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Laguna Beach


City takes next step in assuming ownership of county-controlled beaches in South Laguna

By SARA HALL

City Council unanimously agreed this week and took the next step in the process of assuming ownership of county-controlled beaches and coastal property in South Laguna.

Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday (Nov. 15) to approve a Cooperative Transfer Agreement with Orange County to transfer the identified parcels, easements, leases, licenses, permits and memorandum of understandings, as assignable, for city ownership, maintenance and operations of the identified coastal properties. Properties include Aliso Beach parking and concessions, capital improvements and maintenance responsibility of beach accesses and all marine safety operations.

“The whole agreement looks to be in really good shape,” said Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen.

It’s great to be getting these properties from the county, added Councilmember George Weiss. 

“I’m looking forward to these being our beaches,” he said.

The action also authorized and appropriated the utilization of advanced one-time funds for initial equipment, supply purchases and personnel expenditures to the fiscal year 2022-23 adopted budget to include authorizing: the addition of one full-time administrative assistant for marine safety; one full-time human resources supervisor to coordinate recruitment activities for necessary deployment of city-staff for South Laguna beaches and, re-classifying the marine safety chief one level higher on the non-elected management personnel salary schedule.

This is the accumulation of a lot of work over the last two years, said Assistant City Manager Ken Domer.

Council unanimously agreed on September 20 in favor of pursuing a deal with Orange County to assume ownership of county beaches and coastal properties within Laguna Beach city limits in exchange for a lump sum of $22 million.

The agreement is scheduled to be considered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on December 6. 

City takes next step in assuming ownership West Street Beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council approved a transfer agreement this week to take control of all county-owned beaches, including West Street Beach 

City staff developed the agreement with the county to facilitate the efficient transfer of the identified properties. As part of the transfer, and in acknowledgement that the city will be assuming long-term capital, maintenance, and operational costs for the properties and services, the county will compensate the city in the total amount of $22 million, $2 million of which will be transferred within 30 days.

There are about 70 fee parcels and easements. Domer explained that it’s a flexible transfer agreement and ensures if they miss one for any reason, there’s an authority assigned, both to the city manager and the counterpart at the county, to identify that easement for the property to make sure it can be transferred. It also includes the assignment/assumption of permits, licenses and leases.

It also ensures advancement of the $2 million lump-sum payment for equipment, supplies and recruitment needs, he noted. 

“That’s important because there’s a lot of staffing that we need to do,” Domer said, including bringing in a marine safety administrative assistant, an HR supervisor and movement of the marine safety chief to a higher responsibility band.

Based on the need to begin recruiting marine safety positions, training and onboarding new staff, and purchasing necessary equipment and supplies, the goal would be to commence ocean lifeguard operations at all South Laguna beaches on a “base” staffing level as of March 1, 2023.

City staff estimates that it will need an additional 50 seasonal ocean lifeguards to achieve peak staffing levels for all beaches within the city by summer. The start date of March 1 will allow crews to begin base level staffing and permit both seasonal and full-time marine safety officers to prepare equipment and develop staffing consistent with the rest of the city, scaling up to peak staffing by approximately June 10, 2023, for the summer.

Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow confirmed they looked at different timelines and are happy with this proposed start date of March 1.

“The bottom line is we’re leaning into this,” Snow said. “This has been a long process, a lot of talk, and a lot of time to think about how we’re going to do this.”

The city has responded to mutual aid calls at county-owned coastal properties for many years, he noted, so they already have a lot of experience, but welcome local knowledge.

They also plan to do three weeks of “ride alongs” and share information with the current contractor, he added. Snow himself has also been spending a lot of time in South Laguna recently to ensure there are no emerging challenges. 

They also have a very aggressive plan for hiring, Snow said. 

“We have changed our process completely,” he said. 

He’s confident that some of the changes they’ve made will bear fruit.

“We’re going to allow people to try out with three days’ notice on Main Beach, five days a week starting in January,” Snow explained, and they will run five different lifeguard academies based on the opportunities with the different schedules. 

They’re positioning the city to be competitive with compensation, he added.

“So we’re really doing everything that we possibly can,” Snow said. “I feel positive that we’re going to get there, it’s going to take a lot of work, but we will be successful.”

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Council agenda includes referendum petition options, transfer agreement for South Laguna beaches, code amendments related to housing

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a short but varied agenda tonight.

At tonight’s meeting (Tuesday, Nov. 15), council will consider: Options for a referendum petition against a city ordinance related to building height, mass, bulk and parking within commercial districts; a transfer agreement with the county for South Laguna coastal properties; code amendments related to state housing laws and the city’s updated Housing Element; recognition of an outgoing council member and a permanent pickleball court conversion at Lang Park.

