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Laguna Beach

City Manager’s Updates

Free Home Wildfire Consultation – The City of Laguna Beach is encouraging residents to better prepared in the event of a wildfire by creating a defensible space and a defensible home. This can be done by safeguarding your home by using fire-safe construction materials, and to look 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. 

City Managers plane

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Aliso Fire Air Drop

Residents can sign up for a free wildfire consultation by the Laguna Beach Fire Department by clicking here or by calling (949) 497-0700. What happens during a wildfire consultation? Experienced firefighters will come to your home and offer advice about how you can prepare your property and home for a wildfire. Fill out the form and the City will schedule a consultation with you.

Join the City for National Night Out Tuesday, Aug 6 – The City invites locals to come out and join the community for the first annual National Night Out event on Tuesday, Aug 6 from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Laguna Beach High School Baseball Field. 

Laguna’s Finest will step up to the plate against Laguna’s Bravest in a friendly battle between LBPD and LBFD at the Guns N’ Hoses Softball Game. Gates will open at 5 p.m. for pre-game activities and a K-9 Demo. “Mr. Laguna” Skipper Carrillo will be there to throw the first pitch. There will be free hot dogs, chips, and a drink for all attendees. 

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. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances. 

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 All individuals will receive a confirmation email if accepted into the program.

Changes Made to Municipal Code Parking Requirements Encourage Business Growth – At its July 23 meeting, the City Council adopted changes to the City’s Municipal Code regarding parking requirements to stimulate an improvement to local economic conditions. Changes to commercial-related parking provisions include clarifying that interior remodels to existing commercial buildings are not considered an intensification of use, thus do not require additional parking be provided. 

The changes will also encourage sharing of retail spaces between multiple tenants by not requiring multiple tenants within one commercial building each meet parking requirements. Instead, parking requirements will remain dependent on the property’s floor area. This will encourage small business opportunities and the sharing of facilities and staff, greater availability for brick and mortar locations to compete with internet sales, improve economic viability by bringing in a wider customer base, and will aid chronically vacant larger units in the City to become easier occupied based on shared tenancy. 

The adopted parking requirement changes will now go for a second reading by the City Council, after which the changes will need to be sent to the California Coastal Commission for review and approval.

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 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Traffic impacts can be anticipated due to lane closures. 

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.

Lang Park Asphalt Pathway Repairs and Park Closure – On Thursday, Aug 1, the Public Works Department will be slurry sealing the asphalt pathways at Lang Park. The park will be closed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the work. A tot lot playground is available during the closure at a nearby park, Bluebird Park, located at 772 Cress St. Tennis courts are available at Moulton Meadows Park near the intersection of Balboa Ave and Cortez Ave and at Alta Laguna Park at the north end of Alta Laguna Blvd.

For more information, contact Maintenance Supervisor Mel Summer at (949) 497-0783 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Annual Composting Classes – The City’s solid waste hauler, Waste Management, will offer a free composting class on Saturday, Aug 3, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Bluebird Park, located at 798 Bluebird Canyon Dr. Compost and worm bins will be available for purchase during the class at a discounted price. 

For more information,  visit or contact the Waste Management class instructor, Lisa Ryder, at (310) 874-2499.

City Chats” on KX 93.5 – “City Chats” returns to the air on Thursday, Aug 15 at 8 p.m. on KX 93.5. Listeners can also tune in to the segment online at or on the iHeartRadio app. 

Each week get to know members of our Laguna Beach City staff as they talk about the programs, services, and community initiatives that make their City Departments shine. They will also share some of their favorite tunes and the stories behind them. Tune in to “City Chats” Thursday, Aug 15, at 8 p.m. on KX 93.5. 

Be Rattlesnake Aware – According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), rattlesnakes are widespread in California and are found in a variety of habitat throughout the state from Coastal to desert. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under wood piles. 

City Managers snake

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Rattlesnakes during workshop

Generally, not aggressive, rattlesnakes will likely retreat if given room and not provoked or threatened. Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing. The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors. 

