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Laguna Beach

 Volume 13, Issue 31  |  April 16, 2021


Council considers repealing dated vulgar language provision, new contracted trolley operator, city hall security enhancements

By SARA HALL

A number of noteworthy items are on the City Council’s agenda tonight (April 6), including: Repealing a dated language provision; contracting trolley operating services; adding security enhancements to city hall; code and Local Coastal Program changes related to accessory dwelling units; and an update and proposed plan modification regarding repairs at Laguna Canyon Channel.

Earlier in the day, council will also discuss an update to the city’s Housing Element in a joint workshop with the Planning Commission.

Possibly the most interesting item during regular business is the proposed repeal of a municipal code provision from 1953 that criminalizes the use of certain language at City Council meetings.

The provision reads: “Any member of the council, or other person using profane, vulgar, or boisterous language at any meeting, or otherwise interrupting the proceedings, or who refuses to be seated, or cease his remarks when ordered so to do by the mayor or mayor pro tem, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

“Some residents have suggested that if the provision is unenforceable, then it should be removed from the Municipal Code,” the staff report reads.

Upon review, City Attorney Phil Kohn recommended that the provision be repealed. “I believe the subject provisions to be unenforceable because of statutory and case law developments after the provisions were adopted,” Kohn stated by email on Thursday.

“Council members and members of the public are given a wide berth for the content of their speech, particularly absent a showing that their statements create an imminent danger to the peaceful conduct of the meeting,” the report reads.

They are also provided specific protection by the Brown Act for criticism of policies, procedures, programs, and services, or acts or omissions of the council.

“For disorderly behavior to be punished as a criminal offense, the behavior must rise to the level of a disturbance that actually interferes with or impedes the ability of the City Council to conduct official business in an orderly manner,” according to the staff report.

Following warnings from the presiding officer, the Brown Act also allows for disruptive members of the public to be removed from a meeting. In severe instances, the California Penal Code makes it a misdemeanor for any person to “willfully disturb or break up” a meeting, which offenses could be cited by the Laguna Beach Police Department upon witnessing the incident, the report explains. 

If approved, the listed section of municipal code will be deleted in its entirety.

The action is noteworthy considering council unanimously agreed on March 9 to censure Councilmember Peter Blake for violation of the Rules of Decorum and Civility. Several instances during city meetings were cited, as well as comments made outside official meetings, when Blake used slurs or other offensive, disparaging, or derogatory language.

Council considers trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider a contract for a trolley operator

Also tonight (April 6), council will consider awarding a contract with LAZ Parking in an amount not to exceed $1,931,435 for trolley operations for an initial five-year term with two, three-year option terms. It’s subject to annual budget approval.

“The trolley system is an integral part of the city’s parking management plan and helps reduce downtown parking demand and traffic congestion by allowing visitors to utilize peripheral parking lots and ride the trolley throughout the city,” the staff report reads.

Historically, the city has hired part-time employees to serve as trolley drivers and dispatchers. Many are school bus drivers who work for the city on weekends and during the summer break, which can lead to scheduling and staffing challenges at the end of summer and non-summer weekends. As a result, recruitment and management has become increasingly challenging and time-consuming for city staff.

Due to changes in minimum wage and labor regulations, as well as staffing challenges related to using part-time employees well over part-time hours, staff believes that additional full-time city employees would be required for the city to continue to successfully operate the trolley service in-house.

The contractor plans to hire at least eight full-time employees, in addition to part-time and seasonal staff.

“Shifting to a contracted services model will significantly reduce the administrative burden related to seasonal hiring, as well as processing biweekly timesheets for 90 to 100 employees, freeing up resources in the city’s Finance and Human Resources divisions,” the staff report reads. 

The city would continue to hire part-time seasonal trolley ambassadors who provide directions at peripheral parking lots, major trolley stops, and onboard trolleys during the summer. A full-time transit supervisor would also be hired to oversee the contractor’s day-to-day operations, ensure compliance with required performance measures, respond to customer comments, and oversee the ambassadors and fueler/washers.

