming to Laguna as the Assistant City Manager in Alhambra.

City Manager Ken Frank will retire next month after 31 years as City Manager here.


John Pietig

“We are just thrilled at being able to continue to work and live in this wonderful, great community,” he said Thursday.

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman said of the appointment, “John is practically levitating. He is so ready to do this job…”

Pietig has recently facilitated the construction of the ACT V city yard and parking lot, the needed new city ordinances necessary to control the homeless problems with the city’s beaches and parks and the alternative sleeping facility in Laguna Canyon.

Councilmember Kelly Boyd said that he felt Frank had given Pietig those “tough steps” for a reason. “John spent the past nine and a half years preparing himself for what he hoped would be his next job. I think he’s great.”

In her prepared statement, Mayor Pearson said, “Over 100 applications were received...A noted recruitment consultant, Robert Murray, was retained to coordinate the search. He assisted the Council in screening candidates and in interviewing the most qualified applicants. Mr. Murray also helped the Council in negotiating an employment contract with John Pietig. That formal contract will be before the Council at our November 16 meeting.”

Pietig and his wife Peggy and their sons Danny and Jacob live in the Top of the World neighborhood.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

Released: Oct 29, 2010

Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition – The Arts Commission is currently accepting designs for Holiday Palettes from children ages 5 to 17 years old who reside or attend school or an art program in Laguna Beach. Original designs, celebrating the holiday season should be painted onto a template, which is available on the City’s website. Up to 12 designs will be selected for display at City Hall during December. The deadline to submit designs is November 19. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Artist Open Studios – The Arts Commission will hold the second monthly Artist Open Studios event on Saturday, Nov 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Whether you’re an avid collector or just curious about art, Artist Open Studios is an opportunity to peer into the creative spaces of 24 of Laguna’s painters, sculptors, photographers, ceramicists, printmakers, glass, fiber and jewelry artists, and buy local art, right from the source. This self-guided tour is free. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. A map and list of participating artists is available on the City’s web-site.

Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee – This week the Committee received comments from the Police Department regarding the proposed skateboard regulations.  Another meeting has been set for Dec 2 to consider the subject.  The Police Chief pointed out that some policies already exist in the Vehicle Code, i.e., skateboarding is a pedestrian activity, skaters under 18 are supposed to wear helmets, etc.  The Committee will consider its recommendations in light of these comments.

Broadway and Beach – After this intersection was modified, the City received some complaints regarding the traffic flow.  Hence, we retained a traffic engineer (Steve Sasaki) to study the current functioning of the intersection.  He reports that traffic flow has improved with the new configuration.  He proposed a couple of minor changes, which we will bring to the PTC Committee.

Juried Fine Art Exhibition – On Thursday, Nov 4, at 5 p.m. Mayor Elizabeth Pearson will announce the winners of the Juried Fine Art Exhibition at an awards ceremony at City Hall. The exhibition was juried by Martin Betz the Exhibitions Director at the Festival of Arts. The first place winner will receive $1,000. The 25 selected pieces will be on exhibit through Nov 28, 2010. This program has been funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Council Candidates answer four questions

The four candidates for the Laguna Beach City Council were provided four questions by StuNewsLaguna Wednesday night to be returned by no later than eight o’clock last night.

They were also invited to include a statement of about 250 words. Those statements follow the answers.

A flip of a coin determined the order below for the first question. The order rotates for questions two, three and four.

No answer has been edited.


1 - Wednesday marked the 17th anniversary of the Laguna Beach firestorm. What one wildland fire prevention program or plan do you believe needs to be either put into effect or is already in effect that the residents of LB need to be more aware?

Elizabeth Pearson: The Ready!  Set!  Go!   Program created by our fire department, whereby the fire department helps individual property owners assess their homes for fire-readiness, including what type of brush, etc. to clear to create firebreaks around their homes.

Emanuel Patrascu: When elected, I will fully support our local firefighters by providing them the necessary tools they need to help prevent dangerous fires.   In addition, I would work to establish a committee of stakeholders that would advise our community to better utilize and coordinate the resources provided by governmental agencies during a natural disaster.