During regular business, council will receive and then consider options in response to a referendum against the city ordinance related to building height, mass, bulk and parking within commercial districts.

Council can decide to entirely repeal the ordinance or submit the ordinance to the voters, either at the next regular municipal election or at a special election occurring not less than 88 days after the order of the City Council.

On September 26, the city clerk received signatures for the referendum petition against the ordinance. The Orange County Registrar of Voters verified a total of 2,613 valid signatures on the referendum petition. 

The ordinance was adopted by council on August 16. During a special meeting on July 26, a split 3-2 council approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinance, action on which was initially postponed from the July 12 meeting. During the special meeting vote, councilmembers Toni Iseman and George Weiss dissented. 

The item stemmed from proposed ballot initiatives tackling the same issues, both of which were strongly defeated this week. 

The Planning Commission unanimously voted on June 15 to recommend that the city council adopt the ordinance as staff recommended with some suggested modifications. 

At the special July 26 meeting, council directed staff to expand the regulations pertaining to the 36-foot citywide maximum height limit.

The new language reads “Notwithstanding any section to the contrary, no building shall exceed 36 feet in height. No element of a new building shall exceed 36 feet in height, including but not limited to rooftop elevators, equipment, furniture and other design features.”

Council agenda includes referendum West Street Beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Council will consider a transfer agreement to take control of all county-owned beaches, including West Street Beach

Council will consider approving a Cooperative Transfer Agreement with the Orange County to transfer the identified parcels, easements, leases, licenses, permits and memorandum of understandings, as assignable, for city ownership, maintenance and operations of the identified coastal properties.

The action will also authorize and appropriate the utilization of advanced one-time funds for initial equipment, supply purchases and personnel expenditures to the fiscal year 2022-23 adopted budget to include authorizing: the addition of one full-time administrative assistant for marine safety; one full-time human resources supervisor to coordinate recruitment activities for necessary deployment of city-staff for South Laguna beaches and re-classifying the marine safety chief one level higher on the non-elected management personnel salary schedule.

Council unanimously agreed on September 20 in favor of pursuing a deal with Orange County to assume ownership of county beaches and coastal properties within Laguna Beach city limits in exchange for a lump sum of $22 million.

Following last week’s action, city staff will proceed with developing an agreement with the county by today (November 15) to transfer ownership. Properties include Aliso Beach parking and concessions, capital improvements and maintenance responsibility of beach accesses and all marine safety operations.

City staff developed the agreement with the county to facilitate the efficient transfer of the identified properties. As part of the transfer, and in acknowledgement that the city will be assuming long-term capital, maintenance, and operational costs for the properties and services, the county will compensate the city in the total amount of $22 million, $2 million of which will be transferred within 30 days.

Many of the properties or easements for public access are decades old, with some documents recorded along with the original grant deeds related to private ownership. 

If approved by the council, the agreement is scheduled to be considered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on December 6. 

Based on the need to begin recruiting marine safety positions, training, and onboarding new staff, and purchasing necessary equipment and supplies, the goal would be to commence ocean lifeguard operations at all South Laguna beaches on a “base” staffing level as of March 1, 2023.

City staff estimates that it will need an additional 50 seasonal ocean lifeguards to achieve peak staffing levels for all beaches within the city by summer. The start date of March 1 will allow crews to begin base level staffing and permit both seasonal and full-time marine safety officers to prepare equipment and develop staffing consistent with the rest of the city, scaling up to peak staffing by approximately June 10, 2023 for the summer.

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Inside City Hall

Dear Laguna Beach Community,

Now that the election is over, we’d like to take the opportunity to provide you with the truth and facts regarding our Police Department recruitment efforts which has been challenging cities across the nation and to highlight our success in implementing new programs and opportunities for Police Officers.

First, the City Manager and I continue our efforts to provide sustainable enhanced public safety, low crime rates, and a high quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors in Laguna Beach. These are exciting times within your Police Department, and we will continue to provide exceptional police service, while embracing our values of Passion, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence (P.R.I.D.E.).

Inside City Hall Jeff Calvert

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Chief of Police Jeff Calvert

The Police Department is currently staffed with 49 of our 56 budgeted sworn positions. The 56th position was recently approved by the City Council for the addition of a third Police Lieutenant, which will allow the current Lieutenants to focus on patrol operations. Over the past several months, we have engaged in a strong and proactive recruitment effort that is yielding very positive results. We had one police recruit graduate from the police academy last week and he began field training this week. There are currently nine experienced lateral police officer candidates progressing through background and we anticipate four of them starting in December. 

Additionally, five entry-level police recruit candidates were interviewed and have also entered the background process. We anticipate them starting the police academy in March 2023. Moreover, we have 21 recruit candidates who passed the physical agility test and written examination, and will be interviewed in the next few weeks. 

