City Manager Updates

New Police Officer Graduates from Academy - On Friday, Sept 15, Priscilla Angeloni graduates from the Golden West Police Academy. Priscilla was a jailer with the police department before entering the academy. She has been an outstanding police recruit and is representing Laguna Beach with honor as she has been selected as class president. As class president she will be the keynote speaker for graduation ceremony of Academy Class #155. Welcome Officer Angeloni!

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Review Draft Amendments (Section III, Topic 4) - The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wed, Sept 20, 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 4 (Re-Use and Intensification) of the existing DSP document. A copy of the draft amendments are 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. .

Council approves weapon ban


Weapons or ordinary items that could be used as weapons will not be allowed at demonstrations, protest rallies or other public assemblies on city beaches or parks. 

The City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance proposed by Police Chief Laura Farinella to turn away anyone seen with items such soda cans or flags on sticks, as well as the more obvious daggers, metal pipes, or chains. 

“It is important to make our community and our law enforcement personnel safer,” said Mayor Toni Iseman 

Council acted on resident Hillary Cole’s recommendation to add bio-hazardous materials, regardless of the container, to the extensive list of banned items.

However, Cole also said participants in public events should be allowed to carry poles to hold up signs, but her suggestion was not included in the motion to approve the ordinance.

Farinella said flag poles could have easily-removed caps to uncover sharp inserts.

When possible, a warning should be issued before enforcement, unless circumstances dictate immediate action, according to the ordinance.

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Photo by Lynette

What exactly will be regarded as weapons?

“If we see someone heading toward a gathering carrying a weapon, we will tell them to go back to their car,” Farinella said

Violators of the ordinance will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“This backs up what we want people to know about what we are going to do,” said Mayo Pro Tem Kelly Boyd.

Farinella crafted the urgency ordinance with City Attorney Phillip Kohn, in the wake of the Aug 20 “America First” rally at Main Beach. A similar rally in Virginia ended with one dead, and many others injured when a vehicle was driven into the crowd, Farinella said.  

David Oakley suggested the council should revisit the ordinance to avoid slipping into a police state.

Farinella said people would be able to express their First Amendment rights---just don’t bring weapons.

“Í would rather err on the side of safety when it does not inhibit free speech,” said Councilman Steven Dicterow.

An urgency ordinance takes effect immediately on passage, without the usual requirement for a second reading. 

The complete text of Agenda Bill 13 and the ordinance can be reviewed at Click on the council agenda for Sept. 12 and again on documents.

Proposed Park Plaza approved


City officials agreed on Tuesday to temporarily ban vehicles for six weeks from Lower Park Avenue, a link from South Coast Highway to Laguna Avenue and Glenneyre Street 

The short block will be converted to a pedestrian-only plaza from Oct 21 to Dec1 and maybe even longer, depending on the success of trial period proposed by Transition Laguna, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Beautification Council. 

“This has been years in the making,” said spokesman Billy Fried. “The thrust of the idea is to make downtown a more convivial destination for locals, which can only help area merchants. So it’s a win-win.”

“Imagine a busy soccer mom shuttling her kids through town and having to make a stop at the post office or drug store. Maybe the kids want an ice cream and she’d like to take a load off for a moment. 

“They purchase food and settle into a seat at the Plaza. The kids can play and safely walk around. In the process, mom sees someone from the book club who tells her about new club and she make a connection to join it.”

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Rendering courtesy Billy Fried

Rendering of proposed Park Plaza

Fried said the plaza would transform downtown. Not everyone agreed that was a good idea.

“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Susan Elliott. “I drive home that way. It’s better than turning at Cliff (Drive). And soccer moms won’t sit there – there will be too many tourists.”

Council meeting regular and founder of Laguna Beach Chat, Michael Morris, also found fault with the proposal.  

“I use that turnoff,” said Morris. “Other [left turn] options on Legion and Cleo have no dedicated arrows. I think three-car turning lanes will create a backup and have an adverse effect.” 

Realtor and former planning Commissioner Bob Chapman said blocking vehicles on South Coast Highway from turning onto Lower Park Avenue presented challenges. 

“We should look at the plaza as potentially permanent---or why do it at all?” said Chapman.

Police Chief Laura Farinella supported the concept.

“I consider the proposal a positive,” she said. 

The plan was to furnish the plaza with leased tables and chair and decorated with potted plants, obtained through Beautification Council member Ruben Flores, provided City Manager John Pietig is convinced that the cost is competitive.

Councilman Bob Whalen asked staff to investigate whether purchasing the equipment would be cheaper.

The city had previously budgeted $50,000 for the plaza. Another $25,100 would be required if the council approves extending the required temporary Use Permit to Jan 2. 

Organizers must apply to the Planning Commission for the TUP. Staff indicated that the hearing could be held Oct 4.  

Draft amendments for Downtown Specific Plan focus of Planning Commission Meeting on Sept 20

The City of Laguna Beach and consultant MIG will continue their efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan Update on Wed, Sept 20, during the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (505 Forest Avenue).  

