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Laguna Beach

Council still split on STL locations, ordinance passes 3-2


Nothing that happened at Tuesday’s council meeting changed opinions of the amended ordinance regulating short-term lodgings.

There were no changes in the ordinance from the first reading in April, no change in the council’s 3-2 vote – Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow and Councilman Peter Blake opposed – no changes in the staff recommendations and no changes in the lopsided support by the speakers from the audience. 

“I am convinced we have struck the right balance and [the ordinance is] most reflective of what most people want,” said Mayor Bob Whalen. 

The ordinance provides that short-term lodging is not allowed in residential zones; that currently approved permits under the existing ordinance are to be grandfathered and run with the land; that short-term lodgings are allowed in certain commercial zones that establish additional regulations and standards for the operation of STLs; and that a permit for them under the revised ordinance does not run with the land. 

“We have heard all the arguments,” said South Laguna resident John Thomas. “Laguna is doing the right thing by simply limiting the STL locations to Laguna’s commercial and mixed-use zones where visitors prefer to stay.” 

The crux of the dissention on the ordnance is the prohibition of STLs in residential neighborhoods, and it caused a ruckus when opposing view holders almost came to blows. 

Residents who oppose the restriction of STLs to commercial zones claim the ordinance violates property rights and flies in the face of reality.

“Since the beginning of time, there have been boarders here,” said Eric Bell.

Statistics on the number of legal and illegal STLs and on reported disturbances by the short-term renters were questioned by Jennifer Zeiter. 

She opined that concern about the adverse effects of short-term lodgings are overstated.

“It’s a bunch of fear mongering,’ said Zeiter. 

A letter written by Michele Monda from Italy praised the experience she is having in an STL she rented for 30 days. 

“No one is saying don’t regulate,” she wrote. “No one is saying don’t supervise. No one is willing to allow party houses. Work on a compromise where those who want to rent their homes/units out occasionally can.” 

Laguna does not ban rentals of 31-or-more days in residential neighborhoods. 

However, opponents of the ordinance’s prohibition against short-term lodgings in residential neighborhoods were in the minority at the meeting.

Nineteen of the two dozen speakers supported the ordinance as written.

“This is a reasonable compromise,” said Ann Marie McKay, a former city employee.

The next step is requesting certification by the California Coastal Commission, which approved the city’s original version of the ordinance submitted in October 2016, but removed the restriction on STLs in residential neighborhoods, which the city declined to implement.      

Starting in February of 2018, the city and the commission began a series of meetings to negotiate modifications to the disputed terms of the ordinance and to avoid litigation. The result is the version of the ordinance approved Tuesday.

“Failure of the Coastal Commission to approve this ordinance [version] will only cause additional delays,” said Thomas. “If the ordinance works out well, we’ll find out. If it isn’t working well, you know we’ll hear that too. And we can make adjustments.”

City Manager’s Updates

Bluebird Park Restroom Repainting From June 4 through June 7, the restrooms at Bluebird Park will be closed for maintenance and painting of the floors and walls. Portable toilets and a hand washing station will be provided for the public for the duration of the project. 

For more information, contact Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Chintala at (949) 464-6644.

Annual Composting Classes – The city’s solid waste hauler, Waste Management, will offer the second of four free composting classes planned for 2019 on Saturday, June 1, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Lang Park, located on Wesley Drive off Coast Highway. Compost and worm bins will be available for purchase during the class at a discounted price. 

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

SCE Pole Replacement at 614 Seaview St – On Friday, June 7, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a utility pole located at 614 Seaview St. The westbound lane at Seaview Street will be blocked immediately east of Wilson Street and personnel will be directing traffic.

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

Be Rattlesnake Aware – According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), rattlesnakes are widespread in California and are found in a variety of habitat throughout the state from coastal to desert. They may also turn up around homes and yards in brushy areas and under woodpiles. Generally, not aggressive, rattlesnakes will likely retreat if given room and not provoked or threatened. Most bites occur when a rattlesnake is handled or accidentally brushed against by someone walking or climbing. 

