Back to Top

Commission OKs staff TKO on downtown development


The Planning Commission on Wednesday agreed to jettison recommendations by consultant MIG on the topic of re-use and Intensification in the revisions to the Downtown Specific Plan.

Commissioners voted 5-0 to accept staff’s agreement with recommendations by an ad hoc committee to scrap policies described as obsolete due to the current economic climate and changes in commercial uses, and shunt still-relevant policies to other areas of the document.

“Speaking for the ad hoc committee, I agree with the staff report,” said former Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman.

Senior Planner Wendy Yung’s report to the commission stated that staff believes the committee’s comments and suggestions were reasonable. She identified the committee as composed of a group of interested residents that want to build consensus on suggested changes to the Downtown Specific Plan. 

Staff and consultant’s recommendations differ significantly

Asked by Commissioner Roger McErlane how the staff recommendations could differ so much from the consultant’s, Community Development Director Greg replied that staff works with the consultant, but adds its own perspective.

Written comments by the Ad Hoc Committee included removal of the topic, originally developed to address economic pressures 10 or even 20 years ago, many of them now irrelevant. 

The committee contended that still relevant policies can appropriately be moved to other topics, such as MIG’s position on shared second story office uses as justification for parking relief, which the committee rejected as covered in another section of the plan and which should be discussed there. 

An MIG recommendation to change the title of the topic from “Re-use and Intensification” to “Small–Scale Development” was also squelched, although Grossman agreed with the elimination of the word, intensification.

“It gets an adverse reaction,” said Grossman.

Members of the ad hoc committee also include former Planning Commissioners Becky Jones, Barbara Metzger and Realtor Bob Chapman; former Mayor Ann Christoph; Village Laguna Board member Kate Clark; and business owners Kavita Reddy, David Rubel and Kent Russell.

Planning Commissioners want more information before approving changes to second unit ordinance


The Planning Commission on Wednesday tossed the ball back into staff’s court after a lengthy discussion on revisions to the city’s ordinance regarding Accessory Dwelling Units.

Commissioners asked for more information about ways to calculate which lots would be eligible for what used to be called second units, size of the units, graphics of possible configurations, parking requirements and a definition of public transportation to determine if the city’s “Little Blue Buses” could be counted.  

“It seems we had more questions than answers,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson.

Changes in the ordinance must comply with state laws passed in 2016. 

The intent of the state legislation was to address California’s housing shortage by making it easier to develop second units, detached or within a single-family home, according to the staff report to the commission by planners Melinda Dacey and Monique Alaniz-Flejter. 

A bump in the inventory of affordable housing at or below the going rate in pricey neighborhoods would provide options for family members, students, the elderly, in-home health care providers, the disabled and other vulnerable folks.

Fiftieth District Assemblyman Richard Bloom, who authored AB 2299, wrote City Manager John Pietig on Sept 13 to “strongly request” the city begin processing requests for approval of second units in accordance with the state law, while updating the local ordinance.

State law and the Local Coastal Plan

The revision in the ordinance must be incorporated in the city’s Local Coastal Plan, which requires certification by the Californian Coastal Commission.

“Follow the law now,” said resident Cort Shannon. “It could be a year or more for a new [amended] ordinance to become part of the certified Local Coastal Plan.” 

Shannon urged the commission to offer incentives, such as tax breaks, fee waivers and faster processing of applications.

Incentives could be tied to deed restrictions specifying low-income renters, said Community Development Director Greg Pfost.   

Resident Charlotte Masarik asked the commissioners to be wary of unintended consequences. 

“Potentially, these ‘ADUs’ could morph into short term lodgings and we know enforcement is all but impossible,” said Masarik.

Accessory dwellings are detached from the main structure, JADUs ( junior accessory dwellings) are under the same roof as the primary living space. 

“JDUs provide immediate, low-hanging fruit in as much as they are less than 500 square feet and within an existing structure,” said Housing and Human Services Committee member Kimberly Norton. “Voila!”

Access to fire services in high-density neighborhoods is an issue

However, Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson urged caution in developing affordable housing that would increase density in “access-impaired” neighborhoods. 

