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Laguna Beach


Council passes a resolution to reset the button on decorum and civility at public meetings

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council unanimously endorsed at the September 17 meeting a resolution designed to stop personal attacks at public meetings on or by city staff, members of the council and the public.

Mayor Bob Whalen consulted with City Manager John Pietig and City Attorney Philip Kohn in the preparation of the resolution as proposed at the meeting. Additions to the resolution were added following comments by the public that the policy appeared biased toward public officials and did not have enough “teeth.”

“It [proposed policy] does not authorize the mayor/presiding officer/chair to determine non-adherence of the decorum rules by the elected; instead issuance and enforcement gets left to a majority of the council governing body,” said MJ Abraham. “Frankly, this is the equivalent of suggesting a police officer should have a powwow with two other officers before issuing a ticket.”

Abraham said she had been informed that staff was responsible for developing the policy, which was reviewed by Mayor Bob Whalen.

“Well staff got it wrong,” said Abraham.

In response to public comments, the council added wording to the policy, to be brought back for its approval.

--Members of the public while attending a public meeting shall refrain from abusive conduct, personal charge, or verbal attack on the character of city officials.

--The presiding officer shall be responsible for maintaining decorum and civility at public meetings and enforcing the Rules of Decorum in a uniform and even-handed manner, and may intervene to ensure that no city council member interrupt members of the public while at the podium.

--City officials who interrupt and repeatedly do not adhere to the rules may be reprimanded by the presiding official or formally censured by a majority of the body to which the offending official is a member.

Fifteen members of the audience spoke at the hearing, some of them referring to the raucous hearing in April on the graphic on police cars, a tipping point for them. 

“MJ has been working on this since March,” said Michele Monda, who spoke at the hearing against what she said have been personal attacks on her by Councilman Peter Blake, rather than addressing her policy issues.

“This bullying, intimidation, and threats have done nothing but show his ‘mean girl’ tactics,” said Monda. “This is not proper behavior from an elected official to constituents and deflects attention from policy issues. 

“I support the existing municipal code that specifically addresses conduct of public officials and I support the conduct policy that helps strengthen its enforcement and serves to get us back on the right track and free of bullying.”

Monda included in her testimony comments allegedly made by Blake online and on social media.

It should be noted that the policy approved by the council also applies to electronic and written communications from those acting in city official capacity.

Councilman Peter Blake didn’t back down.

“I own everything I have ever said,” reiterated Blake. “I take back nothing.”

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, often at odds with Blake, said she would stop meetings for five minutes if someone on the dais belittled a speaker or, made rude remarks. 

“When people tell me they are afraid to come to the council meetings, I fear for the future of Laguna,” said Iseman. 

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow, a devote adherent of the First Amendment, said it was sad to have to institute some form of censorship, but necessary, based on public comments on the street and at the meeting.

Speakers who wanted more control in the policy over outbursts by a council member said Whalen should have taken more definitive action in the past.

“I am not going to defend my actions,” said Whalen. “Could I have done more – maybe. But I am not looking back. I am looking forward.

“I am responsible for enforcing the rules. As for censure, the council can’t do it on the spot. It will be brought back at the next meeting.”

“We need to reset the button and go back to the way we were,” said Councilwoman Sue Kempf.


City Manager’s Updates

South Laguna Neighborhood Route Realigned at Mission Hospital – Service to Mission Hospital via 3rd Avenue and Scenic Drive has been re-routed to Coast Highway. The bus stops on Scenic Drive have been eliminated and the bus stop on Coast Highway at 7th Street will now serve Mission Hospital. For questions, contact Deputy Director of Public Works Paula Faust at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 497-0303.

Anita and Calliope Crosswalks on Coast Highway – Construction is underway by Caltrans to install new high visibility crosswalks across Coast Highway at the intersections of Anita and Calliope Streets. The improvements include an in-road warning light system and overhead flashing lights, which are activated by pedestrian push buttons at either side of the crosswalk. Work is expected to be completed by the end of December. 

For questions, contact the Caltrans Resident Engineer Gagandeep Sidhu at (949) 279-8466.

Audition Call – The City of Laguna Beach is holding auditions for its 1st Annual Adult Variety Talent Show on Thursday, Sept 26, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third St. The City is harkening back to the era of magicians, barbershop quartets, harmonica players, tap dancers, mind readers, and illusionists. Auditions are open to amateur performers age 21+. The “Really Big Show” will be held on Thursday, October 24, at 7 p.m.