Toni Iseman: Fire prevention requires a collective effort. Our goats must continue to reduce the vegetation.  At times of high alert our fire safe and police volunteers are stationed at crucial areas.  We must make sure that highly volatile invasive plants, that act as roman candles in a windstorm, are removed.  Homebuilders on the wilderness edge must use special precaution during construction and architects need to design homes with fire safety in mind. Remodels over 50% now require a sprinkler system.  Strict enforcement of smoking regulations need to include substantial fines.

Kelly Boyd: The goat grazing program works very well.  We need our citizens to realize that overgrown trees, especially eucalyptus, should be topped and laced every year.  All other heavy vegetation should also be topped and cut back from homes as often as necessary.  Not only does this make our homes safer but it also protects views for our neighbors.

2 - How would you prioritize the following issues for Laguna Beach?

Assisting Businesses - Cleaning Aliso Creek - Expanding LB Transit – Traffic - Village Entrance

Emanuel Patrascu: All of these issues are priorities to me and some of the issues can be combined.  For example, building additional parking spaces at the village entrance would have a positive effect on traffic.  Some of the traffic downtown can be attributed to a circulation problem caused by motorist looking for parking spots.  By providing more parking you will ease traffic congestion, which also makes it easier for our community to visit and support local businesses.

Toni Iseman: Assisting businesses, addressing traffic and expanding our transit system go hand in hand.  Laguna Beach is no longer just a summer destination. A weekend shuttle would get visitors out of their cars and encourage locals to shop and dine. It is welcoming to hotel guests and a boon to parents. We need a campaign to encourage our residents to buy it here.  Glass frames, magazines, books, shoes, office supplies, pet food...what are you buying there that you can buy here?  Save time, save fuel, and support our local businesses.

The Village Entrance needs to be carefully crafted to achieve the goals of a park, a walking path, and additional parking.   We will never have enough parking for the summer and we must address the summer with public transportation.   We don’t have the revenue to start this project.   The park can’t be constructed unless we can match the parking that will be lost.

Cleaning Aliso Creek can’t happen without the support of the inland communities. This is a multi-million dollar project that will need federal and county money.  Progress is being made but it will take time.

Kelly Boyd: Because of the current economy, it is important we continue to support our local businesses and find a way through our Downtown Specific Plan to ease restrictions where permissible and encourage new businesses.

I suggest we have year around weekend trolley service and I encourage our residents to leave their cars at hone and visit our local businesses more often.

We need to move forward cleaning up Aliso Creek using the Super Project and stop the pollution from running off into our ocean.  Lastly the Village entrance project should focus on parking preservation, easing traffic congestion and include a small park.

Elizabeth Pearson: Assisting businesses, behind maintaining outstanding public safety, is my top priority. Ensuring our community’s financial health by helping existing businesses and attracting new businesses is a key focus for me at this time.

3 - In the future, if a new police chief needs to be appointed, would you be more inclined to promote from within? What might direct you to recommend recruiting from outside of the LBPD?

Toni Iseman: Recruitment for the new Chief of Police should be open to all.  If an internal candidate is the best then that person will have the job.  I would like community involvement in the screening selection, as it is done in other communities.

Kelly Boyd: I’m a firm believer that if we have a qualified candidate in the police department, we should hire from within our department.  The City Manager makes the final decision.

Elizabeth Pearson: The City Council has no jurisdiction over the selection process of the police chief, fire chief or any of our department heads, according to our current contract with the City Manager. The selection process is purely at his or her discretion. We can recommend or request a process, but that suggestion may or may not be used.

Emanuel Patrascu: When it comes to public safety, we should be recruiting the most qualified candidates regardless of location.  I would recommend setting up a committee to identify and interview from the largest pool of applicants.  Our community would then benefit from the strongest candidate being appointed.

4 - What one thing is your pet peeve about Laguna Beach?

Kelly Boyd: My one pet peeve about Laguna is the limited participation by our citizens.   I believe there is a silent majority in our city that needs to get more involved and more vocal.  Help us make Laguna everything it can be.

