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Laguna Beach


City’s fuel modification programs in high gear ahead of fire season

Fuel modification programs within the City of Laguna Beach are in high gear ahead of peak fire season to further reduce the risk of loss of life and property damage from wildfires.

“As part of the City’s fuel modification programs, the City currently has two working goat herds to keep fuel levels down to slow the spread of a possible wildfire,” said Laguna Beach Fire Chief Mike Garcia. 

 “On August 15, a third goat herd consisting of another 200 goats was brought in for additional help with fuel modification. That means we now have 800 working goats as part of our fuel modification program to help reduce fire risk in the City of Laguna Beach.” 

Citys fuel goats

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Goats working hard to keep fuel levels down 

The City’s goat herd was expanded in size because heavy rains over the winter months have created higher than average growth of brush (fire “fuel”) in Laguna Beach’s fuel modification zones. 

The first herd of fire goats just completed clearing modification zones in North Laguna, behind the Festival of Arts and the area behind City Hall. That herd is now working its way from Thurston Middle School to Top of the World Elementary to complete that fuel modification zone before the start of the 2019-2020 school year. 

Citys fuel hill

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A team of experienced hand crews also work in fuel modification zones to clear brush by hand

The second herd started in Arch Beach Heights and completed fuel modification work there and through to the Fire Road and has now been moved to Bluebird Canyon. 

The third herd, added last week, will start in South Laguna Beach at Upper Three Arch Bay and move north to Arch Beach Heights. Each herd is guided by its own dedicated goat herder from Peru and a shepherd dog to help guide the herd through the City’s specific fuel modification zones.

Citys fuel view

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Fuel modification programs reduce the risk of loss of life and property damage from wildfires

“Due to the heavy rains last year we’ve had a lot of vegetative growth here and it’s slow-going with our goats because there is so much of it,” Garcia said. “We haven’t had a third herd in years, but this year we need to bring them in to clear as much growth as we can before we move into the fire season.”

As part of the City’s fuel modification program a team of experienced hand crews also work in fuel modification zones to clear brush by hand. The hand crew teams (each consisting of about 6-7 professional landscapers) just finished an area located on the hillside near Barracuda Way. Hand crews clear fuel modification zones by 1) identifying and removing any invasive species, 2) removing any dead brush and 3) thinning out flammable species.

“We partner with the Laguna Canyon Foundation to oversee our fuel modification programs and make sure it’s done in the way the environment can sustain and also meet all of the requirements of our Coastal permit,” said Laguna Beach Fire Marshal James Brown. “By partnering with the Laguna Canyon Foundation, we know we have someone out there at the site that really cares about preserving the Laguna environment.”

Citys fuel Rouda

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On Aug 21, Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis and Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen met with Congressman Harley Rouda to advocate for funding for the City’s wildfire mitigation efforts 

Nearly all of the City of Laguna Beach and its surrounding 16,000 acres of open space are designated by CalFire as a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. This designation underscores the significant risk in the City and recognizes the loss of 441 structures due to wildfire in 1993.

At its regular meeting on July 23, the Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved a Fire Mitigation and Safety Subcommittee Report and approved moving forward with its recommended action items including additional programs, mitigation measures, staffing and equipment needed to reduce the current level of high fire risk and exposure to wildfires in Laguna Beach, and action items needed to further protect the City in the event of a wildfire. 

A detailed copy of the Subcommittee’s report can be found here.

The City of Laguna Beach is encouraging residents to be better prepared for a wildfire by creating a defensible space and creating a defensible home. You can do this by using fire-safe construction materials and looking for points of entry where embers could intrude into the home or attic during a fire. 

Home and property safety preparation should also include creating defensible space around your home by clearing vegetation at least 30 to 100 feet away from your home and using fire resistant landscaping to help stop the spread of wildfire. Residents should also remove all dead or dying vegetation from their yard, roof, and rain gutters. 

