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Laguna Beach

City partners with OC Registrar of Voters on new voting process

The City of Laguna Beach has partnered with the Orange County Registrar of Voters to make voting more convenient in the upcoming Presidential Primary Election. 

Voters have the option to vote at one of two Vote Centers in Laguna Beach or vote at any regional Vote Center, drop off ballots at a ballot drop box, or mail in ballots anytime on or before March 3, 2020. All registered voters in Orange County will receive a vote-by-mail ballot.

If you prefer to cast your ballot in person, you have the option to visit one of two Laguna Beach Vote Centers from February 29 - March 3 or visit a regional Vote Center from February 22 - March 3. 

Vote Centers allow you to vote, solve voter registration issues, register to vote, obtain a replacement ballot, and obtain general assistance over the course of several days if needed. You can vote at any Orange County Vote Center. 

Voters casting their ballot in person in Laguna Beach are encouraged to vote early during the four-day period. Two Vote Center locations will be open from February 29 - March 3 in Laguna Beach. 

Locations and hours of operation are as follows:

Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center, 380 3rd St (park in Parking Lot 13)

--February 29 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 1 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 2 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 3 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

American Legion Post 222, 384 Legion St (between Glenneyre & Park Ave; enter off Goff St)

--Feburary 29 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 1 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 2 from 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.

--March 3 Election Day from 7 a.m. – 8pm

Ballot drop boxes are also a great way to deliver your ballot. Click here to view a list of all ballot drop boxes in your area. Laguna Beach has ballot drop boxes conveniently located at the following locations:

--Laguna Beach Branch Library, 363 Glenneyre St

--Laguna Beach Community & Susi Q Center, 380 3rd St

--American Legion Post 222, 384 Legion St

During the election, traffic on Third Street and Park Avenue could be impacted. The city advises residents to take alternate morning routes on Monday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3.

You can find more information regarding the upcoming Presidential Primary Election on the Orange County Registrar of Voters website at

If you have questions about voting locally in Laguna Beach, contact Laguna Beach City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker at (949) 497-0309 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Planning Commission to hold Major Remodel Workshop


The Laguna Beach Planning Commission will conduct a workshop on Wednesday to clarify the city’s definition of a major remodel, including ocean front projects.

City staff has been working with the California Coastal Commission to develop a new definition and set of standards for major development, which may have to be separated into two categories, one specifically for erosion-prone oceanfront properties. Differences in city and commission interpretations have led to a backlog of appeals to the commission, delaying construction and adding to the cost. 

In the interim, city staff will begin interpreting a definition of the major remodel similar to the one used by the commission for projects in the appealable area, although staff does not agree with the commission’s threshold for major remodel, and specifically the threshold for elements that count toward demolition.

Architect Marshall Ininns learned recently that the use of the commission standards for demolition include the removal and/or replacement of non-structural elements such as drywall or reroofing and will be used in the assessment of the Coast Inn project that has been in the works for several years. 

Other projects, also created under past standards, are also in limbo.

Despite the disagreement on the standards, staff does wish to reduce the number of appeals. 

A handout will be created and distributed to the public to clarify what the city believes is the commission’s threshold for major remodel. 

A notice of Wednesday’s workshop was emailed to local architects, developers, and builders. An announcement was also sent to local newspapers. 

Staff is requesting feedback from the professionals, the public, and the commission to further refine the proposed amendments to the city’s municipal code related to major remodels.

For more information, go to the city’s website at for the six-page agenda item. Click on meetings and agendas. 

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall at 505 Forest Ave.

Public invited to provide input on Neighborhood Trolley

The City of Laguna Beach invites the public to provide input on the Neighborhood Trolley services, routes, and usage at three upcoming listening sessions and through participating in an online survey.

Three public listening sessions regarding Neighborhood Trolley service will be held at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center. 

The first session on February 24 will focus on the Top of the World neighborhoods and routes and run from 6 -7 p.m.; the second session on February 26 will focus on Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights neighborhoods and routes and run from 6 -7 p.m.; and the March 9 session will focus on North and South Laguna neighborhoods served by the Coastal Route and run from 6 -7 p.m. 

Public invited trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Three sessions regarding Neighborhood Trolley services to be held

The public is invited to attend any or all of the sessions to provide input or ask questions about Neighborhood Trolley service. 

The public is also invited to take an online survey to provide feedback regarding Neighborhood Trolley service by clicking here.