City Manager Rattlesnake

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Courtesy of Tom Joliet

Beware of rattlesnakes in your back (and front) yard

The California Poison Control System notes that the chances of being bitten are small compared to the risk of other environmental injuries. Most bites occur between the months of April and October when snakes and humans are most active outdoors. CDFW provides tips for safely living in snake country on its website at as well as tips for keeping snakes out of your yard and what do to do (and not do) in the event of a snake bite. 

Additional resources can be found at

Emergency Kit Backpacks for Sale – Getting prepared for emergencies has never been easier! A Laguna Beach specific Emergency Kit Backpack is available for purchase. The kit includes the following: AM/FM hand crank radio with flashlight and cell phone charger, 4-in-1 gas and water utility shut off tool, glow sticks, bio-hazard bags, nitrile gloves, N95 mask, 54-piece first aid kit, duct tape, emergency poncho, solar blanket, and a personal hygiene kit.

Additionally, the kit will contain emergency plan templates and disaster-specific information. Each red backpack will feature an official City of Laguna Beach seal. 

Those interested can purchase the Laguna Beach specific Emergency Kit Backpack for $50 on the city’s website via or in person at the Community and Susi Q Center, 380 Third St, during normal business hours. No profits are being made from the sale of this backpack. Let’s get prepared! 

Community Pool Closed – The Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool will be closed for maintenance and repairs until June 9, 2019. A list of other pools in the area is posted to the city’s website. The city encourages swimmers to sign up for schedule update emails using the link on the website as well. 

Visit or call (949) 497-0788 for more information.

Council and public weigh in on proposed budget and wish list


City Manager John Pietig’s proposed two-year budget, to begin July 1, was vetted by the council and the public at a workshop on Tuesday afternoon at City Hall. City coffers are plump enough to accommodate funding the majority of the items on the council and staff  “wish list” in addition to capital and department improvements.

“The economic outlook for the City of Laguna Beach continues to remain positive with moderate revenue growth expected for the next two years,” Pietig wrote in a letter to council members. “The total proposed General Fund expenditures (discretionary spending) are $69.3 million in fiscal year 2019-20 and $72.2 for fiscal year 2020-21.” 

Specifically, the council voted 5-0 for an increase in Community Development fees for large projects, a pilot program for a dog park at Moulton Meadows, proposals to upgrade safety at the Alternate Sleeping Location (to come back to the council in six months for review), supplemental funding for a greenhouse gas emissions inventor and a request from the Chamber of Commerce for funding to expand the holiday lighting to include the highway between Legion and Aster Streets. 

The council split 3-2 on implementation of a Cultural Arts proposal to connect better with the global art world, increased hours for the Arts Program Coordinator and adding a second part-time position, Councilwoman Toni Iseman and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow opposed.

If approved as expected by the council at the June 18 meeting, the budget will fund improved services in the Community Development Department, address homeless issues, and enhance the city technologic capabilities and advance safety services, according to Pietig. 

Notable additions to the budget include adding three new positions to the Community Development Department; funding for the advancement of the Fire Department Strategic Plan; programing Measure LL funds to support additional police and lifeguard patrols at Main Beach and Heisler Park; expansion of a fuel modification program to protect structures and evacuation routes and payments toward the city’s unfunded pension liability.

The city will pay the California Public Employees Retirement System $1,510,000 in the next fiscal year, a $700,000 increase over the present year, and $1,970,000 the following year, a $1,200,000 increase. The increases are projected to continue to escalate to an estimated $3,100,000 by the 2024-25 budget. The city will also pony up an extra $2 million in the next two fiscal years toward the unfunded liability.

Also on the downside: Laguna’s transit system is running off the rails. The costs are increasing. Ridership is decreasing. Subsidies are draining the parking fund.

Pietig, who has been warning that the transit system was in dire straits, said that even a major marketing effort last year failed to improve ridership. “The two-year budget keeps the status quo,” said Public Works Director Shohreh Dupis. “We will come back later this year [to council] to address some of the issues.”

Microtransit is an option under consideration. The service resembles the old Dial-A-Ride model, with an Uber-like delivery, but is more expensive for the riders. 

“We are going to need to see if microtransit can be implemented in Laguna Beach,” said Dupuis. 

Pietig also said the expanded Sally’s Fund is a consideration.