Residents can sign up for a free wildfire consultation by the Laguna Beach Fire Department by visiting here, or by calling (949) 497-0700. 


Planning Commission to review proposed Downtown Specific Plan revisions

By BARBARA DIAMOND

After years of reviewing the Downtown Specific Plan chapter by chapter, the Planning Commission on Wednesday will get a look at the entire package. 

The commission will review the proposed changes, accumulated from numerous public workshops, hearings, and recommendations from consultants. A draft of the proposed plan was made public on August 1 and can be reviewed at www.lagunabeachcity.net.

“This is a legacy document and we don’t want it to be flawed,” said Ken Sadler, commission chair. “We’ve been at this for five years and we want it to be a successful resource that means something.”

As for the procedure Wednesday night, Sadler said, “Here’s what I think: we’ll open up the meeting for public comment, have some commission discussion, and then kick it back to the staff to review all they heard and the correspondence.” 

The plan’s primary purpose is to preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown, which includes the Arts District and the Central Bluffs. 

First adopted in 1989, the plan has undergone changes, so has the downtown. 

Planning commission downtown

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Downtown area

The proposed plan allows more diverse uses in the Downtown Specific Plan Area without requiring a conditional use permit. The plan also allows second and third stories in specific locations for housing. Heights of 24 and 36 feet would be permitted to accommodate the housing.

Planned Integrated Development Standards deals with large developments, usually under single ownership in the Arts District and the Central Bluffs – which would include properties along Laguna Canyon Frontage Road and Coast Highway owned Laguna Beach Company.

The Urban Vision Chapter in the proposed plan includes both vision and guidelines. Vision refers to the look and feel of the downtown; guidelines tell how to realize the vision. 

If the plan were to be adopted in its present iteration, parking would not be determined by the use of the property. 

South Laguna resident John Thomas posited in an email that the less restrictive requirement proposed might have unintended consequences.

“The effect of the plan may very well be to drive out current low density uses like clothing stores and art galleries to be replaced by higher density bars and restaurants, which would increase traffic and congestion and at the same time reduce the amount of parking that currently exists,” Thomas wrote. 

The Ad Hoc Committee on DTSP revisions suggests that additional hearings on parking would be advisable, not to mention other concerns.

Planning Commission parking meters

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Parking concerns

“We don’t like the Urban Design section at all,” said Ad Hoc Committee member Norm Grossman, a former planning commissioner. 

Sadler said the Ad Hoc Committee’s input was valuable. 

“We incorporated many of their suggestions in our recommendations to staff,” said Sadler. 

A 25-member Chamber of Commerce Urban Design Committee also takes exception to the section.

“An alternate plan was presented by the committee, but it has been totally ignored by the staff,” said Grossman. 

The original Downtown Specific Plan was the result of several years’ work in the 1980s by a Citizen’s Advisory Committee, with some of the same members now on the Ad Hoc Committee. It was created as a guide for the growth, design, and development standards in downtown Laguna Beach, primarily to preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown. 

The plan has been amended throughout the years, most recently in 2008.

In 2012 the council directed the planning commission to amend the plan.  Eight public workshops were held in 2012 and 2013. Subsequently, MIG was hired to consult on the revisions to the plan. From 2015 to 2018, the commission and the public reviewed MIG’s  proposals, chapter by chapter. 

The draft to be reviewed Wednesday incorporates revisions based on prior direction from the commission and public input.


City Council/Design Review Board met jointly to discuss issues

By BARBRA DIAMOND

The City Council and the Design Review Board met jointly on August 6 to air issues related to the board and the review process. 

Four items were submitted by the board for discussion: legal representation at the meetings; council feedback; Phase II streamlining, to help brainstorm and assess potential issues; and public communication. The board is opposed to transferring some of its oversight to the Planning Commission, as is proposed in the “streamlining” process. 