Printed copies of the survey will also be made available for the public at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center and at City Hall.

The Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center is located at 380 3rd St.

For more information, contact Michael Litschi, Deputy Director of Public Works, Transit and Parking, at (949) 497-0303 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

City hosts exhibition featuring LCAD work through March 5

The City of Laguna Beach is currently hosting an exhibition of artwork from the Laguna College of Art + Design. The exhibition, titled 2020 Vision, features work by 20 current students of the college’s Master of Fine Arts program in painting and drawing. The exhibition will be on display until March 5.

 The current exhibition will be followed by the City’s annual Art That’s Small at City Hall exhibition and competition, which exclusively features two-dimensional and relief works that measure 12” x 12” and under including frame. 

City hosts hat

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Submitted photo

Agostino Vaccaro, “The Outlaw”

Artists 18 years of age or older who reside in Orange County are invited to participate by bringing their work and the $15 entry fee to City Hall, 505 Forest Ave, on Saturday, March 7 between 9 - 11 a.m. 

Accepted works will be on display from March 9 - April 17. The competition carries a $500 First Prize award as well $200 for Second Place, $150 for Third Place, and Honorable Mentions, which will be announced at the exhibition reception on April 2, from 6 - 7 p.m. 

Adam Schwerner, Chair of the Arts Commission, says, “We truly appreciate the ability to host local arts organizations and display the incredible work by local artists at City Hall. The rotating exhibitions bring life and energy to the walls and we hope the public takes the time to engage with each exhibition.”

All exhibitions and receptions are free to attend and open to the public during City Hall business hours. City Hall exhibitions are a program of the Arts Commission and funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach. 

For more information, contact Arts Program Coordinator Michael McGregor at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 497-0722.

Laguna Beach Beautification Council presents Laura Cohen at meeting tomorrow

The Laguna Beach Beautification Council (LBBC) presents “Gifts from Nature…the Miracle that is Laguna Coast Wilderness Park,” featuring special guest speaker Laura Cohen, at the Montage Laguna Beach on Wednesday, Feb 19 from 6 - 7:30 p.m. in Executive Suite 227. 

Laura is the new Resource Specialist for Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. She received her MA in biological science from CSU Fullerton. She worked for 10 years as the Director of the Richard and Donna O’Neill Land Conservancy before learning of the new Resource Specialist position for the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

“I was excited about the idea of working at a park that so many people had fought to protect,” states Laura. 

Laguna Beach Laura

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Submitted photo

Laura Cohen (middle) is the Resource Specialist for Laguna Coast Wilderness Park 

Laura will provide an introduction to the park, its history, wildlife, and the many benefits to our community and beyond. Laura works in the Nix Nature Center on weekends, assisting members of the public. She helps plan larger nature center programs four to six times a year designing new exhibits and restoring older exhibits. 

Cohen occasionally leads interpretive hikes and responds to calls from the public and emergencies in the park. Some of her special projects include a new cell phone “wildflower library,” which you can find on the cell phone site at www.lagunacoast.oncell under the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Audio Tour and an online quiz to teach people how to protect the park. 

The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is supported by the Laguna Canyon Foundation. Tthe park is open seven days a week all year (except during rain or fire closures).

LBBC programs and valet parking are free to members and guests.  

There is limited seating for the event and a RSVP is required to attend. To reserve seats, contact Leah Vasquez at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 494-5787. 

The Montage is located at 30801 South Coast Hwy.

City Manager’s Updates

Holiday Trolley Schedule – On Monday, Feb 17, trolley service will operate on a regular weekday schedule during the President’s Day holiday, with service on the three neighborhood routes and the Weekday Coastal route between 6:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. 

Visit or call (949) 497-0766 for additional information.

City Managers trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Trolley service to operate during regular weekday schedule on President’s Day 

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule – On Monday, Feb 17, street sweeping will only occur in commercial areas due to the President’s Day holiday. 

For more information, contact Senior Fleet Maintenance Supervisor Austin Comp at (949) 464-6637.

Review of Historic Preservation Ordinance – On Wednesday, Feb 26, at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers, the Planning Commission is scheduled to review Amendments to the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance, the Residential Design Guidelines, and Local Coastal Program (GPA 19-5414/ZOA 17-0289/ LCP 17-0388) to provide a voluntary historic preservation program. The Planning Commission will review the proposed changes and provide a recommendation to the City Council. 