“Our firefighters are superb at navigating large emergency apparatus on our sub-standard streets but they aren’t magicians and mutual aid firefighters from other agencies may not have the same skills,” said Lawson. 

He advised careful control of second unit development in risky neighborhoods. 

Unfortunately, the state fire marshal has classified about 90 percent of Laguna highest fire risk, according to Lawson. 

Nine applications to develop ADU are in the pipeline, according to Pfost.

Norton questioned the delay in approvals. 

“The state has provided guidelines, why not follow them,” she asked. “I request the commissioners meet with the Housing and Human Services Committee, the Seniors Task Force and the Board of Realtors, who are very informed before recommending any provisions that unintentionally inhibit ADU creation.”

Staff has until late November to prepare the answers to the questions asked by Commissioners on Wednesday. 

City Manager’s Update

Fallen Officer Ceremony - Thurs, Sept 21, marked the four-year anniversary of the in the line of duty death of Laguna Beach Police Officer Jon Coutchie. At 6 p.m. on September 21, in front of the police officer’s memorial in front of the police station, the Laguna Beach Police Department held a ceremony in honor and remembrance of Officer Coutchie and Officer Gordon French, who both gave the ultimate sacrifice while protecting the citizens on this city.

Review Final Draft of Laguna Canyon Planning Study - The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Laguna Canyon Planning Study Project on Tues, Sept 26, during the City Council’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.  

The focus of the planning study is to review zoning and development standards regarding property within the Laguna Canyon study area. The Laguna Canyon Planning Study has been presented as a draft report to the Planning Commission in a series of three hearings, and will conclude with a final hearing before the City Council. 

A copy of the final draft report is available to review on the City’s website:  For more information on the Laguna Canyon Planning Study Project, contact: Wendy Jung, Senior Planner at (949) 497-0321; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

New Fire Engine and Vehicle for the City - The fire department took delivery of a new fire engine this week.  It was built by Pierce Manufacturing and will soon go into service at Station #1. The cost of the engine was $644,000. We also took delivery of a new command vehicle. This unit will be placed in service as the Battalion 1 vehicle and will be housed at Fire Station #2.


Click on photos for larger images

Photos courtesy City Manager

New fire engine and command vehicle

Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System - On Sept 27 at 11:20 a.m. PST, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will conduct a mandatory test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The test will assess the readiness for distribution of the national level test message, as well as verify its delivery.  

The EAS test is made available to radio, television, cable and direct broadcast satellite systems, and is scheduled to last approximately one minute.

Annual Composting Classes - The City’s solid waste hauler, Waste Management, will offer the final free composting class for 2017 on Sat, Sept 23, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Bluebird Park, located at 798 Bluebird Cyn Drive. Compost and worm bins will be available for purchase during the class at a discounted price.  

For more information, contact the Waste Management class instructor, Lisa Ryder, at (310) 874-2499 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Main Beach Park Bench Painting - On Mon, Sept 25, the 47 wooden benches at Main Beach Park will be sanded and re-stained. The project is expected to be completed by Wed, Oct 4.  The project will be done in phases so that most of the benches will be available for the public at all times.  For more information, contact Maintenance Supervisor, Wayne Chintala, at (949) 464-6644.

Street Resurfacing - Construction will begin next week to repair and resurface roadways in the Mystic Hills, Skyline, lower Bluebird Canyon, and lower Summit Drive areas, including Park Avenue between Wendt Terrace and Hillview Drive. Preliminary construction notices have been mailed to affected residents.  

The project is expected to be completed by the end of November.  For more information, visit the project website at or call (844) LAGUNA4 or (844) 524-8624.

Fall Aquatics Programs - The Community Services Department is still accepting registrations for all aquatics programming. Sign up for the gold medal winning age group water polo program, or make a splash on the swim


Register online at:

City Manager’s Update

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Review Draft Amendments (Section III, Topics 10-11): The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wed, Oct 4, 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 10 (Civic Art District) and Topic 11 (Central Bluffs) 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..

