NewLeftHeader

smoke

78.5°F

Laguna Beach


City Planners to review Caltrans highway project

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Laguna Beach Planning Commissioners are scheduled to review on Wednesday the design and application for a Coastal Development Permit for the construction of improvements along the highway between Ledroit and Ruby Streets.

The Caltrans proposal for pedestrian and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements include upgrading curb ramps, sidewalk, driveways, traffic signals, relocation of utilities and parking meters, drainage improvements, and enhanced striping and signage. A Coastal Development Permit was filed in February, and the project is appealable to the California Coastal Commission.

A complete staff report on the project is included in the agenda for the meeting and is available for review on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net.

Comments may be submitted on any item, on or off the agenda, by mail to the Planning Commission, 505 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651 or by emailing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Written correspondence should be delivered to or mailed to City Hall at least two days prior to the meeting

The meeting may be viewed live on Cox Cable Channel 852 or on the city’s website, starting at 6 p.m. 

Comments may be made by phone, iPad, or computer during designated public comment periods via Zoom (click here).

Click on “Raise Hand” or press *9 to speak directly to the commission. Staff will unmute the caller’s mic and announce the name or phone number. 

Times for comments may be limited.


Council to consider items related to the pandemic

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council Agenda for today’s meeting (Tuesday, May 12) is dominated by pandemic-related items.

Among the agenda items to be considered in the regular order of business: 

--An update regarding the phased reopening of city beaches and coastal accesses

--An urgency ordinance extending the prohibition on carrying or possession on city streets, sidewalks, pubic property, or public facilities items and articles generally considered a weapon or reasonably capable of being used as a weapon while attending or participating in a demonstration rally, protest, or other public assembly 

--Consideration of reopening certain city facilities and canceling scheduled events, programs, and services related to COVID-19 

--An economic recovery and business development plan with eight recommendations:

1. Staff is recommending the group working under the direction of Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis on the plan be directed to purse a CDBG-CV grant [formerly Community Development Block Grant] and work with the Chamber of Commerce to raise funding for the implementation of the plan and divert the $250,000 of previously allocated funding in the Capital Improvement Program for the Downtown Action Plan to this plan if sufficient funding cannot be obtained from the grant.

2. Direct the working group to develop and implement guidelines for the business community in conjunction and consistency with the county and Governor’s plans for the phased reopening of the California economy.

3. Direct staff to return to the council on June 16 with modifications to the business and parking regulations proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan Update and recommendations from the Retail Market Study to modify and streamline the new business permitting process.

4. Authorize the working group to proceed with developing and implementing a Summer 2020 pilot program to close lower Forest Avenue for an outdoor dining and entertainment program that would support local businesses while providing safe outdoor dining opportunities for the public.

5. Award a contract not to exceed $35,000 to Walker Consultants for a parking structure study.

6. Retain a local business consultant to identify target businesses for the downtown and all other commercial areas.

7. Establish a Cultural Arts Invigoration Task Force led by Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, with Arts Commissioner Suzi Chauvel and members of Visit Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Festival, Festival of Arts, and Laguna Beach Arts Alliance to collaborate on strategy, programming, and funding opportunities.

8. Authorize staff to apply for potential grants for cultural arts programming or economic development.

Council meetings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and can be watched on Cox Cable Channel 852 or on a computer at www.lagunabeachcity.net. Click on Agendas, Minutes, and Meetings and wait for the video sign to come on for the May 12 meeting.

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (there is an interactive public communications form on the front page of the City’s website or an email or Word document will also be accepted).

Written comments may be provided up to 12 p.m. Tuesday, May 12 (the day of the meeting). Please note that while these comments will be provided to the City Council at 3 p.m. on May 12, the Council members may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.

If you would like to listen to and comment over the phone during the designated public comment period, call (669) 900-9128, and wait for instructions to dial the Zoom ID, which is 94371581970#.

Let the city know you want to comment on an item that is being discussed by pressing *9 on your phone. When you hear “your phone is unmuted,” you may proceed with your comment. The time for comments may be limited, so the city recommends you prepare your remarks accordingly.