Elizabeth Pearson: Lately?   Inconsistent weather.

Emanuel Patrascu: The one thing that “peeves” me the most is that many people associate us with the MTV show, when in fact we should be better known for our great art culture, pristine beaches and warm people.

Toni Iseman: My pet peeve is inconsistent application of rules.


Candidate Statements

Appearance is in the order received

Elizabeth Pearson

I have served the City of Laguna Beach for over 14 years and have met many wonderful people and supported many important issues, causes and organizations. It has been my privilege to serve.

Laguna is a special place
When I am out and about throughout the County in my business activities and as a representative of Laguna Beach, I am constantly reminded by those who do not live here about what a special place Laguna Beach is. When I ask those who make that comment to me, “Why do you think that is?”, they say, “It’s because you’re different -- you’re not like any other place in Orange County.”  I agree with them and it makes me very proud of what we as a City -- and as community members -- have done to preserve the values of our little town.

Serving in an economic downturn
Because of the turmoil in our economy and the reduction in our revenues, the year 2010 -- and the next few years -- will be difficult years in which to serve. But I think my experience and fiscal prudence will contribute significantly as we move forward to keep the City financially viable so that we can continue to ensure the quality of life our residents deserve.

Thank you for putting your trust in me
I want to thank all of you who have supported my candidacies and appreciated my contributions over the years and I look forward to serving you in the years ahead.

Toni Iseman

I am a problem solver.  Some are low profile--vegetation covering a stop sign, a new parking place or trying to mediate a neighborhood dispute.  Some stand out-- Police Explorers that help direct summer traffic at intersections like Forest and Glenneyre, parking meters that take credit cards and the free shuttle are more visible accomplishments.

I care about our neighborhoods. You can count on me to listen to your concerns and work for solutions. You can count on me to protect Laguna’s natural beauty, the vibrancy of our business community and your quality of life.

Emanuel Patrascu

I love Laguna Beach and I am proud to call Laguna my home.

Since settling here to start my family, I have grown increasingly concerned with the direction of the city.

I am running for City Council because the status quo is un-acceptable.

Despite this year’s 11% property tax increase, which will set taxes to be the highest in Orange County, budget deficits are projected to rise in the foreseeable future.

I will balance the budget through fiscal restraint and economic development.

I oppose any additional tax increases.

Due to the continuously increasing crime rate the police department has warned us not to leave valuables in our cars.

I will make public safety and fully staffing the police department my priority.

The high number of vacant businesses is forcing residents to drive out of town for shopping.

As a small business owner and a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors I will create an environment in which small business owners will thrive.

I am proudly endorsed by Congressman John Campbell, Senator Tom Harman and former Laguna Beach Mayor Steve Dicterow.

It is time that we move forward and invite new blood to City Hall.

Ken Frank’s Top Ten Countdown

In his own words…

Top Ten City Accomplishments

City Accomplishment #4

Rebuilding Laguna Beach After Major Disasters

In December, I will be retiring as City Manager of Laguna Beach.  Over the 31 years of my tenure, the City has progressed in numerous areas.  For the next ten weeks, I would like to share my perceptions of the City’s most significant accomplishments during the past three decades.  As in most “top ten” lists, we will start at the least important and gradually escalate to Number One – the most influential change in our community.


Number Four on the list of City accomplishments over the last 30 years is: Rebuilding Laguna Beach After Major Disasters.

While we are fortunate to reside in Laguna Beach, one downside is the community’s vulnerability to natural disasters, including landslides, fires, flooding and mudslides.

My predecessor and the City Council had already embarked on the rebuilding of Bluebird Canyon after the first landslide in 1977.  Construction was in full swing and Oriole Drive, Meadowlark Drive and Meadowlark Lane were back in place.  Unfortunately, since then, other smaller landslides have occurred at Del Mar in Arch Beach Heights, on Dunning/Cerritos in Rim Rock Canyon, on Mystic Way and below Las Brisas.

