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Laguna Beach

Historical Preservation Ordinance Task force Interrupted

After many long meetings regarding the Historical Preservation Ordinance, the City Council voted in favor of forming a Task Force of residents to study and ultimately, make recommendations back to them for action. Council members Steve Dicterow and Toni Iseman volunteered to act as facilitators for the Task force and subsequently interviewed and appointed eleven resident members.

At the first meeting members introduced themselves with a brief bio. Kathy Jensen, representing the city attorney, in answer to a task force member’s concern, reassured that she was representing private citizens, and not just a City Government position. Steve Dicterow stated he didn’t want an artificial Task force timeline or deadline. The direction to the Task force was that it would be assumed that no rules/ordinance was in place and starting from a zero baseline, from scratch, to discern what discretion the City has regarding a Historical Preservation Ordinance. Dicterow stated that one of the biggest issues has been the voluntariness of a home being placed on a (historical resource) list or not. Dicterow asked Kathy, “Does the City have discretion or is this mandated by State law?” Kathy Jensen and Laguna Beach Attorney Larry Nokes were invited to prepare their legal findings regarding what is required by the State and by CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, relating to historical resources.

At the second meeting, Kathy Jensen discussed the requested legal findings of Rutan & Tucker, the City attorneys. Unfortunately, Larry Nokes, who was invited to share legal findings, was not given equal time to go over those findings and was relegated to four minutes during the public comment section at the end of the meeting. The result being, that the legal findings of the City Attorney and of Larry Nokes were not equally presented to the Task Force.

The scheduled June 27 & July 17 Task force meetings were cancelled by City Manager John Pieteg out of concern for potential litigation. A special meeting of the City Council has been scheduled for July 31 so that the City Council, as the lead agency, can hear differing legal views and decide how to go forward. It is my understanding that the City Attorney as well as Larry Nokes, and perhaps others, will be given time to present their legal findings to the Council. The vote of the City Council will determine the future of the Historical Preservation Ordinance, the Task Force, and ultimately, the property rights of Laguna Beach homeowners. The special Council meeting is Tuesday, July 31 at 5 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall.   

Pat Carpenter

Laguna Beach

Coastal short-term rental supporters ignore historic nuisance laws

Coastal city Short-Term Rental proponents ignore legally-binding land use concepts, typically using meritless, fatally flawed arguments at hearings.

They’re good for business? Unfortunately, coastal trends since 2000 are “Commerce first, residents second.” By residents I mean those NOT owning potential STR parcels.

Favoring commerce over 40+ percent of the population who rent year-round plus percentages of full-time owners not wishing to acquire permits, that constitute an incontestable majority, the commerce tail is wagging the communal quality of life dog.

Beyond permit fees, there’s no proof that more STR would appreciably increase general municipal revenue via boarders spending significant taxable amounts at businesses. Often tenants are extended families and friends. They’ll be saving money by cooking and drinking at the rental, not out.

They increase or assist public access to our beaches? A classic straw man argument. Yes, a few hundred more people will be ensconced, but the Cal Coastal Commission is dead wrong on this one. Otherwise, why allow more and more parking meters, increasing rates plus climbing violation fees? Aren’t limited time meters a form of infringement, inhibition or visitation disincentive?

Coastals increasingly allow increased intensification of use for restaurants and bars without demanding increased onsite parking. Why doesn’t the CCC object to that, these sites eat up yet more public parking, thus decreasing access, don’t they?

STR homes are their castle, limitations constitute a de facto taking? That ignores the basics of common civility, public and private nuisance laws traced back to King Henry III:

“Private nuisance: An unreasonable, unwarranted invasion, where actions of the defendant cause a substantial interference with another’s use/enjoyment of their property. Public nuisance: The defendant’s actions materially affect the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of the community.”

No one has the inalienable right to use their property to the diminishment of their neighbor(s). Yes, some operators are vigilant and do not abuse the terms and conditions. The nightmares abound, absentee owners are trying to maximize income to offset, mitigate their taxes and maintenance. They bought the parcel without STR rights: Enhancing private revenue models is NOT the community’s problem.

