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City responds to surprise proposal for Aliso Creek mainstem ecosystem

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Army Corps of Engineers recently surprised Laguna residents and officials with an unexpected release of a proposal for the Aliso Creek Mainstem Ecosystem Restoration project, along with supporting feasibility and environmental impact reports.  

Opponents have only until Nov 28 to review and comment on the Corps’ 2,000-page draft feasibility and environmental reports. They asked the council Tuesday night for help in rejecting the proposal, which bears a similarity to a Corps recommendation almost a decade ago that was shelved due to community opposition.

“The Laguna Beach Bluebelt Coalition met last night and we have many concerns about the Corps restoration project, also known as “SUPER Project of 2008,” said Mike Beanan, speaking on behalf of the coalition.

It was not a compliment.

Aliso Creek

“We need the city council’s support and resources to respond to the draft EIR and to work with the community to present a better alternative,” said Beanan.

The council responded by appropriating $40,000 to obtain expert analysis and support to develop comments on the project and directed the city’s Water Quality Improvement Plan sub-committee to work with staff, consultants and interested community members to develop written comments in accordance with the National Environmental Protection Act. 

“We need to know who our possible allies are and we also need to know the effects on the Aliso Creek Treatment Plant,” said Councilman Bob Whalen. “We also need to get up to speed on the politics of this.”

In a summary submitted by Water Quality Director David Shissler, the council was advised that it will take an extraordinary effort to develop comments on the vast amount of information released by the Corps with such short notice. 

“I am sure the corps intends to do the right thing,” said Shissler. “They are just going about it in the wrong way.”

City comments will be developed to make clear the strong community support for an analysis that reflects the unique environmental interests of Laguna as the tail end of the 19-plus mile mainstem, which collects seven major tributaries---and their pollution--- on its way to the ocean.

The new Corps proposal ends at the treatment plant, ignoring impacts on coastal resources where the creek ends at Aliso Beach, Beanen told the council. 

He recommends modernizing the treatment plant and upgrading sewage facilities to protect Laguna’s ocean water quality.  

“We are at the end of the pipe,” said Mayor Toni Iseman. “This is an opportunity to make it safer.”

Comments may be mailed to Eduardo T. De Mesa, Chief, Planning Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District, ATTN. Deborah Lang, 915 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 930, Los Angeles Ca, 90017. 

Lamb can be reached by phone at (213) 452-3789 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Council asked to approve nine Mills Act contracts

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Nine owners of Laguna Beach properties of high historical value have requested the Council to approve on Mills Act contracts on Tuesday.

The Mills Act allows local governments to offer incentives to owners of Laguna Beach properties with E- or K-ratings if they agree to certain restrictions in return for incentives, which may include reduced property taxes. Contracts are for 10 years, with the expectation that the tax savings will be used to maintain and/or rehabilitate the historic structures.

The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the preservation of historic buildings by private property owners, according to the state Office of Historic Preservation.

Applications for the contracts are reviewed by the city Heritage Committee. The committee makes recommendations to the council for approval of the contracts once a year.

To date, 67 contracts have been approved. 

The contracts cost the city in property tax revenue. It is estimated that “lost” property tax revenue for the 37 properties 2016 came to $193,000. Contracts for nine current applicants is estimated to cost the city up to $45,000 a year.

City staff is recommending approval of contracts with owners of properties at 1860 Carmelita St., 595 St. Anns Drive, 377 Mountain Road, 405 El Camino del Mar, 631 Virginia Park, 31706 Scenic Drive and 229 Arch St.

The agenda item is on the consent calendar, which will be approved without discussion unless pulled by a member of the council or the public.


City Manager’s Updates

Heroes with Heart Award - On Wednesday evening, Motor Officer Matt Gregg was honored by the Orange County Trauma Intervention Program at its annual “Heroes with Heart Awards Gala” at the Anaheim Hilton. This event recognizes police, sheriffs, firefighters and hospital personnel who have gone above the call of duty to provide compassionate support to citizens in crisis. Officer Gregg was nominated by a Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) volunteer who was impacted by his empathy, and support for a family, who were dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Free Health Insurance Counseling & Advocacy Program (HICAP) Medicare Open Enrollment Clinic - Specially trained HICAP counselors will provide you with health and drug comparison charts and conduct a cost analysis of your options at no cost to you. Appointments are available from 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov 17, at the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. To make your 45-minute appointment or for more information call (949) 464-6645. 