To register, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/varietyshow or call (949) 464-6645 for more information.

Fact Check – Recent media reports have inaccurately stated that the Laguna Beach City Council agreed to move forward with plans to achieve zero liquid discharge into the ocean from the Coastal Treatment Plant (CTP). That is not true.

Rather, the City Council voted to support research done by the Environmental Sustainability Committee on zero waste discharge and subsequently forward a report summarizing the research to the South Orange County Water Associate (SOCWA). 

The City Council did not vote to support zero liquid discharge at CTP, as that technology does not currently exist. Any current technology available discharges a brine and even so, all discharges from CTP currently meet federal clean water standards. 

Although the Coastal Treatment Plant may be able to achieve zero discharge to the ocean, the Aliso Creek Outfall will not achieve that without the help of several other surrounding agencies. It was also falsely reported that water quality reporting will be soon available on a real-time basis. Though this technology is coming in the future, it is very costly, and is not anticipated to be available in Laguna Beach anytime soon.

Police Department Offering Free Car Seat Inspections – The Laguna Beach Police Department, in partnership with “National Child Safety Passenger Week,” will be offering free car seat inspections to parents and caregivers in front of the police station on Friday, Sept 20 and Friday, Sept 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

City Managers Rocco

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Submitted Photo

Rocco Keller uses his fingers to make a heart a few years ago, showing his love for the importance of car seat safety

The event will include instruction on finding the right car seat for children, as well as instruction on the correct installation of car seats. Interested participants are encouraged to schedule appointments for a free child safety seat inspection. The appointments are in 30-minute increments so schedule your appointment soon.

To reserve an appointment, contact Debi Jensen at (949) 497-0396 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Coastal Cleanup Day – The Laguna Beach Police Department, in partnership with the Laguna Ocean Foundation, will be hosting the first Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day event at Main Beach near the basketball courts on Saturday, Sept 21, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

Coastal Cleanup Day is an international day of action to protect our oceans, watersheds, and wildlife from trash and debris. Tons of trash gets dumped on our coastal land every year. The garbage includes plastic bottles, plastic bags and packaging, food wrappers, and cigarette butts – detracting from the natural beauty of the shore and harming wildlife. California Coastal Cleanup is part of an international campaign focused on keeping trash out of oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes. 

To register for this free event, visit the Coastkeeper Eventbrite page here. Once on the website, click the green register button, select Main Beach Laguna Beach as the location, and enter the number of volunteers, then click register. Buckets, bags, and gloves for trash collection will be provided. 

For further information, please feel free to contact Community Services Officer Natasha Hernandez at (949) 497-0382.


Council to hold second meeting of a hat trick today, start time is 5 p.m.

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The second of a trio of consecutive Tuesday City Council meetings will be the first under the new start time of 5 p.m., designed to get meetings finished by 11 p.m.

Public Communications, followed by staff and council communications, will be heard before the four Regular Order items: a proposed decorum and civility policy; termination of the extended weekend neighborhood trolley service; a response to the Orange County Grand Jury report regarding the urban forest; and consideration of a flavored tobacco products policy, requested by Councilwoman Toni Iseman.

Mayer Bob Whalen and City Manager John Pietig worked together on the proposed policy designed to combat actions, words, or behaviors by anyone that would undermine civil discourse.

Staff has recommended that extended hours of weekend neighborhood trolley service to Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon, and Arch Beach Heights be discontinued by September 30, when the Orange County Transportation Authority eliminates its funding for the service.

Staff proposes that OCTA be reimbursed for the $130,000 spent on a new trolley purchased for the service and kept by the city for service during Festival season, paid for by the Vehicle Replacement Fund.

The city council has been asked to approve a letter to the Orange County Grand Jury that responds to a report on the Urban Forest.

Pietig wrote in response that the city agrees with Findings One, Two, Three, and Seven of the Grand Jury’s report; wholly disagrees with Findings Four and Five, and partially disagrees with Findings 6 and 10.

Complete staff reports are available on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.


City to host “Open for Business Workshop” on Sept 19

The next “Open for Business” workshop will be hosted by the City of Laguna Beach on Thursday, Sept 19 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Laguna Beach Community Center.