Overall, the  proposed two-year General Fund budget is balanced with sources of revenue comprised of taxes, service fees, grants, interest earnings and fund transfers, which exceed expenditures by $561,00 in the 2019-20 fiscal year and by $512, 000 in 2020-21. The City’s General Fund reserve remains intact at 20 percent of the annual operating costs. The Disaster Fund, originally a one percent sales tax approved by the voters in the wake of the Bluebird Canyon landslide in 2005 and sunsetted, continues to earn interest and provides another 10 percent reserve. 

Property taxes are the city’s highest revenue source. Bed taxes are the second highest. 

The police department gets the biggest slice of the pie chart – 27.4 percent. Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson wants even more.

 “We ask the council to minimize discretionary spending on everything not directly related to public safety to preserve as much funding as possible for the essential recommendations coming in July from the Mayor’s Fire Safety Subcommittee and the Police Departments’ Strategic Plan update.”

The council did add $45,000 to the proposed expenditures to fulfill the request by Councilman Peter Blake for a beach patrol officer to be stationed at the Alternative Sleeping Location and $10,000 to buy a metal detector for the site.   

However, Sonny Myers, Community Emergency Response Team instructor and communication chief, said any discussion about expenditures should include a plan to address the city’s aging public safety infrastructure. 

“Although charming and beloved, our City Hall, Operations Center, our Police Department and all of our Fire Stations are old and must be brought up to date,” said Myers. “Old and charming are quaint, but not safe.”    

The Fire Department gets the second highest funding, with 20.2 percent of the General Fund. Public Works comes in third at 18 percent, which includes funding capital improvement projects such as the long-wanted sidewalks and street improvements, and the more contentious maintenance of city trees. 

Water quality gets the least funding at one percent of the general fund.

As always cautious, Pietig advised the council that they should be mindful of potential economic changes, the growing demand for city services and the ominous increase in pension costs. 

Pietig anticipates that the budget which he will present at the June meeting will be approved and go into effect July 1, as city law requires.

City Manager’s Updates

Memorial Day Transit Service – The Transit services will be operating on a modified schedule on Monday, May 27. Coastal Service and the Act V shuttle will be offered from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. There will be no Neighborhood Transit service on Monday, May 27. Regular service will resume on Tuesday, May 28.

Holiday Street Sweeping Schedule – On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, street sweeping and related enforcement will only occur in commercial areas. 

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

Residential Waste and Recycling Service Delayed One Day In Observance of Memorial Day – Waste Management of Orange County’s residential trash and recycling pickup schedule will be delayed by one day throughout the week of May 27, in observance of Memorial Day. Customers should place their carts out for pickup one day later than usual, beginning Tuesday, May 28 through Saturday, June 1. Friday collection will receive service on Saturday. 

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

Community Pool Closed – The Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool will be closed for maintenance and repairs from May 28 to June 9. A list of other pools in the area is posted to the City’s website, and swimmers are encouraged to sign up for schedule update emails using the link on the website as well. 

Visit or call (949) 497-0788 for more information.

Annual Laguna Beach City Photo Contest – The City is pleased to announce its annual photo contest, which opened on May 22 and runs through June 5. Photographers are asked to submit their high-resolution photographs for contest consideration reflecting this year’s theme, “Urban Laguna Beach,” life downtown and away from the beach. 

To enter, photographers must submit their high-resolution photos of Laguna Beach online at by the contest deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5. Any photo taken within Laguna Beach city limits is eligible and the contest is open to anyone. First-prize photographs receive $500 and winners of additional categories receive $100 each. 

For a complete list of contest rules and information about how to enter, visit

City Managers sunset

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Photo by Scott Brashier 

A sunset in the city 

Laguna Beach Represented at County Track Meet – Even the rain couldn’t keep seventeen Laguna Beach youth from competing on Sunday, May 19, in the Orange County Track and Field Championships at Mission Viejo High School. The Laguna Beach Track Team is comprised of boys and girls ranging from 5 to 14 years of age. 

The youth competed in various events including the long jump, softball throw, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600-meter races. The Laguna Beach team had participants that placed in the top four in their respective events and are moving on to the Southern California Championships at Warren High School in Downey on Sunday, June 2.