“I think little was accomplished to address issues raised by the board,” said Verna Rollinger, former city clerk, council member and one of the dozen members of the pubic that attended the 4 p.m. meeting.

Item one

Board member Deborah Neev said some issues before the board would benefit from the presence of a city attorney, who could advise on legal issues there and then, without having to continue the hearing. 

“We have to rely on staff to tell us when something contentious is coming up,” said board Chair Meg Monahan, former city deputy clerk. “Sometimes both sides have attorneys and it would be nice [for the board] to have backup.”

Board member Louis Weil said delays also can result when documents are submitted to the board 20 minutes before the meeting. 

City Manager John Pietig supported the notion of an attorney at the meetings a couple of times a year, but a full-time attorney would cost the city $4,000 for 45 hours a month.

“I would prefer to use attorneys to disarm the DRB so residents wouldn’t need lawyers,” said Councilman Peter Blake.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman reiterated her concern that what is wrong with the process is the time and money it takes to get a project on the DRB’s agenda, not the board.

Mayor Bob Whalen said the consensus supported an attorney at the meetings on an as-needed basis.

Item two

Council feedback on the board and its review process was second on the agenda. 

“I don’t think people should think the streamlining process as an indictment of the board,” said Councilwoman Sue Kempf. “When we are talking about process, we are not talking about the board.” 

Neev expressed disappointment that the building department was not at the table for the discussion of the process. Some delays can be attributed to projects not sticking to approved plans, caught by building inspectors and brought back to the board, she said.

“Are you saying that approved plans get changed out in the field?” asked Whalen.

“Builders don’t always stick to approved plans,” said Community Development Department Director Greg Pfost, whose duties include overseeing the building department. 

If the department gets a call complaining that a window is where it shouldn’t be or a structure is too high, his department can put a stop work order on the job. 

Board member Kris Thalman said people just want to know what the rule is. 

“Streamlining may show us how to be clearer and clean up inconsistencies.” 

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow said design review is a discretionary process, which allows some leeway.

 Neev stated the city needs to resolve differences with the California Coastal Commission 

That is in the works, according to Pfost. And the city is getting favorable reactions to a community survey that is reviewed weekly by his department, he said. 

Item three

Monahan suggested establishing a Phase II Streamlining Subcommittee to help brainstorm and assess potential issues.

“I recommend we have one member of DRB and one member of the Planning Commission to discuss issues before [an ordinance] goes on an agenda,” said Monahan. “We are the ones in the trenches and involved with a lot of these issues. It would be helpful for us to be involved before an ordinance is approved.”

Dicterow said he wanted the board’s input. Blake said it would be like putting an arsonist in charge of putting out a fire.

Public communication

Heisler Building owner Sam Goldstein said the city as a whole does not want to get rid of the board, but some plans could be approved over the counter and appealed if necessary to the council or the board. 

“DRB is not re-DRB,” said former board member Bob Chapman. “The process should be a way to approve designs. 

“Lot coverage should be a criterion, not the square footage of the structure.”

John Thomas stated there are a lot of changes after a DRB decision has been made. 

“I hope that will be addressed in streamlining,” said Thomas. 

The meeting was adjourned at 5 p.m.


City Manager’s Updates

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, concluding 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.

Training includes the following topics: Disaster Preparedness Fire Safety Disaster Medical Operations Light Search and Rescue CERT Organization Disaster Psychology CERT and Terrorism Traffic Control and Scene Management Training will begin on Tuesday, September 3. Classes will then meet weekly from 6 to 9 p.m., including two Saturday morning meetings. 

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. 

Wildlife Information – It was reported on Tuesday that there were three mountain lion sightings recently reported to the police department over four days. All three of those mountain lion sightings were unfounded. 

According to wildlife experts, Laguna Beach Animal Services staff, and OC Parks staff, there hasn’t been an actual mountain lion observed in the wilderness areas near Laguna Beach in over 20 years. Most of the mountain lion sightings are actually bobcats, or in some cases coyotes. 

