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Laguna Beach

Council to consider MOU for Honarkar developments


The City Council tonight will consider a memo of understanding (MOU) with the Laguna Beach Company related to the review process for significant development projects. 

Six projects have been identified by the development company for property owned by Mo Honarkar that would have major impacts on the cityscape. 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 will help make the public aware and move the projects along,” said City Manager John Pietig. 

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 Highway 

--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 at the intersection of Laguna Canyon road and Canyon Acres Drive 

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

The developer has indicated the company’s intent to submit all but The Hive for concept review before the end of July, according to staff. 

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.

Mayor Bob Whalen and Councilwoman Sue Kempf were appointed in April as an ad hoc committee to work with Pietig and staff to identify impacts and possible public benefits of the projects.

At the same time, the council also authorized Pietig to retain 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.    

Staff is recommending that the ad hoc committee be authorized to identify potential conditions of development to be evaluated by staff and 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, but to refrain from making formal recommendations to the council. Information shall be shared with other council members only at properly noticed public meetings.

The ad hoc committee is scheduled to sunset by July 31, 2020.

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 are also recommended. Approval of a second recommendation would authorize Pietig to execute the MOU.

City Manager’s Updates

Holiday Schedule for Residential Trash Collection – Residential trash and recycling collection will be delayed today, Friday, July 5, due to the observance of Independence Day. 

For questions, contact Waste Management Customer Service at (949) 642-1191.

SCE Pole Replacements – Southern California Edison (SCE) will be working in two areas of town next week. For questions or concerns, contact SCE’s Customer Service number at (800) 655-4555.

1369 Bluebird Canyon Dr – On Wednesday, July 10, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located at 1369 Bluebird Canyon Dr. A portion of Bluebird Canyon Drive will be closed between Keller Way and Wykoff Way. A message board and detour signs will be posted to route traffic to adjacent streets during the work.

1850 Glenneyre St – On Thursday, July 11, between 9 a.m. and 8 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.

City announces completion of Phase 1 of Village Entrance Project

The City of Laguna Beach is pleased to announce the completion of Phase 1 of the Village Entrance Project, which aims to provide enhanced pedestrian safety, improved traffic flow, and new public open space. The project site is located along Laguna Canyon Road from Forest Avenue to Art-A-Fair.

“This newly renovated area brings beauty and an environmentally friendly design to our Civic Art District with parking, walkways, benches, bike racks, and green space to be enjoyed by residents, downtown business patrons, and visitors to our summer festivals,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen.

City announces Bob

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Submitted photo

Mayor Bob Whalen standing in front of the Village Entrance 

Two new parking lots, Lot 10 (adjacent to Art-A-Fair) and Lot 11 (at the corner of Forest Avenue and Broadway), were completed during Phase 1 of the project and are now open for public use. 

Additional Village Entrance Project elements completed during Phase 1 include wide multi-use trails along Laguna Canyon Road, decorative lighting, extensive landscaped planting areas, new vehicular and pedestrian bridges, and water quality features such as basins and permeable pavers. The project will now break for the summer of 2019 and resume in September of 2019 with an expected completion by summer of 2020. 

“When the Village Entrance Project is complete in June 2020, it will provide a total of 370 vehicle parking spaces, along with eight motorcycle and 104 bicycle parking spaces,” said Shohreh Dupuis, Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works. “The Village Entrance Project’s new bridges, wider walking trails, and paved access roads will improve pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver safety at one of the busiest intersections in town and address a need to improve this area that has been debated for more than 30 years.”

City announces lot

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Submitted photo

Lots 10 and 11 are now open for public use 

Village Entrance Project Phase I highlights include: 

--Wide multi-use trails made from decorative concrete and decomposed granite to create a pedestrian-friendly environment, including many bicycle racks and rammed-earth seat wall benches

--Extensive landscaping throughout the site, including the planting of 75 new trees, 3,250 shrubs, and 50 flats of ground cover

--Upgraded decorative fencing along the drainage channel to replace the chain link fence 

--New wider vehicle bridge and a new pedestrian bridge at Lot 10 that will improve vehicle access, parking circulation, and better separate vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists 

--Two electric vehicle charging stations in Lot 11

“The Laguna Beach Public Works Department has worked tirelessly on the first phase of this project and has ensured its completion on time and on budget,” said Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig. 