You can also click on the link here from your computer or smart phone to participate in the meeting via Zoom.

You may also listen live on KX FM 104.7 either on a radio or online at www.kxfmradio.org.


City’s 2020 Fuel Modification Program in full swing

The City experienced increased precipitation in February and March, meaning rains caused more wild vegetation, or “fire fuel” to grow in the City.

Because of this, the City has once again brought in larger goat herds as part of its 2020 Fuel Modification Program to graze on active vegetation and reduce fire risk.

City's 2020 1

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

650 total goats help protect the City of Laguna Beach through fuel modification

The City placed the first 250-head goat herd on March 10, a second herd of 250 goats were added on March 22, and a third herd of 150 goats was added on April 18.

The goats eat brush that could otherwise fuel wildfires, known as “fuel modification.”

As of today, the City has three goat herds, each with a herder, and 650 total goats.

City's 2020 2

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Agotillo Moreno was hired over 20 years ago to care for the City’s goat herd

All herds will be adjusted in size up to 400 goats as topography, growth, and overall controllability of the goats are allowed. Additional fuel modification work done by hand crews began in April.

-From City of Laguna Beach Community Update, May 11, 2020


Council to consider items related to the pandemic

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council Agenda for Tuesday’s meeting is dominated by pandemic-related items.

Among the agenda items to be considered in the regular order of business: 

--An update regarding the phased reopening of city beaches and coastal accesses

--An urgency ordinance extending the prohibition on carrying or possession on city streets, sidewalks, pubic property, or public facilities items and articles generally considered a weapon or reasonably capable of being used as a weapon while attending or participating in a demonstration rally, protest, or other public assembly 

--Consideration of reopening certain city facilities and canceling scheduled events, programs, and services related to COVID-19 

--An economic recovery and business development plan with eight recommendations:

1. Staff is recommending the group working under the direction of Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis on the plan be directed to purse a CDBG-CV grant [formerly Community Development Block Grant] and work with the Chamber of Commerce to raise funding for the implementation of the plan and divert the $250,000 of previously allocated funding in the Capital Improvement Program for the Downtown Action Plan to this plan if sufficient funding cannot be obtained from the grant.

2. Direct the working group to develop and implement guidelines for the business community in conjunction and consistency with the county and Governor’s plans for the phased reopening of the California economy.

3. Direct staff to return to the council on June 16 with modifications to the business and parking regulations proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan Update and recommendations from the Retail Market Study to modify and streamline the new business permitting process.

4. Authorize the working group to proceed with developing and implementing a Summer 2020 pilot program to close lower Forest Avenue for an outdoor dining and entertainment program that would support local businesses while providing safe outdoor dining opportunities for the public.

5. Award a contract not to exceed $35,000 to Walker Consultants for a parking structure study.

6. Retain a local business consultant to identify target businesses for the downtown and all other commercial areas.

7. Establish a Cultural Arts Invigoration Task Force led by Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl, with Arts Commissioner Suzi Chauvel and members of Visit Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Festival, Festival of Arts, and Laguna Beach Arts Alliance to collaborate on strategy, programming, and funding opportunities.

8. Authorize staff to apply for potential grants for cultural arts programming or economic development.

Council meetings are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and can be watched on Cox Cable Channel 852 or on a computer at www.lagunabeachcity.net. Click on Agendas, Minutes, and Meetings and wait for the video sign to come on for the May 12 meeting.

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (there is an interactive public communications form on the front page of the City’s website or an email or Word document will also be accepted).

Written comments may be provided up to 12 p.m. Tuesday, May 12 (the day of the meeting). Please note that while these comments will be provided to the City Council at 3 p.m. on May 12, the Council members may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.

If you would like to listen to and comment over the phone during the designated public comment period, call (669) 900-9128, and wait for instructions to dial the Zoom ID, which is 94371581970#.

Let the city know you want to comment on an item that is being discussed by pressing *9 on your phone. When you hear “your phone is unmuted,” you may proceed with your comment. The time for comments may be limited, so the city recommends you prepare your remarks accordingly.

You can also click on the link here from your computer or smart phone to participate in the meeting via Zoom.

