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Council approves steps to implement trial of a Promenade on Forest

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Lower Forest Avenue will be closed this summer to vehicles to make way for a pedestrian promenade as the city takes steps to energize businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously on May 26 for mechanics needed to move ahead on the three-month trial of a vehicle-free lower Forest Avenue. Councilman Peter Blake angrily complained that the hearing was redundant. However, the item was not a referendum on the concept approved on May 12, but on how to establish the promenade, adorn it, and make it function, at least through September 7.

Staff’s goal for the promenade is to create a safe environment, including four landscaped decks for dining, retail displays, and mingling at safe distances, designed to encourage folks to patronize restaurants and nearby businesses, thus stimulating economic recovery. Recommendations approved by the council included a $145,703 contract with Choura Events to organize the area and construct and furnish the decks. Stores will be allowed to display merchandise outside their premises.

“Choura puts large events together (such as the Grammys and Coachella),” said Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, who leads the Working Group assigned the task of developing solutions to support existing business and promote economic development in Laguna Beach. 

Nearby businesses supported the proposed concept of the promenade, according to Dupuis. 

Council approves rendering

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of LB

Proposed Design of Forest Ave Promenade

Dupuis and Chamber of Commerce representatives visited 27 businesses on Forest Avenue between Glenneyre Street and South Coast Highway. 

“Four stores were closed, three businesses were opposed, but the rest were excited,” said Dupuis. 

Opposition to the proposed plan included Bushard’s Pharmacy, Violet’s Boutique, and Fresh Produce. 

The layout for the promenade was designed by SWA, a local landscaping firm. Dupuis said the project could be implemented by June 15.

Approval of Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for outdoor dining and minor deviations from temporary sign and banner standards were consolidated under the authority of Community Development Director Marc Wiener through September 7. TUP application fees will be waived during the trial period.

Delay of the conversion of Ocean Avenue to one-way from Beach Street to South Coast Highway was also approved.

More than 110 emails from the public were sent from the City Clerk’s office to the council prior to the hearing: 101 were in favor of the proposed promenade, 12 were opposed. Additionally, 31 members of the public contacted the council by telephone during the meeting. 

Twenty of the calls gave unqualified support to the proposed concept. Five outright opposed it.

“The council needs to do some belt tightening,” said Michele Monda. “Do we need to spend top dollar on this?”

Total cost of the promenade trial is estimated to be $248,703. 

Others supported the proposal but had questions: “I support the entire proposal,” said Joe Hanauer, developer of The Old Pottery Place. “The positives outweigh the negatives, but I suggest, as you move forward, you add an evaluation plan to be completed before implementation.”

Council approves Forest

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Forest Ave as it appears currently

The approvals Tuesday did not include an evaluation, as suggested by Councilwoman Sue Kempf, but Dupuis said one would be conducted after the trial. 

Also of concern to some, including Councilwoman Toni Iseman, is the loss of 48 parking spaces on Forest Avenue. Staff maintained that not as many spaces were needed because of the lessened demand due to the cancellation of the Festival of Arts and the additional parking at the Village Entrance and the bus depot on Ocean Avenue where trolleys will not be parking. 

However, traditional summer parking leases have been canceled, and the Sawdust Festival and Art-A-Fair have proposed tactics that would allow them to open in July, if approved by the council. 

The promenade is one of several strategies proposed by the Working Group appointed by City Manager John Pietig and approved by the council at the May 12 meeting. The council on Tuesday approved a recommendation from the staff to bring modifications to the business and parking regulations – proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan Update and the Retail Market Study to modify and streamline the new business permitting process – to the council on June 16, one of the four council meetings scheduled for that month. 

Tuesday’s council meeting can be seen in its entirety on the city’s website here. Scroll to the May 26 meeting and click on video.”


Mayor reprimands Blake for unseemly email

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Mayor Bob Whalen publicly chastised Councilman Peter Blake at Tuesday’s televised and videoed meeting for an email he sent to Councilwoman Toni Iseman questioning her physical and mental health and denigrating her ability to serve on the council.

