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Laguna Beach


City’s proposed draft plan for replanting of trees to be reviewed at public workshop this Friday

There will be a public workshop to review the City’s proposed draft plan for replanting of trees in the downtown area and on portions of Coast Highway. The workshop will be held this Friday, June 29 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in the community room of the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center.

Citys proposal downtown trees

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Replanting of trees workshop is this Friday, June 29

Public Works staff have developed a replanting plan which will be presented at the workshop.

Subsequent to the workshop, the planting plan will be presented to the Planning Commission on July 18 and to City Council on August 7.

Susi Q Center is located at 380 Third St.

For more information, go to www.lagunabeachcity.net.


Council expected to approve tree removal permit and set a fee

By BARBARA DIAMOND

An ordinance to establish a tree removal permit and a permit fee is expected to be approved tonight by the City Council.

The council previously voted unanimously in favor of the permit and set fines for violating the ordinance.

Permits will be required to remove heritage trees, Design Review-approved trees and privately maintained trees in the public right of way.

Proposed fines for violations are heavy. All fines will be doubled for unpermitted removal of heritage trees.

Size matters

The fine for unpermitted removal of non-heritage trees with a trunk measuring six to 12 inches around is $1,000 for the first offense, $3,000 for the second offense and $5,000 for the third offense. 

Fines for unpermitted removal of non-heritage trees with trunks that measure more than 12 inches up to 24 inches is set at $3,000 for the initial violation, $7,000 for the second and $10,000 for the third.

Non-heritage trees that measure more than 24 inches around will cost the culprit $5,000 for the first violation, $12,000 or the second and $15,000 for the third.

If the ordinance is passed as expected, the public will be notified of the procedures for obtaining a tree removal permit by various sources.

What you need to know about the permits

--Permits will be available at the front counter in City Hall

--Folks on the Interested Parties List will be noticed

--Permit applications will be posted on the Tree Removal Permit web page

--A press release will be coordinated with the Community Information Officer

--Real Property Reports will be amended to include a statement that trees on the property may require a permit for removal

--Announcement of the new ordinance will be made by a city-wide mailer to all property owners

The proposed ordinance is on the council’s Consent Calendar and will be approved without discussion unless pulled by a member of the council or the audience.


City’s proposed draft plan for replanting of trees to be reviewed at public workshop on Friday, June 29

There will be a public workshop to review the City’s proposed draft plan for replanting of trees in the downtown area and on portions of Coast Highway. The workshop will be held on Friday, June 29 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. in the community room of the Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center.

Citys proposal downtown trees

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Replanting of trees workshop is on Friday, June 29

Public Works staff have developed a replanting plan which will be presented at the workshop.

Subsequent to the workshop, the planting plan will be presented to the Planning Commission on July 18 and to City Council on August 7.

Susi Q Center is located at 380 Third St.

For more information, go to www.lagunabeachcity.net.


City Manager’s Update

Laguna Canyon Road Improvements – On June 27, from 5 to 7p.m., Caltrans will be conducting a public hearing at the Laguna Beach High School Library to present environment impact findings and their proposal to adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Laguna Canyon Road Improvements project. The project proposes to provide Class II bike lanes on the shoulder of the road, implement drainage improvements, underground overhead utilities between El Toro Rd and State Route 73, and implement traffic safety improvements on Laguna Canyon Rd from 1,700 feet south of El Toro Rd to 1,200 feet north of El Toro Rd. The hearing will provide the public an opportunity to comment and to discuss certain design features of the proposed project with Caltrans staff. If you have any questions, contact Van Nguyen, Caltrans Public Information Office at (657) 328-6363 or e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Click here to view the Caltrans notice.

SCE Pole Replacement by Helicopter – On June 25, 26, and 28, Southern California Edison (SCE) will perform helicopter operations to replace two poles located in the canyon between Canyon Acres Dr and Alta Laguna Park. SCE will use a helicopter to transport crews to prepare the site on Monday, June 25 and Tuesday, June 26. On Thursday, June 28, the helicopter will be used to place the new poles. The landing zone and staging area for the helicopter will be located at the trailhead north of Alta Laguna Park. The trails in the vicinity of the staging area will be temporarily closed while the helicopter is operating in the staging area for no more than 10 to 30-minute intervals. Hours of operations will vary each day. Signs will be posted and flag persons will alert the public of the temporary closures. For questions or concerns, please contact JC Holt, Construction Coordinator with Pro Energy Services, Inc. at (909) 781-3973.

 July 4 Laguna Beach Transit Hours – On July 4, the trolleys will be operating special service hours. The Coastal routes will run from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the Canyon route will run from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be no transit service in the North and South Laguna neighborhoods, along with the Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights neighborhoods. For more information, please contact the Transit office at (949) 497-0766.