Retail Market Evaluation for Downtown Specific Plan Area – The City hired Stanley R. Hoffman Associates, Inc. and Stoffel & Associates to provide a market assessment of existing retail conditions, and to assist in evaluating and potentially modifying permit processing procedures to allow for both permitted-by-right and conditional uses in the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) area. 

The retail consultants will present key findings and recommendations of the Draft DSP Area Retail Market Evaluation on Wednesday, Feb 26 during a special Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (505 Forest Ave). A staff report will be available and posted on the City’s website by February 21.

At the meeting, City staff will be seeking Planning Commission and public comment on the document for City Council consideration. The City Council will consider this effort and continue review of the DSP Update project during the special City Council meeting on March 24 at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers. 

The Retail Market Evaluation and direction received from the City Council will inform land use policy decisions for the DSP Update. For more information or to view a copy of the draft document, click here or contact Wendy Jung, Senior Planner, at (949) 497-0321 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Village Entrance – Construction for the final phase of the Village Entrance project will begin on February 18 and will require closure of the Lumberyard parking lot (Lot 12). 

Starting February 14, Lots 10 and 11 will be available to the public. Parking spaces around the digester building will be reserved for City Hall employees, Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and will be available to the public on evenings and weekends. 

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

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce to Host Annual State of the City Luncheon – The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will host its annual “State of the City” luncheon on Thursday, May 14 from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 S Coast Hwy.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen and City officials will present the State of the City Address. The luncheon is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and provides attendees a great opportunity to get an up-close look at City activities, recent highlights from the past 12 months, and City goals for the near future. 

To reserve tickets or for more information, call (949) 494-1018 or go to

City Manager's State of the City

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBPD Police Chief Laura Farinella, Mayor Bob Whalen, and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow at last year’s “State of the City” lunechon at Montage Laguna Beach

Parking Sensor Installation – On Tuesday, Feb 18, crews are scheduled to begin installing parking sensors at metered spaces along Upper Cliff Drive between Broadway and Aster as part of the second phase of the Smart Parking Guidance Project. Work will begin at approximately 7 a.m. and completed by 6 p.m. On-street parking will be limited during this time. 

For questions, contact Michael Litschi, Deputy Director of Public Works, at (949) 497-0303 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SCE Pole Removal at S. Coast Highway – On Thursday, Feb 20, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be removing a utility pole located at the northeast intersection of S Coast Hwy and Calliope Street. This work is associated with Caltrans’ Calliope Flashing Beacon project. The northbound lane closest to the curb on S Coast Highway will be intermittently blocked between Mountain Road and Bluebird Canyon Drive during the work. 

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

Registration Open for Leadership Laguna Citizen’s Academy – The City of Laguna Beach is pleased to announce registration is now open for Leadership Laguna 2020, a citizen’s academy consisting of a series of five workshops. The purpose of these workshops is to introduce participants to the various operations of the City. 

The program will provide information about the City’s various departments, committees, and commissions. Speakers from each department will address the participant’s questions. Leadership Laguna takes place on five Thursday evenings beginning on March 12 and ending April 16. 

Space in the academy is limited, so interested candidates should submit their application as early as possible. 

To register, go to or contact Jeremy Frimond, Senior Administrative Analyst in the City Manager’s Office, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6673.

Search Underway for New Director of Public Works – The City of Laguna Beach has started a comprehensive search for a new Director of Public Works as current Assistant City Manager/Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis has been assigned to the position of Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager. 

As Assistant City Manager, Dupuis will lead many special projects and programs such as Wildfire Safety and Mitigation Plan, economic development, property acquisitions, and other City Council priorities and will oversee all of the following City Departments and functions: Public Works, Community Services, Cultural Arts, and Communications.

The City estimates it will take four to six months to complete a comprehensive search, recruit, and hire a new Director of Public Works. Manual Gomez, the former Irvine Director of Public Works, has been retained as an interim Director of Public Works effective February 10, 2020. Due to the recently vacated position of Assistant City Manager, the reorganization of the City’s Executive Staff is cost-neutral.

Thurston Middle School Parking Impacts – Thurston Middle School will be hosting its annual Destination Imagination event on Saturday, Feb 29, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

This is a major event and the school expects up to 700 attendees. Parking in and around Thurston will be impacted and there will be two shuttle vans going back and forth all day from the district office lot to the school. Any questions should be directed to the school district at (949) 497-7700 Ext. 5218.