City Hall Pepper Tree Reduction -Next week, the historic pepper tree at City Hall will be reduced to approximately 12 feet high. Street parking directly in front of City Hall will not be available during the trimming operations. Please use the Lumberyard Parking Lot or Parking Lot 11 for business at City Hall when parking spaces are not available in front of City Hall.  

Wood from the tree will be made available through the end of November to artists, or any members of the public who wish to craft objects or to have a memento from the tree. For more information, or to request wood from the tree, please contact Senior Administrative Analyst, Robert Sedita at (949) 497-0740 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Skyline Drive Road Work - From Oct 4 to 20, Skyline Drive will be closed to through traffic, between Manzanita Drive and Vista Lane, during working hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to accommodate construction of an underground sub-drain. The drain will improve the road surface conditions and is being installed in advance of the upcoming slurry seal resurfacing. 

The road will remain open to residents within the work zone.  For more information, please contact, Assistant City Engineer, Mark Trestik at (949) 497-0300 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Emergency Permit For Fuel Modification - The Fire Department has received an Emergency Permit from the California Coastal Commission to perform fuel modification work in the area above Driftwood Drive and Ocean Vista Drive.  The work is scheduled to begin on Monday, October 2.  

No native vegetation will be removed and all the work will be performed by hand crews with a biologist on site to ensure the protection of sensitive habitat.  For information on this project contact the Fire Department at (949) 497-0700.

Commission denies approval of Coast Inn project


The Planning Commission didn’t like the revised proposal for the Coast Inn any more than the original submission in March.

Commissioners unanimously voted on Wednesday after about three hours of testimony to recommend the City Council deny approval of the project. The commissioners voiced concerns about the proposed roof-top deck, which includes a swimming pool, and the extent of the project, which they felt verges on a major remodel and does not conform to the current city code.

“I was surprised and pleased with the commission’s decision,” said project opponent Barbara Metzger, a former planning commissioner.

Development Department staff had advised the commission to recommend approval of the project to City Council.

The project still will go to the council because it includes parking credits for historic preservation.

Parking was an issue with many opponents of the project and a parking study was mandated in March, now completed. 

Project architect Marshall Ininns said the Coast Inn has 98 spaces grandfathered in for the hotel, 12 spaces grandfathered for the liquor store, plus 13 actual spaces. The remainder of the required parking would be fulfilled by Uber, Lyft, private vans, trolleys and buses, he said.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo courtesy LB Historical Society

The original Coast Inn with iconic tower

“This is a perfect opportunity for Laguna to preserve one of the historical icons and prevent it from being lost forever,” said Ininns. 

Coast Inn owner Chris Dornin is no stranger to controversial projects. He partnered with Louis Longi in the battle for approval of an artist work/live project in Laguna Canyon, opposed by the Friends of the Canyon. 

“Commissioners missed a significant opportunity on Wednesday to beautify this blighted neighborhood and to put significant restrictions on the project,” said Dornin, born and raised in the HIP District of Laguna. “They had the opportunity to put 54 conditions on the project and limit the property to 300 people.  

“We could open the Boom Boom Room tomorrow with 597 people in it, live music or a DJ and about 200 cars parked in the neighborhood.”

The project as presented to the commission on Wednesday still included a request for a variance to restore documented towers and the original sign on the hotel that disappeared decades ago and the swimming pool on the roof of the hotel, but eliminated the pool deck, spa, gym, and conference room in the defunct store on the corner of South Coast Highway and Mountain Road, according to Ininns. 

“Our future plans depend on the outcome of the City Council review,” said Dornin. 

The entire staff report on the Coast Inn project, more than 200 pages long, is available for review on the city website, Click on City Meetings and Agendas.

City Manager’s Update

5th Annual Flood Prevention Device Practice Installation Day - In an ongoing effort to assist with the implementation of the recently adopted Floodplain Management Ordinance, the Code Enforcement Division has notified the Laguna Beach property and business owners located in the flood hazard zone of the upcoming 5th Annual Flood Prevention Device Practice Installation Day. This is a voluntary educational emergency preparedness training event encouraged by FEMA.  