City Managers coyote

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Photo by Ryan Moran 

A former coyote sighting in North Laguna 

To assist in providing residents with information about coyotes and bobcats, Laguna Beach Animal Services will be conducting a Living with Wildlife Community Workshop at Alta Laguna Park (Top of the World) on Wednesday, Aug 21 at 5 p.m.

Does Your Mobile Contractor Have a Business License to Work in Laguna Beach? – Mobile contractors like gardeners, landscapers, carpet cleaners, mobile car detailers, and swimming pool or pond services all need to hold a Laguna Beach Business License to operate within the City. 

A business license ensures contractors are aware of the City’s regulations and guidelines to avoid the illegal discharge of fertilizers, pesticides, lawn, dirt, sediment, organic materials, and cleaning chemicals to the streets and gutters that drain to the ocean. Educating contractors prior to beginning work helps protect the storm drain system and protects from potential violations and enforcement actions by the City. 

Residents and businesses are responsible for the actions of their contractors and have a responsibility to ensure that their contractors are aware of local regulations. More information on the City Business Licensing process can be found here

Police Department Participates in Pink Patch Project – The Laguna Beach Police Department is excited to announce its participation in the Pink Patch Project. In an effort 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. 

To purchase a pink patch, visit www.lbpdpinkpatch.com. Patches are also available for purchase at the front counter of the Laguna Beach Police Department. 

SCE Pole Replacement – On Thursday, Aug 22, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a utility pole located at 1545 Bluebird Canyon Drive. 

A portion of Bluebird Canyon Drive, east of Morningside Drive, 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.


City releases draft Downtown Specific Plan

The City of Laguna Beach has released its draft Downtown Specific Plan (DSP), a planning document that serves to guide growth, design, and development standards in downtown Laguna Beach. Its primary objective is to preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown.

How does the community benefit from the DSP?

The DSP document will be used by the City Council, Commissions, and Committees, City Staff, residents, property owners, businesses, developers, and other government entities as the land use and design policy document defining downtown development over the next 20 years. 

The DSP also identifies priorities for public improvements to the downtown area. This document was formulated as a result of a multi-year process that included a large number of public outreach workshops, stakeholder meetings and interviews, and both City Council and Planning Commission meetings. 

It is intended to provide a clear understanding of the vision that the community has set for the future of downtown Laguna Beach.

City releases downtown

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The DSP will guide growth, design, and development standards in downtown Laguna 

What is the history of the DSP document?

The City formally recognized the need for a specific plan for the downtown in 1983 with adoption of the Land Use Element of the General Plan. In 1989, the Downtown Specific Plan was first approved, and has been subsequently amended, including a comprehensive amendment in 2000, which included the expansion of the Plan boundary to the Boys & Girls Club on Laguna Canyon Road and the creation of the Civic Art District. 

The Downtown Specific Plan has been successful in preserving the look and feel of a traditional downtown.

What are the key updates to the Downtown Specific Plan?

The changing nature of commerce, housing, transportation, and circulation necessitates revisions that support flexibility to meet rapidly changing resident and visitor needs and to enhance vitality, while maintaining the special qualities of the downtown. As a result of community input gleaned throughout the planning process, several enhancements proposed in this Specific Plan update include:

1. Allowing for changes in permitting requirements to occur on an as-needed basis in order to incentivize or limit certain land uses in the downtown.  Specifically, a new procedure is proposed that allows land use permitting requirements to be changed (i.e. from requiring a Conditional Use Permit to being permitted-by-right, or vice versa) by City Council Resolution, upon recommendation by the Planning Commission, on an annual or as-needed basis based on staff/consultant recommendation. 

2. Fostering opportunities and promoting diversity in housing type and affordability as part of mixed-use development and conversion of existing second-story buildings to help fulfill the need for downtown housing with access to services and transportation. 