Contracted services would also allow increased flexibility to adjust staffing levels when necessary to meet service demand, while also reducing the city’s risk related to accident, injury, and worker’s compensation claims.

“Shifting from an in-house to a contracted trolley operation offers several benefits,” the staff report reads. “Working with a contracted operator will allow the city to continue to operate a reliable, cost-effective transit system using a staffing model that better aligns with the current scope of the city’s trolley services, which has grown significantly during the past 10 years.”

Council directed staff on August 11 to issue a request for bids for a contracted trolley operator. The trolleys would continue to be owned and maintained by the city, but operated by contract employees.

In addition to the regular Canyon, Coastal, and Summer Breeze routes, council directed staff to start a pilot program in fall for on-demand residential transit service in lieu of hourly trolley service on the Top of the World, Arch Beach Heights, and Bluebird Canyon neighborhood routes.

If approved, LAZ would begin operating the trolley service on June 25.

Council considers City Hall

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Security enhancements at city hall, including cameras and key card door locks, are on the consent calendar for tonight’s (April 6) Council meeting

Earlier during tonight’s meeting (April 6), on the consent calendar, council will consider awarding a $167,496 contract along with $17,000 (about 10 percent of the contract) for project-related expenses and change orders, for security improvements at city hall and 679 Ocean Ave.

The contract is with Am-Tech Security & Network Solutions, Inc., which submitted the lower of the two qualified bids (by about $27,000). Am-Tech has about 38 years of experience and provides similar services for several other Southern California cities, according to the staff report.

Following a 2019 building vulnerability assessment for the two locations, police and other authorities made several recommendations.

Staff published a request for proposals in December for security improvements including installing 23 security cameras located in the buildings’ interior and exterior and 37 key card door locks.

During regular business, council will also consider an ordinance to repeal and replace the Municipal Code chapter relating to accessory dwelling units, which would amend the city’s Local Coastal Program and request certification by the California Coastal Commission.

Sections of the city’s ADU ordinance are inconsistent with some updated state laws. Staff prepared an updated draft of the ADU ordinance, which was modified and approved by the Planning Commission on March 3.

Also on the agenda is an update to repairs at Laguna Canyon Channel along Frontage Road.

Recommendation includes directing staff to pursue the enhanced aesthetics improvements along the Laguna Canyon Channel between Frontage Road and Woodland Drive with the County of Orange and return to the City Council with the cooperative agreement to implement and fund the improvements. 

The item also includes directing staff not to pursue covering the portion of Laguna Canyon Channel between Frontage Road and Woodland Drive due to the high estimated cost of $8 million.

The regular meeting will be preceded by a joint City Council and Planning Commission Workshop to discuss Laguna Beach’s Housing Element.

The city is currently in the process of updating its Housing Element for the planning cycle of 2021-2029, which must be certified by the State Department of Housing and Community Development by October 15. The draft document is being presented on tonight (April 6) for preliminary comments and input. The final adoption will happen sometime this summer.

The joint workshop agenda is available online here. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. To participate via Zoom, you may click here from your computer or smart phone. You may also call (669) 900-9128 and wait for instructions. The Webinar ID is 95340580634#. 

The regular Council agenda is available online here. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. To participate via Zoom, you may click here from your computer or smart phone. You may also call (669) 900-9128 and wait for instructions. The Webinar ID is 98119947004#. 

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

You may speak in person in Council Chambers by entering the chambers through the rear door, speak on your subject of interest, and immediately exit through the front door. A face covering must be worn while in the chambers, including while speaking.

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, CA, 92651, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form: www.lagunabeachcity.net/comment. Email your comments to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on April 5 (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 April 6 (the day of the meeting). While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m. on April 6, the council members may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.

 

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Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Maggi Henrikson, Sara Hall, Stacia Stabler and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

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