All persons employed to work in a business located within areas of special flood hazards are requested to be trained by the business owner on how to install the flood prevention devices and be provided a copy of the flood contingency measures plan. Each year on the fourth Monday in October, the business owner and employees are encouraged to practice installation of the flood prevention devices. Therefore, Monday, October 23 is designated as the fifth Annual Flood Prevention Device Practice Installation Day.

Parents’ Night Out - 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, Oct 20, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. Parents can enjoy some adult time to see a movie, catch up with friends or enjoy a kid-free meal. 

The children will have a blast enjoying games, movies, arts & crafts and dinner. Cost: $20 per child, $5 sibling discount available. Pre-registration is required 48 hours in advance. To register, call (949) 464-6645 or visit, click “recreation classes.”

Smart Gardening Series - Pumpkin succulent centerpieces can add a beautiful, long lasting display of colors and textures to your holiday table. Learn how simple it is to create your own unique centerpiece in this free workshop. Join Master Gardener, Aneta Dorhout on Sat, Oct 14 from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. To register, call (949) 464-6645.

El Toro Road - SoCal Gas Advanced Meter DCU Installation Project - SoCalGas will install its advanced meter related equipment on the north side of El Toro Road, approximately 870 feet east of Laguna Canyon Road. The work is scheduled for Oct 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

During construction hours, a portion of El Toro Road will be reduced to one lane. A portion of the bike lane on both Northbound and Southbound directions will be closed between Laguna Canyon Road and State Route 73. For additional information, please contact Shaun Baptiste, from SoCalGas, at 562-305-2977.

Council will review owners’ rights to cut down trees without permits


The City Council will review on Tuesday the right of private property owners to cut down trees on their own land or in adjacent public-rights-of-way without city permission.

According to a staff report the council clearly has the right to regulate trees in the public right of way, but may be on shakier ground when it comes to regulating the removal of trees on private property.

“I do believe property owners, especially in Laguna Beach, should have the opportunity to design their own landscape plan and unfortunately, sometimes trees reach maturity or don’t fit in,” said resident Karl Koski, former city manager of Temple City. “Requiring a permit is an erosion of private property rights.”   

Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede raised the issue of regulation at the June 27 meeting following the owner’s removal of trees at Ruby’s Diner in South Laguna.

“We have had a lot of losses in last-minute and weekend cutting,” said landscape architect Ann Christoph, who supports a permit process. 

Property owners may not be aware of city policies on removing trees

“The trees at Ruby’s are gone, but if we had a permit process there would be a public review and evaluation. The property owner might even reconsider removal after hearing public comment.” 

Property owners are not always aware of city policies on removing trees, and those policies do not address all removals, according to staff.

The council must approve removal of Heritage Trees. Removal of trees in a landscape plan approved through the design review process must be approved by the Design Review Board or the Planning Commission. Removal without permission may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.

Removal of privately maintained trees in the public-right-of-way may be removed only if perceived to be at risk of failing, under the term of an interim policy adopted by the council in 2016. The policy applies only to trees in danger of failing. 

If the council directs staff to prepare a new ordinance, penalty for removal without permission could result in an administrative citation or prosecution for misdemeanor and replacement of the tree at the owner’s cost. 

Each removed tree would be a separate violation. Currently citations escalate from $100 for first violation, to $200 for the second and $500 for the third.

City Manager’s Updates

Laguna Beach Fire Department (LBFD) Assists with Fires - The LBFD had three engines and Chief Christopher assigned to the Canyon 2 fire. Chief Christopher and our Office of Emergency Services (OES) Engine 313 are expected to be released from Canyon 2 and redeployed to Northern California. While the LBFD was heavily committed to the Canyon 2 fire, we were able to staff all four of the City’s fire stations.

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Review Recommended Changes to Land Use Permitting - The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wed, Oct 18, during the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. 

City staff will provide an update on the Planning Commission Subcommittee’s suggested revisions to MIG’s Table 1, which addresses land use permitting for various districts within the DSP area.  A copy of the Subcommittee’s suggested revisions is available to review 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..