3. Providing for greater flexibility in development standards such as increased building height and simplified parking requirements to meet future needs and growth. 

4. The draft DSP update includes revised height standards based upon specific street location and criteria. For more information about the proposed building height standards, see pages 113, 161-162 of the draft DSP document. In addition, parking requirements are proposed to be reduced for certain non-residential uses such as office, retail, and food services.

5. Establishing an urban design framework that identifies key opportunity sites and provides recommendations on pedestrian and streetscape improvements, such as pedestrian crossings, improved alleyways, and public parklets to make the area more vibrant, walkable, and welcoming for residents and visitors.

6. Revising urban design guidelines to provide further direction on elements such as site design, architecture, and open space to property owners, developers, designers, City staff, and appointed and elected officials involved in review of proposed development projects. 

City releases Hobie

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The DSP has been successful in preserving the look and feel of a traditional downtown

7. Rebranding of the former Civic Art District as the Arts District to encourage a greater focus on art and cultural uses and to nurture a culture of creativity. 

8. Updating flexible criteria and development standards for proposed planned integrated developments that incorporate public amenities and/or benefits in special planning areas such as the Arts District and Central Bluffs District. 

The full draft DSP document is being released in advance of the August 21 Planning Commission meeting, where the Commission will conduct their initial review and provide direction to staff on any modifications if needed. 

Staff will be recommending that the item return to the Planning Commission at a meeting in October for subsequent review of the final draft, including environmental review (CEQA), and recommendation to the City Council.

For more information or to view a copy of the public review Draft Downtown Specific Plan, click here or 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..


City Manager’s Updates

If You See Something, Say Something – Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cities of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. A localized version of the nationwide “If You See Something, Say Something” anti-terrorism public awareness campaign is being promoted in Orange County called Keep OC Safe. 

The program is focused on delivering the message to local citizens that an alert public plays a critical role in keeping our community safe. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) national anti-terrorism public awareness initiative has two primary focuses. 

The first is to raise public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime. The second is to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious activity to the proper local law enforcement authorities. In Orange County, “If You See Something, Say Something” provides guidance to citizens on how to report questionable behavior or situations such as an unattended backpack in a public place or someone trying to break into a restricted area. 

Visit www.keepocsafe.org for more information about the campaign; a list of key indicators of questionable activity; and links to local, regional, and national crime prevention resources. 

Watch a video on the Orange County campaign on the City of Laguna Beach’s YouTube Channel here. 

Village Entrance Art in Public Places – On Monday, Aug 12, the Arts Commission will review a proposal concept by Marc Fornes for an Art-in-Public Places installation to be located in the Village Entrance. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Council Chambers, 505 Forest Ave, at 5:30 p.m. The concept proposal can be viewed here. 

Draft Downtown Specific Plan Released – The City of Laguna Beach has released its Draft Downtown Specific Plan (DSP), a planning document that serves to guide growth, design, and development standards in Downtown Laguna Beach. 

City Managers downtown

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The City has released its Draft Downtown Specific Plan serving to guide downtown growth and development standards 

Its primary objective is to preserve and enhance the unique character of the downtown. The DSP document will be used by the City Council, Commissions and Committees, City Staff, residents, property owners, businesses, developers, and other government entities as the land use and design policy document defining downtown development over the next 20 years. 

The DSP also identifies priorities for public improvements to the downtown area. The full draft DSP document is being released in advance of the August 21 Planning Commission meeting, where the Commission will conduct its initial review and provide direction to staff on any modifications if needed before recommendations are eventually made to the City Council.

For more information or to view a copy of the public review Draft Downtown Specific Plan, click here or 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.

Police Academy Graduation – After six months of intense training, Police Officer Recruit Tanner Flagstad will be graduating from the Golden West College Police Academy on Friday, Aug 9, at 10 a.m. Tanner has previously served as an Explorer, Cadet, and Beach Patrol Officer at LBPD. Please welcome him back (again) to the Laguna Beach Police Department.