City staff will present draft amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan for discussion with the Planning Commission. The focus of the presentation and discussion will be on MIG’s recommended draft amendments to Section III: Issue Statements and Policies, Topic 4 (Re-Use and Intensification) of the existing Downtown Specific Plan document. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Terry Russell (12)

Downtown Specific Plan Update at Planning Commission Meeting on Sept 20

A copy of the Section III, Topic 4 draft amendments, including a strikethrough- underline document for reference are available to review on the project webpage (link included below). The staff report may be viewed on the City’s website on Fri, Sept 15.

Additional meetings will occur in 2017 to review draft amendments to other sections of the plan. This meeting and future meetings play an essential role in obtaining input from the community and direction from the Planning Commission, and to identify the City’s priorities for the future of the downtown area.  

For more information and to send in comments on the Downtown Specific Plan Update contact: Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at 949-497-0321; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit:

City Manager’s Updates

Arts Audience Spending by Zip Code - The Arts Commission partnered with Americans for the Arts and recently published the findings of Arts and Economic Prosperity Report 5. In addition to the report, the City participated in a survey of audience spending by zip code. The study indicates 65.3 percent of attendees at arts events were from Orange County and 34.7 percent from outside the County. The detailed report can be viewed at 

Art Updates - Want to receive the latest City Arts updates, sign up HERE or our newsletter or

Poet Laureate Showcase at LCAD Gallery - Kate Buckley, City of Laguna Beach’s inaugural Poet Laureate, has launched a Poet Laureate’s Showcase series of readings, aimed at bringing nationally known poets to Laguna Beach. The next Showcase will be held on Thurs, Sept 14, at 7 p.m. at the Laguna College of Art + Design Gallery, 374 Ocean Avenue. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Agate Street and Thalia Street Beach Access Rehabilitation - Construction is set to begin on Sept 11 for the replacement of the beach stairs at both sites.  The permitted working hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon through Friday. There are no anticipated traffic impacts, other than occasional equipment and material deliveries. Both access points will remain closed while work is ongoing. Construction is expected to be completed in April 2018. 

Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) - The City of Laguna Beach has begun preparation of a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP), a five-year strategic plan to improve local resilience to hazard events. Development of the plan, the first such plan for Laguna Beach, is being funded through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Laguna Beach LHMP will summarize the natural and human-caused hazards that pose a threat to the community, including drought, flooding, earthquakes, and wildfires. The City would like your input and encourage you to join us for a Community Kick-off meeting on Sept 14 at 6 p.m. and a Hazard Profiles Open House on Oct 18 at 6 p.m., location for both is the Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street.

Fall Quarter 2017 Registration Activities - Registration for fall 2017 recreation activities for all ages is still open.  To register and see the list of programs available please vist:

Pancake Breakfast Success - This past Labor Day Monday the Laguna Beach Fire Department (LBFD) held the annual Labor Day Breakfast at Heisler Park. The event was a great success with over 650 breakfasts served.  Special thanks to the lifeguards that came and helped, as well as staff from Public Works that provided additional logistical support. Fire fighter/Paramedic Matt Rolfe did a great job coordinating the event for the LBFD.  As always we had great support from our community friends in organizing the event (Sande St. John especially) and for all our residents and friends that joined us for a seaside breakfast. Thanks to all!

New Paramedic - Laguna Beach Firefighter Brent Buccola has recently completed the arduous process of becoming certified as an Orange County Paramedic.  Congratulations to Firefighter Paramedic Brent!

City offers free Smart Gardening series with local master gardeners at Susi Q

The City is offering free Smart Gardening classes with local master gardeners to help residents learn how to grow and maintain healthy and beautiful plants and landscapes, which improves both our community and the environment. 

Topics include: Small Space Edible Gardening, Sat, Sept 16; Creating Beautiful Pumpkin Succulent Centerpieces, Sat, Oct 14 and Beautiful Bulbs, Sat, Nov 11. 

All workshops are held from 9 – 10 a.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street.

Call (949) 464-6645 or go online at “recreation classes” to register for these workshops.

Draft Preservation Ordinance gets once-over at fifth hearing


The end of the Planning Commission’s marathon hearings on the draft Preservation Ordinance may be in sight.

Commissioners listened to 30 speakers, most of them opposed to latest version of the ordinance for one reason or another, and then perused the 12-page draft and made requests. They asked that clarification be added to some sections, corrected punctuation and reiterated their support for a 70-year-threshold for historic evaluation, preparing to recommend approval to the City Council on Oct 18.

“There are so many issues,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson. “Of all the projects since I have been on the commission, this is the most study I have put in.”

The commission also recommended changing the classification of historic structures from C, K and E to the numerical ratings used by the Secretary of the Interior.

C-rating, henceforth to be known as L-6, is the lowest category for properties that are considered historic. The commission voted to eliminate the category except for properties already on the Historic Register at the owner’s request, and to abandon the Historic Inventory on which homes were included without the consent of the property owners. 

