Council to consider community pool alternatives, meeting conduct, ambulance program review

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council’s agenda for next week’s meeting covers a lot of notable items.

At the Tuesday (March 12) meeting, council will consider and/or review: Community pool alternatives; ordinance amending city code related to the conduct and administration of the City Council and order of business at council meetings; fiscal year 2022-23 report for the city operated ambulance program; appoint to councilmembers to the ad hoc committee to review FY 2024-25 community grant applications and revise fund balances for the FY 2023-24 mid-year budget modifications.

During regular business, council will review community pool alternatives.

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Rendering courtesy of LBUSD

A preliminary rendering of the LBUSD pool

The subcommittee tasked with looking into the issue, comprised of Mayor Sue Kempf and Councilmember Bob Whalen, are recommending the council review alternatives for a future community pool facility and provide policy direction to staff to either pursue joint use of a 50-meter pool planned by the Laguna Beach Unified School District or explore options to build a new 25-meter pool at an alternate location that would be constructed, operated and maintained by the city. The council could also decide to pursue both options.

The two groups have jointly operated the 25-meter pool situated on LBUSD property by the high school since 1994. According to the terms of the joint use agreement, the city is responsible for maintaining and operating the pool 70% of the time for community aquatics programs, while LBUSD utilizes it for the remaining 30%, staff previously explained.

A new aquatic center for the school has been a hot topic at study sessions and lengthy forums for more than a year. The expansion aims to accommodate the growing demand from both LBUSD athletic programs and city-sponsored aquatics programs.

City Council and LBUSD board of education also held a special joint session and the pool was the most discussed issue.

Kempf and Whalen were appointed to the subcommittee in a 4-1 vote on October 10 (Councilmember George Weiss dissented) and asked to discuss pool options, including joint-use opportunities with LBUSD. The action also directed the ad hoc subcommittee to return to council with a list of stakeholders who are engaged in the process, through both informal meetings and public meetings, and report back the results of the discussions and data gathering.

As part of the school district’s facility master plan, a majority of the school board approved building a 50-meter pool on December 14.

According to next week’s council staff report, the district plans to proceed with design of the project in spring and recently issued a request for proposals for consulting services to assist with design and construction.

The district requested that the city indicate before March 31 the level of participation, if any, it would like to have in the design, financing and use of the expanded pool facility.

The council subcommittee met with LBUSD staff and officials on several occasions to gain an understanding of the district’s policy aspirations and programming interests. The subcommittee also met with Sensible Laguna, a local resident group, to better understand the interests of neighbors and review the data they had gathered.

Also during regular business on Tuesday, council will consider an ordinance amending city code related to the conduct and administration of the City Council and order of business at council meetings.

At the City Council Planning Workshop on January 19, councilmembers discussed potential changes to the agenda format and council meeting process and directed staff to return with a proposal.

Next week’s ordinance also makes some clean-up revisions, as the relevant chapter in city code has not been updated in decades and contains outdated terms and provisions, according to the staff report.

Policies related to the administration of council were adopted at the February 27 meeting. The items (regarding agenda order of business and policies updating procedures for councilmember placement of items on council agendas and establishing the format of meeting minutes) were on the consent calendar, but prompted lengthy discussions about each.

The proposed ordinance would add a provision related to the selection of mayor and mayor pro tem. City code is currently silent on the matter, according to the staff report, so the ordinance would clarify the process. The mayoral selection process was previously discussed on November 21, when a request from Councilmember George Weiss to consider establishing a policy requiring rotation of the mayor and mayor pro tem roles failed to find support on the dais.

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If approved, the ordinance will also add a provision regulating the discussion of non-municipal matters at council meetings. Discussion or action of matters of a non-municipal nature, like political endorsements or matters of national or international concern, will be prohibited. However, the provision clarifies that the ban “does not apply to: Non-municipal matters that have a measurable and direct impact on the city, its residents, or the region; non-municipal matters, where a supermajority of the council determines it would nevertheless like to take up the item, or individual members of the council who take public positions concerning such non-municipal matters, so long as they do not do so during or as part of any city meeting or official function.

The ordinance also would amend the code to add a provision that clarifies that “disruptive conduct at a City Council meeting – such as shouting or yelling from the gallery, refusing to be seated from the podium outside of the individual’s opportunity for public comment, or otherwise impeding the orderly conduct of the meeting – may result in removal from the meeting and is a misdemeanor.” A warning by the mayor or another presiding officer or designee is required prior to removal and citation, except in the event that the conduct constitutes use of force or is an actual threat of force. This addition is particularly notable following a recent “disturbing incident of Zoom bombing” that caused the abrupt adjournment of the February 13 meeting.

Also on Tuesday, during regular business, council will review a fiscal year 2022-23 report for the city operated ambulance program.

Council unanimously agreed on Dec. 14, 2021, to transition from contracting private ambulance transport service to providing a city operated program, staffed and supported by the Laguna Beach Fire Department.

On Jan. 25, 2022, councilmembers unanimously approved the budget for new program for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Council also directed staff to provide a program performance report after the first year of operations.

According to the staff report for next week’s item, during the first year there have been 2,568 calls for service and 1,494 transports. The average response time is seven minutes (eight minutes faster than the Orange County benchmark). The two-ambulance program has also contributed to reducing wait times during simultaneous calls. Local control also allows for flexibility of staffing based on community needs and the program has created career growth opportunities, staff note in the report.

“The ambulance program has led to improvements of the community’s emergency transport service,” the staff report reads.

Staff estimates that the approximate billing revenues are $1.68 million and expenditures are $1.64 million.

Also during regular business next week, council will appoint to councilmembers to the ad hoc committee to review FY 2024-25 community grant applications and revise fund balances for the FY 2023-24 mid-year budget modifications.

The council agenda is available online here. The closed session will begin at 4:30 p.m., followed by 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 amckay@lagunabeachcity.net, or by using this interactive form. Email your comments to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on March 11 (the day before the City Council meeting) in order for your comments to be submitted to the members of the City Council the day prior the meeting, which provides them sufficient time to review the comments.

You may continue to provide written comments up to 12 p.m. on March 12 (the day of the meeting). While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m. on March 12, councilmembers may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.

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


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