CDFW provides tips for safely living in snake country on its website at as well as tips for keeping snakes out of your yard and what do to do (and not do) in the event of a snake bite. Additional resources can be found at

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.

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 via or in person at the Community and Susi Q Center, located at 380 Third St, during normal business hours. No profits are being made from the sale of this backpack. Let’s get prepared!

Council approves Rotary use of parking lots for car show


The City Council gave its blessings to Laguna’s Rotary Club, approving the use of the Forest/Laguna Canyon and Lumberyard parking lots for its Classic Car Show on October 6.

For the past eight years, the car show has been a fundraiser for Rotary’s philanthropic projects.

The city has historically supported the event by allowing the use of the two parking lots to display the cars at no charge, valued at $1,500.

Council approves Rotary

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A bevy of classic chrome will be on display at Laguna Beach Rotary’s Classic Car Show on October 6 

Rotary’s requests for temporary fencing, amplified sound and the sale of alcoholic beverages and food was also approved by the council. Rotary will obtain the necessary permits for the sale of alcoholic beverages and provide proof of the proper permitting permits.

Staff recommended approval of Rotary’s requests, noting that no issues had ever arisen due to the service of alcohol at the event.

The council also approved a request for 20 reserved parking spaces in Lot 10 and 10 reserved spaces on Forest Avenue. Parking demand in October is historically low according to the staff report.

Council approves recommendations and funding to reduce fire risks


The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the recommendations of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee to help prevent Laguna from being reduced to ashes, as has happened to other California cities.

Despite misgivings expressed by Councilwoman Toni Iseman about funding sources and by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow about rushing approval of the recommendations, the council voted 5-0 to spend almost $23 million over the next two fiscal years to protect the city from devastation by fire. 

“Most of the $22.9 million has already been appropriated by the council,” said City Manager John Pietig. “The rest will take future action.” 

The appropriation will fund expanded community outreach and alerts, removal of brush along the perimeter of the city and educating property owners on fire-safe landscaping, hiring a Defensible Space Inspector to aid the fuel modification efforts and undergrounding utility poles on Coast Highway.

More ambitious plans to reduce Laguna’s risk of another catastrophic fire will potentially cost about $170 million dollars over the next five or six years, a recommendation angrily criticized by fiscal conservatives.

“This needs more discussion,” said Michele Monda, in a rare agreement with Village Laguna. 

Monda questioned the timing of the creation of the subcommittee, as recommended by Mayor Bob Whalen and which he chaired. 

“Measure P was soundly defeated; when did you start working on this?” asked Monda, who had campaigned against the measure to raise funds to underground Laguna Canyon Road. 

Merrill Anderson read a letter signed by Village Laguna President Johanna Felder that recommended the council “take the plan on the road,” and get community input and support. 

Council approves fireman2

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Courtesy of LBFD

Fireman on radio during 1993 fire

Jennifer Zeiter also opposed the recommended funding. 

“You guys are spending money like it is a fire sale,” said Zeiter. 

She also objected to the proposal to use city money to underground utility poles in high-risk neighborhoods.

“Each neighborhood should fund its owns undergrounding,” she said. “The taxpayers should not be paying.”

Bob Elster opined that there are no boundaries in a fire.

“It won’t stop at Woods Cove,” he said. 

A majority of the public that spoke at the hearing favored council approval of the subcommittee recommendations, some haunted by memories of the 1993 firestorm that consumed more than 400 homes in Laguna.

“After careful consideration [the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee] supports these well-crafted recommendations,” said committee Chair Matt Lawson. 

“In addition to life safety concerns, we are aware that residents are having difficulty accessing private fire insurance. If we don’t act now to mitigate our fire risk, this problem will only get worse.”

The 213-page report for immediate action to ramp up the protection of people’s lives and property, as well as medium and long-term recommendations, was spelled out Tuesday by subcommittee members that included Police Captain Jeff Calvert, Fire Chief Mike Garcia, Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock and Finance Director Gavin Curran. Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis was credited with quarterbacking the subcommittee report and presentation.