Then in 2005, the second Bluebird Canyon landslide occurred destroying 12 homes and obliterating several City streets, water lines, sewer conduits, and drainage facilities.  Several years later, the hillside has been reconstructed and all the public facilities have been replaced.  Homes are being rebuilt and several are already occupied.

Flooding has occurred several times in the downtown and in Laguna Canyon, although since new storm facilities were constructed in Laguna Canyon and in Canyon Acres, those areas have not flooded again.

In the 1997-98 winter, Laguna Beach suffered through record rainfall, resulting in pernicious mudslides throughout the community.  Two people were killed in those earth flows, several houses were destroyed and Laguna Canyon Road was inundated by mud for two days.

Finally, the community endured the firestorm in October of 1993.  That conflagration virtually vaporized 170 homes in town.  But with a fantastic community support, coupled with Federal and State disaster assistance and generally good cooperation from private insurance companies, the damaged neighborhoods – Canyon Acres, Mystic Hills and lower Temple Hills – have been resurrected into attractive neighborhoods.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

Released: Oct 22, 2010

New Trolleys – The first of four new trolleys purchased one year ago arrived this week. The made-to-order trolleys are manufactured in Maine.  The $963,000 cost of the trolleys was funded 50% by a Federal Stimulus grant, 15% by State Air Quality grants, and 35% by State Transit funds that are passed through OCTA to the City. The remaining three new trolleys are expected to arrive before the end of the year. The four trolleys will supplant four of the seven rental trolleys that would otherwise be needed next summer to keep up with the growing popularity of the free summer trolley service.

Village Entrance EIR – On November 10, the Planning Commission will be discussing the Environmental Impact Report for the Village Entrance project.  Copies of the document are available for Councilmembers at the Council office.  Copies are available for the public at City Hall or the Library.

Energy Efficient Odor Control Equipment – The Bluebird SOCWA lift station was equipped with an odor control system in 2005.  The system eliminates odors and highly corrosive gases that naturally build-up in the wastewater system.  The oxygen generator that the system is dependent on is being replaced for a new, more energy efficient, oxygen generator.  The new technology requires less maintenance and the energy savings is projected to result in a payback period of about four years.  The odor control system was taken offline this week.  The new system will be running by the end of next week.  Until then, it is possible that an abrupt and foul reminder may be experienced; confirming how well the system works.

Storm Drain Repair Project – In August, the City began construction on a $900,000 project to replace or line deteriorated storm drains pipes at 43 locations throughout the City. The project is now two thirds completed. The work is currently being done at the intersection of Agate Street and Glenneyre Street. Other remaining pipe replacement locations include Anita Street and Summit Drive. Construction will be done by the end of November.

Arch Beach Heights View Park – Work was scheduled to be completed at the end of October.  However, the rain has pushed back the completion date to sometime in November.  As we get closer, we will schedule a dedication of the City’s latest park.

Ken Frank’s Top Ten Countdown

In his own words…

Top Ten City Accomplishments

City Accomplishment #5

Upgrading Public Facilities

In December, I will be retiring as City Manager of Laguna Beach.  Over the 31 years of my tenure, the City has progressed in numerous areas.  For the next ten weeks, I would like to share my perceptions of the City’s most significant accomplishments during the past three decades.  As in most “top ten” lists, we will start at the least important and gradually escalate to Number One – the most influential change in our community.

Number Five on the list of City accomplishments over the last 30 years is: Upgrading Public Facilities.

Thirty years ago, the City’s infrastructure was poorly maintained.  Streets had potholes.  Handrails at beach stairways were rusted and the tread on those accessways was worn.  Virtually no money had been spent for a decade to repair aging sewer lines.  Parks were shabby.  Flooding from rainstorms was common.  To rectify these inadequacies, over the last three decades the City Council has focused on  ameliorating City facilities.

Streets – In 2009, the City completed a ten-year program (which took about 12 years) to resurface every public street in town.  This year, about 40% of the streets are being patched and sealed with a thin coat of asphalt; this slurry sealing helps retain flexibility to the asphalt and prolongs its useful life.