You may also listen live on KX FM 104.7 either on a radio or online at www.kxfmradio.org.


City of Laguna Beach urges resident participation in 2020 Census

Every 10 years, the United States Census Bureau conducts a population census to provide information for reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the redrawing of congressional district boundaries. 

The data collected is also used for demographic purposes, and to make planning decisions about community services, such as: where to provide services for the elderly, build new roads and schools, locate job training centers, and distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to local, state, and tribal governments each year. 

Census takers report that Laguna Beach ranks very low for participation: we are currently 346 out of 482 California cities. A failure to count everyone in the Census can result in serious local consequences, as each person who is not counted results in an approximate loss of $20,000 in federal funding to our community during the 10-year period between each census. The primary goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place. 

“While the census provides population data, it is also important for the City’s budget, as the City receives state revenues based on the number of people living in the City,” said Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig. “We need everybody to respond because it’s a significant amount of funds that otherwise would have to come from other local sources.”

Households began receiving census information in mid-March. This year for the first time, residents are able to respond to the census online. 

To get started, go to www.2020census.gov

“We encourage our citizens to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census and be counted,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “If you’ve already filled out your Census 2020 form, ask your friends and neighbors if they’ve filled out theirs. Everyone counts.”

For more information, visit the 2020 Census Bureau here.


City of Laguna Beach gains Governor’s support to reopen City beaches for active recreation under phased plan

Release from John Pietig, City Manager

Today, May 4, the City of Laguna Beach received approval from the State for a progressive four-phase plan to reopen all Laguna Beach-controlled City beaches. 

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris started working with the City last Friday and was instrumental in getting the City’s plan reviewed by California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot and other state officials. Congressman Harley Rouda has also supported the City’s effort to reopen City beaches.

Governor Newsom’s team and Secretary Crowfoot reviewed the City’s plan and fully support the City’s phased approach to responsibly and gradually reopen City beaches. Click here to read the City’s entire reopening plan submitted to the Governor and a letter from Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen to Governor Newsom.

South Laguna beaches are controlled by the County of Orange and will remain closed at this time until the County submits a plan to the state and receives approval from the Governor’s office to reopen County beaches.

“We appreciate the Governor’s willingness to work with us to provide a responsible, gradual approach to reopening all beaches in Laguna Beach for active recreation,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “This will allow people the opportunity to walk, jog, swim and surf and get some fresh air and exercise on a limited basis, but not congregate or gather in large groups.”

City of Laguna Beach gains

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City-owned beaches will reopen May 5 from 6 to 10 a.m. for active recreation; County of Orange beaches in South Laguna will remain closed at this time

“Our beaches are a respite for many of us – and provide our community with an invaluable outlet for outdoor recreation and mental health,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, who worked with local leaders to safely reopen Orange County beaches. “This progressive plan will reopen Laguna beaches in the most responsible way, ensuring public safety and a continued flattening of the curve. I commend Mayor Whalen and the City Council for their thoughtful, judicious, and strategic response, now and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. As we navigate this unprecedented crisis, we will continue to be led by science and facts – not by politics and not by fear.”

“Throughout the coronavirus crisis, Laguna Beach has served as an example of common-sense city governance,” said Congressman Harley Rouda. “Coastal communities across the United States should follow in their footsteps by proposing multi-stage reopening plans, which include limited hours and active use only.”

Phase one of the City’s beach reopening plan includes limited beach hours on weekdays only for active use; phase two includes limited beach hours on weekdays and weekends for active use; phase three includes regular hours on weekdays and weekends for active use; and phase four includes the return to regular hours on weekdays and weekends for active and passive use of the beach. 

Under phase one, Laguna Beach City Beaches will reopen weekdays starting Tuesday, May 5 from 6 – 10 a.m. for active recreation only. City beaches will remain CLOSED on weekends. Adjacent City beach parks remain closed at all times. 