Short-Term Recommendations:

Funding for the short-term recommendations included tapping existing sources.

The council approved the appropriation of $200,000 from the ongoing Measure LL Fund and $320,000 in the fund balance for one-time expenditures over the next two years, plus $1 million a year earmarked in the fund for undergrounding in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years; $137,000 from the General Fund balance; $85,000 of ongoing funds from the Parking Fund and $693,000 from the fund balance.

Other approved funding sources: redirect the approved additional payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System, restructure the Side Fund Loan to repay $1.5 million owed to the Street Lighting Fund and appropriate this funding toward the short-term action items. 

Council approves parking meters

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Parking revenues needed to fund medium-term recommendations 

Medium-Term Recommendations:

The council directed the city manager to come up with a plan to increase parking revenues needed to fund medium-term recommendations, including appropriating half of the total Measure LL revenue for undergrounding and fire safety in fiscal year 2021-2022. The following fiscal year, the council approved appropriating $1 million from the Street Lighting and Utility funds for undergrounding and fire safety. 

Council directed Pietig to continue seeking grants for fuel modification and other grant-eligible items.

Long-Term Recommendations:

--Direct the subcommittee to work with federal, state and county agencies to develop a cost/benefit analysis of potential city acquisition of Laguna Canyon Road    

--Direct the city manager to work with neighborhoods to develop undergrounding assessment districts 

--Direct the city manager to pursue Rule 20A from other cities and counties to expedite undergrounding

--Direct the subcommittee to work with staff on identifying other revenue sources for long-term action items.

Short-term action costs are estimated to be $22.9 million; medium-term, $9.4 million and long-term $135.6 million

No appropriations were approved to fund medium or long-term recommendations. 

Council raises the ante in Dupuis sweepstakes


The City Council on Tuesday took preemptive action to keep Public Works Director/Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis on the city payroll.

Dupuis was given a $25,000 raise to resist the blandishment and higher salaries from other agencies that want her services. 

“She is being actively recruited by other agencies,” said City Manager John Pietig.

Matt Lawson said the city needs her expertise, although he found it strange to be in disagreement with other conservatives who spoke against the raise. 

“Let her go,” said Jennifer Zeiter.

“No one is irreplaceable,” said Michele Monda. 

However, no one on the council agreed. Nor did Pietig. 

Pietig strongly endorsed the pay raise. Dupuis, he said, is needed to provide continuity for several major projects that are underway and for the management of the Public Works Department.

He also cited her coordination of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report, unveiled earlier in Tuesday’s meeting. 

Pietig went on to enumerate Dupuis’s other responsibilities. 

She oversees the activities of 11 divisions that are in charge of maintaining publicly owned facilities [such as] streets, parks, beaches, buildings, landscaped areas and storm drains. Other duties include upgrading city infrastructure; and engineering, transit, solid waste and recycling services. Street signs are also in her purview. 

Pietig said the recruiters consider her a serious candidate for city manager.

Why then would she stay in Laguna?

“I love this city,” Dupuis said. “I have personal ties to the city, and I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors. I see it every day. It is important to me.”

Councilman Peter Blake described Dupuis as the smartest, most resilient employee of the city. 

“$25,000 is nothing compared to the cost of replacing her,” Blake said. 

Councilwoman Toni Iseman recalled losing the highly regarded Ben Siegel when he was recruited by another community.

“We didn’t offer him more money,” said Iseman, intimating it was a mistake that should not be repeated. “This is not the time to lose someone with the skill set [Dupuis] has.”

The council voted 5-0 for the raise.

City Manager’s Updates

Community Development Department Continues to Streamline Review Process – The Laguna Beach Community Development Department continues to make progress on its Action Plan to improve the project review process for property owners as the City Council recently approved changes to the project review process. 

Changes made to the City’s Municipal Code and Local Coastal Plan to improve the process include the approval of air conditioning units administratively instead of needing Design Review Board approval, shortening the 28-day staking requirement to 21 days to allow property owners to get a hearing sooner, and transferring some types of projects from the Design Review Board to the Planning Commission – like commercial projects, streets, storm drain, fuel modification, and other similar Capital Improvement Projects.