Creative Placemaking Town Hall Meeting - The City of Laguna Beach will hold its first public town hall meeting to discuss the Creative Placemaking Assessment, exploring the city’s cultural infrastructure.  We ask that all attendees bring an example of a cultural space, cultural activity, or public art invention that they find particularly interesting or aspirational to the meeting. 

The meeting will be held on Wed, Nov 8, at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Community and Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street. Refreshments will be provided. For information contact Siân Poeschl, Cultural Arts Manager (949) 497-0727 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laguna Arts Museum – Art & Nature Installation - As part of its Art & Nature festival, the Laguna Art Museum will unveil its temporary sculpture installation “Seascape” by artist Pablo Vargas Lugo. The sculpture will be located in the ocean 200 yards from the shoreline and will on exhibit for 14 days. 

If the public has any questions, contact Marinta Skupin, Curator of Education at (949) 494-8971 ext. 201. For more information visit www.lagunaartmuseum.org.


City Manager’s Updates

Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibition - The Arts Commission is currently accepting designs for 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 Friday, 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 x5 for information.

Emergency Storm Drain Repair on Coast Hwy near Aliso Beach Park on 11/15 - Emergency storm drain repairs will take place next Wednesday on the slope next to Coast Highway across from Aliso Beach Park. The City’s contractor will be replacing a large piece of storm drain pipe that was damaged in an auto accident. The work will require the closure of the northbound #2 lane of Coast Highway between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. For additional information, contact Maintenance Supervisor, Wayne Chintala at (949) 464-6644.

Planning Commission review of  “Draft” Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Update - The Laguna Beach Planning Commission will continue their review and discussion of potential revisions to the City’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance, which is Chapter 25.17 of the Laguna Beach Municipal Code. The Planning Commission meeting will be held on Wed, Nov 15, at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers (located at 505 Forest Avenue). Staff will provide a presentation to the Planning Commission regarding discussion points and proposed changes.  

The Planning Commission will consider a draft revised ordinance for recommendation to the City Council at a future noticed meeting. To view a copy of the staff report for this item, please refer to the City’s website: www.lagunabeachcity.net.

Free Lecture Event on Wildland Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub - The City invites the public to attend a free lecture series event at 6 p.m. on November 16, at the Laguna Beach Community Center, 380 Third Street. The event, entitled “Appreciating Our Coastal Sage Scrub,” will feature biologist Richard Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute, who will discuss the beauty and benefits of chaparral and living in a fire-prone environment. 

The event is the first in the City’s quarterly Environmental Lecture Series. For more information on this event or future lecture topics, please contact Environmental Specialist Michael Phillips at (949) 497-0390.

Restoration of Public Art - The Arts Commission continues its ongoing maintenance of its public art collection. Currently maintenance work is being undertaken on the “Waves” created by artist Larry Gill at the entrance of Forest Avenue. In addition, restoration work will be undertaken on the hanging gate at the intersection of Forest and Park. These projects are funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

Juried Fine Art Exhibition – Winners Announced - Mayor Toni Iseman and Arts Commission Chair Michael Ervin recently announced the winners of the exhibition: 1st Place Michael Ward; 2nd Place James Loving; 3rd Place Noriho Uriu. Each was awarded $1,000, $500 and $250 respectively. Honorable mention was awarded to Patsee Ober and Andrew Cortez.

Fire Department Announcement - The Laguna Beach Fire Department is pleased to announce the recent graduation of Firefighter James Lin with Paramedic Class 78 from Saddleback College. James will be assigned to Paramedic Engine 4 (South Laguna) starting in January 2018.

Coast Royal Utility Undergrounding Improvements - Installation of underground conduits and facilities including pull boxes, concrete pads, and retaining walls by the City’s Contractor, Hot Line Construction, is now complete within the Coast Royal neighborhood along Monterey Street, Brooks Street, Pedro Street, Holly Street, Ceanothus Drive, Alta Loma Drive, and Ocean View Street. SDG&E will begin mobilizing their crews to install underground cables and equipment beginning on Nov 16. Due to the upcoming holidays, SDG&E will not work the week of Nov 20 and will begin work again on Nov 27.

