Professor: Less oil could affect life quality

Environmental issues dominated the Oct. 5 City Council Agenda.

Five of the 11 items heard in the regular order of business were directly related to improving or preserving the environment. Three others had peripheral effects.

"I don't want any of you 'greenies' to miss a minute of it," Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said.

Arthur Winer, professor of environmental health services at UCLA, briefed the council on the implications of the peak oil production for Laguna Beach. He also briefed San Diego Gas & Electric spokesman Duane Cave on smart electric meters that will be installed by the utility.

Winer, speaking on behalf of the Environmental Committee, said oil production is starting to decline in the United States and in 90% of all other oil-producing countries.

The drop may threaten residents' quality of life, essential services and the tourist industry, which is an economic necessity for Laguna to thrive, Winer said.

"Like most other cities in California and the United States, Laguna Beach came of age and has flourished during an era of inexpensive and plentiful oil," Winer said. "Today, the city remains heavily dependent on oil-based fuels, despite nascent efforts to diversify into renewable energy resources."

Among the other important impacts reported by Winer:

•Fluctuations in fuel prices

•Rising food prices and possible shortages

•Declining city revenue if tourists become unwilling or unable to drive here

"Laguna Beach is lagging behind other communities in planning [for shortages]," Winer said. "The Environmental Committee will be studying and make recommendations for transitioning to less oil dependence.

Committee member Chris Prelitz said the city should consider sustainability when it comes to large expenditures.

SMART METERS

San Diego Gas & Electric, which provides gas and electricity to Laguna Beach residents south of Montage Resort & Spa, will be getting smart meters, starting in January.

"We will be replacing 100-year-old technology," Cave said.

Customers will no longer have to call in outages. The digital smart meters will alert headquarters of the problem and the extent of the problem; the meters will also inform residents about their day-to-day use.

And no more meter readers will be going out to customers' homes, except to install the updated equipment, Cave said.

Customers will be notified 30 days before the installation.

For more information, contact Cave at dcave@semprautilities.com or call him at (949)448-8509.

PLASTIC BAGS

The council unanimously voted to direct City Manager Ken Frank to get to work on an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags by grocery stores.

There was no public testimony because no one in the audience opposed the ban.

However, Councilwoman Jane Egly, who sponsored the ban, said there has been considerable opposition, including a letter to Mayor Elizabeth Pearson from the American Chemistry Council on behalf of the Progressive Bag Affiliates.

"That's why Ken [City Manager Frank] listed three options," said Councilwoman Jane Egly, who sponsored the item.

Options included preparing an environmental impact report because of a court rejection of a proposed ordinance in Manhattan Beach that was struck down because no environmental-impact report was prepared.

Some cities are adopting a ban but delaying implementation pending an appellate court decision on the Manhattan Beach ordinance.

The third option was for 79% of the voters to pass an initiative put on the ballot by residents, not city officials, in which case no impact report would be required.

PROP. 23 opposed

Egly also sponsored official opposition to Proposition 23, which would delay the implementation of the Global Warning Solutions Act approved in state Assembly Bill 32 until the jobless rate in California drops to 5.5% for four consecutive quarters.

Egly said she didn't think the jobless rate has ever been that low, rendering AB 32 virtually unenforceable.

HEISLER PARK

The council confirmed a resolution that amends a policy in the Land Use Element of the General Plan and the Local Coastal Plan, which requires certification by the California Coastal Commission.

The amendment would allow the city's proposal to build the Lifeguard Headquarters on Main Beach that exceeds the 2,000 square foot restriction for construction in parks and recreation areas. The exception would apply only to Main Beach and only to a building that would consolidate public restrooms, sewage facilities and marine safety facilities in one single-story structure with a basement.

City and commission staffs have tentatively agreed on the wording of the policy.

IN OTHER ACTIONS

The council unanimously adopted an amendment to the city's noise ordinance that restricts the decibel level of loudspeakers at certain locations, if they are allowed at all.

Offensive or overly loud noise is considered by many to be a disruption of one's enjoyment of the environment. No one from the public spoke against the ordinance.

The council also directed the city manager to work with Edison to determine a boundary for a utility undergrounding district in Laguna Canyon. Poles are deemed to be a visual blight, as well as posing a danger if felled in a disaster and a potent threat of fire in the canyon. No objections were raised by the public.

An overall objective of providing adequate sidewalks on North and South Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road was unanimously approved. The installation would encourage people to get out of the their vehicles, which could reduce the airborne pollutants in the air and the debris on the streets that are flushed down the storm drains and end up on the beach and in the ocean.

Resident Max Isles pointed out that Laguna Canyon is only feasible option for bicyclists coming into town.

"You should not take up space for sidewalks," Isles said.

There is a conflict between bicyclists and pedestrians for space, Frank said.

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