Council agenda includes solar panel assessment, housing recommendations, study session on zoning code update

By SARA HALL

There are several interesting items on the agenda for Laguna Beach City Council next week.

At the Tuesday (March 26) meeting, during the study session, consent calendar and during regular business, council will consider and/or review: Comprehensive zoning code update; solar panel assessment (microgrid resiliency), electric fleet conversion, and climate action and adaptation plan update; housing-related recommendations from the artist work/live ad hoc committee; possible adjustments to campaign contribution limits; extension of an agreement for the smart parking guidance system; setting hearing dates for the annual weed abatement and sidewalk and intersection visibility nuisance programs, and award a contract to purchase and install a cellular booster system for a city property.

During the study session, council will receive a presentation from staff on the draft scope of services for a comprehensive zoning code update, discuss recommendations by staff and provide further direction.

If the scope of services is approved, council will direct staff to proceed by issuing a request for proposals.

Council may also choose to appoint two members to an ad hoc committee tasked with collaborating with staff and consultants on the zoning code update effort.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider a solar panel assessment for city facilities, including the LB Recreation and Community Center

Up first during regular business (if council continues the commercial district beautification/property maintenance ordinance to a future meeting), the council will consider a solar panel assessment (microgrid resiliency), electric fleet conversion, and climate action and adaptation plan update.

Council will consider proceeding with implementing the microgrid resiliency system by identifying which site(s) and battery storage system (24-, 48-, or 72-hours reservoir) staff should pursue.

If approved, the item will also authorize the city manager to execute a $130,000 consultant services agreement with ICF Incorporated, LLC, for the preparation of a fleet electrification and electric vehicle charging implementation plan, along with a $20,000 contingency amount.

Staff is also recommending council appropriate $75,000 from an available fund balance in the capital improvement fund for the consultant agreement.

The action will also direct staff to issue a request for proposal for micro grid system option(s) and provide cost figures during the fiscal year 2024-25 budget workshop scheduled for May 14.

Councilmembers will also hear an update on the status of the development of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.

Council established the installation of solar panels on city facilities as a top priority for staff to pursue this year at the annual planning workshop on January 19. In response, staff is presenting the results of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan’s microgrid study, which provides the council with conceptual layouts and direct purchase cost estimates for four city locations.

According to the staff report, a microgrid study explores the establishment of smaller, self-sufficient power systems using renewable energy sources, to enhance local electricity reliability and availability. The city’s study evaluated five Laguna Beach facilities: corporation yard, city hall, city hall lift station, Laguna Beach Susi Q and Senior Center, and the Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center (formerly St. Catherine of Siena School).

The report considered energy consumption at each facility, plus projected increases based on the fleet electrification and electric vehicle charging infrastructure master plan.

While also working on an electric vehicle implementation plan, staff determined that merging the microgrid study project with the city’s EV infrastructure endeavors would be mutually beneficial, given the technical synergies and close correlation between the two, the staff report explains.

The item will also include an update on CAAP. Overall, the project remains within budget, according to staff, although there is an anticipated two-month delay in presenting the final report, now expected later in 2024. The delay comes from the decision to enhance key foundational documents.

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Also during regular business on Tuesday, council will consider recommendations from the artist work/live ad hoc committee, comprised of Mayor Pro Tem Alex Rounaghi and Councilmember Mark Orgill.

The recommendations are that the council:

–Direct the city manager’s office/housing program coordinator to prepare and issue a request for proposal for a consultant to lead and facilitate the establishment of a Laguna Beach Community Land Trust.

–Direct staff to develop a tenant preference policy requiring housing development projects to reserve a portion of the housing units for artists.

–Direct staff to return to City Council with an ordinance eliminating the hearing and permit requirements for artist work/live occupancy.

–Appropriate $200,000 from the housing fund to establish a Community Land Trust.

They also suggest sunsetting the committee, which was formed at the April 4, 2023 meeting. The group was tasked with three primary objectives: Establishing a funding mechanism for artist work/live units, modifying city policies for amnesty of unpermitted artist housing and providing shared artist spaces on city property.

According to the staff report, the committee identified the Community Land Trust model as the most effective funding mechanism and highlighted the CLT’s potential to maintain long-term housing affordability beyond conventional timelines.

“This model supports not just artists, but also seniors and the local workforce, emphasizing community ownership and decision-making in property management,” the staff report reads.

The proposed $200,000 budget will cover feasibility studies, legal and financial planning, and stakeholder engagement.

Regarding unpermitted artist housing, the committee noted that amnesty programs from other jurisdictions are viable models. The programs are aimed at legalizing accessory dwelling units, and offer reduced fees and regulatory flexibility. The report suggests adapting similar strategies to facilitate the legalization of such units in Laguna Beach.

The committee also explored options for shared artist spaces, leveraging the newly opened LBCRC. The staff report notes that despite the center’s offerings, the need for spaces equipped for industrial fabrication and larger projects was acknowledged, suggesting a role for the proposed CLT in acquiring such facilities.

Recommendation also includes some city code amendments that are proposed to reserve housing units for artists in government-funded developments, contingent on compliance with fair housing laws. The committee’s suggestions were also made to streamline the process for artist work/live unit applications by eliminating burdensome requirements and hearings.

Last up during regular business, council will consider possible adjustments to campaign contribution limits.

Council will consider the current campaign contribution limit and determine whether it should remain the same for the 2024 election cycle or be changed, and if the $440 base amount for the campaign contribution limitation should be increased or decreased.

According to city code, the base amount for the limitation was set at $440 and that amount is adjusted on January 1 of each even numbered year to reflect changes in the consumer price index for the area and rounded to the nearest $10.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the adjusted amount with the CPI between 2020 and 2024 is calculated at $515.81, which would be rounded to the nearest $10 and be set at $520.

Earlier in the meeting, on the consent calendar (usually passed without discussion, unless an item is pulled by a councilmember or member of the public), council will consider: Authorizing the city manager to extend an agreement with Frogparking, Inc., for the smart parking guidance system, in the amount of $95,000 for one year; setting hearing dates for the annual weed abatement and sidewalk and intersection visibility nuisance programs, and awarding a $110,000 contract to SHI to purchase and install a Wilson Pro cellular booster system for LBCRC.

Also on Tuesday, council will hear an appeal of approval of design review for a 253-square-foot addition to an existing two-story dwelling, hardscaping, landscaping, and a revocable encroachment permit for construction and maintenance of improvements within the public right-of-way at 31616 Second Ave.

The council agenda is available online here. The study session starts at 3 p.m., followed by the closed session at 4 p.m., and the regular meeting at 5 p.m.

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers.

The meeting can be watched live on Cox channel 852 or on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/agendas.

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, Calif. 92651, by email to mckay@lagunabeachcity.net, or by using this interactive form. In order to allow sufficient time for members of the City Council and staff to review and consider your written comments, submissions will be accepted for consideration up until the close of business (i.e., 5:30 p.m.) on March 25 (the day before the City Council meeting).

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.


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