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Survey: Lagunans happy overall

Folks like living in Laguna, but they don’t much like driving around here, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Only one other city of the 250 included for comparison in a National Citizen Survey commissioned by the City Council had a better rating from its residents. However, Laguna scored below the norm in getting around town by vehicle or bicycle and finding a place to park.

“We can’t fix traffic, but we can make it better,” Mayor Toni Iseman said Tuesday night. Iseman said the distribution of the survey results were coincidental to an item she put on the agenda to promote a council discussion of ways the city can reduce traffic congestion.

Iseman said that when 75% of the residents who responded to the survey listed traffic congestion as the top “major problem” in town, it is past time to do something about it.

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“I hope this will get support in the budget hearings,” Iseman said.

The survey was mailed to 1,200 residents, who were given a heads-up by postcard a week before the survey was sent. A total of 496 surveys, 44%, were returned.

“That exceeded the expected response rate of 25% to 40%,” Assistant City Manager John Pietig said.

The survey asked respondents to rate city services and community quality from poor to excellent.

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“Above” or “below norms” are comparisons to the responses by residents surveyed in other jurisdictions, Pietig said.

Results were weighted to reflect the demographics of Laguna. The results are contained in two reports, which include extensive bar graphs and pie charts, and a summary, available for review in the city clerk’s office in City Hall or on the city’s website www.lagunabeachcity.net.

The website has been accessed by only 39% of the residents surveyed, but 57% of them felt doing business with the city, such as renewing permits and licenses, by Internet was essential, and 43% said they would be “very interested” in getting periodic e-mails from the city on significant projects or events.

Data have been collected from more than 300 jurisdictions, but comparisons are based on responses to the same questions. Not all jurisdictions are asked all the same questions. Among Laguna’s high marks are the following:

  • Residents gave the city a rating of 87 on a scale of 1 (poor) to 100 (excellent). The name of the one city that ranked higher was not made available to city staff.
  • Eighty-seven percent said they felt “somewhat” or “very safe” from property or violent crimes.
  • Fifty-three percent felt safe from fires.
  • Safety in parks and downtown were rated above the norm.
  • Garbage collection services ranked in the 89th approval percentile.
  • Street repairs, cleaning, lighting, sidewalk maintenance and traffic-signal timing also were rated above or similar to the norm.
  • The city scored well with residents who walk or take municipal transportation but came near the bottom of the rankings on public parking, in the lowly fourth percentile.
  • That means that the city rated lower than 96% of the other jurisdictions with which it was compared.

    Other problems that rated as top concerns — which wasn’t good — were homelessness (29%) and too much growth (25%).

    “I think the survey was a great way to get the pulse of the community, what they consider problems and help us prioritize,” Iseman said.

    “And I thought it was impressive how generally satisfied residents are.”

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    As assessed by the survey:

  • Thirty-four percent of Laguna Beach residents have lived here for more than 20 years.
  • Seventy-nine percent of them are over 34 years old. Another 18% are over 64.
  • Seventy-eight percent are employed.
  • Thirty-six percent rent, 64% own homes, and 60% live in detached, single-family homes.
  • More than 97% of Laguna’s residents have some college education.
  • Eighty-two percent have annual incomes of more than $50,000
  • Seven percent identified themselves as Spanish, Latino or Hispanic.
  • Ninety-two percent said they were white or Caucasian.
  • City officials approved the survey in January and commissioned National Citizen Survey to conduct it.

    The survey is a collaborative effort between National Research Center Inc. and the International City/County Management Association.

    Surveys are standardized to assure high quality methods and comparable results — but customized for the specific jurisdiction.

    City staff added on options of special interest to locals.

    “There were no big surprises in the results,” Pietig said. “Generally they confirm that the city is working on a lot of the right things.”

    QUESTION OF THE WEEK

    Is traffic the worst problem facing Laguna Beach? Write us at P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, CA, 92652, e-mail us at coastlinepilot@latimes.com or fax us at 494-8979. Please give your name and tell us your home address and phone number for verification purposes only.

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