To sign up for the City’s newsletter on project activities, visit or email the City at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To view the newsletter, click here.

City consultants, Development Director awarded for excellent planning


The Orange County Chapter of the American Planning Association Award of Excellence was presented to Laguna for the Landscape and Scenic Highways Element of the city’s General Plan and Resource Document. 

Councilwoman Toni Iseman invited Community Development Director Greg Pfost and consultants Greg Vail, Bob Borthwick and Ann Christoph to accept the award on behalf of the city. All three had worked on the documents.

Iseman said the award was the highest honor given by the American Planning Association.

She also commended Assistant Director of Community Development Jim Pechous, Associate Planner Evan Jedynak and city staff for their years of hard work.

Councilwoman Sue Kempf said she would also like to recognize the efforts of Planning Commissioner Susan Whitin and former Planning Commissioner Roger McErlane who made significant contributions to the documents. They were appointed as a commission subcommittee and worked on the documents, Kempf said. 

Kempf was a member of the commission prior to being elected to the council in November.

The presentation was made during the Council and Staff Report period on the agenda.

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts Annual Golf Tournament

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will host its Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, July 1 at the beautiful Aliso Viejo Country Club. Located in the hills of Saddleback Valley and surrounded by spectacular views of pristine mountain ranges and picturesque valleys, Aliso Viejo Country Club is an oasis from the fast-paced life of Orange County. 

Event proceeds will benefit the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, a vital business and community advocate.

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts

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Courtesy of Aliso Viejo Country Club Facebook

The beautiful Aliso Viejo Country Club

Golf tournament tickets are going fast at the low price of $175 for individual golfers, $700 for foursomes. The Chamber promises all participants a jolly good day, chock-full of golfing, networking opportunities, prize-winning chances, and delicious dining options.

“We are anticipating a sold-out tournament this year,” said Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, executive director of the Laguna Beach Chamber. “It’s going to be a great Chamber event and we’re excited to bring back our annual tournament. The day will be filled with golf, networking, delicious food and drink, and more!”

Contests and surprises will be offered throughout the day and participants will have the opportunity to “Beat a Pro.” There will also be a raffle and silent auction featuring fantastic items donated by our generous Chamber members and sponsors. Starting with Bloody Mary’s and ending with a lovely dinner, it’s sure to be an amazing day. 

Laguna Beach’s only nonprofit radio station, KX 93.5 FM will be broadcasting live from Aliso Viejo. Radio personalities will turn our golfers into celebrity linksmen and linkswomen. Reserve your spot on the green now or be a sponsor. Many levels of sponsorship are available. 

For tickets or sponsorship details, call the Laguna Beach Chamber at (949) 494-1018.

Council approves two-year budget


The City Council on Tuesday approved the two-year budget, as expected.

Proposed expenditures total $70 million in fiscal year 2019-20 and roughly $72 million in fiscal year 2020-21.The 20 percent reserve of $13 million remains intact. Changes to the draft approved at the May 22 Budget Workshop included $227,200 in one-time expenditures and ongoing expenditures totaling $221,400. 

One-time approvals included the $12,000 Moulton Meadows Dog Playground pilot program, $10,000 in safety upgrades at the Alternate Sleeping Location, $250,000 for contract services support for employee recruitments and $40,000 for a full time arborist, in addition to ongoing costs of $147,200.

Other approved ongoing expenditures included $74,200 to implement the Cultural Arts Plan and $78,000 of the $156,000 total cost for an Information Technology Project Manager. On the plus side is the $175,000 increase in community development fees to help cover the costs of processing the large projects coming down the pike. 

One-time and ongoing costs associated with wildfire mitigation and fire safety improvements were left blank, awaiting the subcommittee report. 

The council unanimously approved nine of the 10 staff recommendations, split 3-2 only on the ninth recommendation that asked for direction on exceptional performance pay for City Manager John Pietig.