Each weekday the City beaches and ocean water will close promptly at 10 a.m. and Laguna Beach public safety staff will be present on beaches to enforce the closures. Those violating the closure orders outside of the permitted timeframe or on weekends can be cited with a misdemeanor, fined up to $1,000, or arrested. Restrictions on morning beach activity are in place to encourage social distancing, protect the community, and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Walking ACTIVE RECREATION PERMITTED BEACH ACTIVITIES (including, but not limited to):

--Walking Walking/running/jogging

--Ocean recreation: swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, bodyboarding, skim boarding, kayaking

--Physical activity that keeps individuals in non-stationary active motion

NON-PERMITTED BEACH ACTIVITIES:

--Gatherings 

--Beach towels, blankets, easy-ups, tents, umbrellas, etc. – items used for settling in place

--Sitting or lying on beach

--Setting up chairs and staying in place

--Picnics/coolers/tables

This is an adaptive management plan and each phase will be enacted on a trial basis. The City will move to the next phase only if it believes the activities can be managed to comply with current directives regarding physical distancing and large gatherings. If it is determined that a phase is creating an environment whereby physical distancing cannot be maintained, the City will consider further limiting beach access or closing the beach until compliance can be attained.


City Arts Commission presents new Beatles Sing-Along with Jason Feddy

The City of Laguna Beach Arts Commission has released its latest Beatles sing-along with musician Jason Feddy. Arts Commission Vice-Chair Pat Kollenda said, “Our fabulous Laguna Troubadour Jason Feddy is again bringing us joy with his latest sing-along, ‘With A Little Help from My Friends.’ Let’s all join in! “ 

The Arts Commission would like to thank Jason Feddy and photographer Rick Graves for volunteering their time to make this project happen on behalf of the community. Adam Schwerner, Arts Commission Chair, added, “Jason Feddy is cheerfulness itself when he’s up on stage. What a delight that he is ‘on stage’ now for us all to sing along with!”

City presents Feddy

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Jason Feddy is ready to bring us joy with his newest sing-along to “With a Little Help from My Friends”

“We are so fortunate to have talented artists as our resource in our community. As we look forward we must continue to support the community and our creators who call Laguna Beach home,” states the City. 

The new installment of the Beatles sing-along can be viewed and enjoyed here.

For more resources and information, visit www.lagunabeachcity.com.


Council will again consider rate increases in sewer fees

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council will pick up today where it left off discussing sewer financing options at the April 21 meeting.

Three options were proposed by staff at last week’s meeting on financing the Wastewater System Capital Improvement Program, which included rate increases of five and 10 percent per month for residential and commercial properties. A glitch in the estimated monthly increases for commercial properties prompted the council to continue a decision to allow clarifying the amounts, which were as high as $90 a month if a 10 percent was approved, half that for a five percent increase, and zero for no increase.

“If it’s $90 a month, I couldn’t support it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow.

The new figures to be reviewed tonight differentiate the increases by use: low, medium, heavy, and mixed-use. 

Mixed-use properties, defined as combined low, medium, and heavy-use, were hardest hit, with a proposed 10 percent increase of $168 a month. The low-use increase would amount to $12 a month; medium-use, $70 a month; and heavy-use, $62 a month. 

Charges for commercial properties are based on the volume and strength of the discharge (the level of pollutant concentrations), which must be removed from the wastewater at the treatment plant, resulting in a widely varied user charge, according to the staff report by David Shissler, director of water quality.

A council vote in February authorized the initiation of a protest vote on a 10 percent increase for all properties that would serve as a first step in addressing the financial impacts of the Thanksgiving Day sewer spill. The 10 percent increase would also fund planning for vitally necessary improvements to the North Coast Interceptor that carries raw sewage from City Hall to the Coastal Treatment Plant at Aliso Beach. 

However, Governor Gavin’s Newsom’s stay-at-home order severely impacts the city’s revenue and the income of folks who live or own businesses in Laguna Beach who would be paying the increase. 

The 10 percent increase would cost a single-family residence $66.74 a month, a $6.07 monthly increase or roughly $72 for the fiscal year. A five percent increase would cost half that. No increase would leave the rate for a single family-residence at $60.67 a month. No changes were made from the projections at the April 21 meeting. 

Three financing scenarios for residential increases as outlined at the April 21 meeting: 

Zero increase option pros* and cons**

*Provides time for the negotiations with the regional board to reach a conclusion on the assessment for the spill.