Storm Drains – In 1982, the City adopted an updated Master Plan of Drainage and embarked on an ambitious effort to construct new storm drains.  New drainage facilities have been installed in the Downtown, Pearl Street drainage basin, Flamingo, Starlit, Santa Ana, El Paseo, Canyon Acres, Park Avenue, Glenneyre, Vista Lane, Blumont, Ruby, Marine Drive, Ocean Way, Mar Vista, Cliff Drive, Heisler Park, St. Anns, and South Laguna.

Parks – New, resident serving parks have been dedicated including Moulton Meadows Park, Alta Laguna Park, and Lang Park.  Funds are included in this year’s adopted budget to refurbish these three facilities.  Mini parks have been opened at Crescent Bay Point, at the top of the “L” Hill, and Browns’ Park.  Treasure Island Park rivals Heisler Park as a passive view park for walking and sightseeing.  View platforms have been created at Thalia, Brooks, Oak and Monument Point.  Bluebird Park was extensively refurbished.  The High School swimming pool was rebuilt and enlarged.  A view park in Arch Beach Heights is about to be dedicated.

Sidewalks – Under Council direction to enhance pedestrian accessibility throughout Laguna, many new sidewalks have been constructed including those on Park Avenue, Wilson, North Coast Highway, South Coast Highway through the South Laguna business district, Legion Street and Diamond Street.

Sewers – After a decade of total neglect, in the early 1980’s the City began to reconstruct sewer collection facilities.  An early project was the total replacement of sewer mains in most of North Laguna.  Since 2000, the City has spent roughly $18 million to repair and replace aging sewers.

Public Buildings – A state of the art Community/Senior Center has been opened on Third Street.  The City’s maintenance yard was relocated from the Downtown to a modern facility on Laguna Canyon Road.  City Hall was remodeled while maintaining its historic facade.  In coming years, each of the four fire stations will be completely renovated.

Tot Lots – To meet current safety standards, the City has rebuilt tot lots at Riddle Field, Main Beach Park, Moulton Meadows Park, Bluebird, Alta Laguna Park, Lang Park and Village Green Park.  Next year, the play equipment at Main Beach Park will be replaced again to maintain it in excellent condition.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

Released: Oct 15, 2010

Juried Fine Art Exhibition – [Yesterday], the Arts Commission installed the “2010 Juried Fine Art Exhibition” at City Hall. Martin Betz, Exhibition Manager at the Festival of Arts, selected 26 pieces for exhibition from 151 submissions. An artist reception and awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, Nov 4, at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Palette Competition – At its meeting on Monday evening the Arts Commission reviewed 23 entries to the Palette Competition. The Commission selected three designs to be painted onto palettes by artists Judy Baker, Christopher Claiborne and Al Esquerra…The palettes will be installed prior to Thanksgiving.

Sergeant Promotion – Corporal Timothy Kleiser has been promoted to Sergeant.  Tim began his career with Laguna Beach as a Beach Patrol Officer in 2001 and was hired as a Police Officer in 2003.  He was promoted to Corporal in 2007 and is currently assigned to Investigations handling property crimes.  Tim has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Cal State Fullerton.  Prior to joining the Police Department, he served in the U.S. Army for four years active duty and over ten years in the National Guard.

MS Bike Tour – The annual Multiple Sclerosis Bike Tour route [took] place through Laguna Beach on Saturday morning, Oct 16.  “No Parking” signs [were] placed on meters on the southbound side of Coast Highway between Broadway and Mountain Road. Participants received safety information that stressed pedestrian right-of-way and informed riders of the lit pedestrian crosswalks in Laguna Beach. The two-day fundraising bike tour start[ed] in Irvine and end[ed] in Mission Bay.

Rotary Car Show – On Sunday, October 17, the Forest Laguna Canyon parking lot [was] be closed from 5:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The Rotary Club of Laguna Beach [held] their Annual Classic Car Show in the lot and at the Festival of Arts.  The Classic Car Show raises funds for local scholarships, charities and outreach projects.

Driftwood Fuel Modification – We have received an emergency permit from the Coastal Commission for the annual weed abatement on the Driftwood property.  Only non-native plants will be removed.  Only hand crews will be used.  Work starts Monday.