We also have been fortunate to add several new positions to our roster recently. We filled the existing K9 vacancy and have added a second enforcement K9 position to provide seven-day-a-week coverage. Additionally, we added a Facility K9 position to promote employee wellness, community engagement, and to help comfort victims, witnesses and community members exposed to trauma. We have added a third Motor Officer position to help focus on traffic-related issues impacting our city. We also signed a Joint Agreement with the Newport Beach Police Department to assign a corporal and sergeant to ancillary SWAT duties. This paid dividends almost immediately when we recently had a full SWAT callout on 10th Avenue related to a barricaded attempted murder suspect. We also added a part-time Cold Case Detective to the Detective Bureau, who brings a breadth of experience to help solve unsolved major crimes.

To address quality of life issues in neighborhoods and parks most impacted by visitors, we have added three full-time Park Rangers, with the plan to expand the program to five full-time and five part-time Park Rangers by next summer. 

Finally, interviews are being conducted right now for several applicants for the existing Captain vacancy. The goal is to have the new Captain in place before the end of the year. Unfortunately, we have two Sergeants and one Corporal out with long term injuries.

Please feel free to reach out to either of us directly if you’d like to learn more about all the ways we are working to keep Laguna Beach a safe place to live, work and visit. 

In Community Spirit, 

Laguna Beach residents Police Chief Jeff Calvert and City Manager Shohreh Dupuis


Council agenda includes referendum petition options, transfer agreement for South Laguna beaches, code amendments related to housing

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a short but varied agenda next week.

At the Tuesday (Nov. 15) meeting, council will consider: Options for a referendum petition against a city ordinance related to building height, mass, bulk and parking within commercial districts; a transfer agreement with the county for South Laguna coastal properties; code amendments related to state housing laws and the city’s updated Housing Element; recognition of an outgoing council member and a permanent pickleball court conversion at Lang Park.

During regular business, council will receive and then consider options in response to a referendum against the city ordinance related to building height, mass, bulk and parking within commercial districts.

Council can decide to entirely repeal the ordinance or submit the ordinance to the voters, either at the next regular municipal election or at a special election occurring not less than 88 days after the order of the City Council.

On September 26, the city clerk received signatures for the referendum petition against the ordinance. The Orange County Registrar of Voters verified a total of 2,613 valid signatures on the referendum petition. 

The ordinance was adopted by council on August 16. During a special meeting on July 26, a split 3-2 council approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinance, action on which was initially postponed from the July 12 meeting. During the special meeting vote, councilmembers Toni Iseman and George Weiss dissented. 

The item stemmed from proposed ballot initiatives tackling the same issues, both of which were strongly defeated this week. 

The Planning Commission unanimously voted on June 15 to recommend that the city council adopt the ordinance as staff recommended with some suggested modifications. 

At the special July 26 meeting, council directed staff to expand the regulations pertaining to the 36-foot citywide maximum height limit.

The new language reads “Notwithstanding any section to the contrary, no building shall exceed 36 feet in height. No element of a new building shall exceed 36 feet in height, including but not limited to rooftop elevators, equipment, furniture and other design features.”

Council agenda includes referendum West Street Beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Council will consider a transfer agreement to take control of all county-owned beaches, including West Street Beach

Council will consider approving a Cooperative Transfer Agreement with the Orange County to transfer the identified parcels, easements, leases, licenses, permits and memorandum of understandings, as assignable, for city ownership, maintenance and operations of the identified coastal properties.

The action will also authorize and appropriate the utilization of advanced one-time funds for initial equipment, supply purchases and personnel expenditures to the fiscal year 2022-23 adopted budget to include authorizing: the addition of one full-time administrative assistant for marine safety; one full-time human resources supervisor to coordinate recruitment activities for necessary deployment of city-staff for South Laguna beaches and re-classifying the marine safety chief one level higher on the non-elected management personnel salary schedule.

Council unanimously agreed on September 20 in favor of pursuing a deal with Orange County to assume ownership of county beaches and coastal properties within Laguna Beach city limits in exchange for a lump sum of $22 million.

Following this week’s action, city staff will proceed with developing an agreement with the county by November 15 to transfer ownership. Properties include Aliso Beach parking and concessions, capital improvements and maintenance responsibility of beach accesses and all marine safety operations.

City staff developed the agreement with the county to facilitate the efficient transfer of the identified properties. As part of the transfer, and in acknowledgement that the city will be assuming long-term capital, maintenance, and operational costs for the properties and services, the county will compensate the city in the total amount of $22 million, $2 million of which will be transferred within 30 days.