Public Invited to Take Community Development Questionnaire – If you have recently interacted with the City of Laguna Beach Community Development Department you are invited to take a new customer service questionnaire about your experience. You can take the survey here or at a new kiosk in the lobby of City Hall. This questionnaire is a tool to help the City enhance customer service, streamline development approval procedures, and improve project turnaround time as part of a new Community Development Department Action Plan.

National Night Out Community Event a Success – Congratulations to all who participated in Tuesday’s ‘Guns N’ Hoses’ National Night Out softball game! The Laguna Beach Police Department was victorious over the Fire Department at the community event held at the Laguna Beach High School Baseball Field. 

National Night Out is an annual community building campaign that promotes police community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. This event enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. 

West Nile Virus Detected in Orange County – The Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District (OCMVCD) has confirmed the first mosquito sample to test positive for West Nile virus (WNV) in 2019. The mosquitoes were collected from the city of Orange at El Camino Real Park on July 30. 

The District has also confirmed nine birds with West Nile virus in the cities of Cypress, Buena Park, Huntington Beach, and Tustin. There are no confirmed cases of human infections currently in Orange County. 

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans via the bite of infected mosquitoes, which become infected when feeding on birds carrying the virus. Young children, the elderly, or individuals with lowered immune systems are at greater risk to experience severe symptoms when infected. Around the home, eliminating breeding sources for mosquitoes is critical: dump and drain containers filled with water at least once a week, clean and scrub bird baths and pet water bowls weekly, and dump water from potted plant saucers. 

Orange County residents are urged to report unusual numbers of mosquitoes to OCMVCD. For more information, please contact the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District at (714) 971- 2421 or (949) 654-2421 or visit www.ocvector.org

SCE Pole Replacements – Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing two utility poles located at 216 and 406 Canyon Acres Dr on Tuesday, Aug 13, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Portions of Canyon Acres Drive will be blocked, and personnel will be directing traffic. 

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

Park Avenue Roadwork – From Monday, Aug 12, to Friday, Aug 16, street repairs will be conducted on Park Avenue between Wendt Terrace and Short Street. Traffic impacts can be anticipated during lane closure hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information, contact Engineering Technician Alpha Santos at (949) 497-0729 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Street Resurfacing in Coast Royal and South Laguna Village Neighborhoods – On Monday, August 19, preparatory work for the repair and resurfacing of roadways in the Coast Royal and South Laguna Village neighborhoods will begin. Preliminary construction notices have been mailed to affected residents and property owners. Preparatory work, consisting of pavement repairs and crack filling, will continue through September, with slurry seal resurfacing to follow in October. 

For more information, visit the project website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/slurryseal or call (844) LAGUNA4 or (844) 524-8624.


Planning Commission meeting canceled

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The August 7 meeting of the Laguna Beach Planning Commission has been canceled.

Items scheduled to be heard will be re-calendared.

“The meeting was canceled for lack of agenda items,” said Commission Chair Ken Sadler.

Sadler said an application by Chronic Tacos to open at 689 South Coast Highway had been continued to the canceled hearing. However other items tentatively set for the agenda were not ready to be reviewed, City Planning Manager Scott Drapkin said.

“Chronic Tacos and the Downtown Specific Plan are on the proposed August 21 Planning Commission agenda,” said Drapkin.

The Chronic Tacos application proposes to convert retail space to food service with in and outdoor seating, and the use of 15 customer parking spaces in the lot across South Coast Highway at the Holiday Inn on the corner of Cleo Street and the highway.

Both properties are owned by Mo Honarkar.

The application also included a request to modify a valet parking plan for the hotel.

A hearing on the concept plan, submitted by the Laguna Beach Company for the proposed Cleo Hotel to replace the Holiday Inn, is tentatively scheduled for the first planning commission meeting in September, Drapkin said. 