The sales industry knows this, the Real Estate Disclosure Act of 1987 is explicit: Seller MUST disclose any adverse condition that COULD affect the value. Listed housing is theoretically forced to reveal the obtrusive potential if in proximity. STRs actually diminish property values, now THERE’S a fiscal infringement, irregular taking including tort (litigation) exposure.

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

A response to Armando Baez’s Letter to the Editor

Thank you for your concerns regarding this fall’s election Armando! Don’t worry, I’m sure as a Village Laguna board member you will have at least a couple of candidates to toe Village Laguna’s line and make sure that you and all of the homeless advocates in town get their concerns addressed. 

In the meantime you can rest assured that the residents of Laguna who are fed up with the squalor in the canyon and at Main Beach will be tuned in to the “coming debate” regarding solutions. I know what your solution is: build permanent supportive housing for addicts and chronic homeless in the most expensive real estate market in the country and hope more don’t come. Makes sense doesn’t it? It’s clear you’ve decided that my solution of a palpable police presence to deter and prevent the transient criminals from committing crimes will not work for you. You would prefer to continue on our path towards becoming the next Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz or San Francisco. Our sister cities, where residents live in fear and whose streets are littered with trash, feces, and needles. 

You begin your letter by stating that, “Laguna Beach, like many other cities across the country, experienced a dramatic influx of homeless people.” Really? Was that before or after the ACLU sued us? “So to deal with this challenge, city leaders and nonprofit volunteer groups united to develop a solution that would be legal, humane and fair to all.” Fair to all? How is this fair to the 23,000 residents who’ve had to deal with an explosion of low-level crime and a diminished quality of life. Doesn’t sound fair to me! 

You then proceed to credit these failed policies with somehow saving Laguna from the “catastrophic increase in homelessness in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana” and then you exclaim, “Somehow our policies maintained the population at a manageable level”. How was that accomplished? Were there quotas placed on how many transients could come to Laguna or how many could be dropped off by neighboring cities? 

Armando, why don’t you focus on Village Laguna’s other political goals? Acknowledge the control you and your political action committee have exercised for decades over our city. The property rights so many of us residents feel you’ve eroded while under the guise of “protecting” our city. Face it, you and Village Laguna are running scared because you can feel the end of decades of control that you have administered over us residents. Your endorsed candidates are going to be defeated this November. The residents of Laguna have had enough!

I am looking forward to debating all of these and many other issues I feel strongly about in the coming months, and yes, I will reduce homelessness in Laguna Beach and return our town to the safety and quality of life we’re accustomed to and deserve. A clean and safe Laguna is our right!

Peter Blake

Laguna Beach

Finding a solution for the homeless challenge

A recent ad in the StuNews [paid for by Peter Blake] announces that long-term business owner Peter Blake has thrown his hat in the race for a city council seat. According to the ad, his main issue seems to be a desire to see the city eliminate homeless from Main Beach and the business district. While Mr. Blake has operated a well-managed and landmark business in the Village since 1993, it appears he has forgotten the good work of so many citizens to find a workable solution for the homeless. 

Recall that years ago, Laguna Beach, like many other cities across the country, experienced a dramatic influx of homeless people. At the time, the city did not have a coordinated strategy that would meet court ordered requirements. While many would have preferred to erect a virtual wall at our borders to keep homeless people out of the city, the courts ruled that this would not be tolerated. So, to deal with this challenge, city leaders and nonprofit volunteer groups united to develop a solution that would be legal, humane and fair to all. 

In 2018, while cities like San Diego, Santa Ana and Los Angeles have seen a catastrophic increase in homelessness, Laguna has a process in place that treats the homeless fairly and humanely while maintaining the population at a manageable level. Yes, homeless citizens are given meals and lodging. At the same time, they are registered, screened for drug use, given health checkups and provided with local transportation meant to get them outside the village center during the evening hours. 

Yes, we would all prefer to see no homeless in our Village but, given the unfortunate circumstances in Southern California and the legal requirements from the courts and the state government, our civic leaders have developed a solution that seems to have prevented the catastrophic situation now experienced by so many of our sister cities. 