Many of the properties or easements for public access are decades old, with some documents recorded along with the original grant deeds related to private ownership. 

If approved by the council, the agreement is scheduled to be considered by the Orange County Board of Supervisors on December 6. 

Based on the need to begin recruiting marine safety positions, training, and onboarding new staff, and purchasing necessary equipment and supplies, the goal would be to commence ocean lifeguard operations at all South Laguna beaches on a “base” staffing level as of March 1, 2023.

City staff estimates that it will need an additional 50 seasonal ocean lifeguards to achieve peak staffing levels for all beaches within the city by summer. The start date of March 1 will allow crews to begin base level staffing and permit both seasonal and full-time marine safety officers to prepare equipment and develop staffing consistent with the rest of the city, scaling up to peak staffing by approximately June 10, 2023 for the summer.

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Inside City Hall

Dear Laguna Beach Community, 

This December marks my three-year anniversary with the City of Laguna Beach as your Community Development Director and what an amazing journey it has been so far. We can all agree that Laguna Beach is a special place that must be cared for, and there is a strong sense of civic pride here. My primary role as Community Development Director is to help develop and implement council policies that will protect and enhance the unique character of our city, while also working to ensure a high quality of life for residents. I have enjoyed getting to know this community and continue to make friends along the way.

When I first arrived, there was a long list of projects and policies that needed attention. Three years later, I am happy to report that many of these have now been completed or are well underway. Some of the highlights include adopting the Short-Term Lodging Ordinance, Downtown Specific Plan, Historic Preservation Program, as well as updates to the Safety and Housing Elements of the city’s General Plan. Additionally, we have been successful in fostering a better relationship with the California Coastal Commission and as a result have made progress on several long-standing projects and issues.

Inside City Hall Marc Wiener

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Community Development Director Marc Wiener

Moving forward, we will be focusing on a comprehensive update to the Zoning Code. Our goal is to simplify the development regulations, making them both easier to implement and understand, while ensuring that neighborhood character is maintained. 

Behind the scenes, we have made positive operational changes to the department and are building a culture of teamwork and innovation to better serve you. This year the City Council approved several new positions in Community Development that once hired are going to help expedite project review times and improve customer service for folks at the counter. We also acquired a new permitting system, currently under development, that will allow customers to submit digital plans and applications online and receive real-time status updates. We recently implemented a new queuing system that allows the public to remotely get in line for counter service and receive text notifications when it is their turn. We also now offer a development management team meeting allowing applicants to concurrently meet with multiple departments prior to submitting their applications. Finally, the Streamlining Ordinance will be going into effect by the end of this year, which will allow for the approval of minor projects at the counter and in some cases help customers avoid the lengthy delay of a public hearing. 

Improving customer service and operations is a continuous effort, and I am proud of the progress we have made so far and believe we are on the right track. I applaud our staff, who have been enthusiastic participants in these efforts, all while managing a heavy volume of projects and day-to-day issues. Our vision is to create a model modernized department in terms of customer service, efficiency and use of technology. We met with a group of local architects on November 2 to receive feedback on how to improve the process and formed a working group to continue the dialogue. Thankfully, we have a supportive City Council and City Manager to help make this vision a reality.

I am honored to serve you as Community Development Director of this amazing city and remain excited about our future.

In Community Spirit,

Marc Wiener

Community Development Director


Commission approves boxing gym in Canyon, signs for restaurant moving into historic White House in Downtown

By SARA HALL 

A variety of businesses across the city were on the agenda for the Planning Commission this week. They enthusiastically approved a boxing fitness center in the Canyon and, during a different item, supported a sign permit for restaurant moving into historic White House in Downtown.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Wednesday (Nov. 2) in support of a Conditional Use Permit to establish and operate a private fitness facility specializing in boxing at 2093 Laguna Canyon Road (previously The I Grace Company).

Bobby’s Boxing, which grew out of its previous space at 2003 Laguna Canyon Road, is already operating and offering private boxing, cross-training, and fitness sessions catered toward youth and at-risk kids, senior citizens, Parkinson’s patients and weight loss clients.

Overall, commissioners were enthusiastically in support of the project. 

“This is a great addition to the health and well-being of our community, as well as serving the needs of people who are benefitting from this,” said Commission Chair Jorg Dubin. “It’s something a little different from other health clubs and gyms that are offered in town.”

“I look forward to having you here for years and years,” he added. 

It’s been going well at the new location, said owner and founder, Bobby Chavez. He’s focused on providing a safe and welcoming environment, as well as being a meaningful part of the community, he commented. 

“I plan to be a big part of the community going forward,” Chavez said. 

Several clients of the gym spoke during public comment, including a few Parkinson’s patients and supported Chavez and the project. The unique service has helped a lot of local residents and kids, they all agreed. 

Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin was surprised to learn about the benefits of boxing for Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s wonderful, she said, noting the gym already has a lot of local support. “It’s a great program for the community.”

Other commissioners agreed that the boxing gym adds value and benefit to the community.

The owner-operated private fitness facility offers one-on-one and one-on-two private sessions by appointment only in the 1,641-square-foot suite. Other businesses within the industrial building include auto repair shops and office uses.

Commission approves Boxing Club gym exterior

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

The exterior of the suite where Bobby’s Boxing is located in the Canyon

Most of Wednesday’s discussion revolved around parking, although staff and commissioners seemed to agree that there was plenty.

There are 40 parking spaces provided on the site, Assistant Planner Garret Wank explained.

The previous use was a construction management office, which required seven spaces according to city code. This is not an intensification of use, Wank said, so staff found that no extra parking was necessary.

“Due to the limited duration of the appointments and the limited number of occupants within the space at any given time, specifically two customers at any given time, staff felt that the associated use for recreation, which would have required 17 spaces, would have over-required for the actual necessity for the actual use,” Wank explained. 

There are plenty of spaces for what’s actually utilized, but they are nonconforming for the building as a whole, in terms of what would technically be required, Wank explained. There was no parking shortage observed during his site visits, he noted. 

“Tons of parking,” summarized Commissioner Steve Kellenberg. 

Whitin pointed out that the only reason the application was before the commission, instead of being administratively approved, was to officially make the determination that the use isn’t intensified. 

“This is a good example of how we need to update the zoning and modernize the definition of recreation (use) in this area,” she commented. “If that were to be updated…we wouldn’t be sitting here, the applicant would get approval across the counter, and planning staff wouldn’t be spending all the time that they’ve spent to get us to this point tonight.”

She learned that one of the recreational uses for the area is country club and other “arcane uses that are certainly not appropriate for the canyon,” Whitin said. On the other hand, boxing is a perfectly appropriate recreational fitness use, as would also be cross-training, yoga, Pilates, etc., for the canyon, she added. 

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Council approves lease financing for St. Catherine property in South Laguna

By SARA HALL

City Council members wore multiple hats during a dual meeting this week and in both roles they unanimously approved lease financing $12 million to finance a portion of the purchase of a closed Catholic school property in South Laguna. 

Although the process and their responsibility as the Laguna Beach Financing Authority, as well as the roles of city treasurer versus the LBFA treasurer, caused some confusion both on the dais and with some city staff. It was settled after some clarification from a consulting attorney and some back and forth between city staff members.

Council approved lease financing $12 million with Truist Bank to finance a portion of the cost to acquire the property at 30516 Coast Highway (formerly St. Catherine of Siena School). It also included related documents and actions required to complete the financing agreement. 

After the vote, council recessed and reconvened as the LB Financing Authority to discuss the lease before returning to finish the regular council meeting. 

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on August 16 to approve the purchase and authorize the city manager to make a formal offer to the Diocese of Orange for $23 million for the purchase of the St. Catherine of Siena school property, with an escrow period up to 120 days.

The August action adopted a financing plan that includes appropriating $23.5 million for the purchase of the property using $4 million from the Future City Facilities account, $2 million from the available American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds designated for city facilities, $3 million from the General Fund mid-year savings, $2 million from Vehicle Replacement Fund mid-year savings and $1 million Insurance Fund mid-year savings.

At the August meeting, council also directed staff to seek a direct loan via a private placement sale for the balance of $11.5 million, which is what they approved on Tuesday.

The city sent out a request for proposals from qualified banks and received 11 applications with terms of 15 or 20 years and interest rates between 3.32% and 4.98%. According to the staff report, Truist Bank was selected because it offered financing that best met the city’s parameters. 

Truist Bank offered financing that included a term of 20 years at a competitive interest rate of 3.95% with an annual debt service of approximately $872,000. The financing also has an option to prepay the lease payments after five years without penalty. The amount financed is $11.66 million, which includes $11.5 million for the purchase of the property and $160,000 in related transaction fees. 

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen was impressed with the deal staff and the consultants received.

“You got a great result here, under 4% in this market,” is good, he said. 

Mayor Sue Kempf was “pleasantly surprised” as well. 

All of the contingencies could be removed as early as November 12, said Director of Administrative Services Gavin Curran. They should know by then if there are any concerns or issues with purchasing the property or delaying the deal. 

The term sheet is good until November 18, which is why they are trying to close by November 17, he explained. 

“We’re going to try and work with them to extend that a little bit and try to become even closer to the closing date for the purchase of the property,” Curran said. “We’ll try to close that risk window.”

