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Laguna Beach


City Manager’s Updates

City Receives California Emergency Services Association Gold Award – The California Emergency Services Association has awarded the City of Laguna Beach the California Emergency Services Association Gold Award for outstanding service in Emergency Management. 

Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock’s work in this field in the area of creating both shelter and evaluation plans is what prompted the City of Aliso Viejo to nominate the City for the award. Jordan will receive the award at the CESA Annual Emergency Management Training and Conference in September.

City manager Jordan

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock

Arts Market Survey – The City has partnered with national nonprofit organization Artspace to research and develop policies and programs to offer affordable creative space. If you are an artist or a creative, please take this 10-minute survey www.artspace.org/CreativeSpaceLaguna. This program has been funded by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach. (See expanded article on the survey in this issue of Stu News Laguna.)


City releases agenda bill on Preservation Ordinance issues, asks council to determine if CEQA guidelines are binding

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City has released the agenda bill that poses questions staff believes Council needs to answer if the logjam that has hobbled completion of the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance is to be resolved. 

City staff and a group of property owners represented by attorney Larry Nokes are at loggerheads over the interpretation of a California Environmental Quality Act guideline that has stymied agreement on legal interpretations of state law. More than 20 meetings were held on the ordinance with no reconciliation of the differences. Some of the meetings were downright ugly.

Resolution of the differences was most recently put into the hands of a task force, which reached an impasse over the question of the City’s legal obligation for historic preservation under CEQA, and is now seeking Council direction. 

The City Attorney’s office has opined that the city would be required to follow CEQA guidelines if there is substantial evidence that a proposed project involves a structure that has the potential of being an historic resource. CEQA guidelines have been determined by the courts to be regulations. 

Nokes, who was not appointed to the task force, believes the city is under no obligation to consider a structure’s historical status during a discretionary action, such as design review.

CEQA is concerned with the potential impacts of a project on the physical environment. In 1992, CEQA was amended to include manmade structures as a part of the environment protected by the act. 

The intent behind the word “preclude” is at the heart of the debate

The amendment adds to a section of the state Public Resources Code a paragraph that reads: “The fact that a resource is not listed in, or determined to be eligible for listing in, the California Register of Historic Resources, not included in a local register of historic resources or not deemed significant pursuant to a compliant historic inventory shall not preclude a lead agency from determining whether the resource may be an historical resource for the purposes of this section.”

Nokes maintains that “precluding” is not the same thing as “compelling” a lead agency to determining whether the resource may be an historical resource. It should be up to the property owner, Nokes contends.

That is the crux of the current disagreement, according to the staff report. 

Staff has requested the Council provide direction to the Historic Preservation Task force regarding what the city’s obligation should be under CEQA, and in the absence of any applicable local regulations, when considering discretionary projects involving potential historic structures that are not on state or city historical registers, and not on a local historical inventory that meets all applicable state requirements.

Two options have been offered by the staff:

--Determine, as suggested by Nokes, that the City is not obligated and may choose not to consider a structure’s historic status during the reviews of a discretionary action;

--Determine, as suggested by the City Attorney’s Office, that the City would be required to follow CEQA guidelines if there is substantial evidence that a structure potentially would be historic. 

The staff report is on the City’s website. However, the staff report included a caveat that the agenda bill could be revised prior to a public meeting. Comments should be directed to City Clerk Lisette Chel Walker.


City takes steps to clean up trashy acts, initiative aimed at visitors

The City is launching an education and outreach effort called Keepin’ it Clean, Laguna: Leave No Trash Behind anti-litter campaign to remind visitors to use trashcans throughout the City.

The “Keepin’ It Clean, Laguna” outreach aims to teach visitors how to dispose of their waste and recyclables responsibly, especially at the receptacles located at the top of the City’s beach access stairways and along Coast Highway.

The program reinforces the City’s initiatives to keep the beaches and public areas clean and free of trash or litter by the following efforts:

--Additional trashcans and signage have been placed at frequently visited beach accesses and sites along Coast Highway

City takes trash

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Not a pretty sight – matters should improve with new program

--Contract services have been added to empty the trash receptacles in frequently visited areas twice a day during the rest of this summer

--More than 600 trash and recycling containers are now placed throughout the City in public places

This outreach is an attention-grabbing educational effort to encourage visitors to use all the 600 trashcans and recycling containers placed throughout the City for trash disposal.