The City Council also agreed to streamline how administrative design review appeals are processed. The City Council passed a second reading of the ordinance at its meeting on July 23. The approved changes will now be sent to the California Coastal Commission for review.

City Managers police

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Join LBPD on Saturday for Pizza with a Motor 

Pizza with A Motor – Join the Laguna Beach Police Department on Saturday, July 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for a Pizza with a Motor event at Gina’s Pizza (610 N Coast Hwy). Residents can stop by and receive a free slice or two of pizza and chat with our Motor Officer about any community concerns they may have. There are no agendas or speeches, just a chance to have pizza and conversation with the officers who keep our community safe. 

Alta Laguna Field Maintenance and Closure – Alta Laguna Field will be closed for maintenance and turf renovations from July 29 - August 26.

For questions, call Alexis Braun, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0762.

California REAL ID Requirements Take Effect October 1, 2020

Federally compliant REAL ID driver licenses and identification (ID) cards are being made available by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to Californians who want to continue to use their driver license or ID card to board a domestic flight or enter secure federal facilities when new federal requirements take effect October 1, 2020. Californians will have the choice to apply for a REAL ID driver license or ID card or renew or apply for a federal non-compliant card. 

Until October 1, 2020, a valid California driver license or ID card can be used for federal purposes, including boarding a domestic flight and entering military bases or secure federal facilities. After that date, only a REAL ID card or other federally approved documents will be accepted, such as a U.S. passport, passport card or military ID. 

For more information about REAL ID, visit Customers can also use the REAL ID interactive checklist to gather the documents needed to apply for a California REAL ID driver license or ID card.

SCE Pole Replacement by Helicopter – On Monday, July 29, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a utility pole located in the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. 

The pole is located approximately 4,000 feet southeast of Moulton Meadows Park. A helicopter will be used to remove and replace the pole. The landing zone and staging area for the helicopter will occur within the wilderness park approximately 2,100 feet north of Moulton Meadows Park and adjacent to the emergency fire access road. The emergency fire access road will remain unobstructed during the work.

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

Concerns Regarding Storage or Placement of Property in the Area of Main Beach – The Police Department is aware of the concerns about storage or placement of property in the area of Main Beach. Patrol Officers, Beach Patrol Officers, Community Outreach Officers, and Public Works staff regularly patrol the beaches and parks and take appropriate actions, which may include booking/removing abandoned property or issuing citations for violations as the law or municipal code allows. 

Specifically, at Main Beach, the City Council has authorized funds for increased foot patrols, bike patrols, and on the weekends staffs an outreach and engagement pop-up on the cobblestones to increase presence and improve interaction with community members. This staffing is in addition to routine patrol operations. The Police Department also works in partnership with Marine Safety to identify and address issues as they arise. If you see any violations, you are encouraged to call the Police Department at (949) 497-0701. 

Electric Lawn Mower Rebate – Did you know? The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) offers a year-round Electric Lawn Mower Rebate Program for residents of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Residents can purchase a new, cordless electric lawn mower, scrap their old gas mower, and receive a rebate check based on the purchase price of their new mower. Help improve air quality by participating in the electric Lawnmower Rebate Program. 

The online application is available at

For more information, call (888) 425-6247 (Tuesday - Friday).

Find a Dead Bird? – Birds can die if they contract West Nile virus from mosquitoes. If you find a dead bird in Orange County and it appears to have died in the last 24 hours, carefully and without touching it, place the carcass in a plastic bag and place it in a cool and shady place. 

After these steps have been completed, call the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District (OCMVCD) Dead Bird Hotline at (714) 971-2421 ext. 117.

Ask Laguna – Ask Laguna is a service the City offers as a way for residents and visitors to report concerns and make service requests to the City. It’s fast, free, and the easiest way to communicate directly with City Hall. 

You can access Ask Laguna via the easy-to-remember link at To report an emergency or immediate safety concern, always call 9-1-1.