Parents’ Night Out (PNO) – Parents call it a break from the kids; kids call it a break from your parents. The City of Laguna Beach is hosting its quarterly Parents’ Night Out on Friday, May 31, from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third St. The children will have a blast enjoying games, movies, arts & crafts, and dinner. Pre-registration is required 48 hours in advance. 

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

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

Alley behind Through Street – On Thursday, May 30, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole located in the alley behind 544 Through St. A portion of the alley will be closed between Park Avenue and Legion Street.

760 Alta Vista Way – On Friday, May 31, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will be replacing a utility pole at 760 Alta Vista Way, located south of Bonita Way. The westbound lane at Alta Vista Way will be blocked in the vicinity of the work and personnel will be directing traffic.

Council to be asked permission to fly Gay Pride Flag


The City Council will be asked tonight to approve a request to fly the Rainbow Flag on the pole in front of City Hall to commentate the impact the gay community has had on Laguna Beach and on the county.

Laguna Beach Pride 365, a year-round organization that promotes cultural diversity in Laguna Beach, has requested that the flag be flown from May 22 to June 30. The group has also requested that flags be placed on the parking meters in front of City Hall from May 23 to June 2.

June has been celebrated by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community since 1968 in honor of the uprising in Greenwich Village in New York City, a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement, and to commemorate the impact that the gay community has had in the United States.

Laguna Beach Pride will kick off its festival with a party from 6 to 10 p.m., May 31, on the Club Nirvana Rooftop. There is no cover charge.

Main Street Bar & Cabaret, 1401 South Coast Hwy, will be the site of the official Pride Weekend Kick-Off Dance Party. Wear a Rainbow and join in the Best Rainbow Contest to win prizes and surprises. 

Council to flags

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Submitted photo

Rainbow flags flying


--Nature Hike

8 to 10 a.m.   

Enjoy an early morning hike to get the juices flowing for a full day of pride. Your tour director will meet you with bottled water and maps for the outing as you discover a portion of the 22,000 acres of preserved outdoor spaces that surround Laguna Beach. More details will be provided as they become available. All ages are welcome, 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

The event is free. Location in the Canyon to be determined.

--OC Craft Gastro Pub Drag Bingo Brunch, 237 Ocean Ave 

11 a. m. to 2 p.m.

Endora can call the number as no one else can, including her own raucous commentary, all in good taste, as always. With some great prizes to be awarded to the winners, the competition will be fierce. Enjoy some personable hosts and bingo card distributors that will certainly add to the entertainment value. All ages are welcome, 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

--Laguna Beach Pride Festival, Seven7Seven, 777 Laguna Canyon Rd

Join host Wilhelmina Caviar, Jennifer Corday and Joey Suarez for entertainment from 3 to 8 p.m., and dancing from 8 p.m. till midnight. 

Enjoy a day of entertainment with specialty vendors, GoGos, Queens, Guest DJs, and Special Guest Performances. General Admission is $15. Early Bird pre-purchase is $12. VIP Admission is $55. Early Bird pre-purchase is $45. The VIP Package Includes a private lounge with a no host premium bar, complimentary light bites and free valet parking. More details to come. All ages are welcome, 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult.


--West Street Beach Pride Celebration

All ages are welcome for an afternoon of fun at the iconic West Street Beach, with a featured guest DJ, entertainment and dancing. All ages and all families welcome. There is no charge.

--Pride Closing Party T-Dance, Mozambique, 1740 South Coast Hwy

5 p.m. to midnight

Featured guest DJs, GoGos, and Queens galore. All ages are welcome, 17 and under must be accompanied by an adult. $10 admission.

City Manager’s Updates

Downtown Area Parking Sensor Installation – Through the end of May, parking meters in the downtown area and in the parking lots will intermittently be closed between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, for the installation of parking sensors. The parking meter/space will immediately open once the sensor is installed. 

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

City Managers worker

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Submitted photo

Parking sensors are being installed in the downtown area

Laguna Beach Animal Shelter in Need of Blankets – The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter needs donated blankets for the animals. People interested in donating blankets (not electric blankets) for the animals can deliver them to the Animal Shelter located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The City thanks the community in advance for its help. 