City takes beach

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The City is doing everything in its power to keep Laguna’s beaches pristine…seen here, beautiful Treasure Island Beach

“Throughout the summer, our City’s beautiful beaches are a choice destination for millions of visitors looking to swim and sunbathe,” said Shohreh Dupuis, director of Public Works/assistant city manager. “We want to take this opportunity to encourage all of our visitors to pitch in and ask them to do their part to keep our beaches safe and clean.”

The City’s efforts will range from placing signs near trash receptacles and a social media campaign encouraging visitors to dispose of their trash in receptacles located on beach accesses and public places. The overarching aim is to promote public awareness on community cleanliness, environmental protection and effective use of provided trash disposal.

Here’s to a program that, with luck and enough trash cans, with ensure garbage in, garbage out.


Council appoints two to Personnel Board

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council appointed at the July 24 meeting two new members to the Personnel Board.

Attorney Dawn Knepper and retiring businesswoman Mimi Niebuhr were appointed, with terms to begin immediately and run through June 30, 2019. Niebuhr was appointed as an alternate.

The three-member board hears appeals related to any disciplinary action, dismissal, demotion, reduction in pay or suspension. It meets as needed. Meetings are held in private, unless the subject of the hearing requests it be open to the public.

Knepper has practiced employment law exclusively for more than 13 years. She advises and defends clients in federal and state employment related lawsuits and agency claims, including actions alleging discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.

A resident of Laguna Beach for seven years, Knepper has been active in the community as a member of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Laguna Beach Business Club since 2012. She was a board member of the Laguna Beach Water Polo Foundation in 2017 and 2018.

Niebuhr has been a resident for 35 years. She is a member of the Laguna Beach Woman’s Club. She and her husband raised their two children in Laguna and she has been active in the Laguna Beach Unified School District and SchoolPower. 

Retail Supervisor with Advantage Sales & Marketing in Irvine, from 2009 to the present, she plans to retire at the end of the year.

Niebuhr said her experience in management will be useful as a member of the Personnel Board.


Council cuts back funding for proposed roundabout

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Council decided on Tuesday that $750,000 was too much to pay for a proposed design for a permanent roundabout at the five-way intersection of Catalina Street and El Camino Del Mar.

That more than doubled the $300,000 set aside for the project in February of 2017. Staff was directed to modify the scope of work to reduce the cost and to try to stick as close as possible to the original budget.

“The more expensive option is not a serious choice,” said Councilman Bob Whalen. “It should be simplified. Minimize it and then go out to bid.” 

Mayor Kelly Boyd, whose childhood home was near the roundabout site, concurred.

“I think simple is best and I am tired of going over budget,” said Boyd. 

The pricey elaborate design, developed to improve the center island, surrounding parkways and pedestrian crossings, was based on input from the public workshop held by the City and on the City’s Complete Streets Initiative. 

Increase in the original cost estimate occurred as a result of recommendations suggested during public workshop

Recommendations from the workshop included planting the roundabout with drought-tolerant plants and a specimen tree with nighttime down lighting as the focal point of the island. Other recommendations included using different pavement styles in the crosswalks to increase visibility and aesthetics, landscaping the parkways and protecting existing eucalypti. Proposed curb and other modifications would have put the installation in compliance comply with the American Disabilities Act.

The resulting design was approved by the Design Review Board. A revised design will have to go back to the Board for approval and then be sent out to bid, said City Manager John Pietig.

A reduced version also prepared by staff that only improved the center median island and excluded pedestrian and parkway improvements would have lopped off an estimated $300,000 from the costlier proposal, but still would have cost an estimated $150,000 more than the original allocation.

However, that project would not meet any Complete Streets objectives that originally supplied the impetus for the temporary roundabout, according to staff.

The temporary roundabout was approved in 2015, stemming from previous efforts by the City to meet the Complete Streets Initiative and to gauge public response before considering a permanent installation.

Response was positive, according to the staff report. But not unanimous.

“I live three houses away from the roundabout and I prefer the less expensive project,” said Chris Reed. “In this case, less is more. There are not pedestrian or traffic problems here.”


City Manager’s Updates

Downtown Specific Plan Update – Review Portions of Section V: Land Use Districts – The City of Laguna Beach will continue its efforts on the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update on Wednesday, Aug 1 during the Planning Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall. 