Adopted 5-0

--The 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 budgets, including the changes from the preliminary budget reviewed at the Budget Workshop held on May 22. 

--Approval of Community Assistance Grants from the list submitted by Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow and Councilwoman Sue Kempf as modified at Tuesday’s hearing.

No group or organization gets what it asks for, but Pacific Marine Mammal Center came close: the nonprofit submitted a request for $10,012 and received $10,000.

The Chamber of Commerce received a $10,000 grant as well as $25,000 from the General Fund. Laguna Dance Festival founder Jodie Gates’ plea at Tuesday’s hearing for more financial assistance paid off with an increase of $4,000. The Boys & Girls Club, KX 93.5, Sally’s Fund and the Laguna Beach Community Clinic all got $2,000 more. PUP (Protecting Unwanted Pets), which supports Laguna’s Animal Shelter, asked for $1,000 and got $2,000.

“PUP started in 1979 – this is the first time we’ve ever gotten a grant,” said Ann Marie McKay.      

--Approval of Cultural Arts Grants – the total $220,000 is funded by the Business Improvement District.

--Building and zoning fee modifications, starting July 1

--Approval of the resolution that ratifies employee classifications and salary ranges, excluding firefighters and police officers, which are handled separately.

--Annual Appropriations limit, as mandated by the state

--Salary and bonuses for City Treasurer and City Clerk

--Postponement of proposed $1 million additional payment to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) until after the Wildfire and Fire Safety Improvements report is presented to council. 

--Retain services of Cassie Walder to assist in the city’s public outreach program

The approved budget will be available for review in the City Clerk’s office, at the Laguna Beach Public Library and on the city’s website at

Editor’s Note: Barbara Diamond will report on the approval of Louis Longi’s artist live-work project in Laguna Canyon, which was approved by a vote of 4-1 on Tuesday night (Council member Toni Iseman dissented), in Tuesday’s edition.

City Manager’s Updates

Planning Commission Makes Recommendations for Streamlining Design Review Process – Phase I of the Community Development Department’s Action Plan to improve customer service and streamline the City’s Design Review process for property owners includes changes to Municipal Code and Local Coastal Plan Amendments. 

At its regular meeting on June 6, the Planning Commission recommended changes be made to streamline these processes, including: 1) administrative approval of pool/spa equipment and air conditioning units; 2) reducing the number of days for project staking and public notification from 28 to 14 days; 3) streamline how Administrative Design Review items are handled for an appeal; 4) transferring review authority for certain projects from the Design Review Board to Planning Commission; and 5) clarifying the revocation process. 

The proposed changes are intended to clarify requirements and streamline the discretionary review process, while maintaining a high level of review standards. The Planning Commission’s recommendations will now go to the City Council for approval. If passed, the process changes will then be sent to the California Coastal Commission for review and final approval. 

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

City Managers guards

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Submitted photo

Junior Lifeguard registration is now open 

Junior Lifeguards – Registration for the 2019 Junior Lifeguard program is now open to Laguna Beach residents, with sessions filling up quickly. Participants must pass the required swim test or have participated in the 2018 program to be eligible to register. 

The next swim tests will be held this Friday, June 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 22, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool, located at 670 Park Ave.

Additional information about the Junior Lifeguard program is available at or by calling (949) 497-0788 with any questions.

Camp Bluebird – This year the City is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club to offer the ultimate summer camp experience. You can now sign your child up for Junior Lifeguards (ages 8-12), and the fun will continue at Bluebird Park. Boys & Girls Club staff will pick up your child when Junior Lifeguards ends and transport them to Bluebird Park for sports, games, arts, and other activities. When you’re done with work or errands, you can pick up your kids before 6 p.m. at Bluebird Park. 

For more information about the program, contact Adam Gufarotti at (949) 497-0304 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

City puts finishing touches on permanent roundabout project today 

The new permanent roundabout at Catalina and El Camino del Mar will be completed today. City staff completed the design of the permanent roundabout in 2018 and has completed the construction of the project this week (the striping will be finished today). 