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

Coast Highway near Ruby Street – Tuesday, May 21, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will replace a utility pole located at the intersection of South Coast Hwy and Ruby Street. SCE will also be working to install spacers on the overhead wires located at South Coast Hwy between Ruby Street and Arch Street. The sidewalk and northbound lane closest to the curb at South Coast Hwy will be closed between Upland Street and Diamond Street. 

450 Glenneyre St – Wednesday, May 22, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will replace a utility pole located at 450 Glenneyre St. The sidewalk and the northbound lane closest to the curb at Glenneyre Street will be closed between Legion Street and Park Avenue. 

Glenneyre Street at Diamond Street – Thursday, May 23, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., SCE will replace a utility pole located at the intersection of Glenneyre Street and Diamond Street. Approximately 100 feet of Glenneyre Street will be closed immediately south of Diamond Street. Detour signs will be posted to route traffic to adjacent streets during the work.  

Fire Hydrant Relocation on South Coast Highway – On Monday, May 20 to Wednesday, May 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Laguna Beach County Water District will have the #2 northbound lane of South Coast Hwy closed between Ruby’s Diner and Nyes Place for a hydrant replacement. Advanced warning and traffic control measures will be in place. 

For questions or concerns, contact the Water District at (949) 494-1041.

Junior Lifeguards – Registration for the 2019 Junior Lifeguard program is now open to Laguna Beach residents. 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, May 17, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 18, 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 call (949) 497-0788 with questions.

The Community and Susi Q Senior Center is turning 10 this year – The center hosts Community Services classes for participants of all ages, and in collaboration with Laguna Beach Seniors, Inc. provides programs and services of interest to the senior community. Join the City at the center on Saturday, May 18 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., to view demonstrations of their programs for all ages, along with live music, refreshments, and opportunities to win gift certificates for Community Services classes.

Council appoints slew of residents to commission, committee and board posts


The City Council on Tuesday appointed applicants for one board, two committees and two commissions.

Incumbents Dawn Knepper and Mimi Niebuhr, Karyn Philippsen and Terri Smith were appointed to two-year terms on the Personnel Board, which hears appeals pertaining to employee disciplinary action, dismissals, demotions, reductions in pay or suspensions. 

Knepper is a member of the Labor and Employment Section of the State Bar of California. Niebuhr served as an alternate to the board, starting in 2018. She has been a resident of Laguna Beach for 35 years. Philippsen is a founding President of Visit Laguna Beach and of Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association. She has also served as a board/staff facilitator in the hospitality industry and construction. Smith, who recently retired as a marketing programs manager, feels he now has the time to become involved in civic and community activities.

The appointees will decide amongst themselves which of the four will serve as the alternate.

Arts Commission

Incumbents Michael Ervin, Pat Kollenda, Suzanne S. Mellor and Adam Schwerner were among the nine applicants for the four open seats on the Arts Commission. All four were reappointed.

Ervin sits on the boards of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and Laguna College of Art & Design. He has been involved with LOCA, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, Laguna Art Museum and the Festival of Arts. Kollenda, who describes herself as a professional volunteer, has served as chair of the commission six times and has had her fingers in almost every artistic pie in Laguna. Mellor has been a member of the commission for five years and previously a member of the boards of the Laguna Playhouse and LAM. Schwerner is Director of Horticulture and Resort Enhancement at Disneyland Resort.

Housing and Human Services Committee

Incumbents Jheri St. James and Marcus Skenderian were reappointed to the Housing and Human Services Committee. Newcomers to the committee are Rebecca Apodaca, Sam Goldstein, Steve Kellenberg and Laura Sauers.

Apodaca’s family has been in Laguna since the 1920s. She has lived here since 1953. Apodaca has been associated with No Square Theatre and the Assistance League. She is a senior and disabled, and she understands the need of both groups, which are in purview of the committee.

Goldstein is an art patron and investor. He believes the committee needs more innovative ways to create more housing and to supply it faster to the community. 

Kellenberg worked with Orange County Mental Health Foundation projects to provide support facilities for the homeless and psychiatric and substance abuse patients. St. James has served two previous terms on the committee. Her goal is to help longtime residents, artists, workers and seniors to continue to live in Laguna and she wants to assist the local homeless. St. James volunteers for Lifelong Laguna at the Susi Q. Sauer is a licensed counselor and regularly works with individuals with immediate housing crises due to disaster or crime. Skenderian is a real estate broker. He has lived in Laguna for more than 40 years and been in business here for more than 20 years. 