Two New Laguna Beach Police Officers Graduate Academy – On Friday, June 22, Officer Elizabeth Gutierrez and Officer Chelsea Martin will graduate from the Golden West Criminal Justice Training Center, Academy Class #157. Officer Gutierrez comes from a family of law enforcement officers and was previously both a Police Aid and Police Cadet with the Laguna Beach Police Department. Officer Martin is a graduate of Long Beach State University, where she played field hockey and was the team captain. We welcome them to our police and city family!

 Creative Placemaking Assessment – On Monday, June 25, the Arts Commission will review and discuss the final draft report of the Creative Placemaking Assessment submitted by AEA Consulting. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers. This project was funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. The report can be reviewed at: www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art/default.htm

 The Word on the Street – On June 30, new temporary sculptures, titled “Word on the Street,” by Scott Froschauer, will be installed throughout Heisler Park. The public is invited to attend the public art dedication and artist reception on Sunday, July 1 at the corner of Cliff Dr and Jasmine St at 5 p.m. This project is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

 Art-Inspired Writing Contest – Laguna Beach Literary Laureate Suzanne Redfearn invites local poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to Jeff Rovner’s photograph Kalaywa Monastery, Yangon, currently on display at City Hall. Two selected winners will each receive $250. The deadline for entry is Friday, July 27. For more information visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art.


Council to vote Tuesday on raises for

themselves, board and commission members

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday will determine if they or members of the Planning Commission, Design Review Board and Arts Commission should get raises, and if so, how much.

Three options were supplied by staff:

--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 July of 2017 and 2018

--Increase the compensation by 5 percent for 2016 and 2017 (10 percent total), the maximum amount allowed council members by government code

The current annual cost of the compensations is $109,900. (Annual costs are approximately $68,895 for city council, $17,780 for DRB, and $22,225 for all commissioners.) The first option would raise the cost to $118,200; the second option would cost $120,400; the third option, $120,900.

Raises for board and commission members could be approved by resolution, retroactive to July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

An increase in the compensation for City Council members must be approved by ordinance. If approved, state law stipulates that increases would not go into effect until the start of new terms for a council member, December 4.


Council approves changes in the 2018-19 budget

By BARBARA DIAMOND

At its June 12 meeting, City Council approved most of the changes to the 2018-19 budget recommended by staff, based on a positive economic outlook for the city. 

Forecasts for major city revenues include a 4.5 percent increase in property taxes, a 4 percent increase in bed taxes, and a 2 percent increase in sales tax; the 20 percent General Fund reserve and the 10 percent Disaster Contingency remain intact. The adopted budget for fiscal year 2018-19 is $97 million. The General Fund, which is the city’s primary operating fund, is $64.3 million.

The rosy projections make possible the spending additions for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Approved additions included reducing the appropriation for a Community Development Historical Inventory consultant from $30,000 to $20,000 and using the $10,000 to fund salary increases for the City Council, the Planning and Arts Commissions and the Design Review Board. City Attorney Philip Kohn will also get an increase in his monthly retainer from $8,500 to $12,000 and in his hourly rate from $235 to $255. Marine Safety funding for part-time salaries will be increased by $10,000 to address busier activity on city beaches. 

The biggest change was the increase from $100,000 to $600,000 to pay for IT equipment, Cultural Arts grants recommended by the Arts Commission and funded by the Business Improvement District in the amount of $237,600, and Community Assistance Grants totaling $259,000 were approved for disbursement. 

City Clerk Lisette Chel Walker and City Treasurer Laura Parisi were awarded 5 percent Exceptional Performance payment.

Unfunded pensions remain a concern. The California Public Employees Retirement System, known as CalPERS, continues to be underfunded, and apparently isn’t expecting its investments to pay better in the future. The rate of return was lowered from 7.5 percent to 7 percent, which is expected to increase the city’s payment to CalPERS by an additional $2.8 million by 2024-25. 

However, in June of 2017, the council approved incrementally appropriate ongoing revenues above the budget estimates toward future increases in pension payments with the goal of $2.8 million by 2024-25.


Council denies appeal of Ranch Restoration Plan

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council unanimously denied an appeal on Tuesday of the Planning Commission’s approval of a restoration plan proposed for The Ranch.

Laguna Beach resident Mark Fudge did not blame the commission for its decision. He blamed the city staff.

“The Planning Commission did the best they could,” Fudge said in his five-minute presentation to the council. “Staff abused their discretion.”

Fudge based his appeal on six grounds: 

--Insufficient notice of the Planning Commission meeting 

--Categorical exemption from California Environmental Quality Act requirements

--Non-compliance with the city’s General Plan, including six specific policies

--No consultation with other agencies interested in the project

--Failure to consider a recent court decision which defined the scope of the project and required further work to be subject to CEQA.

Staff provided a lengthy defense of its position, claiming in its report that the grounds for the appeal were speculative and unfounded. The report further stated that Fudge provided no proof that the Planning Commission erred or abused its discretion in approving the plan, required findings to overturn a commission decision.

Design review, in this case conducted by the Planning Commission, is required for proposed native vegetation restoration plans. 

