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City News

City Council Highlights: January 8

City Council Appoints Jorg Dubin to Planning Commission

At a special meeting on January 8, 2019, the City Council appointed Jorg Dubin to the Planning Commission with the term beginning immediately, through June 30, 2020. Dubin fills a vacancy on the Planning Commission created when Councilmember Sue Kempf was sworn in to serve on the City Council December 4, leaving the remainder of her term on the Planning Commission vacant. Eleven applicants applied for the open Planning Commission seat.

Dubin is an artist, musician and designer living in Laguna Beach and a long-time member of the City’s creative community. His experience includes serving on the boards of the Sawdust Festival, Laguna Beach Art Museum, and Festival of the Arts. Dubin was a 2018 candidate for City Council.

“I believe in diversity and bring that diversity in my creative thinking,” Dubin said. “I think we really need to make a reassessment of what we want to have here in terms of businesses that will serve the community better.”

The Planning Commission is a five-member body appointed by the City Council for the purpose of reviewing and advising the Council on items related to the development and modification of land uses within City limits. The Commission recommends action on the development and amendment of the General Plan, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations and special projects related to land use planning.

City to Begin Canyon Fuel Modification Work

In 2018, the City was awarded a $3.3 million grant from Cal Fire to develop Fuel Modification Zones in order to better protect Laguna Canyon and Canyon Acres and reduce fire ignition sources along Laguna Canyon Road.  To begin that work, the City will work with the Laguna Canyon Foundation and Glenn Lukos Associates for scientific review and assistance with environmental permitting for the fuel modification activities. 

The fire prevention grant received by the City is from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) California Climate Investments Program.  The grant provides funding to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires and sequester carbon.  The grant is funded by the State Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. It will provide the City the resources needed to fund hazardous fuel reduction, fire planning, and fire prevention education emphasizing public health and safety while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The City’s grant partners include the City of Irvine, Orange County Fire Authority, Laguna Canyon Foundation, OC Parks, Greater Laguna Coast Firesafe Council, and the Natural Communities Coalition.  The City and its partners share a 25% grant match commitment.

At is meeting January 8, the City Council appropriated $3.3 million in grant funding for the Fuel Modification Program. The City Council also authorized agreements with the Laguna Canyon Foundation and Glenn Lukos Associates for the professional services related to the development and implementation of Fuel Modification zones in Laguna.  The City expects to complete the fuel modification work by 2020 and maintain the area through the end of the grant period which ends in March of 2022.

Local Resident and Business Owner Donates Two “Ebikes” to Police and Fire Departments

At its regular meeting on January 8, the City Council accepted the donation of two “Ebikes” from resident and business owner Troy Lee and Bosch Ebike Systems. The bikes will be donated to the Fire and Police Departments and will enhance the ability of officers and fire fighters to respond to calls for service within the City as well as in remote areas, and allow them to travel greater distances without the need for fuel. Ebikes are electric bicycles that work like a traditional bike but offer the benefit of being powered by an electric rechargeable battery.

Troy Lee owns Troy Lee Designs in downtown Laguna Beach, and his company produces safety equipment like helmets and specialized clothing for mountain biking. He recently partnered with Claudio Wasco, the leader of Bosch Ebike Systems, to produce public safety ebikes. Public safety departments across the country are transitioning from traditional bikes to ebikes because of the benefits. The ebike donation to the City is valued at $10,798.

City Receives Update from Caltrans on Four Coast Highway Projects

At its regular meeting on January 8, representatives from Caltrans presented the City Council an update on four projects currently in the design phase on Coast Highway through the City. 

The four key projects include the Coast Highway Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Sidewalk Improvements on both North and South Segments, Coast Highway Street Resurfacing and Laguna Canyon Channel Culvert Replacement.  The ADA Sidewalk Improvements include widening sidewalks, moving sidewalk obstructions, adding sidewalks across driveways, adding curb ramps and adding missing portions of sidewalk to create a continuous path.  The North segments include portions between Ledroit Street and Ruby Street, and the south segment is between Moss Street and Seventh Avenue. 

The City has contributed $1.8 million in funding for design-related costs associated with the south sidewalk segment and plans to contribute another $7.9 million to construction costs.  After the sidewalk projects are complete, street resurfacing will be done and the pavement will be overlaid with a fresh layer of asphalt.  

The Laguna Canyon Channel Culvert replacement will remove and replace a deteriorated portion of concrete drain under Coast Highway near Broadway by the movie theatre.  The culvert is part of Laguna Canyon Channel and goes underground at Beach Street, discharging under the boardwalk at Main Beach. 

City Readies for Downtown Action Plan Proposals

At its meeting on January 8, the City Council voted to distribute a Request for Proposals (RFP) for development of an action plan to make improvements to the downtown. The concept of the action plan comes from the recently adopted Landscape and Scenic Highways Element and Resource Document, which serve as the blueprint to help preserve, enhance and sustain landscape and scenic corridors essential to the City’s unique character. The action plan will build upon the policy direction and design recommendations of those two documents as well as that of the Downtown Specific Plan, which is currently in its final planning stages and will be presented to City Council in the next few months. The timing of the RFP coincides with the anticipated completion of the Downtown Specific Plan.

The RFP will solicit proposals for an action plan from landscape and design firms to essentially “zoom in” and provide further detail on specific policy and design recommendations and a process for how those will be implemented in the downtown. The action plan will provide specifics on things like landscaping, tree-types and tree placement, sidewalks, crosswalks, benches, street furniture, new public spaces and locations for public art in the downtown area. The action plan proposals will include a phasing and implementation plan and a cost/benefit analysis, and will go through the public hearing process, starting with presentations to the Planning Commission and eventually to the City Council for their review and approval. City staff will return to the City Council with a recommendation on a firm and a proposal in March or April of 2019.

City Council Invites Input from Design Review Board Members on Process

At its regular meeting on January 8, the City Council voted to invite all members of the City’s Design Review Board to participate in a meeting with the City Council on the current design review process. The City Council will invite all five board members to discuss the current design review process and invite their opinions on any possible areas of improvements at an upcoming meeting February 5, 2019. The February 5 input session will take place before a meeting that evening in which the City Council will make more than 20 appointments to various City boards, commissions and committees. Three of the five Design Review Board members’ terms are also up for reappointment. Applicants wishing to be considered for positions on any board, commission or committee must submit an application to the City Clerk by January 22, 2019. No late applications will be accepted.

The January 8 City Council agenda item to discuss the design review process was initiated by Councilmember Peter Blake, who said that improving the design review process was one of his highest priorities.

“The first step of this effort needs to be setting a positive tone for the Design Review Board to work with applicants, neighborhoods, and staff to resolve issues in a respectful and efficient manner,” Blake wrote in the January 8 Agenda Bill.

Design Review Board members serve two-year terms and meet on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month in City Council Chambers. Their duties include assessing proposed development projects to determine whether they conform to the policies of the City’s General Plan, Certified Local Coastal Program, Zoning Standards and Design Review Criteria as specified in the municipal code. 

The Community Development Director is currently also developing recommendations to improve the internal process regarding City codes and processes for future consideration of the City Council.