Junior Lifeguards – Registration for the 2020 Junior Lifeguard program is now open to Laguna Beach residents. Participants must pass the required swim test or have participated in the 2019 program to be eligible to register. 

The first swim tests of this year will be held this Friday, Feb 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb 15 from 3 to 4 p.m. All swim tests take place at the Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool, located at 670 Park Ave. 

Additional information about the program, including a list of swim test dates, is available at, or by calling (949) 497-0788.

Leaf Blower Reminder – The City is reminding community members that leaf blowers continue to be illegal to use within the City limits. These include the operation of electric and gas-powered blowers which are described in Laguna Beach Municipal Code 7.25.070(D). 

Warnings and/or citations may be issued when Code Enforcement Staff view someone using one of these devices. Homeowners who receive complaints will also be sent letters educating them about the law.

City requests additional information about MacGillivray’s Digester proposal


City Manager John Pietig has received from Barbara and Greg MacGillivray additional information related to their proposal for the renovation of the Digester Building in the Village Entrance that he requested in a letter dated January 22. 

Pietig asked for a response from the MacGillivrays by February 5 in order to give staff sufficient time to evaluate their proposal and understand their commitment to the renovation of the Digester prior to the February 25 City Council meeting, on which it is tentatively agendized. 

The MacGillivrays have offered to donate $500,000 toward the restoration of the Digester to a usable condition. The city would be liable for an estimated $2 million of the restoration – about the same amount it would spend to demolish the building and related costs – according to the MacGillivray’s calculations. 

City requests digester

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Digester’s fate under consideration

Information requested by Pietig and partial responses: 

--Specific details and description of your proposed use of the Digester Building along with the square footage of the area proposed for that use.

Response: Plans call for using the building and surrounding grounds in a way that will add to the community and be sustainable for 99 years.

Our idea is to let Laguna Beach residents choose from five possible uses: a small café or retail, art gallery, and possible upstairs apartment, or office.

Uses would be code compliant and beneficial to locals. 

Estimated square footage was included in the response. 

--Parking analysis, identifying the parking spaces required for the proposed use, and identification on how the parking requirements will be met.

Response: Once uses are determined, we would, in concert with the city, agree on ways to meet parking requirements. It would be ideal to have four adjacent city-metered spaces reserved for customers. 

The MacGillivrays said they are open to discussion on this topic. 

--Details and timeline of the entitlement process you are proposing to pursue, including Environmental Impact Analysis, Coastal Development Permitting, Environmental Abatement, Historic Building Modification process, Conditional Use Permit, etc.

Response: Entitlements and permits should follow city guidelines. A schedule should be mutually determined and accepted by April 30. “Neither the city, its residents, the City Council nor we want the process to drag on,” wrote Greg MacGillivray. 

The Plan is to renovate the exterior quickly and maintain it while permits and historical alterations are agreed on. 

--Details of the cost estimate, identifying how your proposed project can be entitled and constructed within your proposed $2.5 million budget.

Response: Costs need to be prepared by design and construction professionals.

Specific proposed terms of the 99-year lease agreement, identifying roles and responsibilities for the entitlement, and permitting processes, and the construction phase of the renovation project, specifically identifying responsibility for permitting costs and any costs over your proposed $2.5 million budget. 

Response: The MacGillivrays expressed hope that permitting costs will be shared by the city.

“We want to help save this beautifully designed building, as do many other Lagunans, but we don’t want it to become a contentious issue,” wrote MacGillivray in his response to Pietig’s queries. “If the City Council, all of whom we support, decides it is not in the city’s best interests to save a Laguna landmark, we will be disappointed, but we will understand.” 

The full texts of the written exchanges are available in the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall. For more information call (949) 497-0309.

Planning Commission’s Wednesday meeting canceled

With only one item scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission on Wednesday, the meeting was canceled. Meetings scheduled for February 19 and February 26 remain on the Planning Commission calendar. 

February 19 will be a special meeting for the commission to consider zoning code and General Plan amendments and input on draft amendments, but no recommendations will be made that evening, according to Planning Commission Chair Ken Sadler.

The City Council in April 2019 directed the Planning Commission to initiate amendments to sections of the General Plan, the Municipal Code, and the certified Local Coastal Plan related to defining major remodels and the oceanfront bluff tops, clarifying coastal development procedures and streamlining the discretionary review process.

Council direction stemmed from the efforts of the city staff to collaborate with the California Coastal Commission staff to rectify the different interpretations by the two agencies that has led to appeals to the commission and delays in reviews of Laguna Beach projects.

