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Laguna Beach

Volume 15, Issue 11  | February 7, 2023Subscribe

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Updated budget, Main Beach Management Plan, pension obligation bonds, code changes set for council consideration 


City Council has a heavy agenda next week, considering items related to an updated budget, pension obligation bonds, city code changes to comply with state law regarding housing, and some councilmember suggested items related to California Environmental Quality Act training and a proposed climate change resolution. 

At their Tuesday (March 15) meeting, councilmembers will consider updating the budget, adjusting for increased ending balances of the various city funds and some mid-year modifications. 

The item also includes a resolution setting the hourly/part-time pay rates to comply with state minimum wage requirements and a side letter agreement with the LB Police Employees Association to approve an incentive for additional training. 

It also includes an ordinance adjusting the purchasing limits for department directors from $10,000 to $30,000 and the city manager from $30,000 to $75,000. 

Staff is asking the council to update the 2021-22 adopted budget by accepting the June 30, 2021, ending fund balances, and modify 2021-22 FY by approving additional appropriations and adjustments.

An independent audit for the 2020-21 was recently completed. Each year after the audit is completed, the city’s finance staff calculates the ending balances for various city funds. Council then updates the budget by adopting the revised beginning fund balance figures and recognizing the “savings,” which is the increase in the available fund balance. 

“Continuing its recovery from the pandemic, the city ended fiscal year 2020-21 in a strong financial position,” the staff report reads. 

The report lists several funds that exceeded estimates, including the general, capital improvement and parking funds. 

The general fund, the city’s main operating fund is ending the year with $6.9 million above the 20% reserve, with revenues exceeding budget estimates by $4.1 million in revenue (higher property tax, sales tax and transient occupancy tax revenue) and departments saving approximately $1.2 million.

“Overall, the available fund balance increased by approximately $9.3 million for all operating funds combined,” the report reads. 

Modifications recommended by staff include reserving $4 million for future city facilities, $1 million for decorative fencing along the channel, and $450,000 for a CEQA certified Climate Action Plan. There are also requests for $60,000 from the Boys & Girls Club of LB to support their Dream Play Yard; $127,000 from the Laguna Art Museum to reinstate grant funding cut during the pandemic and an ongoing cost of $50,000 to recognize Juneteenth as a city holiday.

Updated budget Main Beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Main Beach 

Also included in the budget modifications is $100,500 for a Main Beach Management Plan. 

According to the staff report, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen and Councilmember Peter Blake brought it to the attention of city staff and police that residents were concerned about “inappropriate behavior demonstrated by individuals” around Main Beach, particularly near the restrooms and children’s playground area.

“This behavior, including exposure, indecent language, and smoking and drinking, has noticeably increased over the last several months, and is associated mainly with unsheltered individuals who have repeatedly refused offered social services and use of the city’s available alternative sleeping location,” the staff report reads. 

To address the issue immediately, the Main Beach Management Plan funding is included as a budget modification item. It would be effective through June 30, which would provide staff with enough time to develop a longer-term strategy that includes mental health services, increased outreach and engagement, and consistent enforcement of criminal behavior and nuisances.

In a staff memo from Assistant City Manager Ken Domer describing the plan, the pilot program would: Facilitate additional police enforcement with the department’s bicycle officers; implement a directly contracted outreach and engagement effort; and a night security patrol for the park, beach, cobblestones and playground areas. 

Staff is also recommending that council introduce an ordinance that would amend city code related to the purchasing system, to increase the purchasing limits for the department directors from $10,000 to $30,000 and the city manager from $30,000 to $75,000.

Appropriate purchasing limits help streamline the process of procuring goods and services and expedites the delivery, according to the staff report. It also helps lower the overall transaction costs by reducing administrative costs. 

The side letter agreement between the city and the Laguna Beach Police Employees Association will, if approved, ratify a 10% pay incentive for each hour a public safety dispatcher performs the duties of a communications training officer. The program’s cost is approximately $5,000 for 1,000 hours of training.

Council will also consider a resolution related to hourly/part-time pay rates that will, if approved, ratify the compensation for those city employees to comply with the state minimum wage requirements.

The item also includes some department position changes and adjustments to responsibilities that have taken place during the year.

Updated budget City Hall

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider an updated budget and pension obligation bonds next week

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a presentation about pension obligation bonds. Council will discuss the feasibility of the program and direct staff regarding this issue. 