The restoration plan proposed by the Ranch was designed to mitigate what Coastal Commissioners had previously determined “were unauthorized tree trimming/vegetation removal activities in Aliso Creek” and the impacts from the removal of downed vegetation from the creek bank due to the January 2017 storms, according to a letter from The Ranch representative.

“The Planning Commission rubber-stamped a California Coastal Commission decision,” said Sharon Fudge, the appellant’s wife. 

He had also claimed the restoration did not qualify for the California Environmental Quality Act’s ”small habitat restoration” categorical exemption.

The exemption applies to projects that do not exceed five acres to ensure the protection of habitat for fish, plants or wildlife. 

“This project will affect the entire 19 miles of the stream,” said Sharon Fudge. 

However reviews of the project by a Coastal Commission ecologist, the Ranch’s ecologist, the commission and city staff determined the project affects 4.83 acres of restoration. 

Fudge declined to comment on the council’s decision or any further action he might take.


Laguna Beach Beautification Council honors Keith Kesler and his war on graffiti on Thursday, June 21

After reading about Keith Kesler’s war on graffiti in last week’s edition, Laguna Beach Beautification Council President George Weiss decided Kesler should be recognized for his single-handed work in helping to keep Laguna graffiti free. In just 10 months, Kesler removed 1,000 tags and continues to be relentless in his quest to banish all graffiti from town.

On Thursday, June 21 at The Laguna Beach Beautification Council (LBBC) Awards, Kesler will be presented with the “Harry Lawrence Award” for his selfless work on graffiti removal throughout Laguna Beach. The event will be held at The Ranch at Laguna Beach.

Weiss says, “Laguna’s public art, elegant edifices, and imaginative seating areas for vista viewing have been under attack by anonymous taggers who deface these works with graffiti. Unknown to most Lagunatics, we had a stealth, anonymous super hero scrubbing away these disfigurements when they appeared, Keith Kesler.”

Laguna Beach fence

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Dianne Russell

Keith Kesler ridding LB of graffiti, one tag at a time

“While he deserves a cape and more for his work ridding our town of this graffiti blight, LBBC can only provide ‘The Harry Lawrence Award’ in recognition of his work at our annual LBBC Awards event next week,” Weiss says.

Since 1967, the LBBC has been awarding residents and businesses Beautification Awards for their contributions in beautifying Laguna Beach. The Harry Lawrence Star of Excellence Award was conceived in 2013 as a way to honor the memory of Harry, and to acknowledge a resident or business that has shown exceptional passion for the beautification of Laguna Beach.

The LBBC Awards evening begins with an antipasto buffet at 5 p.m. (no host bar available), and the awards presentation starts at 6 p.m.

The cost for Friends of LBBC is $35 per person, which includes the buffet and one beverage, payable by cash or check on the day of the event. Make checks payable to Laguna Beach Beautification Council.

RSVP by June 16 to Ellen McKessar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 510-3093.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is located at 31106 Coast Hwy.

For more information on LBBC, go to www.lagunabeachbeautificationcouncil.com.


City Manager’s Update

Art-Inspired Writing Contest – Laguna Beach Literary Laureate Suzanne Redfearn invites local poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to Jeff Rovner’s photograph Kalaywa Monastery, Yangon, currently on display at City Hall. Two selected winners will each receive $250. The deadline for entry is Friday, July 27. For more information, visit http://lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/art.

Laguna Beach Summer Trolley Service Starts June 18 – Start your summer fun early by riding the Laguna Beach Trolley. Trolley service will start daily on Monday, June 18 with Canyon service running from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Coastal service running from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.  For more information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.net/trolley or call (949) 497-0766.

Laguna Beach Village Entrance Project – The construction plans and specifications for the Village Entrance project are being finalized for public bidding today, Friday, June 15. The award of the construction contract is anticipated to be presented at the August 7 City Council meeting. The plans and specifications are available for public viewing at www.lagunabeachcity.net/villageentrance.


The City Council is now accepting applications to serve on the Personnel Board

The City Council is accepting applications to serve on the Personnel Board.

Laguna Beach residents who are interested in serving on the Personnel Board should obtain an application from the City Clerk’s office or online from the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net and file in the City Clerk’s office no later than Friday, July 13 at 5 p.m. Questions may be directed to the City Clerk’s office at (949) 497-0705. Applications will not be accepted after the deadline

Interviews and appointments will be conducted on Tuesday, July 24 at 6 p.m. by the City Council in the City Council Chambers, 505 Forest Avenue. All applicants will be interviewed. Applicants may be contacted by City Council members prior to the interviews and appointments so please be prepared to make a brief statement about your desire to serve on a committee.

Two (2) two-year terms on the Personnel Board begin July 25, 2018 through September 30, 2019. The Personnel Board hears appeals relative to any disciplinary action, dismissal, demotion, reduction in pay or suspension. One of the two selected will serve as an alternate member.

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