*Provides time for a more detailed cost analysis for the Interceptor improvement projects, based on a study underway.

*Defers improvements to the Anita Street Lift Station reconstruction and reduces the scope of improvements to the Victoria I Lift Station.

**Staff reports the option will trigger higher increases in the future to fund necessary capital improvements.

Five percent increase pros* and cons**

*Escalation of future sewer-user charges could be reduced.

*Maintains full funding for Victoria I.

**Triggers higher increases in the future to fund capital improvements other than Victoria I.

Ten percent increases pros* and cons**

*Preserves the existing 10-year Wastewater System Capital Improvement Program.

*No projects deferred.

*Will somewhat offset the need for higher sewer rate increases in the future due to unexpected costs or emergency repairs, especially important according to staff in consideration of multi-million dollar improvements to the Interceptor to limit future spills.

*Anita Street Lift Station reconstruction remains on schedule.

**The increase may cause added financial pressure on ratepayers due to COVID-19 economic impacts.

If an increase is approved, staff would notify the public of the protest vote process. Shissler is proposing a virtual workshop on May 11 to review questions and concerns of the public, which would replace the pre-COVID-19 hearing in the City Council Chambers, where staff would present the results of the protest vote. 

A simple majority of voters would be required to sink an increase.

The council meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and may be viewed by the public via Cox Cable station 852, on the City’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net, or on Zoom on a computer or smartphone, using the ID 92092181384. Press Star 9 to make a comment, when prompted by “your phone is unmuted.” The meeting can also be heard on the radio at KX FM 104.7.


City Council accepts $1 Million Fuel Modification Grant to help protect South Laguna from the threat of wildfires

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 21, the Laguna Beach City Council accepted a fuel modification grant for $1 Million to help protect South Laguna Beach from the threat of wildfires.

In 2019, under the leadership of Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen, the City was successful in obtaining fuel modification funding as part of the 2020 California State Budget.

City Council accepts 1

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Trimming back invasive brush is part of what is known as “Fuel Modification,” shown here in South Laguna

AB109 was sponsored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris and included a $1 Million grant for use in the South Laguna area.

The grant, accepted by the City on Tuesday, enables the City to complete fuel modification treatment of 17.26 acres in South Laguna Beach, protecting residents by creating a 100-foot wide fuel reduction barrier next to homes and businesses.

City Council accepts 2

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

One of the City’s goat herds working on a fuel modification area in South Laguna

Unlike other State Grants, no matching funds are required by the City for this project, which will take place over the next three years.


City of Laguna Beach issues order requiring all Essential Workers to wear face coverings

On Thursday, April 9, Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig issued an Emergency Order requiring all Essential Workers providing non-medical essential services to wear face coverings while at work, adding a new layer of protection for the City of Laguna Beach in the fight against COVID-19.

The City Manager’s Emergency Order took effect on Friday, April 10 at 12 a.m., and states that all employers of non-medical essential businesses require their workers to wear cloth face coverings that shield their noses and mouths while at work. This includes Essential Workers at all grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores, gas station convenience stores, restaurants providing take-out or delivery services, banks, savings and loans, and credit unions. Face coverings, such as scarves (dense fabric, without holes), bandanas, neck gaiter, or other fabric face coverings are allowed. All persons, including Essential Workers, are discouraged from using medical grade personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks, for non-medical reasons.

Essential businesses must also implement physical distancing measures for employees, customers, and maintain proper sanitation at all times or the facility shall be closed.

This order follows guidance recently issued by the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends all persons wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. On April 8, the Orange County Public Health Officer also issued a recommendation encouraging Essential Workers to wear non-medical grade masks or face coverings while at work to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We are requiring all Essential Workers in Laguna Beach wear a face covering to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Pietig. “This is an additional level of protection for both our residents and our Essential Workers still on the frontlines providing food and critical services to our community.” 

A full copy of the City Manager’s Emergency Order can be found here.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising

949.315.0259

Email: Editor@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc.

949.315.0259

© 2020 Stu News Laguna - All Rights Reserved.