Workshop participants will include Planning Commissioners, representatives from the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, and Anthony Viera, Associate City Planner for the City of Laguna Beach.

City to Nirvana

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Courtesy of Nirvana Grille 

Local restaurant Nirvana Grille is thriving in downtown Laguna Beach

“These meetings are an excellent way for prospective businesses to get an overview of our City’s processes,” states Planning Commissioner Susan Whitin.

As a result of the workshops last year, several new businesses came to Laguna Beach, and others are planned for the future. 

For more information, contact Anthony Viera, Associate Planner at (949) 497-0398 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Laguna Beach Community Center is located at 380 Third St. 


Council to start meetings an hour earlier

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will begin their meetings an hour earlier, starting September 17.

Lately, council meeting have lasted five, and some times more, hours to accommodate public comment and city business. The council, staff, and public do not like the late hours, particularly when a sensitive hearing comes late on the agenda. 

“We are proposing starting the meetings at 5 p.m.,” said City Manager John Pietig.

The idea is to conclude meetings by 11 p.m., without increasing the frequency of the meetings, which is problematic for working professionals on the council: Mayor Bob Whalen and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow, both attorneys, and Councilman Peter Blake, owner of an art gallery.

However am earlier start also moves up the closed session meetings, generally heard an hour before the public meeting.

Generally, the council is scheduled to meet on the first and third Tuesday of the month. A third meeting has been added in some months to address special projects and hopefully to conclude significant planning department projects before Community Development Director Greg Pfost retires in July of 2020.

The projects include the ordinances for Historic Preservation, Short-Term Lodging, the Downtown Specific Plan, the Downtown Action Plan, and Major Remodel and Blufftop Setback regulations.

Exceptions and additions are made to the council calendar to avoid conflict with holidays, school activities, Election Day, city or county business attended by one or more council members, and special meetings.

Special meetings include the annual Council Retreat; joint meetings with the Laguna Beach Board of Education, Arts Commission, Planning Commission, and Design Review Board; City Council appointments to city committees, boards, and commissions; the Budget and Long-Term Financial Planning workshops.

Efforts to streamline the meetings, begun in 2017, included audible beeps to warn speakers that their time at the podium was running out or expired. The council can also reduce the amount of time given speakers from three minutes to two, or even less, minutes, depending on the number of speakers on an individual item.

Public comment is limited to a total of 30 minutes unless extended by the council for good cause.

Ideas proposed for streamlining, but never approved, included scheduling appeals from 3 to 5 p.m., tried and abandoned because of the difficulty for the public to attend due to work or family commitments.

Continuing the public comment period to the end of the regular agenda has been infrequently used. 

Recent rumors that the entire public comment period would be moved to the end of the agenda was met with opposition.

“I am here at 11:08 p.m. to make sure I am not speaking at 11: 08 p.m.,” said activist Michelle Monda.

The City Council Calendar and tentative Agendas for 2020 are available on the city website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.


Council okays activities at Bluebird Canyon Farms

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council gave a green light at the September 10 meeting to activities at Bluebird Canyon Farms as recommended by the Planning Commission, but opposed by some neighbors and appealed to the council.

Classes and events were approved by the council for the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The council also approved the expansion of the apiary, which concerned some neighbors because of bee droppings and swarming. The expansion will be reviewed annually.

“At the Planning Commission hearing, people said educational things (the property owners) are doing at the farm are wonderful, but I don’t think many of them live in Bluebird Canyon,” said Carolyn Bent, one of the 10 speakers in opposition to some, if not all, of the proposed uses.

Noise was one of the primary complaints by opponents of the activities, which were approved by the Planning Commission and validated by the council. The topography of Bluebird Canyon creates an amphitheater effect in which even private conversations, not to mention group activities, can be overheard several houses away.

“I don’t want to live across the street from a restaurant,” said Dr. Tom Bent.

He was referring to the Farm to Table Dinners, which Bluebird Canyon Farms owner Scott Tenney said were the same as a dinner party at any canyon home.

“I don’t charge my guests $20,” said Bluebird Canyon resident Aaron Talarico, who filed the appeal.

Opponents of the dinners contended they were fundraisers.

Tenney advised the council that he has an acoustic (decibel) meter on the property.

“If it is too noisy [the city] needs to change the standard,” said Tenney.     