Let’s hope that the coming debate leading to the city council election clarifies what solutions each candidate proposes for this and other critical problems facing our village. At this point, it is clear a law enforcement only solution will not work.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Surfers: Respect the Lifeguards!

I was at the beach yesterday, and I watched a surfer, working the waves outside the surfing area at St. Ann’s, narrowly miss a little kid playing in the surf. The lifeguard swam out to the surfer and I presume, asked him to be careful and stay in the surf area. I saw the surfer say something in response, and I couldn’t hear it, but from body language, I could tell it wasn’t nice, then the surfer flipped off the lifeguard and paddled away.  

My son is a guard, and I asked him if he gets blowback like that, and he said, “All the time.” He said the worst are more often locals, because they resent being told what to do on “their” beach. He said he often gets abuse, and more often, ignored, and it’s embarrassing and disheartening. Dudes! Really??? It’s a public beach! There are reasons for the rules! My son had 10 saves the other day! The lifeguards are only doing their jobs, and their jobs are important, and their jobs matter! The ones manning the towers are usually just kids trying to earn some money during the summer. They don’t deserve that kind of abuse! Please!  Be respectful of the lifeguards! 

Please teach your kids to be respectful of the rules, and the lifeguards. And, next time you’re at the beach and you see a lifeguard do something good, tell them how much you appreciate them! Trust me, they need that kind of encouragement sometimes.

Lynn Whitlock

Laguna Beach

Taxes and city income


Some analysis [regardless of the worthiness of the Proposal for the Tax] indicate that even with the huge loss of ‘’bed tax’’ from such closings [four years projected] of Hotel Laguna...our City has plenty of cash income reserves to pay the for proposal without ANY NEW TAX!

It appears, for example, police service is cut to the bone...Residents rarely see patrols outside of the downtown homeless zone…and constant new loss of old revenue such as the downtown dual movie theater. And the stagnant Festival revenues, etc.

We can afford many’s just [that] the City is adrift with bureaucratic indecision. Look to the current account in City coffers...NOT...our deep pockets.

Paul Merritt

Laguna Beach

Overflowing trash: Tourists need to treat our town better – we can’t afford this

I believe in my City Council. They are all good members of our community and my own customers at one point in their lives. [But from these photos] you can see what a typical Sunday has come to look like. This overflowing of tourism is collapsing the town. Each week I have more and more neighbors, friends, and merchants complaining about how our town is being treated by the tourists. 

The lack of concern for the trash is a matter of health. More rats and other vermin will be taking over next. The City has over-promoted the tourism, and has done nothing to limit the amount of people coming into the city, and the trash is overflowing as you can see on the pictures that were sent to me by some good neighbors.

We take pride in our homes, neighborhoods, beaches, and education. We pay for city services for our families. But with 26,000 residents and 6.3 million visitors, the residents are a percentage of .004 percent. We are not even one percent of the total amount of people here, but this less than one percent is expected to pay for most of the services, and clean up after the 99.996 percent. Yes, we do get money from the County, the State, the Federal Government, but apparently it is not enough to buy trashcans for all these “Guests”.

I would like to see a study done on what percentage of the residents’ and town’s income is supported by tourism.

Letter trash two

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Marisol Kellam

Tourists need to treat our town better

I would like to see a candidate say, “Residents first!”

We cannot fault our hard working disposal company and its employees. Our City workers are doing the best that they can, but if we were able to become a Smoke Free City, can’t we become a, “Take Your Trash Home With You City?” or “You Will Be Fined”? At least provide trash receptacles, as ours are over flowing until we can get a plan in action.

Now Caltrans is also going to be paving the way for more tourists to come in? I think it is time to be like Catalina. Limit the amount of cars to residents and merchants, which limits the amount of people, and wear and tear on the city roads and everything else. We now have to become like Huntington Beach and charge for emergency services if the person is a non-resident. We can’t afford all this. My family has been here since the 1920s and each city has to progress, but we are too physically small to handle all of these many people.