Whalen said he had the authority under the city’s policy on public civility to reprimand Blake and he was doing so. Whalen apologized to Iseman for the email, and said she had handled it very professionally.

“I saw the email,” said Whalen. “I think it is a violation of our policy. It’s a personal attack.” 

Whalen said he recognized Blake’s right to disagree with Iseman or members of Village Laguna on political viewpoints, but to make allegations on a person’s medical issues and require a resignation was inappropriate and very disappointing. 

Iseman said she had received the email on May 13 and had not responded directly to Blake, choosing to make it public. 

As read into the public record by Iseman and provided to Stu News:

“Toni, the ‘next step’ is for you to resign. If your’e not willing to, then provide a recent and comprehensive medical report detailing your medical condition and the nature of your tremors. Include all medication as well. I know that you’re not legally bound to do so but let’s face it, your cognitive impairment has progressed and you are no longer fit to serve. Watch the video from last night. You appear to be in a state of confusion just like you are at many City Council meetings. You forget votes key votes that you’ve participated in and appear completely unaware of major issues that are affecting our community. It’s all documented on video. Why continue to embarrass yourself, the residents and your supporters while putting the future of Laguna at risk? I have reached the end of the line with you and your inability to function in the interests of the City of Laguna Beach. As an elected official, it is my fiduciary responsibility to request your resignation from office effective immediately.

A far as my ‘behavior’ is concerned, I will continue to govern as I see fit. I will strengthen my resolve to defend myself against Village Laguna and your attempts at suppressing my Constitutional rights to express my views, and the views of my constituents, both in public, and on the dais. Your attempts to keep me from voting in what I believe to be in the interests of Laguna will be challenged legally and in the court of public opinion. You will see my resolve intensify beyond anything you’ve seen so far in the last year and half since being elected.

Please do not confuse this email as political rhetoric. I am ready to initiate a recall immediately if I need to.

Peter Blake”

Blake’s outbursts during the public comment period at meetings or during remarks on specific items on the agenda have been a matter of concern for many and condemned by some. 

Whalen said he personally has intervened on a number of occasions, but it is difficult when one is not aware that a comment is going to be made.

Council members, City Manager John Pietig, and City Attorney Philip Kohn have spoken in private to Blake in recent months about his conduct. Blake steadfastly and angrily defends his right to say what he sees fit.


Council approves steps to implement trial of a Promenade on Forest

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Lower Forest Avenue will be closed this summer to vehicles to make way for a pedestrian promenade as the city takes steps to energize businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday for mechanics needed to move ahead on the three-month trial of a vehicle-free lower Forest Avenue. Councilman Peter Blake angrily complained that the hearing was redundant. However, the item was not a referendum on the concept approved on May 12, but on how to establish the promenade, adorn it, and make it function, at least through September 7.

Staff’s goal for the promenade is to create a safe environment, including four landscaped decks for dining, retail displays, and mingling at safe distances, designed to encourage folks to patronize restaurants and nearby businesses, thus stimulating economic recovery. Recommendations approved by the council included a $145,703 contract with Choura Events to organize the area and construct and furnish the decks. Stores will be allowed to display merchandise outside their premises.

“Choura puts large events together (such as the Grammys and Coachella),” said Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, who leads the Working Group assigned the task of developing solutions to support existing business and promote economic development in Laguna Beach. 

Nearby businesses supported the proposed concept of the promenade, according to Dupuis. 

Council approves rendering

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of LB

Proposed Design of Forest Ave Promenade

Dupuis and Chamber of Commerce representatives visited 27 businesses on Forest Avenue between Glenneyre Street and South Coast Highway. 

“Four stores were closed, three businesses were opposed, but the rest were excited,” said Dupuis. 

Opposition to the proposed plan included Bushard’s Pharmacy, Violet’s Boutique, and Fresh Produce. 

The layout for the promenade was designed by SWA, a local landscaping firm. Dupuis said the project could be implemented by June 15.

Approval of Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for outdoor dining and minor deviations from temporary sign and banner standards were consolidated under the authority of Community Development Director Marc Wiener through September 7. TUP application fees will be waived during the trial period.