Cress Street Sidewalk Extension Complete - Construction work to extend the sidewalk on Cress Street from Bluebird Park to Temple Terrace has been completed and the area is now open to the public. The additional sidewalk will greatly enhance pedestrian traffic circulation and connectivity that is generated from nearby park and school bus drop-offs.

Veterans Day Transit Services - Laguna Beach Transit services will operate on its regular service schedule for the Veterans Day Holiday.

Cookie Contest - Residents are invited to attend the tasting and judging ceremony for the Community Services Department’s first annual Holiday Cookie Contest. Three finalists have been selected to bake a sample batch for a taste-test on Nov 13 at 3:30 p.m. at the Community and Susi Q Center. Cookies, milk, and refreshments will be available to all who attend. 

The winner’s story and recipe will be published in the Winter 2018 Community Services brochure, to be mailed citywide. For more information, contact Adam Gufarotti, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0304.


City Manager Updates

E-Waste and Paper Shredding Event this Saturday - Residents and businesses are invited to participate in the annual free E-Waste drop-off and Paper shredding event on Sat, Nov 18, from 8 a.m. to noon.  The event will be held at the City Maintenance Facilities, 1900 Laguna Canyon Road.  For more information, including a detailed list of acceptable E-Waste items, visit the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/recycling or contact Liz Avila at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

City Receives a Public Works Project of the Year Award - The City has received the 2017 Project of the Year award from the Southern California Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) for the Oak Street and Mountain Road Beach Access Improvements project. APWA’s Award Program was established to recognize public agencies for outstanding capital improvement projects and public works programs.

Thanksgiving Holiday Transit Services Schedule - On Thurs, Nov 23, no Transit Services (trolley and bus) will be operating.  We will be running a modified schedule on Friday, Nov 24.  For schedule information, please visit http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/transit_and_trolleys/citybus.htm. Also, for real time information, try the Trolley Tracker on the Visit Laguna app.

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule - There will be no street sweeping performed on Thanksgiving Day, Thurs, Nov 23 and parking restrictions will not be enforced.  On Friday, Nov 24 only non-residential areas will be swept.  Residential street sweeping will not occur and parking restrictions will not be enforced. Street sweeping and parking enforcement will return to normal on Saturday, Nov 25.

Holiday Trash Collection Schedule - Residential and commercial trash collection will be delayed one day for customers normally serviced on Thursday and Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Glenneyre Street Closure - On Tues, Nov 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Laguna Beach Water District will close Glenneyre Street between Agate Street and Bluebird Canyon Road for construction of water facilities. Northbound traffic will be detoured to Agate Street to South Coast Highway to Bluebird Canyon Road. Southbound traffic will be detoured to Bluebird Canyon Drive to South Coast Highway to Pearl Street. For questions, please contact Lisa Dunbar of the Laguna Beach County Water District at (949) 464-3119.

City Hall Closed - City Hall will be closed on November 23 and 24 for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.


City Manager Updates

Use the Trolley Service for Small Business Saturday -The Laguna Beach Neighborhood and Coastal Trolleys are your transportation to shopping during Small Business Saturday, Nov 25 and all throughout the holiday season. The Neighborhood Trolley service operates on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and the Coastal Trolley from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  For schedule information, see our website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley

Moulton Meadows Field Maintenance and Closures - Moulton Meadows Field will be closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations from Nov 20 – Dec 8. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

New City Hall Exhibition - Selected works from the Festival’s Permanent Collection will be exhibited at City Hall, 505 Forest Avenue, from Nov 28, 2017 to Jan 19, 2018. The exhibition is free to the public during normal City Hall business hours of Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and every other Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cultural Arts Calendar - The newly published Cultural Arts Calendar is now available. See upcoming arts events from Dec 2017 through Feb 2018. To view the calendar online, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/ cityhall/art. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach.

The Community and Susi Q Senior Center Closed - The Community and Susi Q Senior Center will be closed on Nov 23 through 25 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

 

REMINDERS:

Thanksgiving Holiday Transit Services Schedule - We will be running a modified schedule on Friday, Nov 24. Neighborhood Trolleys will be operating from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Neighborhood Bus Service from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Coastal Services from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. For schedule information, please visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/transit_and_trolleys/

citybus.htm. Also, for real time information, try the Trolley Tracker on the Visit Laguna app.