Nine members of the public spoke in support of the proposed activities.

Village Laguna supported the Planning Commission recommendations – putting Councilman Peter Blake in the unusual position of agreeing with the group.

“There could be 20 houses up there [instead of the farm],” said Village Laguna President Johanna Felder. “I wonder how the residents would feel about that?”

Council okays Bluebird Canyon Farms

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Submitted photo

Council gave the green light to Bluebird Canyon Farms on Tuesday

The city staff also supported the commission’s approval, laying out its responses to the issues raised by the appellant in a 218-page rebuttal that included additional conditions recommended by the Laguna Beach Fire Department.

Approved department recommendations limit outdoor cooking during classes and events to the four terraced patios to the rear of the primary residence on the property at 1085 Bluebird Canyon Dr, unless other locations are approved by the fire department. 

Outdoor heating appliances and use of open flames, smoking, and outdoor candles are also restricted to the patios. 

A shovel, an operable hose, or fire extinguisher must be available within a weed-free 20 feet of the apiary, also stipulated by the fire department. 

Smokers must have a fire-resistant smoker plug installed to prevent embers from escaping and, when not in use, smokers must be stored in a non-combustible container with a secure lid.

Tenney countered concerns about fire danger, stating he had undergrounded all utilities on the property, had installed flood and erosion controls, including high pressure water mains, five hydrants, and fuel modification, and conducts fire drills.

Talarico suggested a general distrust that Tenney would stick to approved conditions because classes and events were conducted in the past that were not permitted by the business license for the property.

The property had, and has, a business license to operate as a farm, including raising non-invasive vegetable food products, fruit, and nut trees, horticultural specialties, and educational uses.

Planning Commissioners also approved a market garden, internships, workshops, meetings, lectures, and one large annual festival in addition to agricultural and educational classes. Tenney’s business license had not permitted classes and events.

Staff learned of the violations in 2017, at which time Tenney applied to the Planning Commission for a conditional use permit. 

“After two years of review, the (proposed) uses are all consistent with the zone,” said Tenney, 

The code violation was remedied by the council’s denial of the appeal. 

A conditional use permit is exactly that: it lays out conditions that must be observed. If not, the CUP may be revoked or amended after a review of complaints, according to Community Development Director Greg Pfost.


City Manager’s Updates

Moulton Meadows Park Playground Resurfacing – On Monday, Sept 16, work will begin to replace the playground safety surfacing at Moulton Meadows Park. The playground will be reopened to the public at the end of October. 

For questions, contact Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Chintala at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6644.

SCE Pole Replacements – Southern California Edison (SCE) will be working in several areas of town next week. For questions or concerns, contact SCE’s Customer Service number at (800) 655-4555.

--2030 Glenneyre St – On Tuesday, Sept 10, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 2030 Glenneyre St. Glenneyre Street, between Ruby Street and Diamond Street, will be closed during the work. Detour signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary road closure.

--361 Center St – On Thursday, Sept 12, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 361 Center St. Center Street, between Glenneyre Street and Catalina Street, will be closed during the work. Detour signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary road closure.

--910 Skyline Dr – On Friday, Sept 13, between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 910 Skyline Dr. Portions of Skyline Drive near Park Avenue may be blocked during the work and personnel will be directing traffic. Vehicular access to Skyline Terrace from Skyline Drive will be restricted during the work.

Help Keep Your Sewer Lateral Clean – A private sewer lateral is the pipe that drains your sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and showers from your home or building to the City’s sewer main line. Proper maintenance of a private sewer lateral is important because they can clog with roots and grease and can cause a backup inside your property or spill from the line. Property owners are responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of their property’s sewer lateral from the home including the point of connection with the City’s sewer main line.

 It is recommended that all homeowners have their sewer laterals video-inspected on a periodic basis to ensure they are functioning properly. Contact a plumbing company participating in the City’s program for a video inspection and lateral assessment. No matter the company you choose, be sure your plumber contacts the City’s Plumber’s Hotline before they begin work at (949) 464-6616. Be sure to request a copy of the lateral video inspection.

Getting Married in Laguna Beach? If you’d like to be married on public property in Laguna Beach, you’ll need a wedding permit. Wedding permits are issued for most beaches and parks within the City’s jurisdiction with some restrictions. The City schedules ceremonies on a master calendar on a first-come, first-served basis upon receipt of the application and non-refundable use fee. Changes to the wedding permit, such as date or time, must be in writing and a processing fee of $10 is required.