Delay of the conversion of Ocean Avenue to one-way from Beach Street to South Coast Highway was also approved.

More than 110 emails from the public were sent from the City Clerk’s office to the council prior to the hearing: 101 were in favor of the proposed promenade, 12 were opposed. Additionally, 31 members of the public contacted the council by telephone during the meeting. 

Twenty of the calls gave unqualified support to the proposed concept. Five outright opposed it.

“The council needs to do some belt tightening,” said Michele Monda. “Do we need to spend top dollar on this?”

Total cost of the promenade trial is estimated to be $248,703. 

Others supported the proposal but had questions: “I support the entire proposal,” said Joe Hanauer, developer of The Old Pottery Place. “The positives outweigh the negatives, but I suggest, as you move forward, you add an evaluation plan to be completed before implementation.”

Council approves Forest

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Forest Ave as it appears currently

The approvals Tuesday did not include an evaluation, as suggested by Councilwoman Sue Kempf, but Dupuis said one would be conducted after the trial. 

Also of concern to some, including Councilwoman Toni Iseman, is the loss of 48 parking spaces on Forest Avenue. Staff maintained that not as many spaces were needed because of the lessened demand due to the cancellation of the Festival of Arts and the additional parking at the Village Entrance and the bus depot on Ocean Avenue where trolleys will not be parking. Art-A-Fair has also canceled its 2020 season.

However, traditional summer parking leases have been canceled, and the Sawdust Festival has proposed tactics that would allow the festival to open in July, if approved by the council.

The promenade is one of several strategies proposed by the Working Group appointed by City Manager John Pietig and approved by the council at the May 12 meeting. The council on Tuesday approved a recommendation from the staff to bring modifications to the business and parking regulations – proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan Update and the Retail Market Study to modify and streamline the new business permitting process – to the council on June 16, one of the four council meetings scheduled for that month. 

Tuesday’s council meeting can be seen in its entirety on the city’s website here. Scroll to the May 26 meeting and click on video.”


Council to consider rodenticide ban

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow has researched the chemicals used to exterminate rodents in Laguna Beach and recommends the use be discontinued.

Rodenticides, pesticides used to kill rodents, are classified as anticoagulants, which prevent blood from clotting, and non-anticoagulants. The city has been using a first-generation anticoagulant rodenticide, which requires several consecutive feedings to deliver a lethal dose, with good success in controlling rodents and pests, according to a staff report. A second-generation anticoagulant that can kill with one dose is not used by the city, but licensed pest control companies may be supplying residential and commercial properties with products that contain the more toxic chemicals. 

Dicterow is scheduled to propose at tonight’s meeting that the staff be directed to prepare a resolution for consideration by the council prohibiting the use of anticoagulant rodenticides in the maintenance of Laguna’s parks, facilities, and landscapes.

While the city may elect to ban the use of the anticoagulants, officials can only encourage the community to stop the sale and use of these products on private property, according to the staff. 

Dicterow has also recommended urging business owners and residents to refrain from buying, selling, or allowing the use on their property of the anticoagulants that contain the stronger chemicals.

All rodenticides have the potential to expose other animals, including domesticated cats and dogs, to the lethal chemicals if a predator or scavenger consumes a rodent that has eaten the poison. The chemicals in rodenticides have been detected in water and soil samples. 

Consumer purchase of the more toxic anticoagulants was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency California Department of Pesticide Regulation in 2014, but anticoagulants are still allowed to be available to pest control professionals. 

The League of California Cities adopted a resolution in 2018 encouraging cities to eliminate the use of anticoagulant rodenticides as part of their maintenance programs in municipal parks and facilities and to urge private property owners to do the same. 

Laguna Beach currently spends $30,000 annually for three licensed pest control companies to control rodents. One of the products used by the companies contains diphacinone, a first-generation anticoagulant identified as a moderate risk of secondary poisoning.

If the council directs staff to quit using products containing any of the six poisons found to impact wildlife, it is expected that pest control services will be consolidated to one company to provide service with non-anticoagulant rodenticides within the existing budget. 