City Manager’s Updates

Loud Exhaust Law Enforced – The City understands how loud exhaust can impact the quality of life for residents, and the Laguna Beach Police Department continues to actively enforce the loud exhaust laws in Laguna Beach. In 2018, LBPD issued 97 citations for loud exhaust and, to date in 2019, they have issued 102 citations for loud exhaust. 

In the past, the City has combined their enforcement efforts with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Dana Point Police Services, and the Newport Beach Police Department, as this issue is not isolated to Laguna Beach. 

In March of this year, the Laguna Beach Police Department conducted four loud exhaust enforcement details in which LBPD fielded extra officers specifically to target vehicles in violation of the loud exhaust laws of California. The City has already conducted one special detail in July and have four more details scheduled through September. 

These details are on Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, the days that attract the social riders who tend to be in violation more than the commuter riders. The City appreciates residents’ patience as it continues its efforts to keep Laguna Beach as peaceful as possible. 

Police Motor Corporal Thom Spratt is the City’s loud exhaust enforcement coordinator and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Public Invited to Take Community Development QuestionnaireIf 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 at the link below 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 times.

Click here to take the survey. 

City Managers hall

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Public invited to take customer service survey online or in the lobby of City Hall

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. 

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 All individuals will receive a confirmation email if accepted into the program.

Parents’ Night Out (PNO) Parents call it a break from the kids; kids call it a break from their parents. The City of Laguna Beach is hosting its quarterly Parents’ Night Out on Friday, July 26 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third St. The children will have a blast enjoying games, movies, arts & crafts, and dinner. Pre-registration is required 48 hours in advance. 

To register, call (949) 464-6645 or visit and click “Recreation Classes.”

Council blazes trail to abandon pedestrian pathways


The City Council took steps at the July 9 meeting to develop an expedited process to abandon three Temple Hills pathways and to determine if a fourth pathway intrudes on private property.

Councilman Peter Blake sponsored the agenda item, which was opposed by 17 speakers from the audience and supported by 13. Councilwoman Toni Iseman sided with the opponents with the lone vote opposing abandonment. 

“My neighbors, my family and I use these walkways continuously,” Caroline Wright wrote in an email to the council. “The walkways keep pedestrians off of Temple Hills Drive where cars rush by within inches of pedestrians.” 

Wright stated that she and her family have zipped up and down the paths to go to school, downtown and to the beach for 29 years. Three generations of the neighboring Yelland Family next door have walked the paths for 47 years without incident, Wright stated.

Proponents of the paths also described them as an evacuation route in a disaster. 

Blake confirmed that the city had never attempted to develop the unimproved pathways because the project would be problematic, according to Scott Drapkin, city planning manager. 

“I will not vote to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars so that a few people can walk down a trail,” Blake said.

He continued, “There are currently people that actually, unlike most of the liars that send most of these emails and letters, we do have people that are actually using…” at which point he was interrupted by the audience.

“I think there’s an apology owed to the people who were called liars,” Iseman stated. “I got those letters and they were not lying.”

Ownership and responsibility for the pathways is murky. They are included in the map of the Temple Hills tract, developed by Joe Thurston. However, City Attorney Phil Kohn stated that the city does not own the paths and the general default rule would be that adjoining property owners would have rights up to the center line of paths.

Councilwoman Sue Kempf determined that the adjacent property owners had never paid taxes on the pathways. 

Mayor Bob Whalen said the city had two options: proceed with abandonment, which meant there would never be public pathways or let the issue ride as it has for 80 years.

Blake asked how the latter option was fair to adjacent property owners, who object to pedestrians disturbing their privacy or sometimes, they say, crossing their property.

Whalen replied that the neighboring property owners had no rights to the pathways between their homes. However, he did state that there should never be any improvements to the pathways without the consent of the adjacent owners.

The discussion of the agenda item was limited to whether or not the city should consider abandoning the public ways, but no abandonment was to be approved at the meeting. Temple Hills residents were notified of the meeting and a large number of them showed up to hear or be heard on the issue.