State law does not define C-rated structures as historic resources

State law does not consider C-rated structures to be historic resources and the California Environmental Quality Act does not define them as such.

Alterations in the structures will be subject to evaluation by the director of the Development Department and possibly subsequent design review. 

In a well-orchestrated presentation, opponents of the designation of homes as historic without the owner’s consent hammered on “voluntary participation” in city documents. The documents shown in a Power Point presentation dated back to 1982, when the City Council first recognized the Historic Resources Inventory. 

The presentation concluded with the 1992 statement by Heritage Committee Chair Stephen Crawford that “participation in the City’s Historic Preservation Program is completely voluntary.”

Proponents of a city-wide inventory were equally prepared.

“Abandoning the inventory may be an attempt to address the concerns of property owners who object to having their houses on it, but doing so would change their status only to make it more uncertain,” said Barbara Metzger, former commissioner and Design Review Board member. 

Metzger said undoing the 1982 resolution, even if possible, would be a violation of the General Plan and would require amending the Historic Resources and Land Use Elements of the Plan. 

“A better solution to the problems these property owners point to would be to create a truly updated inventory – one that includes all of the city’s potential historic resources – and to develop a set of guidelines that would make alterations to C-rated structures less onerous than adherence to the Secretary of the Interior standards,” Metzger said.

“A failure to communicate”

Commissioner Roger McErlane said the commission is obliged by the General Plan to implement the ordinance, although the ordinance is not required by the state. 

“Inventory or no inventory, we end up in the same place,” McErlane said. “A house is historic or it’s not.”

An off-hand remark about eliminating the ordinance altogether drew applause.

What we had at the hearing “was a failure to communicate,” according to members of the audience.

“The complete absence of dialogue throughout these recent hearings has created an untenable situation,” said Becky Jones, a former Planning Commissioner. 

Jones said the original intent of updating the ordinance has been lost the process, including making life easier for owners of historic properties by adopting more flexible standards and more extensive incentives rather than to expand the city’s control.

“This lack of dialogue has pitted us against one another rather than enabling us to work together to find equitable solution,” said Jones. “What a lost opportunity and how sad.” 

The full text of the draft is available for review on the city web site LagunaBeachCity.Net

City wants input on plan to mitigate natural disasters – community kick-off meeting takes place Sept 14

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

Emergency operations coordinator Jordan Villwock tells Stu News that 

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

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

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Submitted photo

Flood, 2010…

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

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

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

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Mudslide, 2005…

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

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

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Wildfire, 2015….

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

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

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

To learn more about the Hazard Mitigation Plan visit:

Planning Commission is asked to send Historic Preservation Ordinance to council


The Planning Commission will hold its fifth hearing on the draft Historic Preservation Ordinance on Wednesday.

Staff is recommending the commission pass the ordinance on to the City Council, but mixed reactions may indicate it is not quite ready for prime time. 

“In my judgement, there are still some unanswered questions, based on recommendations made at previous hearings,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson. “The status of C-rated home is still not clear to me.”

The draft ordinance has four categories of significant properties: E, K and C.

E is the highest rating; followed by K, both signifying architecturally or historically valuable structures, with many of them placed by the owner on the city’s Historical Register. 

C-rated homes have caused the most turmoil throughout the prolonged attempt to revise the historical preservation ordinance. Vociferous owners of C-rated homes clamored to have their property removed from the 1981 inventory or the city-commissioned one in 2014, on which it was placed without their permission. 

Staff’s position was that although C-rated structures may not be architecturally significant, they contribute to the overall character and history of a neighborhood and should be valued.  

Commissioners proposed in July that C-rated structures no longer be considered locally recognized historic resources. They also directed staff at a meeting in July to stipulate that applications to modify C-rated structures would be subject to review by the Design Review Board, bypassing the city’s Heritage Committee. 

Other recommendations by the commission in July included stipulating that all structures at least 70 years old be evaluated for historical status. Staff had proposed 1945 as the historical threshold.

“The mere passage of time doesn’t make it historical”

Councilman Steve Dicterow said Monday that he has a problem with automatically bestowing historical merit by date.

“If it’s [the threshold] 70 years, there is a presumption of historicity,” said Dicterow on Monday. “The mere passage of time doesn’t make it historical.”

Dicterow also believes that the burden of proof and the cost should be the city’s responsibility, not the property owners.

The draft ordinance proposes that owners of the 70-plus structures who want to substantially remodel or demolish the building not on the Historical Register would submit plans to Community Development Director. Should the director determine the structure could be of historic value, the project would be sent to the Heritage Committee to decide on the rating. 

This is putting the cart before the horse, according to former Mayor Ann Christoph.  

“People need to know before they buy a property and spend money on plans whether or not it is historic,” said Christoph on Monday. “We’ve heard a lot of talk about the inventory, but getting rid of it won’t help. The owner will still face the same restrictions.”

The commission meeting Wednesday begins at 6 p.m. The draft ordinance is the first public hearing on the agenda.

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