To obtain availability of specific beaches, parks, and dates for a wedding, call (949) 497-0716 or (949) 464-6645.

Emergency Kit Backpacks For Sale – Getting prepared for emergencies has never been easier. A Laguna Beach-specific Emergency Kit Backpack is available for purchase. The kit includes the following: AM/FM hand crank radio with flashlight and cell phone charger, 4-in-1 gas and water utility shut off tool, glow sticks, bio-hazard bags, nitrile gloves, N95 mask, 54-piece first aid kit, duct tape, emergency poncho, solar blanket, and a personal hygiene kit. 

City Managers backpack

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Laguna-specific emergency backpacks are available for purchase and make great gifts for loved ones if you already have yours

Additionally, the kit will contain emergency plan templates and disaster-specific information. Each red backpack will feature an official City of Laguna Beach Seal. You can purchase the Laguna Beach-specific Emergency Kit Backpack for $50 on the City’s website here or in person at the Community and Susi Q Center, 380 Third St, during normal business hours. No profits are being made from the sale of this backpack. Let’t get prepared!

Wildland Fire Engine and Neighborhood Outreach Event – The Laguna Beach Fire Department invites the community to attend a christening of the new wildland fire engine along with a neighborhood wildfire evacuation and outreach event on Saturday, Sept 7 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Fire Station 2, located at 285 Agate St.

The City’s newly released neighborhood-specific evacuation maps will be shared with the community to kick off the City’s evacuation outreach campaign. This campaign is detailed in the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report which was approved by the City Council in July. Disaster preparedness material will be handed out and the City’s Emergency Kit Backpacks will also be available for purchase. Coffee, pastries, and donuts will be provided.


City Manager’s Updates

Labor Day Transit Schedule – The Laguna Beach Transit will be running special hours this Labor Day. Neighborhood Transit Service (Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon, Arch Beach Heights) will run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no service to North Laguna and South Laguna neighborhoods. It will also be running service to the Coastal and Canyon routes from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley or call (949) 497-0766.

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule – On Monday, Sept 2, only non-residential areas will be swept. Residential street sweeping will not occur, and parking restrictions will not be enforced.

Labor Day Holiday Trash Collection Schedule – In observance of the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept 2, trash and recycle collection will be delayed by one day for the entire week. All residents should place their carts out for collection on the day after their regular trash collection day.

New Trolley Hours Starting September 3 – Beginning on Tuesday, Sept 3, the Laguna Beach Trolleys will have new off-season hours:

Weekend Coastal Trolleys will operate on Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Arch Beach Heights, Bluebird Canyon, and Top of the World Neighborhood Trolleys will operate Monday to Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

North and South Laguna routes will operate Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Use the Trolley Tracker on the Visit Laguna Beach mobile app for arrival times. 

For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley

Sunset Serenades – The Sunset Serenades concert series will return to the Heisler Park Amphitheater on Friday, Sept 6 with a performance by ukulele virtuoso Andrew Molina. Concerts will take place on Fridays in September from 5:30 p.m. to sunset. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. 

For schedule information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art

City Managers Andrew

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Courtesy of andrewmolinaukulele.com

Sunset Serenades returns on Sept 6 featuring Andrew Molina 

New Wildland Fire Engine and Neighborhood Outreach Event – The Laguna Beach Fire Department invites the community to attend a christening of the new wildland fire engine along with a neighborhood wildfire evacuation and outreach event on Saturday, Sept 7, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Fire Station 2, located at 285 Agate St.

Fire Department personnel and officials will push the new engine into the apparatus bay, “officially” placing the engine into service along with pushing the old retiring 1999 wildland engine out of service. 

The community is invited to witness this ceremonial placement into service and the christening of the new engine. Additionally, the City’s newly released neighborhood-specific evacuation maps will be shared with the community to kick off this evacuation outreach campaign. 

This campaign is detailed in the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report which was approved by the City Council in July.  Disaster preparedness material will be handed out and the City’s Emergency Kit Backpacks will also be available for purchase. Coffee, pastries, and donuts will be provided.

Village Entrance – Construction for the next phase of the Village Entrance project will begin on Tuesday, Sept 3. For this phase of work, the employee parking lot and the parking area behind City Hall will be closed. 