Cleo Hotel is proposed as a terraced, three-story, full-service hotel and one of the two Honarkar projects to have submitted applications for concept review.

The concept describes the project as a continuation of the existing uses with lodging, retail spaces and a restaurant on the Holiday Inn site and the adjacent 14 West building.

A prior concept plan for Cleo Street was reviewed by the commission. Adjustments to the concept were made for the September hearing. 

The other application submitted for concept review is the proposed Museum Hotel, on the ocean side of North Coast Highway between Cliff Drive and Jasmine Street.

As proposed, a boutique and arts-focused hotel would replace existing uses there. The project will increase available parking and beautify a stretch of Gallery Row, according to Honarkar’s Laguna Beach Company.

No date for its concept review has been set, Drapkin said.

Descriptions of the Honarkar projects are available for review at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/cd/planning/major_development_projects.htm.


Council to consider special fee for Honarkar projects

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council’s agenda for tonight includes a recommendation to increase development permit fees by 25 percent for the cluster of projects proposed by the Laguna Beach Company, owned by Mo Honarkar.

City Manager John Pietig has been working on a recommendation since the council directed him in March to negotiate an agreement with Honarkar to help mitigate the financial impact of processing Honarkar’s major projects and to recover all city costs related to them.

If approved by the council, the increase will be added on top of the 5 percent increase in building fees and 15 percent increase in planning and zoning fees approved by the council at the March meeting.

“We think the 25 percent brings us close to 100 percent recovery of costs to the city,” said Gavin Curran, City Finance Director. “The bigger the project, the higher the fee, but state law prohibits us from going over 100 percent.”

The recommended increase is on the Consent Calendar of the council agenda and will be approved without discussion unless “pulled” by a member of the council or the public.

Honarkar is amenable to the proposed 25 percent increase, according to the staff report.

An alternate proposal to recover the cost would require staff to track and record their time spent in reviewing the projects. If it was found that the costs exceeded the current permit fees, then Honarkar would be required to pay additional money. 

The city does not currently have such a tracking/recording process in place. Staff is concerned that starting a new accounting process of recording time would be complex and would not accurately account for staff time and overhead, resulting in financial losses for the city, according to the staff report.

Staff anticipates that the special fee will recover 100 percent of the costs incurred by the city in the processing of the Honarkar projects.

Projects include the Cleo Hotel, restoration of the Hotel Laguna, the Museum Hotel, the Central Bluffs – all along Coast Highway – multi-unit housing in Canyon Acres and most of the properties along Laguna Canyon Frontage Road. Folks have been buzzing about rumors of plans to move the main campus of Laguna College of Art and Design from its present location to the Frontage Road properties that include The Hive, [seven-degrees] and Art-A-Fair grounds. 

“There has been talk over the years, about moving the campus to the Arts District, but it has never gone beyond a concept,” said college President Jonathan Burke. 

Among the issues to be resolved is the fate of the buildings on the current campus, designed by Chris Abel and built in 1977, with the understanding by many in the environmental community that it would never be enlarged or used for any other purpose than education.

“Discussions have never gotten to that point,” said Burke.

Descriptions of the Honarkar projects are available for review at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/cd/planning/major_development_projects.htm.


Board of Supervisors finalizes “Marching Home: A Strategy to End Veteran Homelessness”

The Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday finalized the County’s strategy to end veteran homelessness by December 2020, directing County staff to contract with a housing navigator to assist veterans in their search for housing.

“Marching Home: A Strategy to End Veteran Homelessness in Orange County” will develop a systematic, intentional, and sustainable multi-sector response to veterans in need of assistance and promote coordination of and collaboration with many partners to meet veterans’ needs.

“Our veterans have to overcome serious barriers in order to secure housing, which is why connecting them with housing navigation services is critical. We have to get people out of the shelters and into supportive housing,” said Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, Fifth District Supervisor.

After the 2019 Point In Time counted 311 veterans experiencing homelessness, the Board directed the Office of Care Coordination to create a strategy to end veteran homelessness.