Planning Commission

Incumbent Susan Whitin and Steve Goldman were selected from the 11 applicants for the two seats on the Planning Commission.

Goldman has spent 35 years in the hotel industry. He feels the challenge to the commission is to encourage responsible growth consistent with the City’s General Plan and to preserve the character of the town. Whitin is an urban designer and landscape architect. She has been a member of the commission since 2015. Prior to that, she served on the View Preservation and Restoration Committee. 

Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee

Incumbents David Horne, Charity Morsey, Sonny Myers and Lynda Olsen and newcomer Thomas Gibbs were appointed to the Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee. Shelly Benecke and Edward Mousally were appointed as alternates. 

Gibbs is a Red Flag Patrol member and intends to take the next available Community Emergency Response Team training. Horne, who lost his home in the 1993 fire, is the founder of the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safety Council and has been a member of the EDPC committee since its inception. Morsey is a graduate of the CERT training and the Laguna Beach Police Citizens Academy and advisor and recorder for the EDPC. Myers is a member of the Laguna Beach CERT team and is responsible for CERT radio communications. Olsen is director of communications and public affairs for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. She is a graduate of Leadership Laguna and CERT training.

Bennecke chaired the Environmental Sustainability Committee and CERT training. 

Mousally’s interest in the committee dates back to his early career as an Emergency Medical Technician and a firefighter. 

Barbara’s Column

Chamber hosts State of the City Luncheon


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Mayor Bob Whalen combined his dry, sometimes wry, humor and a serious call for a return to civility in public discourse at the annual State of the City luncheon, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Montage on May 3.

Whalen, who has been wearing a brace to stabilize the 11 vertebrae he injured in a fall from a horse, said it might be mistaken for a Kevlar vest – and Kevlar might have been the better choice for some recent council meetings, he said.

“People ask me all the time if [the fall] was painful,” said Whalen. “Quite frankly, it was no more painful that some of our eight-hour council meetings.”

And then he got serious. 

“I am concerned about what I see as the unprecedented nature of personal attacks and efforts by some to embarrass or intimidate either an elected official or a member of the public who does not share their point of view,” said Whalen. “In my opinion, we are spending far too much time attacking one another and too little time attaching the issues and challenges we face as a community. We can do better.

“The council needs to do its part to elevate the quality of the debate by creating an environment in our meeting that allows everyone to speak freely, without fear of intimidation or exclusion and without being demeaned by others because their views are different or unpopular. 

“As the one in charge of running the meeting, I do my best to achieve this standard, but I will redouble my efforts.”

Whalen called on his fellow council members and the community to help meet that goal. 

Chamber hosts trio

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Police Chief Laura Farinella, Mayor Bob Whalen, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow

He then addressed one of the issues that have caused a major rift in the community: multiple complex developments.

“The pro-development and anti-development sides are girding for battle and hardening viewpoints,” Whalen said. 

He urged both sides to work together to come up with a solution that is “appropriate and smart.” 

“This is not an all or nothing choice,” Whalen said. “It will be about finding the right mix.”

Another issue facing the city is funding to reduce the risks of wildfire. However, Whalen said he is optimistic about the city’s future. The upcoming budget will fund goals such as sidewalks on the highway and resident serving programs financed in part by visitors. 

Whalen was joined on the dais by Police Chief Laura Farinella, Community Development Director Greg Pfost and Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis

Chamber hosts panel

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Development Director Greg Pfost and Police Chief Laura Farinella 

Pfost also addressed development: it’s at the highest level ever, he said. One goal of his department is to ensure that small projects don’t get lost in the cluster of major developments along Coast Highway being proposed by Laguna Beach Co.

He is also working on improvements in the department’s services, such as lessening processing time by having all related departments review the project simultaneously. 

Dupuis has had her hands full coping with the city’s urban forest, determining which trees need to go, may or may not be replaced, and with what, and being second guessed. She is also heavily involved with public works projects that will impact downtown, not to mention the Village Entrance – some 30 years in the making. A film of some of the department projects was shown. 

In addition to those on the dais, the luncheon was attended by council members Toni Iseman, Peter Blake and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow

Dicterow was asked to say a few words of inspiration. He did a dandy job.