If a majority of the council desires to move forward with POBs, they’ll take action to direct staff to: Return with a resolution for the city to pursue the issuance of pension obligation bonds to refund its CalPERS Unfunded Accrued Liability and the commencement of judicial validation proceedings related to the issuance of such POB(s); and authorize the city manager to perform an informal request for proposal process and retain validation (bond) counsel to initiation and complete the eight-step validation process for a fee between $25,000-$40,000, plus court filing fees of $3,000-$5,000.

The legal court validation proceedings could take up to six months if council decides to move forward with POBs.

Council approved hiring an actuary last February to validate the city’s current CalPERS UAL and provide a risk analysis regarding POBs.

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As the staff report explains, Pension Obligation Bonds are taxable bonds that could be issued by the city and used to refinance some or all of the city’s Unfunded Accrued Liability. 

Bond proceeds are deposited with CalPERS and invested, along with the plans’ other investments. For the portion of the UAL paid through bond proceeds, the city would make debt service payments to bondholders instead of making contributions to CalPERS.

The city would then make two payments, the debt service payments to pay off the bonds and the normal cost pension contribution to CalPERS.

In the report, city staff also explain the risks and benefits of POBs, as well as possible alternatives. 

Updated budget housing

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Laguna Beach is reacting to Senate Bill 9, meant to increase housing development in the state

Also during regular business, the council will consider an “urgency ordinance” that would add a chapter to the city code regulating single family residential two-unit developments and urban lot splits pursuant to California Senate Bill 9.

SB 9 went into effect on January 1 and is one of several new laws intending to increase housing development in the state. 

According to the bill, SB 9 requires a proposed housing development containing no more than two residential units within a single-family residential zone to be considered ministerially, without discretionary review or hearing, if the proposed housing development meets certain requirements.

The new law also requires the city to ministerially approve a parcel map to subdivide an existing parcel in a single-family residential zone into two new parcels, referred to as an urban lot split, when certain criteria are met, and each of the two lots can be independently developed with two units. 

Criteria include that the parcel is not located within a historic district, is not included on the State Historic Resources Inventory, or is not within a site that is legally designated or listed as a city or county landmark or historic property or district.

City staff summarized the bill in the report, noting that it “minimizes the restrictions and limitations a city may place on traditional single-family zoning.”

Staff is recommending the new ordinance to bring the city’s current regulations into conformance with SB 9, while also imposing certain restrictions (such as a maximum floor area and height) that would allow for greater local control.

Last during regular business on Tuesday are several options regarding CEQA training for council, commission, committee and board members. The item was initially brought forth by Councilmember Toni Iseman.

Staff recommended three options for council to consider, including: A three-hour session from PlaceWorks at a rate not to exceed $3,500; two half-day virtual workshops by California Special Districts Association that are $200 for just one session or both for $260 for non-members; or webinars by California Association for Environmental Professionals for $300.

Council will also consider a request by Councilmember George Weiss to adopt a climate change resolution.

The resolution notes the growing threat to the environment and human well-being due to climate change and commits the City of Laguna Beach to endeavor to achieve a zero-carbon local economy consistent with the state’s 2030 targets. It also notes that the city will work to center community welfare in all of its climate actions and will see to ensure environmental, economic, and social equity and justice in its climate actions. 

Weiss’ suggested resolution also directs the city to update its Climate Protection Action Plan in a manner that is consistent with CEQA guidelines and sets priorities and target dates for achievable reductions in greenhouse emissions. 

“This will be an ongoing process that includes community input and does not take the place of more immediate action,” the proposed draft resolution reads. 

The proposal also suggests tracking the city’s progress, consider hiring/appointing a sustainability manager and consider implementing new related codes or standards.

Part of the proposed draft resolution also points to the city to endeavor toward offering 100% renewable electricity through Community Choice Energy and aim to join a Joint Powers Authority by the end of the year.

The council agenda is available online here. The closed session starts at 4:15 p.m., the regular meeting begins at 5 p.m. 

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

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 91641723096#. If you have issues getting into the Zoom meeting or raising your virtual hand to comment, you may text the city clerk at 310.722.5051.

The meeting can be watched live on Cox channel 852 or on the city’s website at

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 the interactive form here

Email your comments to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on March 14 (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 to 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 15 (the day of the meeting). While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m. on March 15, councilmembers may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.


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

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Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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