The facilities assessment is completed and the immediate needs were determined to be around $21,000, noted Assistant City Manager Ken Domer and that included tests “to kick the tires on everything.” An accessibility analysis was completed on Tuesday and that’s also looking good, he added. 

“We are on track to close as soon as possible,” Domer said. 

All the contingencies should be cleared by mid-November, he noted.

Whalen directed staff to report back if anything changes. 

“I’m just concerned about us borrowing $11.5 million if we haven’t removed all contingencies,” he said.

Council approves lease financing St. Catherine hill aerial

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

An aerial view of the former St. Catherine of Siena school property 

Tuesday’s action also approved a lease agreement between the city and the LB Financing Authority.

The city will lease a maintenance facility property (aka corporation yard) and fire station #3 to the Financing Authority in exchange for $11.66 million. The agreement is for LBFA to lease the property back to the city in exchange for annual debt service payments. 

The city determined that the two sites, the corporation yard and the fire station #3, have a value in the excess of what is being borrowed, Whalen clarified. 

Financing authority boards are allowed under state law as a way to streamline financing capital improvement projects.

It’s a common arrangement as a financing mechanism that’s recognized by courts as being valid under California law, said Juan Galvan, an attorney from Jones Hall who acted as legal counsel on the transaction.

Galvan explained that the main reason why this structure is used is because under California law there is a provision, commonly referred to as the constitutional debt limit, that requires before cities like Laguna Beach incur an obligation that exceeds a year’s worth of revenues, the city obtain the approval of the voters. There have been three exceptions recognized by the courts over the years, including this procedure, called a lease exception.

Essentially, the city is agreeing to make the lease payments each year, he added. 

The current sitting councilmembers act as the governing board for the Laguna Beach Financing Authority. LBFA was essentially created as a vehicle to make the payments to the bank and then lease the property back to the city, Galvan explained. 

Answering a council question, he confirmed that the city will still own the property. 

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Council agenda includes lease financing for St. Catherine property, water district becoming independent and taking on sewer, public safety vehicle purchases

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a short, but varied agenda tonight.

At tonight’s meeting, (Tuesday, Oct. 18), council will consider: The lease financing to purchase the closed Catholic school property in South Laguna; a request to discuss making Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency; vehicle replacement purchases for two public safety departments and de-listing one heritage tree.

During regular business, council will consider lease financing $12 million with Truist Bank to finance a portion of the cost to acquire the property at 30516 Coast Highway (formerly St. Catherine of Siena School). If approved, it will include related documents and actions required to complete the financing agreement. 

After the vote, council will recess and reconvene as the LB Financing Authority to discuss the lease before returning to finish the regular council meeting. 

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on August 16 to approve the purchase to authorize the city manager to make a formal offer to the Diocese of Orange for $23 million for the purchase of the St. Catherine of Siena school property, with an escrow period up to 120 days.

The August action adopted a financing plan that includes appropriating $23.5 million for the purchase of the property using $4 million from the Future City Facilities account, $2 million from the available American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds designated for city facilities, $3 million from the General Fund mid-year savings, $2 million from Vehicle Replacement Fund mid-year savings and $1 million Insurance Fund mid-year savings.

At the August meeting, council also directed staff to seek a direct loan via a private placement sale for the balance of $11.5 million, which is what they will consider tonight.

The city sent out a request for proposals from qualified banks and received 11 applications with terms of 15 or 20 years and interest rates between 3.32% and 4.98%. According to the staff report, Truist Bank was selected because it offered financing that best met the city’s parameters. 

Truist Bank offered financing that included a term of 20 years at a competitive interest rate of 3.95% with an annual debt service of approximately $872,000. The financing also has an option to prepay the lease payments after five years without penalty. The amount financed is $11.66 million, which includes $11.5 million for the purchase of the property and $160,000 in related transaction fees.

Council agenda includes lease f inancing St Catherine aerial

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

City Council will consider the lease financing to purchase the former St. Catherine of Siena school property 

In a rare agreement, council unanimously decided to move forward on July 19 to study possible uses, gather more community feedback and directed staff to develop a detailed financial plan for the 6.5-acre property.

In 2021, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County contacted Laguna Beach officials to determine if the city was interested in acquiring the property, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis explained at the July meeting. Staff has since been discussing the term and price of the sale with the council in closed session.

A few months ago, the diocese reached back out about the property. It took some time because the diocese had to get approval from Rome to confirm they wanted to sell the property, she noted. 

Council and city staff previously discussed working on a comprehensive, multi-year process to develop a master plan for the future use of the property. At that time, staff will continue to pursue all partnership opportunities that align with the council and residents’ vision of the property. 

At the July 19 meeting, staff suggested a few possible long-term preliminary concepts, including a community pool, parking structure, permanent skate park, city hall/civic center, or a cultural arts building.