Results would then be monitored for the effectiveness and potential higher cost to control rodent and gopher populations. 

Should the Laguna Beach experience an unusual rodent infestation, the proposed ban would not prevent the city from using warfarin-based products for a limited time.


Council’s agenda includes implementation of the Economic Recovery & Business Development Plan

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council tonight (May 26) will review proposals for the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Business Development Plan outlined at the May 12 meeting, with recommendations from Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow. 

Staff recommendations are divided into two sections: 

Section B 

--Delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for outdoor dining through September 7, 2020.

--Authorize outdoor display of merchandise on the adjacent storefront sidewalk through the approval of a Temporary Use Permit and delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve TUPs for display of outdoor merchandise through September 7, 2020.

--Delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve minor deviations to the temporary sign and banner design standards and that the permits be valid through September 7, 2020.

--Waive all TUP Permit fees until September 7, 2020. 

Section C 

--Postpone the conversion of Ocean Avenue to a one-way street until this fall.

--Approve Temporary Use Permit 20-6262 and Coastal Development Permit 20-6263, for the temporary closure of the lower portion of Forest Avenue for the development and use as a temporary outdoor pedestrian promenade area, subject to the conditions in the resolution attached to the Agenda Bill, which can be viewed here.

--Award and authorize the City Manager to enter into an agreement for amount not to exceed $145,703 with Choura Events for the proposed promenade on Forest Ave.

Council's agenda Forest

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Forest Avenue proposal under consideration

--The 10-page agenda item includes the Economic Recovery and Business Development Plan matrix and budget, a concept design for the Forest Avenue promenade, and a resolution approving the temporary closure of lower Forest Avenue that requires adoption.

Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis submitted the agenda item in coordination with Community Development Director Marc Wiener and Senior Administrative Analyst Jeremy Frimond. The submittal was approved by Manager John Pietig.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and can be viewed on Cox Cable Channel 852, at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/citygov/
cityclerk/mam.htm
,
or on Zoom. 

To participate in the Zoom meeting by phone, dial (669) 900-9128. The zoom ID is 91951462183#. Wait for instructions. Press 9 on the dial to comment. 

On an item that is under discussion, staff will unmute the caller’s phone. The comment period may be limited.

Emails may be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. during the meeting. The City Clerk will attempt to briefly identify the writer and the content of the email for the council. Unless an email is brief and to the point, it will not likely be read into the record and a summary may be provided. 

To aid the City Council in the timely consideration and completion of its business, participants are asked to limit written comments to 200 words or less. 

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA. 92651, email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form: www.lagunabeachcity.net/comment. 

Send comments to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on the day before the City Council meeting in order for your comments to be submitted to the members of the City Council with sufficient time to review the comments. Written comments may submitted until noon on the day of the meeting, but council members may not have enough time to review them prior to the meeting.


City Announces completion of Village Entrance Project

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

The City of Laguna Beach is pleased to announce the completion of the Village Entrance Project, a two-year construction project focused on enhanced pedestrian safety and circulation, improved traffic flow, and new public open space located at the gateway to the City.

The completed project stretches along Laguna Canyon Road from Forest Avenue to Art-A-Fair and was dedicated by the Laguna Beach City Council with a virtual ribbon cutting this morning, Friday, May 22 at 9 a.m. To view the ribbon cutting event, visit the City’s Facebook page here.

City announces Village 1

Click on photo for a larger image

The Village Entrance Project is now complete 

 “The Project’s new bridges, wider multi-use trail, and paved access roads improve pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver safety at one of the busiest and most visible intersections in town,” said Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. 

Additional Village Entrance Project elements include decorative lighting, extensive landscaped planting areas, new vehicular and pedestrian bridges, and water quality features such as basins and permeable pavers. 

“The Village Entrance Project’s new pedestrian walkways, benches, bike racks, and beautifully landscaped green spaces create a first impression to the City of Laguna Beach that we can all be proud of,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. “And at a time when outdoor activity is so important to our community, this project’s completion comes at the perfect moment.”