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule - On Friday, Nov 23, street sweeping and parking enforcement will only occur in commercial areas. Street sweeping and parking enforcement will not occur in residential areas. Street sweeping and parking enforcement will return to normal on Saturday, Nov 25.

Holiday Trash Collection Schedule - Residential and commercial trash collection will be delayed one day for customers normally serviced on Thursday and Friday because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

City Hall Closed - City Hall will be closed on Nov 23 and 24 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Hospitality Night 2017 - This year’s Hospitality Night event is scheduled for Friday, Dec 1 from 5 to 10:00 p.m. Instead of beginning in front of City Hall this year, the festivities begin in the Peppertree Parking Lot (located between Ocean Avenue and Forest Avenue, across from Second Street) where Santa Claus will arrive to greet holiday revelers before the tree lighting ceremony at 6:10 p.m. The City will be hosting arts and crafts and holiday card writing to U.S. military personnel overseas in the lot until 8 p.m. Street closures in the downtown area will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Portions of Forest Avenue, Ocean Avenue, Beach Street, and the Pepper Tree Parking Lot will be closed to vehicular traffic prior to and during the event. For more information, contact Adam Gufarotti, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0304.


City to approve longer trial period & entertainment for Park Plaza

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Park Plaza trial period will be extended to Dec. 31 and entertainment will be permitted in the temporary parklet between South Coast Highway and Laguna Avenue, as requested by Laguna Beach businessman Billy Fried.

Fried made the requests at the Nov. 14 City Council meeting on behalf of Transition Laguna, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, and the Beautification Council, three groups that organized the project. The required conditional use permit for entertainment is in the works, according to City Manager John Pietig.

“I anticipate approval of the CUP,” said Pietig, who has been supportive of the project. “I also plan to approve the extension of the trial period through December.”

Musical entertainment and other cultural events will be limited to five Saturdays, starting on Dec. 2, Fried said.

The extension will cost the city $25,000 in addition to the $50,000 budgeted for the project, according to the original agreement.

Fried also announced at the Nov. 14 meeting, committee plans to improve landscaping and furniture.

Organizers selected the furniture and plants. The city supplies containers for trash and recyclables.

City officials in September agreed to temporarily ban vehicles from Lower Park Avenue, a link from South Coast Highway to Laguna Avenue and Glenneyre Street for a six weeks trial period.

Organizers convinced the council that the plaza was worth a try, but not everyone agreed.

“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.”

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.

However, Police Chief Laura Farinella supported the parklet concept. 

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

Farinella also supported Fried’s recent proposal to extend closing time at the Plaza to 2:30 a.m. to accommodate businesses that stay open until 2 a.m., Pietig said.

The extended trial period and improvements will be funded by a $10,000 donation by an anonymous resident, Fried announced.


Council adds 3rd meeting to December calendar

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will meet Saturday, Dec. 16, in addition to regularly scheduled meetings on Dec. 5 and 12. 

A workshop on the contentious Historic Preservation Ordinance amendments will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday in December – far from the first workshop on the proposed amendments to the ordinance and possibly not the last hearing.

The city has been fiddling with the ordinance at least since 2013. It has been reviewed, revised and reviled at hearings before the Heritage Committee, the Design Review Board, and most recently by Planning Commission, which alone held six hearings.

Nobody appears to like the version the commission recommended for approval by the council at a really ugly meeting in October. 

Village Laguna and the South Laguna Civic Association oppose lowering the standing of C-rated homes to no rating as a historical resource, per the California Environmental Act, also the position of the city Heritage Committee.

Let Laguna Live! organized a successful clamor for C-rated homes to be excluded from any constraints when owners propose alterations. But C-rated structure owners still object to the Planning Commission’s decision that any home 70 years or older should be reviewed when remodels are proposed, even if not on any list as a historical structure.

C-rated homes are described as those that contribute to neighborhood character. Properties rated E, the top rank, and K are valued for characteristics of a time period, region, construction method, or represent work of an important creative individual, or one has lived in the home.

Owners E and K rated structures are eligible for the city’s Historic Register and perks such as reduced parking requirements and waived building and permit fees.

Oh, and by the way, the long-time ratings of E, K and C were changed by the commission to a numerical identification: 1 through 5.

