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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 52  |  July 1, 2022


Short, but important council agenda includes election items, budget, balloon ban request

By SARA HALL

City Council has a short, but important agenda tonight. 

At the meeting (Tuesday, June 21), council will consider: Several administrative election-related items, the fiscal year 2022-23 budget; and a councilmember request banning the sale and use of lighter than air balloons.

During regular business, council will consider adopting several administrative election-related items

The action will combine the municipal election with the statewide election, places three voter-initiated ballot measures on the ballot and adopts regulations for: Candidates’ statements, submit, set priorities for ballot measure arguments, direct an impartial analysis by the city attorney and provide rebuttal arguments.

Voters will elect three members of the City Council, each for the full term of four years. The candidate statement is not to exceed 200 words.

Several measures will also be on the ballot for voter consideration. 

The Laguna Residents First PAC’s initiative, titled “An ordinance creating an overlay zoning district and requiring voter approval of major development projects,” seeks to create an overlay zone that covers all property in the city located within 750 feet of the centerline of either Coast Highway or Laguna Canyon, which effectively encompasses 51% of all parcels in the city.

Council unanimously agreed on February 15 to send the measure, unaltered, to the ballot for voters to decide.

On May 10, council unanimously sent two more measures to the November ballot: “An Ordinance Amending the Laguna Beach Municipal Code to Create a Minimum Wage and Workplace Standards and Protections for Hotel Employees” and “An Ordinance Creating a Hotel Development Overlay Zoning District and Requiring Voter Approval of Hotel Development Projects.”

At this time, one more voter-initiated measure is undergoing signature verification by the Registrar of Voters. If it qualifies, the item will be before council at their July 12 meeting. 

Following council direction, staff returned on April 12 with land use and parking provisions to be considered for development of a future ordinance and/or an alternative ballot measure. Council voted 3-1-1, with Councilmember Toni Iseman dissenting and Weiss abstaining.

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The Planning Commission unanimously voted Wednesday (June 15) to recommend that the City Council adopt the ordinance or possible ballot measure as staff recommended with some suggested modifications. It’s also aimed at addressing development height, mass/scale and parking. It will be considered by the council on July 12. The deadline for submitting arguments is August 9, the deadline for rebuttal arguments is August 19.

Election expenses are expected to cost approximately $100,000.

Short but important council agenda budget city hall

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider adopting the fiscal year 2022-23 budget during a meeting next week 

Also during regular business tonight, council will consider approving the fiscal year 2022-23 budget, with some revisions to the 2021-22 adopted budget. 

If approved, councilmembers will also: Provide direction on salary and performance pay for the city treasurer and city clerk, approve salary schedules for FY 2022-23, approve an agreement with the Marine Safety Association, modify the rates for the city attorney services provided by Rutan & Tucker, approve the appropriations limit for FY 2022-23, approve budget changes, and the contract with Rhode and Associates for $173,000 to oversee the final phases of implementation for the Bluebird, Park Avenue and South Laguna Fuel Modification Zones, as well as maintain existing fuel modification zones in FY 2022-23.

The item also considers the recommendations regarding the Community Assistance Grants and the Cultural Arts Grants for FY 2022-23.

Council held a budget workshop on May 24, when they considered a fee schedule update for the community development, water quality, public works, and fire departments and a review of the community development staffing proposal.

According to the staff report, the budget is balanced and city revenues continue to improve, exceeding pre-COVID levels. 

The proposed budget includes the city’s new ambulance program, new community development staff positions, increased funding for capital equipment, technology projects, renovations for city playgrounds and beach access and funding to continue the Main Beach Management Plan.

Other items on the wish list that have moved forward include: One-time funding for $9,600 for an OC Coastkeeper Aliso Beach education program; one-time funding of $100,000 for the design phase of the city hall lobby renovation; one-time funding of $210,000 to replace three police patrol vehicles.

The list also included a cultural arts request for ongoing funding of $19,000 for weekly live performances by local musicians and the installation of a temporary mural at the stage, which was inadvertently left off the proposed budget.

Following up from council direction provided at the May meeting, staff added a transfer of $250,000 from the general fund to the newly created housing fund. Transient Occupancy Tax revenue generated from short-term lodging units above the current 127 units will be transferred to the housing fund.

The modified budget also includes $140,000 to expand the outdoor warning system in neighborhoods within the city’s very high fire hazard severity zone.

Short but important council agenda Mylar balloons

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of PMMC

Mylar balloons collected from the water by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center on a clean-up day in 2020 

Last on the agenda, during councilmember requests, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen and Councilmember George Weiss are requesting the council to consider an ordinance to prohibit the sale and use of lighter than air balloons within the city.

The request is to discuss adopting an ordinance to ban the sale of balloons made of metalized or foil materials that conduct electricity, including Mylar. They are also requesting that council direct staff to return with a proposed ordinance.

According to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, there are 100-150 power outages each year due to metallic balloons, Whalen and Weiss wrote in the request. These power outages affect thousands of customers statewide and are costly to repair. They also pose a danger to land and ocean wildlife. 

Whalen and Weiss explain in their request that the existing state balloon law (SB 1990) prohibits the sale or distribution of a balloon that is constructed of electrically conductive material (metallized Mylar or foil) and filled with a gas lighter than air (helium), without affixing an object of sufficient weight to the balloon to counter the lift capability, affixing a specified warning statement on the balloon and affixing a printed identification of the balloon’s manufacturer.

“Unfortunately, this law has not been effective in stopping power outages and electrical distribution equipment failures resulting from the inadvertent release of mylar balloons,” the request reads. 

Both the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Environmental Sustainability Committee have unanimously approved passage of an ordinance to further regulate the sale of these balloons, according to the request.

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

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers. A face covering is highly recommended while in the 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 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, 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

You may continue to provide written comments up to 12 p.m. today. While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m., 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.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, 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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