Every resident I know picks up trash every weekend and during the week from in front of their homes, in the parking lots of grocery stores, beaches, hiking trails from The Top of the World to the bottom of the canyon.

I honestly think we are all trying as hard as we can, but this many people is a health hazard.

Thank you each for your time as residents and working members of this community to reading this.

Rebecca Apodaca

Laguna Beach

Bombs and boats

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve heard about abandoned boats with suspected human traffickers and illegal immigrants allowed to escape into the town and who knows where after that. Now, [last] week, the Laguna Beach police blotter states that a military bomb was found on the beach. I think that Laguna needs to work with the DHS and ICE to ensure that our beaches, residents and citizens are safe.

Gary Zaremba

The Caltrans Improvement Project

Caltrans holds the record on road re-alignments for Laguna Canyon Road, each time to “mitigate congestion and improve safety and facility operations.” In 1993, ten alternative routes were considered between the 405 and 73 toll road, one was chosen for SR-133, the two-lane divided highway we use now. As Caltrans put it, that alternative did not preclude the “opportunity” to expand the highway to six-lanes later on. 

The present SR-133 Improvement Project is another Caltrans road re-alignment to mitigate congestion for the remainder of LCR, from the 73 to El Toro and the city limits. How’s that worked out for us since LCR was a two-lane rural country road in 1910? In the project before us Caltrans says adding 2,100 feet of additional lane will not add extra roadway capacity for traffic, it merely adds another queue for merging traffic, like another ticket queue for entry to Disneyland. Does anyone see preparation for a four-lane highway?

Caltrans’ mission is moving lots of cars fast as safely possible, like from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with the shortest possible trip delay. They are good at it. The trouble is the same roadway design for Las Vegas is used for Laguna Beach and inappropriate for a State Route ending in the Pacific Ocean. The good news is Caltrans is beholding to a State DOT mandate, one that moves transit passengers not just their cars. 

If Caltrans were to revisit the SR-133 Improvement Project and honor their mandate, the new design could satisfy the LB Greenbelt, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, CANDO, STOP, and actually reduce vehicle congestion too. Caltrans would meet their roadway safety objectives and underground Edison utilities without expansion to four lanes. Worth $39.3 million, that would be a gift to Laguna Beach. Let’s encourage Caltrans to re-visit their plans before construction begins February 2021.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Caltrans project: There are alternatives

Given the sensitivity of Laguna Canyon, we should explore every option that would enable better traffic flow at a reduced impact to the canyon. One of the best options to achieve this is to eliminate the redundant portion of El Toro Rd and return it to wilderness uses. 

El Toro traffic would use the existing 73 feeder system to access Laguna Canyon Rd.  By eliminating intersections, travel time could actually be reduced. 

The advantages of eliminating the redundancies are easy to view on a map (see below).

letter el toro

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted graphic

Southbound El Toro traffic would use the 73 feeder to join the 133 at the junction of the 73 and 133.    

There are three options for Northbound El Toro traffic: 

--Simple Option – Just use the existing ramps from the 133 to the 73 feeder.

--Improved Option – Improvements to the current intersection of the 133 and the 73 feeder should be considered. A dedicated ramp for northbound 133 to southbound 73 feeder would be the most obvious improvement.

--One-way Option – Another variation would be to make El Toro one-way, northbound only, between the current 133 intersection and the 73.

Several other improvements could also be made to further improve traffic flow – all of which would be less than the $39 million budget for the current proposal of just adding more merge lanes to the current intersection.

Any of these three variations would make better use of the 73 feeder while at the same time completely eliminating the bottleneck and congestion at the current 133 and El Toro intersection. The key here is to move the merging and the congestion to the 133 – 73 intersection which already has the infrastructure, width, and throughput to handle the merging much better than further down in the middle of Laguna Canyon.    

While Option 2, the “Improved Option,” would add less than a half-mile of distance, it would actually improve travel time since two traffic lights intersections are eliminated. Gaining traffic throughput this way would allow us to return land to wilderness uses rather than taking more away.  That is the option displayed in the map.

I hope that this idea can get enough traction to be seriously evaluated by Caltrans.

David Raber

Laguna Beach

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