“We must take care of the men and women who served our country. We are making progress with Marching Home, by connecting homeless veterans to the resources and services they need, including their families,” said Vice Chair Michelle Steel, Second District Supervisor.

The strategy aims to reach out to and provide all veterans access to available housing resources by December 2020. The County has collaborated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to host Veteran Housing Resource Fairs in all three regional Service Planning areas to engage veterans experiencing homelessness. Central and North Service Planning Areas had their resource fairs in June and July. The South Service Planning Area resource fair is scheduled for August 30.

“Housing homeless veterans is more than a goal that sounds good; it’s a moral imperative. Marching Home is yet another component in the County’s System of Care that will meet the needs of our most vulnerable communities, especially our deserving veterans,” said Supervisor Andrew Do, First District.

Resources for veterans include vouchers for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing, or HUD-VASH. Currently 80 veterans have a HUD-VASH voucher and are searching for an available housing unit. The Orange County, Anaheim, and Santa Ana housing authorities have another 400 HUD-VASH vouchers to issue to veterans seeking housing. 

“This a major step towards providing housing for our deserving veterans in Orange County. No person, let alone our veterans who fought for our country, should go without shelter. These resources will help better serve the men and women who bravely served us,” said Supervisor Donald P. Wagner, Third District.

To provide more housing by December 2020, 139 HUD-VASH project-based units are under development, including the 75-unit Santa Ana Veterans Village opening in March 2020, 49-unit Placentia Veterans Village in August 2020, and the 15-unit Salerno at Cypress in September 2020.

“The Point In Time was more than a count, it was a resource discussion. We learned what those who experience homelessness need so we are more focused than before,” said Supervisor Doug Chaffee, Fourth District.

Click here to read the full strategy and for additional information, visit the Office of Care Coordination’s website at www.ocgov.com/gov/ceo/care.


Council, Design Review Board to hold joint meeting Tuesday

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will meet with the Design Review Board and Board of Adjustment at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. 

This will be the first joint meeting since the council on July 23 adopted changes in the board’s duties, many of which the board and members of the public opposed. 

The agenda for the joint meeting includes legal representation at Design Review Board meetings, Council feedback on the current board and process, Streamlining Subcommittee to help brainstorm and assess political issues and Public Communication. 

The joint meeting will be adjourned at 5 p.m. for the council’s closed session.

Changes approved in July by the council, described as Phase I of an overhaul, were designed to make the design review process speedier and simpler, prompted by complaints about the length of time and the expense of presenting a project to the board and (having it) approved. 

“It is not the board that needs to be streamlined; it’s the time it takes to get to the board,” said Councilwoman Toni Iseman. 

Board members challenged the wisdom of the council’s decision in July to move the review of all capital improvement projects to the commission, particularly those adjacent to residential zones, to no avail. 

The council also approved the recommendation to send appeals of minor administrative design review decisions straight to council, a reduction in staking to 21 days, transfer of authority for design review on commercial and public works projects, administrative approval of pool/spa and air conditioning units to be heard by Director of Community Development Greg Pfost and enabling him to initiate the revocation process. 

That was the first phase of “streamlining” the review process. A second phase will deal with trickier issues, Pfost said. 

The five-member Design Review Board is appointed by the council. 

Currently serving: Chair Meg Monahan, former Deputy City Clerk; Chair Pro Tem Caren Liuzzi; Deborah Neev, who also sits on the Laguna Beach County Water District Commission; Kristine Thalman, president of Laguna Beach Seniors Inc; and Louis Weil, a realtor. 

They are tasked with reviewing proposed projects and determining if they conform to the policies of the city’s General Plan, the Certified Local Coastal Plan, zoning standards and design review criteria specified in the Municipal Code. The members also sit as the Board of Adjustment to hear requests for variances from standard requirements. 

The Design Review Board generally meets on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

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