As part of the approval of the 2017 mid-year budget, City Council allocated $300,000 (project cost) to convert the temporary roundabout, which was installed in 2015, to a permanent one. 

City puts roundabout

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Photo by Judy Barry

Roundabout at Catalina and El Camino del Mar

Assistant City Manager and Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis says,

“Savings in the project budget due to a creative solution to install a solar powered irrigation timing system rather than spending money to trench in an electrical line, enabled us to add landscaping this week that is in line with the previously approved design review plan that was cutback due to funding.”

Council asked to authorize Iseman trip to STL workshop


Councilwoman Toni Iseman is recommending the City Council authorize her to represent the city and attend the California Coastal Commission Workshop on Short-Term Rentals and Sea Level Rise and be reimbursed $950 for travel expenses. 

The commission will hold the workshop jointly with the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties on July 12 at the  Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo. The $950 cost includes transportation, hotel and meals.

No commission meeting agenda was available at the time the city’s council meeting agenda for tonight was prepared. It is also not clear whether elected officials will be allowed to make comments during the workshop, according to the staff report. 

Iseman’s recommendation is on the Consent Calendar and will be approved without discussion unless “pulled” by a member of the council or the public.

LB Chamber of Commerce’s 31st Annual Leadership Luncheon draws record crowd

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The LB Chamber of Commerce Leadership Luncheon last Tuesday was deemed a huge success with 110 guests, the largest attendance so far. Chamber Executive Director Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold said, “The Leadership Luncheon was such a success. We could have sold 20 more tickets the day before. Seven7Seven came to the rescue to accommodate our last-minute guests. We are proud to report we had a record crowd.”

LB Chamber crowd

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Record crowd

J.J. Ballesteros, president of the Chamber of Commerce, opened the meeting. “Welcome to the Laguna Beach Chamber’s 31st Annual Leadership Luncheon – for those who are new to the luncheon, it began with Laguna’s own Bobby Cox and the late Claes Anderson back in 1988. The original purpose was to welcome the guest of honor, Joan Winser, the Canadian Consul General and was hosted by Claes Andersen and the Hotel Laguna.”

However, the Leadership Luncheon would serve a very specific purpose beyond the welcome of the Canadian Consul General – that each person in attendance would be introducing themselves for the group to see who they were. 

LB Chamber trio

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(L-R) Bill Atkins, Chamber Executive Director Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, and Harry Huggins

“You see what was true then remains true today,” said Ballesteros. “Many people in town know the names of different leaders of different organizations, but they did not in fact know each other.”   

Thus, this lunch would serve as a mass introduction.

“Today, we continue this fun tradition by facilitating this get together of the various businesses and organizations in town and the leaders who are a part of them,” he said. 

The Chamber expressed its honor to continue carrying out this tradition. 

LB Chamber Ballesteros

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Chamber President J.J. Ballesteros 

Ballesteros said, “Part of our mission statement is promoting our local businesses. This forum provides an excellent opportunity for you to introduce yourself to the group so we can get to know more about our local businesses and each other.”

 Everyone had 30 seconds to speak and introduce themselves to the audience: name, name of the business, what they do, what are their products, services, and/or areas of expertise, location, etc. Anything within the context of 30 seconds. Ashley von Gremp served as time-keeper.

LB Chamber Anne Belyea

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Executive Director of Laguna Food Pantry Anne Belyea

 Ballesteros introduced himself. “To get us started, I will kick off the introductions. I am J.J. Ballesteros. My wife and partner Andrea and I are principles of the Ballesteros Group with Coldwell Banker Global Luxury. We absolutely love helping people reach their financial goals through real estate. We love this city so much, in fact, that in 2017 I produced a video ‘Everything Laguna Beach’ which highlighted all the great aspects of living in and visiting Laguna. For those that attended the State of the City, I spoke on how many wonderful things people are doing in this town. I got involved with the chamber so I could make a difference. I am proud of the Board of Directors and team we have and the great work this Chamber is doing with our City Council and for our local businesses. 

For more information on the LB Chamber of Commerce, go to

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