A portion of newly constructed Lot 11, located at the intersection of Laguna Canyon Road and Forest Avenue, will remain open to the public. Lot 10 (located next to Art-A-Fair) and Lot 12 (located adjacent to City Hall on Forest Avenue) will be reserved for City vehicles and employee parking Monday through Friday. Lots 10 and 11 will be available for public parking on weekends. 

For more information, visit the Village Entrance website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/villagentrance.

Bluebird Park Slide Renovation – On Monday, Sept 9, construction will begin to remove and replace the damaged slide at Bluebird Park. The slide will be reopened to the public at the end of October. 

For questions, contact Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Chintala at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6644.

Police Department Participates in Pink Patch Project – The Laguna Beach Police Department is excited to announce its participation in the Pink Patch Project. To show support and bring awareness to breast cancer, the Laguna Beach Police Department had designed its very first pink patch which will be worn by officers in the month of October. As part of the program, these patches are available for purchase. All proceeds from the sales will be donated to a local charity for breast cancer research and awareness. 

Those interested in purchasing a pink patch can visit www.lbpdpinkpatch.com. Patches are also available for purchase at the front counter of the Laguna Beach Police Department. 

Southern California Gas Company Paving Repairs on Coast Highway

On Friday, Sept 6, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., the southbound lane closest to the curb on Coast Highway will be closed between Camel Point Drive and Bluff Drive. Southern California Gas Company’s contractor will be paving the street associated with previous gas line work. 

For questions or concerns, contact the Gas Company’s project coordinator, Jorge Hernandez, at (714) 989-5147.


Planning Comission asks for heads up on upcoming projects

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Planning Commission wants to get a handle on projects they may review in the coming months, perhaps years – many of them submitted first as concepts.

Mo Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Company has at least six projects under consideration, but only two of them have been submitted as concepts. Other major projects have been announced, but are not ready to be reviewed by the commission.

“I am getting concerned about upcoming major projects,” said Ken Sadler, commission chair. “Some we know about like the concept for the Cleo Hotel, but there are others that we have just heard about. We have asked staff for a general overview and direction.”

The commission is working on clarifying the concept review process as a prelude to applications for entitlements and permits. Concept review provides business owners with direction from the commission before they get in over their heads.

“We want to make it easier for the applicants and the public for a number of projects we have coming before us,” said Commissioner Anne Johnson.

The Honarkar properties along Coast Highways and on Laguna Canyon Frontage Road are not the only projects unready for prime time.

Realtor Connor Stevens confirmed on Wednesday that Newport-based Bear Flag Fish Co. has signed a lease that encompasses the iconic Boom Boom Room, but is still at the concept stage. Stevens also confirmed that San Diego’s Better Buzz Coffee chain has leased the former Coast Liquor building across the street and deals are in the works for the cottage behind it.

All three properties have been owned by Chris Dornin since 2013. 

The Bear Flag lease is contingent on city approval of the project.

Planning Commission Bear Flag

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bear Flag Fish Co. has signed a lease to take over the former Boom Boom Room location, but has not received city approval yet

“All restaurant leases include a ‘per approval’ clause,” said Stevens.

The concept includes a cocktail lounge, a restaurant, a sushi bar and a fish market.

It will be the fourth Bear Flag establishment: one is in Huntington Beach, one in Newport and one in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center.

However, a more extensive proposal for the Coast Inn property is still active, according to Laguna Beach architect Marshall Ininns.

“I have been working on this project for six years,” said Ininns. “It is zoning plan check at this point.”

This is a revised version as directed by the City Council of the original plan that was approved by the Heritage Committee, but kicked up a storm of public opposition and was thrice rejected by the Planning Commission, Ininns said. 

“The revision includes the controversial rooftop pool, which has been a part of the project since [architect] Morris Skenderian submitted a project for the property,” said Ininns. “It will be for the use of hotel guests only.”

“We have removed the restaurant on the lower floor elevation from the plan and the elevator has been moved to avoid a height variance.”

Bear Flag owner Tom Carson has another project in the works. He received a green light in January to open a tacqueria to replace the defunct Johnny Rockets on the corner of South Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue.

But the city red-tagged the Wild Taco project it in June and renovations are at a standstill as of Wednesday.