City announces Village 2

Click on photo for a larger image

The two-year project focused on enhanced pedestrian safety and circulation

Laguna Beach Village Entrance Project 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.

--Decorative fencing along the drainage channel to replace the chain link fence.

--New wider vehicle bridge and a new pedestrian bridge at Lot 10 to improve vehicle access, parking circulation, and separate vehicles from pedestrians.

--New bridge to provide vehicular and pedestrian access to parking from Laguna Canyon Road.

City announces Village 3

Click on photo for a larger image

Additional elements include decorative lighting and pedestrian bridges 

--A total of six electric vehicle charging stations in Lots 11 and 12.

--Reconstruction of the Employee Parking Lot and parking area behind City Hall.

--Reconstruction of deteriorated retaining walls in Lot 12 (Lumberyard Parking Lot).

--Demolition of aging Marine Safety and Police support buildings and construction of replacement buildings.

“The City has succeeded in delivering a safe, beautiful area for our community to enjoy while delivering the project on time and on budget,” said Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig. 

For more information, contact Tom Perez, Village Entrance Project Director, at (949) 464-6688 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Council’s agenda includes implementation of the Economic Recovery & Business Development Plan

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday will review proposals for the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Business Development Plan outlined at the May 12 meeting, with recommendations from Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow. 

Staff recommendations are divided into two sections: 

Section B 

--Delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve Temporary Use Permits (TUPs) for outdoor dining through September 7, 2020.

--Authorize outdoor display of merchandise on the adjacent storefront sidewalk through the approval of a Temporary Use Permit and delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve TUPs for display of outdoor merchandise through September 7, 2020.

--Delegate authority to the Community Development Director to approve minor deviations to the temporary sign and banner design standards and that the permits be valid through September 7, 2020.

--Waive all TUP Permit fees until September 7, 2020. 

Section C 

--Postpone the conversion of Ocean Avenue to a one-way street until this fall.

--Approve Temporary Use Permit 20-6262 and Coastal Development Permit 20-6263, for the temporary closure of the lower portion of Forest Avenue for the development and use as a temporary outdoor pedestrian promenade area, subject to the conditions in the resolution attached to the Agenda Bill, which can be viewed here.

--Award and authorize the City Manager to enter into an agreement for amount not to exceed $145,703 with Choura Events for the proposed promenade on Forest Ave.

Council's agenda Forest

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Forest Avenue proposal under consideration

--The 10-page agenda item includes the Economic Recovery and Business Development Plan matrix and budget, a concept design for the Forest Avenue promenade, and a resolution approving the temporary closure of lower Forest Avenue that requires adoption.

Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis submitted the agenda item in coordination with Community Development Director Marc Wiener and Senior Administrative Analyst Jeremy Frimond. The submittal was approved by Manager John Pietig.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m. and can be viewed on Cox Cable Channel 852, at www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/citygov/cityclerk/mam.htm, or on Zoom. 

To participate in the Zoom meeting by phone, dial (669) 900-9128. The zoom ID is 94371581970#. Wait for instructions. Press 9 on the dial to comment. 

On an item that is under discussion, staff will unmute the caller’s phone. The comment period may be limited.

Emails may be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. during the meeting. The City Clerk will attempt to briefly identify the writer and the content of the email for the council. Unless an email is brief and to the point, it will not likely be read into the record and a summary may be provided. 

To aid the City Council in the timely consideration and completion of its business, participants are asked to limit written comments to 200 words or less. 

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach, CA. 92651, email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form: www.lagunabeachcity.net/comment. 

Send comments to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on the day before the City Council meeting in order for your comments to be submitted to the members of the City Council with sufficient time to review the comments. Written comments may submitted until noon on the day of the meeting, but council members may not have enough time to review them prior to the meeting.


Council greenlights proposals for economic recovery, business development

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on May 12 approved seven of the eight proposals designed to bolster the economic recovery of local businesses, entice new business to Laguna Beach, and reinvigorate the arts community as the city strives to recover from the catastrophic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposals were developed by a Workisng Group appointed in April by City Manager John Pietig that included representatives from the city’s Community Development and Cultural Arts departments and media team, the Chamber of Commerce, Visit Laguna Beach, the Festival of Arts, and the Sawdust Festival. Councilwoman Sue Kempf consulted with the group. Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis served as director.