Planning Commission Recommendation on the “Draft” Historic Preservation Ordinance - The Laguna Beach Planning Commission will review a revised draft of the Historic Preservation Ordinance at its next meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, starting at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers (located at 505 Forest Avenue in Laguna Beach).  The Planning Commission will be reviewing the revised draft to provide a recommendation to the City Council.  

To view a copy of the staff report for this item, please refer to the City’s website: For more information on the Historic Preservation Ordinance, please contact Martina Caron, Senior Planner at (949) 497-6629; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Juried Fine Art Exhibition – Artist Reception and Award Ceremony - On Thurs, Nov 2, at 5:30 p.m. the winners of the eleventh annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition will be announced at an Artist Reception at Laguna Beach City Hall, 505 Forest Ave. The exhibition can be viewed through Nov 22. 

The juror, Mackenzie Stevens, Curatorial Assistant at the Los Angeles Hammer Museum, reviewed submissions from artists from throughout Orange County and selected 34 for exhibit. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition - The Arts Commission is currently accepting designs to the annual competition. Children ages 5 to 17 years old may submit an original design celebrating the holiday season. Up to 12 designs will be selected for display at City Hall throughout December. Designs must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Fri, Nov 17. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. Call Mike McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at (949) 497-0722 extension 5 for information.

Palette Competition - The Arts Commission selected one design by artist Kelly Hartigan Goldstein for this year’s competition. The new palette will been installed outside City Hall. The palettes can be seen throughout the City extending to South Laguna. Currently in its 51st year, this program is funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

Holiday Cookie Contest - Residents are invited to participate in the City’s first annual holiday cookie recipe contest. Each participant is asked to submit their favorite family cookie recipe and the story behind it. Three finalists will be selected to bake a sample batch of their cookies for a tasting ceremony on Nov 13. 

The first place winner’s story and recipe will be published in the Winter 2018 Community Services brochure, to be mailed citywide. Entries must be submitted at the front desk of the Community and Susi Q Center by Oct 31. For more information, contact Adam Gufarotti, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0304. Entry forms can be downloaded from the following City website link:

Intro to Mindfulness & Self Compassion for Parents & Teens - In partnership withMission Hospital Laguna Beach, the City is pleased to offer a workshop that will help teens and their parents navigate the emotional ups and downs of life with greater ease, offering tools for coping with teen issues. The workshop will be held on Sat, Oct 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. 

Teens, please bring a yoga mat or beach towel. Cost: $10 per person. To register, call (949) 464-6645 or visit, click “recreation classes.”

Parents’ Night Out - 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, Oct 20, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. Parents can enjoy some adult time to see a movie, catch up with friends or enjoy a kid-free meal. 

The children will have a blast enjoying games, movies, arts & crafts and dinner. Cost: $20 per child, $5 sibling discount available. Pre-registration is required 48 hours in advance. To register, call (949) 464-6645 or visit, click “recreation classes.”

Planning Commission on track to recommend approval of Preservation Ordinance after marathon


The Laguna Beach Planning Commission may finally be ready to pass the baton to the City Council for approval of recommended amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance.

Commissioners are expected to recommend approval of the amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, the Local Coastal Program and the Laguna Beach Municipal Code related to changes in the preservation ordinance on Wednesday. 

Among the recommendations supported by the commission are proposed parking reductions for commercial properties on the city’s Historic Register.  

Coincidentally, one of the 12 items on the commission’s Wednesday’s agenda is a request for a reduction in required parking, submitted on behalf of Slice, which is scheduled to open for business this week.

Pizza parlor parking proposal presented

The pizza parlor is asking for the parking reduction for properties on the Historic Register to be increased to 65.2 percent - 2.4 percent greater than the current reduction. 

Maximum reduction allowed under the state code is 75 percent or up to 15 spaces, whichever if the most restrictive. 

Residential structures are eligible for parking reductions and less rigid setback rules. 

Incentives are designed to encourage preservation of structures deemed historically or architecturally valuable. 

The ordinance is slated to be the first item on the commission’s lengthy agenda.