“I am thrilled that Wild Taco is coming in but I an unbelievably disappointed that work has not resumed,” said Heidi Miller, owner of the neighboring Tight Assets and World Newsstand.

“The closure adversely affects my business and Tom (Carson) is frustrated. I know he wanted to be open by the Fourth of July.”

In an exchange of texts with Miller, Carson wrote he was almost ready to give up, but later texted that it would have been nice for both of their businesses if he could have opened this summer, but now it appears to be delayed until winter. 

Carson was unavailable for comment.

Unfamiliarity with city processes can be a problem for newcomers, said Miller.

Planning Commission Flippin Beach N Burgers

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Flippin’ Beach ‘n’ Burgers plans to open in former Royal Thai location

Steven Schroff, who leased the former Royal Thai didn’t know he needed city approval to begin interior renovations on the building he had leased.

The conversion to a Flippin’ Beach ‘n’ Burgers was red-tagged. 

But two weeks ago, Laguna Beach architect Mark Warren stepped in and will submit applications to the city, probably by today.

What a concept!


City Manager’s Updates

Bluebird SOCWA Sewer Lift Station Odor Control Project – The City’s Water Quality Department will begin construction of odor control improvements at the City’s largest wastewater pumping facility located at the corner of Calliope and Glenneyre streets on Monday, Aug 26. 

The project will provide odor control for the surrounding area, known as the Glenneyre Dip. During construction, the stairs from Glenneyre Street to Galen Drive will be closed for public access until after construction is complete. A new stairway and improved public access pathway from Galen to Glenneyre is included in the project. 

Construction is anticipated to take three months. While the permanent odor control facility is being constructed, the City will provide temporary odor control for the immediate area. 

For more information, contact the City’s Project Manager. Hannah Johnson, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Be Coyote Aware – Like most communities located in semi-rural areas, Laguna Beach has active coyote populations. Due to the brushy canyon areas and natural “den” type rock formations, our hillsides provide an attractive environment for coyotes and other animals. Numerous small wild animals in the area provide a plentiful natural food supply for coyotes and other predators; however, coyotes are very resourceful predators. 

City Managers coyote

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Laguna Canyon Foundation

The City of Laguna Beach wants residents to be coyote aware 

Refuse in commercial and private garbage dumpsters, pet food, and domestic cats now comprise a large percentage of the diet for the “Urban Coyote.” Garden plots, fruit trees, and golf courses offer additional incentives for these animals to move closer to humans. Some ill-informed citizens even leave food out for coyotes, racoons, and other wildlife which, of course, escalates the problem. 

Usually the only threat coyotes pose is to pets that are allowed to run loose. Most attacks occur during the evening hours, but daytime incidents have been reported. Animal Services recommends that pets not be let outside during evening hours unless the owner is next to the pet to prevent a coyote attack. This is most crucial in areas that border undeveloped open space. Also, when pets roam without identification, Animal Services is unable to notify most pet owners of the fate of their missing pets. 

If you have any concerns regarding wild animals, or see a coyote in a residential area, call Laguna Beach Animal Services at (949) 497-0701. You may also report coyote sightings to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SCE Pole Replacement – On Tuesday, Aug 27, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a utility pole located at 10 Top of the World Dr. A portion of Alta Laguna Boulevard and Top of the World Drive in the vicinity will be closed during the work. Detour signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary road closure. 

For questions or concerns, contact SCE’s Customer Service number at (800) 655-4555.

CERT Registration Now Open – The Laguna Beach Police Department, in collaboration with the Laguna Beach Fire Department, is excited to announce registration for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) course. A Community Emergency Response Team is an organized and trained group of volunteers ready to assist in case of a disaster. 

The CERT program consists of 25 hours of classroom and hands-on training and it concludes with an exercise drill to apply the skills and knowledge obtained during the classroom sessions. 

Training will begin on Tuesday, Sept 3. Classes will then meet weekly from 6 to 9 p.m., including two Saturday morning meetings. The final exercise/drill takes place on Saturday, Oct 5. Mandatory attendance is required at all classes. 

To be considered for this training, you must be a resident of Laguna Beach or work within the city limits, be at least 18 years old, and have no felony convictions. Applications must be submitted through the online recreation class sign-up at http://bit.ly/2tmh9vi. All individuals will receive a confirmation email if accepted into the program.

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