Commission to hear lifeguard tower appeal


A story in the April 27 issue of the Coastline Pilot, “Commission to hear lifeguard tower appeal,” should have stated that Sandra Siani was a lifeguard for 12 years, 11 years at a lake and one year at a pool.


Safety versus beauty on the sand in Laguna Beach will be debated by the California Coastal Commission in May.


Proposed new lifeguard towers for seven city beaches have been appealed to the commission, based on aesthetic and environmental concerns. Similar towers are already in place on six other beach sites.

The commission staff is recommending the commission determine that a substantial issue exists: the allegation that the towers do not conform to the standards set in the city’s Local Coastal Plan, certified by the commission, or the public access and recreation policies in the California Coastal Act.

A hearing on the appeal by Laguna Beach resident Sandra Siani, Commission Chair Patrick Kruer and Commissioner Sara Wan is scheduled for the May 9 through 11 commission meetings.

According the commission staff report, the appellants contend, among other things, that the proposed towers:


  • create adverse visual impacts;
  • present potential impacts to wildlife habitat;
  • would be located in areas subject to potential hazards, such as erosion
  • would impact lateral public access and recreation on the beaches.
  • The appeal also cites failure by the city to communicate early on with neighbors, failure to properly stake the towers and provide public noticing.

    Attempts to contact Siani were unsuccessful.

    “Neighbors were appropriately noticed,” Zoning Administrator Liane Schuller said. “As for staking, sandy conditions and the location on public beaches do not lend themselves to staking.”

    In the first group of six towers proposed, Crescent Bay Beach was staked after a neighbor appealed the approval. After negotiations, the project went forward and has been completed, Schuller said.

    The Design Review Board’s approval of the current proposal was not appealed to the City Council.

    Marine Safety Department Director Mark Klosterman said the Laguna is one of the last cities to change over to the new lifeguard towers that are in use on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Waikiki and Torrey Pines, which have similar conditions.

    The seven towers, to be erected on six beaches identified as Divers Cove/Picnic Beach (two towers at this location), Bird Rock, Sleepy Hollow, Thalia Street, Oak Street and Goff Cove were approved by the city.

    Klosterman said the towers conform to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, which now mandates closed chairs for the safety of lifeguards who are protecting the public’s safety.


    Marine Safety Capt. Kevin Snow said the old chairs were killing lifeguards.

    “Sun exposure leads to accelerated fatigue for lifeguards,” Snow said. “If [opponents] had seen the injuries and knew the demands of this job, they would agree with us. We tested the products.”

    The proposed towers screen the lifeguards from the sun, provide safer access and egress with handrails and are more stable than the chairs formerly used, lifeguards said.

    “We’ve all had skin cancer, all the [marine safety] command staff,” Klosterman said.

    As approved by the city’s Design Review Board in January, seven permanent elevated lifeguard chairs and towers, replacing seven temporary ones, would measure 14 feet, 9 inches tall, with a 4 by 4 foot footprint, solid fiberglass structures, with windows, a roof, attached deck with railings and an access ladder.

    “The proposed towers are identical to those approved several years ago for seven other beaches in the city,” Schuller informed the commission staff in March. “It is anticipated that another set of permanent towers will processed next year, in order to replace existing temporary towers with Cal-OSHA-approved permanent towers.”

    In a letter sent to the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot in February, Siani said she has respect for Klosterman, Snow and the Laguna Beach lifeguard department, but she disagrees with them about the proposed towers on many levels "” “financially, aesthetically, environmentally and practically.”

    “The bottom line is that the proposed permanent lifeguard towers are expensive, very ugly and create more problems,” wrote Siani, a Laguna Beach native and pool lifeguard for 12 years.


    The appeal to the Coastal Commission was filed March 26.


    Are proposed new lifeguard towers too ugly for Laguna Beach? Write us at P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, CA, 92652, e-mail us at or fax us at 494-8979. Please give your name and tell us your home address and phone number for verification purposes only.