The Planning Commission will review and discuss MIG’s recommended draft amendments to Section V: Land Use Districts of the existing DSP document. Topics covered include: property development standards and special planning and design criteria. A copy of the draft amendments is available to view on the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net. For more information on the Downtown Specific Plan Update project, contact Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at (949) 497-0321 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Special Olympics Tip-a-Cop Event – The Laguna Beach Police Department has again partnered with the Special Olympics and Ruby’s Diner at 30622 S Coast Hwy for the third annual Special Olympics Tip-A-Cop event on Saturday, July 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Please stop by and meet some of the amazing Special Olympics Athletes and to see some unique cars that will be on display.

“Keepin’ It Clean Laguna” – The City of Laguna Beach is launching an education and outreach effort to remind visitors to use trashcans throughout the City. Additional trashcans and signage have been placed at frequently visited beach accesses and sites along Coast Highway. A social media effort is also being rolled out to remind visitors to use our trashcans and keep our town clean. Contract services have been added to empty the trash receptacles in frequently visited areas twice a day during the rest of this summer.

Command College Graduation – On Friday, July 27, Lieutenant Joe Torres graduates from Law Enforcement Command College, which is a 14-month program designed to prepare law enforcement leaders of today for the challenges of the future. The primary goal of the Command College is to provide an enhanced leadership course with a futures perspective to prepare the law enforcement leaders of today to lead into the future. Congratulations Lieutenant Torres!

Alta Laguna Field Maintenance and Closure – Alta Laguna Field will be closed for annual maintenance and turf renovations from July 30 through August 24. Please call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor at (949) 497-0762 with questions.

Calls for Artists – The Arts Commission is currently accepting submissions for the following art opportunities: Art-Inspired Writing Contest, 2018 Juried Fine Art Exhibition, Council Chamber Banner Competition, 2018 Holiday Palette Competition and Children’s Palette Exhibition. These programs are funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. 

For more information visit the Cultural Arts page at www.lagunabeachcity.netor contact Michael McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Arts Marketing Workshop – Save the Date – On Friday, Oct 5, the Arts Commission in partnership with National Arts Marketing Project will be holding a free arts marketing workshop for artists. RSVP to Mike McGregor, Arts Program Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.


City Manager Updates

Shopper Parking Permits – Residents that have applied should receive their new Shopper Permit(s) next week. Shopper Permits are available only to residents of Laguna Beach (proof of residency required such as a utility bill in your name). They cost $80 each for the first two permits and $150 each for the third and fourth (with a maximum of four permits per household). Shopper Permits allow residents to park in City lots and at City meters for the posted amount of time without additional payment. The permits are valid for two years: from August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2020. 

If you are a resident of Laguna Beach and would like to purchase a Shopper Permit, please visit the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net. Just click the “Buy a Parking Permit” icon located on the City’s homepage. From the website, residents can purchase parking permits online or by mail by downloading a PDF version of the information packet and application.

City Manager Agate

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Maggi Henrikson

Agate Street stairs under construction

Agate Street Closure – On Friday, July 20, between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., a portion of Agate Street between South Coast Highway and Ocean Way will be closed for resurfacing as part of the Agate Street beach access rehabilitation project. Pearl Street and Ocean Way will temporarily become two-way streets, and access to Viking Way will be maintained. For questions, please call Project Director Lou Kneip in the Public Works Department at (949) 464-6688.

Agate Street Beach Access – Re-Opening Ceremony – The City of Laguna Beach invites the community to a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 24 at 4 p.m. for the re-opening of the newly renovated beach access at Agate Street. The project included new stairways, overlooks, landscaping, lighting, benches and bike racks. 

For questions, please contact Lou Kneip at (949) 464-6688 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


City Manager’s Updates

Agate Street Beach Access – Re-Opening Ceremony – The City of Laguna Beach invites the community to a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 24 at 4 p.m. for the re-opening of the newly renovated beach access at Agate Street. The project includes new stairways, overlooks, landscaping, lighting, benches and bike racks. For questions, please contact Lou Kneip at (949) 464-6688 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Drop-In Basketball – Drop-In Basketball will be held at Laguna Beach High School in Dugger Gym for three Sundays, July 15, 22 and 29, from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $3 per participant. Please contact Community Services at (949) 464-6645 with any questions.

City Hall Exhibition – Community Art Project awarded Mike Ishikawa the Arts Commission Choice award for his pastel “Heisler Park” which is currently on exhibit at City Hall. The public is invited to vote for their favorite artwork before the exhibition ends on August 8.