“I don’t know how they can come to consensus,” sad Sadler.

The agenda for February 26 meeting will include a review of the Historic Preservation Ordinance and the Urban Economist’s Report, which was originally scheduled for the canceled February 4 meeting.

-By Barbara Diamond

City Manager’s Updates

Temple Hills Drive Pedestrian and Pavement Improvements – Work to install a sidewalk on the east side of Temple Hills Drive, between Dunning Drive and Rim Rock Canyon Road, will begin the first week of February. 

Minor traffic impacts can be expected during the working hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. The project also includes street resurfacing and traffic calming measures as well. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of May. 

For additional information, contact Assistant City Engineer Natalie Chan at (949) 497-0741 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

New Business Announcements – The City of Laguna Beach would like to welcome some of our new restaurant businesses to the City: The Wharf, located at 237 Ocean Ave, has opened in the former OC Craft Gastro Brew space and offers a seafood-focused menu with an Asian-Cajun fusion. 

Wild Taco, located at 188 South Coast Hwy, has opened in the former Johnny Rockets space at the corner of South Coast Hwy and Ocean Avenue. Wild Taco offers modern Mexican cuisine in a nautical-themed tavern with a festive vibe.

Coming Soon: Saigon Beach 2, offering a Vietnamese menu, located at 1750 South Coast Hwy (formerly Royal Thai Cuisine). Welcome to all our new Laguna Beach businesses!

City Managers Wild Taco

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Photo by Diane Armitage 

Welcome Wild Taco to downtown Laguna 

Laguna Beach County Water District Work at Park Avenue – On Wednesday, Feb 5, between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Laguna Beach County Water District (LBCWD) will be performing street paving associated with previous water main work. 

The eastbound lane of Park Avenue will be closed between Through Street and Blumont Street. Detour signs will be posted alerting residents of the temporary lane closure. If you have any questions, contact Lisa Dunbar with the LBCWD at (949) 464-3119.

LEAD Alcohol Laws & Responsibility Training – The County of Orange Healthcare Agency and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce invite the public to a California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Licensee Education on Alcohol and Drugs Program (LEAD) training session on Tuesday, March 10, from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. 

The LEAD program educates businesses on laws involving the sale and service of alcoholic beverages. The curriculum is designed for licensees, managers, and employees. Last year, thousands of employees in California’s alcoholic beverage industry were trained in this program. 

Since 1991, the LEAD Program has trained over 200,000 people. “LEAD training provides practical information for responsible beverage service to the employees and staff of our local liquor establishments, so as a community we can prevent alcohol related crimes and deaths,” said Laguna Beach Police Department Captain Jeff Calvert. 

Participants must register before the class. To register, go to

Trimming Private Vegetation – Did you know? Parcels with a landscape plan approved through the Design Review process with maximum height limits established must trim trees in accordance with the conditions on the approved plan. 

The City suggests that property owners with questions about trimming trees and other vegetation on their property consult with a certified arborist who can develop a pruning plan and maintenance schedule specific to the species and age of the trees while considering the site conditions on the parcel.

Check Before You Burn – Have a fireplace? Check before you burn! Don’t burn wood when the forecast predicts unhealthy air quality. It’s easy to sign up for alerts so you know when it’s a “no burn day.” Find out more at 

Be Coyote Aware – Like most communities located in semi-rural areas, Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods have active coyote populations. Due to the brushy canyon areas and natural “den” type rock formations, our hillsides provide an attractive environment for coyotes and other animals. 

Usually the only threat coyotes pose is to pets that are allowed to run loose. Most attacks occur during the evening hours, but daytime incidents have been reported. Animal Services recommends that pets not be let outside during evening hours unless the owner is next to the pet to prevent a coyote attack. If you have any concerns regarding wild animals, or see a coyote in a residential area, please call Laguna Beach Animal Services at (949) 497-0701. You may also report coyote sightings to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

City Managers Coyote

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Photo by Les Miklosy

Residents are encouraged to be coyote aware 

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 of To report an emergency or immediate safety concern, always call 9-1-1.

City Manager releases finance “Fact Check”

Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig issued a “Finance Fact Check” earlier this week to clear up some misconceptions circulating in the community about financial oversight in the City. The City has received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its annual financial report for the past four years. This Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in governmental accounting and financial reporting. To read the City Manager’s Finance Fact Check, and learn more about the City’s financial oversight, go to

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