Letters to the Editor

Senator Janet Nguyen’s SB 1459 is bad policy and should be opposed

After working for 17 years to reduce pet overpopulation and shelter overcrowding through legislation, two things are crystal clear to me. First, good laws will compel most people to do the right thing when it comes to animals. Second, bad actors with little regard for the voiceless will exploit every legal loophole they can.

SB 1459 is a prime example of poorly written legislation that can be used to harm rather than help animals.

Willingly abandoning an animal in California is a misdemeanor. SB 1459 contains a provision that would amend that particular section of the Penal Code to state that releasing “community cats” through trap, neuter and return (TNR) programs does not constitute animal abandonment. Yet the bill sets no strict parameters for implementing TNR programs. Operators are not required to hold specific permits. Nor do they need to coordinate with local animal control agencies or meet minimum standards of care.

In essence, anyone would be able to round up and sterilize as many adoptable cats as they want and legally dump them onto the street, as long as they call it a TNR program. SB 1459 would also give legal cover to individuals who abandon their cats and claim it was part of such a program. It would be virtually impossible for a prosecutor to prove those individuals were lying, due to the lack of specific language in the bill.

Those of us who work on the frontlines of the animal protection battle oppose TNR programs as a general rule that are not closely managed. We know they are not good, for wildlife and especially not for the “community cats,” most of which suffer greatly from untreated medical conditions, hunger, dehydration, exposure to extreme weather, predators, or cruel humans.

The last thing California needs is a law that will send more of our feline friends back onto dangerous streets, condemning them to an early death.

The keys to ending pet overpopulation are spay and neuter programs for owned and shelter animals, vaccinations, licensing, microchipping and keeping animals indoors. By creating a new, legal pathway for people to abandon their cats, SB 1459 moves us away from that goal.

Please join me in opposing it by contacting Senator (Janet) Nguyen at 916.651.4036 and the Senate Appropriations Committee at 916.651.4014 where the bill will be voted on May 16.

Judie Mancuso

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding another Trojan horse

Remember the fire-and-fear campaign of 2018 led by a city subcommittee to place a $500 million bond measure before the voters for undergrounding SCE electric power utilities? If we don’t underground our utilities they said, Laguna will burn like Paradise, Calif.

Then in a 2018 referendum vote Laguna defeated the bond measure. Well, today they are at it again. Rather than a COVID-like campaign, we couch the undergrounding campaign in eco-friendly bike lanes and a transit route down both sides of Laguna Canyon Road (LCR), from Canyon Acres to El Toro Road.

This brief summary is taken from the August 2022 Project Study Report approved by the city manager and Caltrans. Of five alternative designs, the preferred design (Alt-5), shows the existing 34-foot travel way will expand to add bikeway and sidewalk improvements on both sides, and a bus route with 10 stops.

The existing right-of-way (RW) is from 68 to 95 feet. The project will consume all of it, even Big Bend at 53 feet grows another nine feet. The SCE Distribution Transmission and Telecom lines are located in vaults at the maximum RW boundary, in some cases on private property.

Traffic analysis shows the Level of Service (LOS) for traffic will not improve remaining at “F” in year 2030 and 2050; the LOS for biking and walking improves over the present no-provision condition.

No increase in traffic volume is planned and the speed limit will remain at 40 mph.

The construction costs estimated are $40 million and RW acquisition costs are $78M – the Alt-5 project total is $141 million.

On Tuesday, May 6, our Public Works department hosted a Susi Q workshop inviting the public to review design alternatives. The meeting was heated and emotional with 100 attendees pushing back on the lack of transparency, planning, scale, costs and disruption to rural Laguna Canyon. Two days later, the Mayor’s Newsletter said the meeting was well attended and “a success!”

During the 2018 fire-and-fear campaign there were three project alternatives for SR-133 proposed in a city staff report: Alternative 1 was a NO build option, 2 was to underground power utilities at $90M and 3 was to harden the high-risk LCR utility poles for $2M.

Alternative 3 would meet the objective for fire protection, yet our subcommittee nary anybody else ever mentioned it again. “Way too cheap for canyon beautification” goes the argument.

Hired consultant Mark Thomas said of this project: “This will require easements from various [property] owners throughout the corridor to locate the underground facilities outside of the right-of-way. This will be cost prohibitive and potentially require the use of eminent domain and should be considered infeasible.”

Hired consultants HDR said of this project: “The results of the benefit-cost analysis for the utility undergrounding alternative generally supports the conclusion that a utility undergrounding project along Laguna Canyon Road may be economically worthwhile under certain conditions, if such a plan fits the city’s vision for the Laguna Canyon Road corridor, but also that such a project is unlikely to generate benefits well in excess of project costs.”

Finally, since March pending legislation now before the California Senate Appropriations Committee (SB-960 Weiner) will force Caltrans to implement Complete Streets on the entire length of LCR and PCH. Indeed, all California highways under their control must conform to this Caltrans mandate Deputy Directive 64, which means CALTRANS MUST provide a multi-modal solution for LCR WHETHER OR NOT LAGUNA PURSUES UNDERGROUNDS.

Given pricey consultants hired for expert project recommendations, shouldn’t our city subcommittee heed the advice? Is modifying LCR for no traffic improvement worth the project cost?

Just wondering.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

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