City Council Wildfire Mitigation Subcommittee releases Fire Safety Plan to protect Laguna

The Laguna Beach City Council Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee has released its report identifying and prioritizing additional programs, mitigation measures, staffing, and equipment needed to reduce the current level of high fire risk and exposure to wildfires in Laguna Beach. For a detailed copy of the Subcommittee’s report, click here. 

“Wildfires present one of the biggest risks to public safety in the City,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “While we can’t eliminate the risk of wildfires, we can take some meaningful steps to reduce our risks. This report contains a number of practical suggestions that if implemented will go a long way to improving public safety and protecting lives.”

In December 2018, the City Council approved the formation of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee, comprised of Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen and City Council member Sue Kempf. The Subcommittee began its work with the City Manager and other staff to assess the City’s current level of risk and exposure to wildfires, identify and prioritize additional programs, mitigation measures, and identify a funding plan needed to further reduce the risk of loss of life and property damage from wildfires.

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 wildfire risk in the City. The City has a hilly terrain, significant vegetation that is fuel for wildfires, and is subject to hot, dry summer and fall seasons, and high‐speed Santa Ana winds. These conditions are frequently involved in the most destructive fires in the region. Due to these conditions in the natural environment, the City has a history of wildfires, the most devastating of which occurred in 1993 when Laguna Beach was struck by a Santa Ana wind‐driven fire that consumed over 14,000 acres, caused the evacuation of over 23,000 people, and destroyed 441 homes and structures in less than a day. The City also experienced wildfires in 2015 and 2018, which started in the open space. 

City Council Aliso fire

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Submitted photo

2018 Aliso Fire below Top of the World

Though the City has taken numerous fire mitigation steps since the 1993 fire, the risk created by the natural environment is compounded by certain physical constraints and limitations in the City including limited evacuation routes, overhead utilities, impaired access areas, older buildings, and the impact of visitors complicating an evacuation.

The Subcommittee gathered information from other wildfires and was briefed by experts regarding wildfire risks and responses in the State, including touring the City of Paradise, which was destroyed by a wind-driven fire that killed 85 people in November 2018. The Subcommittee also received a briefing on the Woolsey Fire that also occurred in November 2018 in the Malibu area, which burned 97,000 acres and destroyed 1,643 structures. City staff also attended the Governor’s Emergency Management Summit in Sacramento in June. which helped frame certain analysis and possible recommendations in the Subcommittee’s report.

“Over the last seven months, Mayor Whalen and I have worked with the City’s executive management team and staff from key departments, representatives from the Laguna Beach Water and South Coast Water Districts, California legislators, and representatives from various municipalities to craft a plan of action for Laguna Beach,” said City Council and Subcommittee member Sue Kempf. “We look forward to presenting our findings and recommendations at the upcoming July 23 City Council meeting.”

The report contains 47 possible actions to be taken to mitigate the risk of a wildfire occurring in the City and to minimize the impact should one occur. Short-term (one - two years) priorities identified in the Subcommittee’s report include improving the City’s public evacuation process by developing an evacuation modeling study, creating an interactive GPS evacuation map, installing evacuation signage, and an evacuation traffic signal priority system. Improving the City’s emergency notification systems by installing a City-wide outdoor warning system and a neighborhood outreach system are also identified as priorities in the report. 

City Council plane

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Submitted photo

Air drop on Aliso Fire 

Other short-term priorities include continuing to eliminate the risks associated with overhead utilities by undergrounding remaining areas along Coast Highway and areas of Bluebird Canyon Drive, and additional vegetation management in the Bluebird Canyon area. Improving fire resistive infrastructure, the City’s emergency communication systems, and expanding and maintaining the City’s defensible space are also short-term priorities. There are substantial existing local funding sources sufficient to fund all of the proposed short-term mitigation measures, estimated at $22.9 million, and also fund portions of the medium-term measures.