Regular meetings

The agenda for the council’s Dec. 5 meeting will begin with a joint meeting with the Planning Commission. One topic to be discussed: the Village Entrance: one of the few city projects that has generated even more review than the Historic Preservation Ordinance.

An Appropriation for the Village Entrance is also set for the agenda.

The last scheduled council meeting for 2017 will be held on Dec. 12. A conditional use permit for the Coast Inn and outdoor displays are on the proposed agenda.


Council to test community support for funding citywide undergrounding

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The council will consider on Tuesday spending roughly $242,000 for consultants to determine the level of community support for citywide undergrounding and the development of a general obligation bond for the 2018 election to fund the project.

Proposed contracts with consultants include an agreement not to exceed $123,700 with TBWB Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz and Associates (FM3) to develop and implement a survey on a bond measure and report back to the council, and an agreement not to exceed $97,500 with David Taussig Associates for special tax consulting services. Approval of $20,800 for project expenses due to unforeseen circumstances is also recommended.  

Appropriation from Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting 

A $242,000 appropriation from the Street Lighting Fund to pay for consulting services is proposed to pay for the consultants.

Efforts have been underway since late October to determine options for funding the undergrounding of utilities along major evacuation routes and in neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.

Those efforts, according to a staff report, have resulted in recommendations to find out how the community feels about the creation of a general obligation bond and a Community Facilities District to fund undergrounding. 

A general obligation bond would be used get rid of overhead utilities that could cause a hazard along evacuation routes. Property owners citywide would be billed. The district would be used to fund undergrounding in neighborhoods still serviced by overhead utilities and would be paid for by those neighborhoods. 

Both require a vote of the people.

Stu News loves to hear readers’ opinions on the issues of the day. Letters to the Editor should be addressed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for possible publication in our Letters section.


City Manager’s Update

Use Laguna Beach Transit for Hospitality Night, tonight - Forget about traffic and take the free and convenient Neighborhood Trolley to downtown for Hospitality Night. The trolleys run until 11 p.m. on Fridays so you will have plenty of time to enjoy the festivities. For those in the North and South Laguna areas, just walk to Coast Highway for our Coastal Route service to downtown.  

For detailed schedule information, see our website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley, or for real time arrival information download our Trolley Tracker app on your smart phone. 

World AIDS Day Ribbons - Since 2005, the Arts Commission have annually recognized World AIDS Day on Dec 1 by installing black and red ribbons on public art installations. This year the ribbons will be installed on four sculptures in the downtown area. 

Public Works Deploys New Portable Irrigation Unit for Trees  - The Public Works Department has purchased a portable 200 gallon spray tank and pump for irrigating street trees. The primary use will be for watering young trees, for providing watering to trees that are experiencing drought stress, and to fill tree watering bags that provide slow deep irrigation to trees.  

Camel Point Beach Access Dead Trees Removal - On Sat, Dec 2, Orange County Parks is scheduled to remove two dead eucalyptus trees at the Camel Point Beach Access. The tree removal work will require the closure of the southbound outside travel lane of South Coast Highway of approximately 1000 ft. starting at Camel Point Drive, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. One southbound lane will be maintained for travel and northbound lanes will not be affected during this period. Questions and concerns can be directed to Kris Burbidge, Project Manager, with West Coast Arborist at (714) 920-0567.

Cultural Arts Funding - The City of Laguna Beach is currently accepting grant applications from non-profit organizations for cultural programming based in Laguna Beach. The deadline to submit an application is Feb 5, 2018. Applications must be submitted on-line at www.lagunabeachcity.slideroom.com

2017 Children’s Holiday Palette Exhibitors - The Arts Commission reviewed 188 palette designs from children ages 5 – 14, the following artists were selected for display at City Hall through December: Addyson Mackay, Lexi Breault, Lauren Trautenberg, Tessa Anderson, Allie Borgerding, Reagan Hannus, Paige Laws, Audrey Calef, Ace Halpern, Mia Gwin, Emma Chi-Sing, Taylor Brook Jones. The selected designs can also be viewed at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art.

Winter Quarter 2018 Registration Activities - Registration is now available for all Winter 2018 recreation activities for all ages. To register and see the list of programs available please visit: https://secure.rec1.com/CA/city-of-laguna-beach/catalog/index.

Moulton Meadows Field Maintenance and Closures - Moulton Meadows Field is currently closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations until Dec 8. Questions, please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762.

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