As recommended for approval by staff, the ordinance will incorporate new designations for ratings as suggested by Chair Susan Whitin and approved by the commission at the Sept 6 meeting.

Commissioners recommended identifying properties with the numerical ratings used by the California code, rather than the Laguna specific letters E, K, and C.

C-rated structures not now on the city’s historic register will no longer be considered historic resources as defined by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Recommendations by the commission for City Council approval also include creating a staff position to oversee historic preservation and additional training for Design Review Board and Heritage Committee members, according to the staff report.

City will discuss new options at its Tuesday meeting to underground utilities and mitigate severe fire risk

Renewing its commitment to public safety and fire prevention, the City of Laguna Beach will consider advancing new policy and funding solutions to remove utility poles and underground wires citywide at its upcoming October 24 City Council meeting. The City Council agenda item can be viewed at this link:

In addition to considering a portfolio of solutions, the City Council will also consider repealing its preliminary undergrounding ordinance, opting to settle expensive litigation initiated by regional utilities and pursue more cost-effective options.  

A recent Los Angeles Times feature exposed how power lines and electrical equipment are a leading cause of wildfires in California. 

“Laguna knows all too well about the devastation caused by wildfires and my heart goes out to all those whose lives were changed in an instant by the massive fires in Northern California,” said Councilmember Bob Whalen.  

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Dave Day

Just last week, an accident brought down power lines and closed the Canyon Road for hours

“Reading that these fires may have been sparked by overhead utility lines and equipment once again sends an urgent message – in high risk fire zones, above ground utilities are a grave danger.  Our residents in Laguna live every day with the threat of destruction from fires sparked by power lines and transformers. The utility companies have refused to help expedite undergrounding leaving us no choice but to ask our community to support a local funding plan.  We must get this done to protect lives and property.»  

City Council will discuss new options on Tuesday Oct 24

On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss and potentially vote on the following recommended actions:  

Approve and authorize the purchase of California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Rule 20A undergrounding credits from Rancho Santa Margarita and Indian Wells at $0.55 on the dollar;

Direct staff to use $3 million in available funds and up to $4 million in Measure LL, Street Lighting and Rule 20A funds available during the next two fiscal years for undergrounding of utilities along highest priority evacuation routes;

Direct staff to continue to investigate other funding opportunities and present to the City Council in the near future; and

Repeal the city’s ordinance designed to reduce severe fire risk and utility pole related traffic accidents by requiring utility companies to underground all new and replacement utility infrastructure.

The City passed an ordinance in March 2017 designed to reduce severe fire risk and utility pole related traffic accidents by requiring utility companies to underground all new and replacement utility infrastructure. 

In response to the ordinance, Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) filed lawsuits against the City to prevent enactment of the ordinance. Faced with the threat of a long and expensive litigation process, the City Council has reached a settlement agreement with the two utilities and will consider repealing the ordinance while continuing to pursue more cost-effective alternatives.

“We must focus on solutions,” says Mayor Iseman

 “We strongly believe the utilities should step up and share in the cost of undergrounding their dangerous wires and we’re disappointed they sued our City in an attempt to avoid paying. However, slogging through costly litigation for years isn’t going to solve the problem in a timely manner. We’re focused on identifying funding options and directing resources as soon as possible to underground these dangerous utility wires,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Toni Iseman. 

The settlement commits the utilities to work with the City to review safety concerns and existing overhead electric systems and discuss opportunities to reduce fire risk. It also allows for the advancement of Rule 20A funds for up to five years for city initiated undergrounding projects. SCE has agreed to develop preliminary designs for undergrounding of electric facilities along Laguna Canyon Road in 12 months, and SDG&E agreed to advance the City initial funding for engineering and design costs for undergrounding projects that take place within the next five years.

The City Council agreed that fighting a long legal battle would not serve the community’s best interest – not when the threat to public safety is imminent. 

In the last 10 years, downed utility lines have caused at least five significant fires, and 58 vehicles have collided with utility poles on Laguna Canyon Road. 

With millions of visitors each year and only two evacuation roads leading out of the city, the next disaster could be more devastating than the last.

Page 7 of 16