Ken Frank’s Top Ten Countdown

In his own words…

Top Ten City Accomplishments

City Accomplishment #6

Stabilizing the City’s Financial Posture


In December, I will be retiring as City Manager of Laguna Beach.  Over the 31 years of my tenure, the City has progressed in numerous areas.  For the next ten weeks, I would like to share my perceptions of the City’s most significant accomplishments during the past three decades.  As in most “top ten” lists, we will start at the least important and gradually escalate to Number One – the most influential change in our community.

Number Six on the list of City accomplishments over the last 30 years is: Stabilizing the City’s Financial Posture.

When I arrived in 1979, the City was beset by two notable financial difficulties.

First, the City was coping with reduced property taxes because of Proposition 13.  Because Laguna Beach was (and is) a municipality that relies heavily on property taxes, the City was reeling from the draconian cutbacks that had been necessary to balance revenues with expenses when the property tax base was significantly depreciated.

Second, the City had recently incurred a debt of $6 million to purchase 520 acres of open space from Rancho Palos Verdes Corporation.  Located between Laguna Canyon Road and El Toro Road, this property, which is known as Sycamore Hills, was the subject of litigation over its future development.   The City tendered a substantial down payment but could not honor future installments and the City’s ownership of the land was in jeopardy.

Laguna Beach was able to overcome both of these detriments and State raids on City revenues in subsequent years.  Today, compared to most other municipalities in California, Laguna Beach is financially healthy.

Laguna Beach is weathering the pernicious economic recession without appreciably reducing services.  However, about 4% of the fulltime jobs have been eliminated by attrition and additional positions will need to be excised from the budget over the next few years.

Fortunately, the City Council has established an array of reserves including a 10% General Fund cushion, a Recession Smoothing Account, and a separate, sacrosanct reserve for future natural disasters.

Capital improvements are underway to ensure that the community’s infrastructure is functional, safe and attractive.  The City Council had the mettle to allocate all of the hotel tax revenues from the Montage Resort – averaging more than $3 million per year – to the Capital Improvement Account.  That unequivocal dedication of revenues has fostered a robust capital improvement program – which will be discussed in detail in next week’s column – while allowing residents to enjoy an enviable level of public safety and other municipal services on a daily basis.

Updates from the Laguna Beach City Manager’s office

Released: Oct 8, 2010

Donation of Beach Wheelchair – Pat Demar, founder of the California Beach Wheelchair Program, has donated an additional beach wheelchair to the City of Laguna Beach, Department of Marine Safety, in memory of Joseph Demartines.  Pat began this program in 1993 and has donated over 35 beach wheelchairs to California coastal communities. This wheelchair along with one other is available 7 days a week at Marine Safety Headquarters from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. on a first come, first serve basis.

Flu Shot ClinicA free Flu shot clinic [was] be held at the Community and Senior Center on Monday, October 11…This year’s multi-dose vaccine included the H1N1...

Hedge Height Claim – This week, Jim Dockstader heard a hedge height claim for property on 10th Avenue in South Laguna.  The matter was continued until Nov 10 to see if the parties can reach agreement.

Urban Water Diversions – Pollutants commonly found on street surfaces include brake dust, hydrocarbons from tires, fertilizers and pesticides. The Water Quality Department operates and maintains 18 dry-season surface water diversion structures. These devices collect and redirect water, draining from our streets, into the sewer system.  Four of the eighteen structures are seasonal installations.  The rainfall this week was enough to require all of the diversion structures taken off line.  The four seasonal structures will be dismantled for the season.  The remaining 14 diversions will be cleaned and placed back into service.  Last year the diversion structures prevented over 6 tons of pollutant-laden debris from reaching our shoreline.

Street Resurfacing Progress – Roadway slurry sealing in various neighborhoods…resume[d]…on Monday and continue for two weeks.  A schedule of street resurfacing dates and other project information is available on the City’s website http://www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/pw/construction_projects.asp. Follow-up work, such as striping and street sweeping, will continue through the middle of November.

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