Mayor Kelly Boyd gave the traditional State of the City update at the Laguna Canyon Conservancy Dinner Monday night at Tivoli Terrace.
Boyd, who sounded and looked healthier than at any time since his back surgery last year, previewed projects the council will address in 2013 and recapped city accomplishments in 2012 of interest to the conservancy.
"We bought 59 acres of open space — the McGraw and McGehee parcels — with [Proposition] 12 funds, and we are working on an additional purchase with the remaining funds," said Boyd, setting the tone for a group that has not always been in sync with his political objectives.
"We opened passive parks on Laguna Canyon Frontage Road near Woodland Avenue and on Park Avenue," he continued. "We improved the Artist Work/Live ordinances to provide density and parking incentives — trying to keep artists here in town. It is important to support young artists like those studying at the Laguna College of Art and Design."
Boyd also pointed out that the city had maintained the Alternate Sleeping Location in Laguna Canyon, which received a $50,000 grant to help defray expenses at the shelter. Boyd initiated the Homeless Task Force in 2008 that led to the formation of the Advisory Committee on Homelessness in 2009, which recommended the establishment of a nighttime shelter.
A look at 2013
"Some key community discussions in 2013 include the Village Entrance," Boyd said. "We have been working on it for years and we will continue to work on it.
"The bottom line is money. There have been so many alternatives proposed that no final decision has been made."
The Downtown Parking Management Plan is also in the works, Boyd said.
One of Boyd's concerns is the cost of the city's transit system, which now totals $800,000 a year, and could go as high as $1 million in the next couple of years, he said.
"We have to find a way to offset the cost," Boyd said. He said that he wouldHe said that he would support increased weekend trolley service if fares were charged.
During the Q & A period after his talk, Boyd said he isn't one to increase taxes, but he believes that a $2 fare is a good deal to get downtown for dinner and drinks.
Another long-term issue will be revived at the Jan. 15 council meeting when Boyd will propose a view ordinance "with teeth," which wasn't viewed favorably by the audience.
"Sixty or 70 percent of Laguna's homes are built on hills and the people below you could cost you 25% of your home's value [if trees block your view]," Boyd said.
"This isn't about cutting down all the trees in Laguna; it is about working together on issues that affect your neighbors and the community."
Another project that affects the entire community is the undergrounding of utility poles and the construction of pathways along Laguna Canyon Road, Boyd said.
It was a project espoused by former Councilwoman Verna Rollinger and current Councilwoman Toni Iseman, both darlings of the conservancy.
The city bought $215,000 of Rule 20-A credits from other cities at a discounted price to be used to underground utilities on a portion of Laguna Canyon Road and expanded the district through the Big Bend area.
Boyd said the city is ready to commence the undergrounding, but Edison is dragging its heels on the project, which would provide safer passage out of town in the event of a disaster.
However, three important projects are underway: the Lifeguard Headquarters, public restrooms and new children's play equipment at Main Beach.
Discussing the city's financial picture, Boyd noted that the budget is balanced and the city's 10% reserve and $4 million Recession Smoothing Account remain intact without any layoffs.
Q & A session
Boyd had no answer to South Laguna resident Eleanor Henry's query on when Caltrans would enlarge the culvert under Coast Highway, a sore point with those who felt the council erred in not accepting county money for the project when it was offered.
Also asked: "When will Caltrans move the stop sign to the north side of Ocean Avenue?
"Caltrans wants $250,000 to do it," Boyd said. "I think that is asinine. About 80% of the traffic heads south on PCH."
Asked when the problems with Aliso Creek will be addressed, Boyd said that was a question for City Manager John Pietig, who is scheduled to speak at a future conservancy dinner.
When asked about the proliferation of low-flying commercial flights, Boyd said that the issue will be on the Jan. 15 agenda.
The final question came from a Laguna Canyon resident who wanted to know why the city won't take steps to clear an illegally built wall that was red-tagged.
"Email me — I'll follow up on it," said Boyd, who prides himself on his accessibility to his constituents.