Public Art Restoration – The following installations are in the process of restoration: “Laguna Tortoise” (Bluebird Park); “Word on the Street” (Heisler Park); and “Boy and Dog” (Jahraus Park). Artists will be on-site undertaking the restoration, which should be completed by Sunday. This project has been funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

Call for Artists – The City of Laguna Beach is now accepting entries for its 2018 Juried Fine Art Exhibition. Entry deadline is September 8. Apply online at https://lagunabeachcity.slideroom.com. This project is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. For more information, contact Arts Program Coordinator Michael McGregor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Council to pick which tax measure goes on Nov ballot

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday will consider two possible ballot measures to fund undergrounding utilities on key evacuation routes in the November election.

Staff has provided steps for placing measures for a general purpose sales tax increase or a special purpose sales tax increase on the ballot. Special purpose taxes for a specified use require a two-third supermajority vote for approval and the revenue goes into the General Fund, to be used at the council’s discretion. 

A general purpose tax requires a 50 percent plus one vote and revenue is limited to the specified use approved by the voters. 

If the general purpose tax is selected, the council must adopt a resolution expressing support for the Utility Undergrounding, Fire Safety and Other Essential City Services Measure, its intent to prioritize spending options for future ballot measure revenue and its intent to create an oversight committee.

The special purpose measure is titled Laguna Beach Undergrounding and Fire Safety Measure.

Both measures to be considered recommend a one percent increase in sales tax.

Staff has been working with Mayor Kelly Boyd and the council’s Utility Undergrounding Subcommittee of Councilmen Rob Zur Schmiede and Bob Whalen to develop the wording of a measure. 

Regardless of which option is selected, certain actions must be taken by the council:

--Direct the City Attorney to prepare an impartial analysis measure

--Authorize City Manager John Pietig to prepare a fiscal analysis

--Authorize Boyd, Whalen and Zur Schmiede, any other council members so inclined and the chiefs of the Police and Fire Departments to prepare direct and rebuttal arguments in favor of the selected measure 

Staff has also recommended that the council appoint Whalen and Zur Schmiede to prepare a ballot argument in favor of the selected ballot measure and a rebuttal.

All of the documents must be filed with the City Clerk’s Office by 5:30 p.m., August 10.

The first reading of an ordinance for the selected measure is scheduled to be introduced at Tuesday’s meeting. A second reading will be required for adoption.


Council approves maximum pay hikes

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council approved last week the maximum hike allowed by law in their monthly stipend. The vote was 3-2, with Councilman Bob Whalen and Mayor Pro Tem Rob Zur Schmiede opposed to the ten percent increase (five percent increase for each of past two years).

Members of the Design Review Board, Arts and Planning Commissions also got a pay increase, retroactive to July 1, approved by a resolution. The council will have to wait until after the November election for their increase to become effective per the ordinance introduced at the meeting. A second reading is required for passage.

Resident Michael Morris said the proposed increase for council members was not commensurate with the time they spend on City business, merely symbolic and not a measure of the council’s worth and perhaps should be waived. 

“The number of hours you put into public service is immense,” said Morris. “I don’t think the increases are meaningful. I would suggest given that the city’s voters are going to be asked to increase taxes on themselves in November, perhaps the council – but not the commissions or board – just forgo an increase.” 

Three options considered

City staff provided three options for the council to consider. 

--Increase compensation by the growth in the Consumer Price Index over the past 30 months, 7.7 percent

--Match the increases to the salary increases given employees over the past three years, 3.5 percent in January of 2016 and 3 percent in in July of 2017 and 2018

--Increase the compensation by 5 percent annually (10 percent total), the maximum amount allowed council members by government code

Whalen and Zur Schmiede favored an increase that would mirror the three percent annual increases for city employees.

A fourth option not included in staff recommendations could have increased the compensation for board and commission members, but not for the council. 

The approved increases raise the council member’s salary from $826 a month to $908 a month. Planning Commissioners’ and Design Review Board members’ monthly compensation will be raised from $357 to $392. The eight Arts Commissioners will see their checks go up from $125 to $137 a month.

The cost of the increases is covered by the $12,900 appropriation approved by the council in June.

A hike in pay was proposed by Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who said she spends most of her stipend meeting with the public.

Council members also are reimbursed for expenses incurred in travel on behalf of the city; are given a flat amount to compensate for cell phone bills; and the City pays the dues for memberships in organizations that benefit the city. 

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