“I am largely responsible for this,” said Pietig. “I formed the group to indentify ideas to simulate the economy.”

More than 40 members of the public chimed in on the proposals. Comments ranged from enthusiastic endorsement to complaints that the issues were too big to be considered until meetings are returned to the City Council Chambers with full public participation.

Council candidate Larry Nokes’ support for all of the recommendations contrasted sharply with former Mayor Ann Christoph’s shocked reaction to the agenda item, most of which was approved unanimously. 

Proposals approved 5-0 

--Direct the Working Group to develop and implement guidelines for the business community in conjunction and consistent with county and state plans for the phased reopening of the California economy

--Authorize the Working Group to proceed with the development and implementation of a Summer 2020 Pilot Program to close lower Forest Avenue for a safe outdoor dining and entertainment program and [predicted] support for local businesses

--Award a contract not to exceed $35,000, split between the city and the chamber, for a parking study – the cost/benefit analysis to include free parking for residents with parking stickers

Council greenlights meters

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Proposal approved for parking study 

--Seek proposals for a local business consultant to identify target businesses for the city 

--Establishment of a Cultural Arts Invigoration Task Force to be led by Cultural Arts Manager Sian Poeschl and including Arts Commissioner Suzi Chauvel, members of Visit Laguna Beach, the Sawdust Festival, the Festival of Arts, and the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts to collaborate on strategy, programming, and funding opportunities 

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

Approved 4-1, Councilwoman Toni Iseman opposed 

--Direct the Working Group to pursue a Community Development Block Grant/Coronavirus Grant and work with the Chamber of Commerce to raise funding for the implementation of the city’s eventual plan; authorize the use of up to $250,000 for the plan if sufficient funding cannot be obtained by grants, direct staff to return to the council with a budget for the $250,000, and authorize $25,000 for concept plan to close lower Forest Avenue to vehicular traffic that will be presented to the Planning Commission 

“We have overstepped,” said Iseman. “This should have been a Brown Act committee with meetings held in public.” 

South Laguna resident John Thomas said the lack of resident participation in the “working group” is even more distressing because the 70 percent or so of the revenue the city government collects that is attributable to residents has remained essentially stable in spite of the pandemic, while the share of revenue the city government collects that is attributable to tourist-focused local business has shown itself to be unreliable and highly volatile, having “dropped like a stone in a matter of days.”

Council greenlights Forest

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Proposal for closure of lower Forest Avenue to traffic approved 

Membership in the group is composed of members of the business community and arts in Laguna, but all were identified as residents. 

Support was given by callers for the closure of lower Forest Avenue, cited by many as a boon for surrounding businesses. However, Michael McFadden, owner of Rock Martin Jewelry, said he had always opposed the closure because he saw no benefit to his business. 

“But these are trying times and in this case, I am not opposed,” said McFadden. 

With Forest Avenue closed off and Ocean Avenue converted to one-way traffic, Michele Monda pointed out that the folks coming from the south end of town would not be able to get into the central business district except via left hand turns onto heavily traveled Broadway or Legion Street. 

Pros and cons about parking structures were also exchanged. 

“Parking is our number one problem,” said Heidi Miller, in business in Laguna for 40 years. “I support the parking structure.”

Lumberyard restaurant owner Cary Redfearn was also among the supporters of a parking structure. 

“It’s overdue,” he said. 

Chris Catsimanes, one of the participants in a Village Laguna presentation, said the community rejected a parking structure at the Village Entrance in 2013. 

“Given that background, spending $35,000 for parking garage study would be a waste of public funds,” he said.

A recommendation to 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 was continued to the May 28 meeting. The item was to be heard separately because Councilman Peter Blake, a downtown building owner, is abstaining and the council felt the hour was too late to open what might have been a lengthy hearing. 

The item is expected to generate considerable public comment.


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.

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

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