Laguna Canyon Conservancy hosts Fabulous Fifth District Supervisor

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett was the guest speaker at Monday’s Laguna Canyon Conservancy (LLC) Dinner.

Bartlett’s comments were well received at the well-attended dinner. Highlights of her talk included homelessness, transportation, and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, all subjects dear to the hearts of conservancy members.

“I had to scold the audience during the Q and A,’” said LCC President Gene Felder. “They were supposed to be asking questions, not complimenting the supervisor.”

Bartlett, the chair of the Board of Supervisors, began her talk with homelessness, about which she has taken a hands-on interest.

Laguna Canyon crowd

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Courtesy of OC Board of Supervisors

Crowd listens intently to Supervisor Bartlett

Last month, Bartlett and her staff participated in the biennial Point-in-Time (PIT) count of the homeless, with over 1,000 volunteers across the County surveying persons experiencing homelessness. 

Data from the PIT count is still being compiled but we should have final numbers available by April. 

The County will use this data to better understand our homeless population, what services are needed, and where to apply those services.

Bartlett also outlined the steps the County is taking to ensure Orange County’s homeless population is entering into a system of care that includes shelter, access to resources, and mental health care. 

Laguna Canyon three men

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Courtesy of OC Board of Supervisors

(L-R) Sergio Prince, community relations advisor for Supervisor Bartlett, LLC President Gene Felder, and LLC Vice-President Harry Huggins

Under her leadership, the Board recently approved funding for a new state-of-the-art mental health facility, known as Be Well OC.

This is a public/private partnership with CalOptima, local hospitals, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations to create a first-of-its-kind full-service mental health facility that will treat any OC resident, regardless of payer status.

Transportation, particularly as it pertains to El Toro Road, was also a topic of interest to the LCC members.

Bartlett discussed the changes in transportation in Orange County. Changes include adding more lanes to the I-5 to reduce congestion, the El Toro Road-I-5 Interchange Improvement Project, and Caltrans’ Laguna Canyon Road Improvement Project. 

Laguna Canyon two women

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Courtesy of OC Board of Supervisors

Supervisor Bartlett (on left) and Laura Parisi, Laguna Beach City Treasurer

Some, if not all, of the LCC members might question the word improvement.

“The conservancy is not opposed to the part of the project heading out of town but does not support the proposal to extend the merging lane heading into town from El Toro Road,” said Felder, who was appointed by Bartlett as a non-voting member of the Coastal Greenbelt Authority.

“Why spend money on making the road less safe?” Felder asked rhetorically.

Bartlett acknowledged local concerns with the Laguna Canyon Road Improvement Project and is working to ensure these concerns are heard by Caltrans.

“She didn’t lower the boom on Caltrans, but we are heard,” said Felder.

Changes to Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park were also discussed.

The new visitor center at the main entrance off Alicia Parkway will open early this summer.  The facility will include interpretive exhibits, a conference room, staff offices, and public restrooms.

Bartlett also reported that OC Parks recently completed installation of post-fire measures throughout the recent burn area in the Park. And the County has been implementing numerous strategies to deter runoff and erosion issues on roads and trails.

Native plants are already rebounding from the June 2018 fire, according to Bartlett. 

Coastal live oaks, sycamores, mule fat, coyote bush, willows, and golden bush are coming back. Many native wildflowers are also sprouting up and should put on a dramatic bloom this spring.