In the medium term (three ‐ five years), the Subcommittee recommends completing fuel modification zones in the City and improving wildfire resistance of existing residences. The estimated funding needed for these items is $9.4 million, some of which can come from existing City funding sources but will also require funding from future grants. Long-term priorities include further undergrounding of utilities on Laguna Canyon Road, undergrounding throughout the City by neighborhood assessment districts, and increasing the capacity of South Coast Water District reservoirs. Funding for long=term priorities will vary depending on grants or other sources of local, state or utility company funds.   

“If the Council adopts the Subcommittee’s recommendations, we will immediately begin implementing over $20 million of short-term actions by committing certain existing revenues over the next three years which is great news for our community,” Whalen said. “The medium term and long-term recommendations will require us to identify new grants and revenue sources. If Council accepts the recommendations from the Subcommittee, we will go to work to pursue additional funding.”

The Subcommittee will present its recommendations identifying and prioritizing 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 funding solutions outlined in the report to the City Council for consideration on July 23. The Draft Agenda Bill for the July 23 City Council meeting can be found by clicking here.

City Manager’s Updates

Wildfire Mitigation City Council Subcommittee Releases Fire Safety Plan – The Laguna Beach City Council Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee has released its report identifying and prioritizing additional programs, mitigation measures, staffing, and equipment needed to reduce the current level of high fire risk and exposure to wildfires in Laguna Beach. 

A detailed copy of the Subcommittee’s report can be found here. This item will be presented to the City Council at its regularly scheduled meeting on July 23, 2019.

Laguna Beach’s Ocean Water Quality Among State’s Cleanest – Laguna Beach’s Victoria Beach is one of 33 California beaches named to this year’s Heal the Bay Honor Roll, a list of locations that scored perfect A+ grades for water quality each week in all seasons and all-weather conditions. To make the list, a beach must be monitored year-round. Heal the Bay gives A-F letter grades to beaches based on levels of weekly bacteria measurements by county health agencies. 

Only 33 of 500 beaches earned an honor spot on the list. The City of Laguna Beach continues to dedicate significant resources and effort to prevent urban runoff pollution from ever reaching the ocean. The City’s Water Quality Department staff removes an average of eight tons of debris and sediment annually from 17 of the City’s urban water diversions. Remaining street pollution is captured before it reaches the beach and is sent to the sanitary sewer system for treatment.

City Managers ocean

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Victoria Beach is among the state’s cleanest beaches by water quality

Junior Lifeguards – Registration for Session 2 of the 2019 Junior Lifeguard Program is still open. Session 2 begins on Monday, July 15. Participants must pass the required swim test or have participated in the 2018 Program to be eligible to register. The last swim tests for this year will be held on Friday, July 12, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Laguna Beach High School Community Pool, located at 670 Park Ave. Registrations for Session 2 will also be taken on-site at the pool. 

Additional information about the Junior Lifeguard Program is available at or by calling (949) 497-0788. 

SCE Pole Replacements – Southern California Edison (SCE) will be working in three areas of town next week. 

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

1850 Glenneyre Street – On Monday, July 15, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 1850 Glenneyre St. Traffic lanes at Glenneyre Street will be maintained, but shifted, in the vicinity of the work between Pearl Street and Center Street.

320 Legion Street – On Tuesday, July 16, between 2:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 320 Legion St. The work is being performed during the night due to an outage associated with the pole replacement which will affect commercial customers in the vicinity. Portions of Goff Street, both north and south of Legion Street, will be closed during the work. Traffic control and detour signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary road closure.

501 Lombardy Lane – On Thursday, July 18, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., SCE will be replacing two utility poles located near 501 Lombardy Ln. Lombardy Lane will be closed from Anita Street to approximately 250 feet southwest of Wilson Street during the work. Traffic control signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary road closure.

Council okays development deal


The City Council approved at 1:10 a.m. on Wednesday morning a memo of understanding with property owner Mo Honarkar, an initial step in the review of six major developments he has on the drawing board. 

More than 20 speakers from the tired and cranky audience had waited as the council plowed through 18 items on the agenda before it reached the proposed MOU at midnight. Furthering the discontent was the one-minute limit imposed on the speakers due to the late hour and the number who wanted their turn at the microphone.