Considering the good condition of the buildings on the property, which were constructed in 2010, many short-term services could kick off immediately.

The property includes four buildings which provide approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space. 

A large, indoor gym has a multipurpose court and a performance stage, along with a kitchen, bathrooms and class space. It could also be used for pickleball courts, a community meeting site, a safe refuge site for evacuation, or an emergency incident camp for first responders.

Other buildings on the property could be used for community meeting rooms, a library extension, technology center, pre-school/transitional kindergarten or day care facility, an Emergency Operations Center, public safety substations and training center, or a city administration annex.

There are also multiple outdoor spaces, including a basketball court, grass sports field, playground structures and picnic areas. The grassy area could provide up to 70 spaces for overflow or summer parking needs.

Council agenda includes lease financing city hall

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Council will consider a request to discuss making the Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency

Last on the agenda for tonight is Councilmember George Weiss’ request to initiate a discussion on the benefits of making the Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency and moving the city’s water quality department under its authority. The agency would also perform the city’s current role of maintaining the municipal sewer system.

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Council agenda includes lease financing for St. Catherine property, water district becoming independent and taking on sewer, public safety vehicle purchases

By SARA HALL

Laguna Beach City Council has a short, but varied agenda next week.

At the Tuesday (Oct. 18) meeting, council will consider: The lease financing to purchase the closed Catholic school property in South Laguna; a request to discuss making Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency; vehicle replacement purchases for two public safety departments and de-listing one heritage tree.

During regular business, council will consider lease financing $12 million with Truist Bank to finance a portion of the cost to acquire the property at 30516 Coast Highway (formerly St. Catherine of Siena School). If approved, it will include related documents and actions required to complete the financing agreement. 

After the vote, council will recess and reconvene as the LB Financing Authority to discuss the lease before returning to finish the regular council meeting. 

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on August 16 to approve the purchase to authorize the city manager to make a formal offer to the Diocese of Orange for $23 million for the purchase of the St. Catherine of Siena school property, with an escrow period up to 120 days.

The August action adopted a financing plan that includes appropriating $23.5 million for the purchase of the property using $4 million from the Future City Facilities account, $2 million from the available American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds designated for city facilities, $3 million from the General Fund mid-year savings, $2 million from Vehicle Replacement Fund mid-year savings and $1 million Insurance Fund mid-year savings.

At the August meeting, council also directed staff to seek a direct loan via a private placement sale for the balance of $11.5 million, which is what they will consider on Tuesday.

The city sent out a request for proposals from qualified banks and received 11 applications with terms of 15 or 20 years and interest rates between 3.32% and 4.98%. According to the staff report, Truist Bank was selected because it offered financing that best met the city’s parameters. 

Truist Bank offered financing that included a term of 20 years at a competitive interest rate of 3.95% with an annual debt service of approximately $872,000. The financing also has an option to prepay the lease payments after five years without penalty. The amount financed is $11.66 million, which includes $11.5 million for the purchase of the property and $160,000 in related transaction fees.

Council agenda includes lease f inancing St Catherine aerial

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Photo by Steven Georges/Diocese of Orange

City Council will consider the lease financing to purchase the former St. Catherine of Siena school property 

In a rare agreement, council unanimously decided to move forward on July 19 to study possible uses, gather more community feedback and directed staff to develop a detailed financial plan for the 6.5-acre property.

In 2021, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County contacted Laguna Beach officials to determine if the city was interested in acquiring the property, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis explained at the July meeting. Staff has since been discussing the term and price of the sale with the council in closed session.

A few months ago, the diocese reached back out about the property. It took some time because the diocese had to get approval from Rome to confirm they wanted to sell the property, she noted. 

Council and city staff previously discussed working on a comprehensive, multi-year process to develop a master plan for the future use of the property. At that time, staff will continue to pursue all partnership opportunities that align with the council and residents’ vision of the property. 

At the July 19 meeting, staff suggested a few possible long-term preliminary concepts, including a community pool, parking structure, permanent skate park, city hall/civic center, or a cultural arts building.

Considering the good condition of the buildings on the property, which were constructed in 2010, many short-term services could kick off immediately.

The property includes four buildings which provide approximately 39,500 square feet of indoor space. 

A large, indoor gym has a multipurpose court and a performance stage, along with a kitchen, bathrooms and class space. It could also be used for pickleball courts, a community meeting site, a safe refuge site for evacuation, or an emergency incident camp for first responders.

Other buildings on the property could be used for community meeting rooms, a library extension, technology center, pre-school/transitional kindergarten or day care facility, an Emergency Operations Center, public safety substations and training center, or a city administration annex.