During a visit last fall to his native New York, he had occasion to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, not, he said, to be confused with the Bronx Botanical Garden. As he walked, he spotted a rose garden. 

“And I stopped to smell the roses,” said Dicterow. 

Shouldn’t we all?

Chamber hosts JJ

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Chamber of Commerce President J.J. Ballesteros

The luncheon could only be called a success.

“There are more people here that last year and the most ever,” said past chamber President David Rubel. 

Sitting President J.J. Ballesteros welcomed the crowd to the luncheon.

“I have had the opportunity to attend this luncheon several times, but this year is different for me,” said Ballesteros. “While I suspect that is partly because I am giving the speech rather than judging it – it is also because of the chamber’s current direction for growth and the new tone and dialogue with our council and with our local businesses. I think this dialogue is vital.”

Ballesteros said he and recently appointed chamber Executive Director Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold have met with most of the council members and have had positive discussions. 

“Our primary goal was to hear from everyone,” said Ballesteros. “It was reassuring to know our council members are in unison for the most part. They want to know how our businesses are doing and what would help them overcome challenges.

“They wanted to know what residents need, as well. These are ongoing discussions and we look forward to working with them.”

Chamber hosts Paula

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Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold

Besides representing business, the chamber also supports special event such as the luncheon, a golf tournament in July, Hospitality Night and a revamped Taste of Laguna.

The chamber has also hired an urban economist to assess the future of the downtown, funded by an allocation of $25,000 from the city. Data will be provided in upcoming months. 

Hornbuckle-Arnold thanked luncheon sponsors Cox Communications and Julie Laughton Design Build. 

Once folks were seated, she mostly stood at the back of the room, keeping a vigilant eye on the proceedings, prepared to step in if necessary,

It wasn’t.

Chamber hosts Lisa and Mo

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Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and Mo Honarkar

Folks in the audience included Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett and her Community Relations Advisor Sergio Prince; Laguna Beach County Water District General Manager Renae Hinchey, and board members Debbie Neev and Cheryl Kinsman; Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson and his wife, Mary; Margaret Warder; Laguna Beach Company CEO Mo Honarkar and daughter Hasty, and Chamber Board members.

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading Contributions are welcomed.

See below for more photos from Mary Hurlbut

Council to interview and make appointments


The normal council agenda was turned upside down for Tuesday’s meeting to accommodate requests for special presentations to be made at night not in the afternoon when some folks complained working folks could not attend. 

Public comments and a special presentation on 5G installations and the permit process will be held following the presentation. Interviews and appointments of applicants for seats on one board, two committees and two commissions will be conducted first. Incumbents are identified by *; those who submitted applications for more than one position are identified by **, with the second applications in parentheses.

Personnel Board

The board hears appeals pertaining to employee disciplinary action, dismissals, demotions, reductions in pay or suspensions. Members meet as needed during two-year terms. 

Four seats, including an alternate, are to be filled.

Dawn Knepper*, Cathy King Viviani*, Mimi Niebuhr*, Karyn Philippsen and Terri Smith have applied.

Arts Commission

The commission advises the city council on proposed art projects and the costs, including the millions of dollars from the Business Improvement District, funded voluntarily by the lodging establishments in Laguna Beach. The commission has eight members, including an alternate. Four of them must be active participants in the arts.

The terms of Michael Ervin*, Pat Kollenda*, Suzanne S. Mellor* and Adam Schwerner * will expire in June. All four have reapplied. They are joined by Heidi Burkhardt, Sam Goldstein** (Housing and Human Services Committee), Michael Ray, Carl E. Smith, Liz Rizza** and Laura Widdow** (both of whom submitted applications for the Planning Commission).

Housing and Human Services Committee

The committee provides information to the council on affordable housing, the needs of all segments of the community, and makes available the resources and programs that deal with those needs. 

Cottie Petrie-Norris, who resigned from the committee when she was elected to the State Assembly in November, is one of the six members of the committee whose term is ending.

Applications were submitted by Jheri St. James*, Marcus Skenderian*, Rebecca Apodaca, Steve Kellenberg, Laura Asuers, Thomas Kadar** (Planning Commission) and Diane Robinson** (Emergency /Disaster Preparedness Committee).