“This was just wrong,” said Laguna Beach businesswoman Heidi Miller. “It was so unfair after we had been sitting all night to limit us to one minute. I had been waiting to speak for six and a half hours.” 

The agenda item was a rerun of proposals already approved by the council, except for a clarification of the responsibilities to be undertaken by Mayor Bob Whalen and Councilwoman Sue Kempf, appointed by the council as Ad Hoc Committee in April. At the same meeting, the council authorized City Manager John Pietig to retain consultant Elisa Stipkovich, retired Executive Director of Community Development for the City of Anaheim. Pietig was also authorized to secure the legal services of Rutan and Tucker’s Bill Ihrke; to make use of Keyser Marston on an as-needed basis to assist in economic evaluations and financial issues related to the hotel projects and public benefits; to negotiate and implement agreements to recover from Laguna Beach Company 100 percent of costs of the city’s consultants and legal fees; and to establish a system to recover all city development-related costs to process the proposed projects.    

“This [Tuesday’s meeting] is just a clarification of what the council had already approved,” said Whalen.

The stated purpose of the proposed MOU is to help inform the public of the significant projects that will require formal city and possibly California Coastal Commission reviews and that will benefit from broad public awareness and meaningful public participation. 

“This is still in the early conceptual stage,” said Pietig. “There are a lot of moving parts.” 

The MOU will also serve as a non-binding outline of potential projects identified by the company for development.

Identified projects: 

--Cleo Hotel – replacing existing Holiday Inn at the intersection of Cleo Street and South Coast Hwy 

--Hotel Laguna – historic restoration 

--Central Bluff – mixed-use project south of the Hotel Laguna to Legion Street 

--Museum Hotel – ocean side of the highway between Jasmine Street and Cliff Drive 

--Canyon Acres – multi-unit housing on Canyon Acres Drive in Laguna Canyon

--The Hive – reconfiguring of the former Bartlett Center and Art-A-Fair/Laguna College of Art and Design properties

Honarkar has indicated he will submit concepts of all but The Hive for review by July 30. 

“Why are we having this discussion,” demanded Councilman Peter Blake. “We had already named the Ad Hoc Committee. Let’s just move ahead.”

That did not sit well with the audience, which had already had some less than cordial exchanges with Blake on other items on the agenda.

Representatives of Village Laguna, often at loggerheads with Blake, presented a list of five items of concern including public benefits, impacts of the developments, impacts on staff and the Planning Commission, alternative proposals and the powers of the ad hoc committee. 

The letter to the council, read aloud at the hearing, also included a suggestion to spread out the development over a period of several years. 

“Six projects all by one developer; I am getting a bad feeling,” said Armando Baez.   

Councilwoman Toni Iseman also expressed concerns about the cumulative effect of the project and asked why the projects couldn’t be developed one at a time. 

“We don’t even know if that has been decided,” said Pietig. 

Iseman was also concerned about transparency.

Monthly updates by the ad hoc committee or Pietig on the status of the various projects and opportunities for public input, inclusion of meeting information in the City Manager’s weekly updates to council and media was the only staff recommendation that Iseman approved.

Staff also recommended and council approved 4-1, Iseman opposed, authorizing the ad hoc committee to identify potential conditions of development to be evaluated by staff and to discuss the terms of any agreements to be entered into with the developer; to participate in meetings of staff, developer and company consultants; to identify and discuss potential conditions and terms of any agreements; and to report periodically to the council on the status of projects.

The ad hoc committee is prohibited from making formal recommendations to the council. Information shall be shared with other council members only at properly noticed public meetings. The committee is scheduled to sunset by July 31, 2020.

Following concept reviews, and when formal applications are submitted, the projects will be reviewed for compliance with the city’s General Plan, Local Coastal Plan, zoning and other codes and the California Environmental Quality Act. Planning Commission hearings will be scheduled. Appeals of commission decisions would be heard by the City Council and/or the Coastal Commission.

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