There are also multiple outdoor spaces, including a basketball court, grass sports field, playground structures and picnic areas. The grassy area could provide up to 70 spaces for overflow or summer parking needs.

Council agenda includes lease financing city hall

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Council will consider a request to discuss making the Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency

Last on the agenda for Tuesday is Councilmember George Weiss’ request to initiate a discussion on the benefits of making the Laguna Beach County Water District an independent public agency and moving the city’s water quality department under its authority. The agency would also perform the city’s current role of maintaining the municipal sewer system.

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Council agenda includes wildfire mitigation report, Cleo Street Beach improvements, consent calendar projects and contracts

By SARA HALL

Tonight’s (October 4) City Council agenda for covers a variety of issues and projects during both regular business and on the consent calendar.

At the meeting, during regular business, council will: Hear an update on the project implementation of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety report and a status report on the citywide Fuel Modification Program; set their meeting schedule for 2023 and hold a public hearing for proposed undergrounding utilities along portions of Diamond Street and Crestview Drive.

On the council’s consent calendar (usually passed without discussion, unless an item is pulled by a councilmember or member of the public) are several items of interest: Cleo Street Beach access improvements; contract for furnishing and installing the Riddle Field playground replacement; purchasing rugged technology devices for fire and marine safety departments; trolley service for the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy event and second readings of several noteworthy resolutions. 

Council will also hear an appeal of an approval of a Three Arch Bay residential project. 

Up first during regular business, is an update on the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety report project implementation and status report on the citywide Fuel Modification Program.

On July 23, 2019, the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety subcommittee presented a comprehensive report which included 42 opportunities to increase fire safety within the city. Council unanimously approved the recommendations and staff has since been implementing the short-term and some medium-term funded items.

At the Aug. 24, 2021, meeting, council heard an update of the project implementation from the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee.

Highlights of the report include: Four additional outdoor warning sites are scheduled for installation by the end of 2022 and in early 2023, including two new locations in Bluebird Canyon and two locations still to be determined; four fire detection cameras were installed in the city’s open space and project design approval was obtained for several utility undergrounding projects.

The Fuel Modification Program highlights include: Streamlined the Coastal Development Permit process for future fuel modification zone development; three new FMZs were implemented; completed phase one for the Bluebird FMZ; completed maintenance of all implemented FMZs and updated the program maps and educational materials.

Staff is also working on expanding the city’s fuel modification program next year, including to initiate the process to develop the final two FMZs in Hobo Canyon and Diamond Canyon.

Council agenda includes wildfire mitigation Cleo Street Beach

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Photo by Joel Goldstein

Council will consider a contract for preliminary design of Cleo Street Beach access improvements

Earlier in the meeting, on the consent calendar, council will consider a task order contract with Stantec, in the amount of $160,786, for preliminary design of Cleo Street Beach access improvements.

In addition to the task order contract amount, staff is recommending that council authorize the city manager to approve change orders in an amount not to exceed $16,000 for any unforeseen additional design-related services.

Fiscal year 2022-23 budget includes $200,000 to design the Cleo Street Beach access improvements project, the staff report explains. The scope of work includes replacing and extending the existing stairs and handrails to reduce the drop-off from the bottom step to the sand. 

Preliminary design services include an analysis of alternatives, conceptual design, public outreach, environmental compliance, design review and other entitlements. The final design service needs will be determined after the preliminary process is complete. 

Task order proposals were requested from three on-call consultants. The proposals received were ranked based on similar work performance, availability of key staff dedicated to the project and cost reasonableness. Stantec’s proposal ranked the highest.

Council agenda includes wildfire mitigation rendering Riddle Field playground

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Art courtesy of Innovative Playgrounds Co./City of Laguna Beach

A conceptual rendering of the proposed playground at Riddle Field

Also on the consent calendar, council will consider a contract with Innovative Playgrounds Company, Inc. in the amount not to exceed $249,872, for furnishing and installing the Riddle Field playground replacement.

The project includes replacement of the playground equipment, an ADA access ramp and the installation of a shade canopy for the spectator bleachers. The variance was requested because the shade canopies on the proposed new playground structures exceed the maximum structure height permitted in the recreation zone.

A plaque displayed on the play structure will honor former local resident, Jack Norworth, who wrote the popular baseball anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in 1908. Although not included in the proposed wording of the plaque, Norworth also founded the LB Little League in 1952, the oldest in Orange County.

On September 7, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the design review and a variance for improvements at Boat Canyon Park, the play area at Riddle Field.

Commissioners also approved additional conditions directing staff to reconsider the dark green color of the mat surface and consider an additional shade structure by the bleachers. Although the dark colors still appear in the project being presented to council next week and the staff report does not include the commissioners’ comments.

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

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