Planning Commission

Twelve applicants are vying for the two open seats on the Planning Commission. 

The dozen in alphabetical order are: Steve Chadima, Chad Edgley, Jeff Feldman, Steve Goldman, Ernest Hackmon, Thomas Kadar** (Housing and Human Services), Karen J. Martin, Roger McErlane*, Liz Rizza** (Arts Commission), Diana Robinson** (Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee), Susan Whitin* and Laura Widdows** (Arts Commission).

Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee

The nine-member committee advises the council on disaster prevention, planning and preparedness. 

Shelly Bennecke, Thomas Gibbs, David Horne*, Charity Morsey*, Edward Mousally, Sonny Meyers*, Lynda Olsen*, Dianna Robinson** (Housing and Human services) and Lisa Romines have filed applications for the five open seats. 

City Manager’s Updates

Village Entrance Project Lot 11 to Open May 6 – Parking Lot 11, located at the intersection of Laguna Canyon Road and Forest Avenue, is scheduled to open for public use by May 6. Parking Lot 10, located adjacent to Art-A-Fair, has been temporarily closed for bridge reconstruction beginning April 29. 

Parking spaces along Laguna Canyon Road will become available for free public use. In addition, free parking and free trolley to the downtown area and the Farmers’ Market are available this weekend at Lot 16 (Act V). 

For more information, click on this week’s Village Entrance Project video update here. 

“City Chats” on KX 93.5 – Get to know Community Development Director Greg Pfost as he talks about his passion for Community Development and the ways the department is making it easier for Laguna Beach property owners to navigate the development process this Thursday night at 8 p.m. on KX 93.5’s new “City Chats” segment. 

Listeners can also tune in to the segment online at or on the iHeartRadio app. He’s also going to play some of his favorite tunes and share the stories behind them. Tune in to “City Chats” this Thursday night at 8 p.m. on KX 93.5!

SCE Pole Replacement – On Wednesday, May 8, and Thursday, May 9, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Southern California Edison (SCE) will be replacing a utility pole located at the dead end of Balboa Avenue, immediately north of the Del Mar Avenue intersection. The emergency access fire road will be blocked during the work, which has been coordinated with the Fire Department. Pedestrians can access the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park via Moulton Meadows Park during the work. 

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

HYBYCOZO at City Hall – Artist team HYBYCOZO has installed three sculptures outside City Hall. Created of steel, the sculptures are a geometric exploration through light, shadow, and perception. They will be on exhibit through July. The lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach have funded this program.

City Managers HYBYCOZO

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of City of LB

The Village Entrance Lot 11 will open on May 6 

Sunset Serenades – On Friday, May 10, Sunset Serenades returns to the Heisler Park Amphitheater near the corner of Cliff Drive and Jasmine Street. Enjoy free live music by guitar duo Django Shredders from 6:30 p.m. to sunset. 

For the full six-week schedule, check the City’s website here. The lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach have funded this program.

Heritage Month – Come celebrate Heritage Month this May and enjoy the many scheduled activities and events. A new event featured this year includes the Historic Residential Project forum where design, architecture, and real estate professionals will present historic projects and experiences. The forum will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, in City Council Chambers at 505 Forest Ave. 

A calendar of all the events will be posted on the City website at

Alta Laguna Basketball Court Resurfacing – Routine maintenance and resurfacing work at the Alta Laguna Basketball Court will begin on Monday, May 6. The work is slated to be complete by Friday, May 10. The basketball court will be closed for play during this time. 

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

Pearl Street Beach Access Improvements – On Monday, May 6, construction work to rebuild the closed beach access at the end of Pearl Street will begin. The project includes replacing the stairways, creating seating and overlook opportunities, and adding landscaping. Construction is scheduled to be complete in October 2019. 

For additional information, contact Tom Sandefur, P.E., Associate Civil Engineer at (949) 497-0792 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Red Telephone Booth Installation Rescheduled – The installation of “Super Hero Changing Station by local artist Robert Holton in the Red Telephone Booth on Forest Avenue has been rescheduled to Monday, May 6. The installation will be on display for 24 months as part of the Arts Commission’s temporary sculpture program. The lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach have funded this program.

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Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

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

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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