City Council Meeting Wrap-Up

The following is from the Laguna Beach City Council meeting of Nov. 16. Mayor Elizabeth Pearson was absent due to illness.

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Design Board appointments challenged

During public comment, Peter Navarro read a statement requesting that the October appointments for the Design Review Board be nullified because one member of the Council voted for two candidates rather than three, that voting procedures be clarified, and that the alternate position be reinstated.

In response, Councilmember Verna Rollinger, who acknowledged that she had voted for only two applicants, said she was not the first to cast fewer votes than allotted, had done it before and probably will do it again.

"I am sorry Mr. Navarro is so concerned about the appointment process," Rollinger said.

However, the process has been vetted by the city attorney. Council members are not obliged to vote for three applicants just because three seats are open, Rollinger said.

"And if I had used my third vote, the outcome would not have been different," Rollinger said. Arnold Hano corrected Navarro's statement that three members of the council are Village Laguna members. There are only two, said Hano, a founder of the group.

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Egly on Bike Summit

Councilwoman Jane Egly requested and was granted appointment as the council representative to the Coastal Cities Bike Summit, which is working to create a bike lane on Coast Highway. Egly also continued to inform folks of what is being done to reduce Laguna's reliance on imported water.

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Olive Street lot sale

City Manager Ken Frank reported that a purchase agreement with Mark Christy for lots above the Festival of Arts has been modified. At present, the city will retain two lots on Olive Street to insure that the Pageant is protected from light and noise that might have been caused by future development. There will be some impact on the Capital Improvement Fund, but there will be no postponement or delay on capital improvement projects.

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Runoff exemptions nullified

An amendment to the city code that eliminated lawn watering and irrigation run off as exempted discharges was approved unanimously on the second reading.

WHAT IT MEANS

Violators will be noticed and given a deadline to comply with the ordinance, which may be appealed.

Enforcement may include fines and ultimately legal action by the city.

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Big wheel parking restrictions

The council gave preliminary approval to amendments to the city code relating to commercial and recreational vehicles parking on city streets or lots. The vote was 3-1, Rollinger opposed. A second reading of the proposed amendment is required before enactment.

WHAT IT MEANS

Large vehicles must be moved after five hours within a 24-hour span. Moving the vehicle just a few feet will not be acceptable.

There will be exceptions. And adequate notice will be given of the new regulations before enforcement of the code, which includes citations and impounding.

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Shuffleboard court art

The council unanimously approved a proposal from the Arts Commission for a competition for art works to be installed in the old shuffleboard court in Heisler Park, creating a sculpture garden. The proposed installation would include sculptures, sculptural seating and designs using the park pathways.

Works will be no taller than six feet, composed of durable material, with Shelly Cooper's poem, "Sparkle (Giggle Crack)" providing inspiration to the competing artists.

The winning artist will be awarded an honorarium of $100,000.

WHAT IT MEANS

The art will fulfill the city's art-in-public-places required by the renovation of Heisler Park.

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Beach dog days

The council unanimously referred to the city Recreation Committee a request by Rollinger to extend the hours that dogs are allowed on public beaches.

WHAT IT MEANS

The Recreation Committee is to report back its recommendations before March 1.

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Assist for seniors' affordable housing

The council, on a unanimous vote, directed staff to take action whenever possible to ensure that local seniors get preference in affordable housing for seniors that was financed by the city. Residency is not applicable in affordable housing financed with federal money such as Hagen House.

Affordable housing exclusively for seniors was funded by the city at Vista Aliso, 312 Broadway, and the condominiums on Mermaid and Third Street, Rollinger said.

Eligibility for Alice Court on Glenneyre Street is based on income, not age, and some seniors may qualify.

"I am concerned that the city is not doing everything it can to get Laguna Beach seniors into these facilities," said Rollinger, who sponsored the agenda item.

Rollinger claimed that Vista Aliso is recruiting tenants from outside Laguna.

WHAT IT MEANS

Staff was directed to work with Laguna Beach Seniors to identify low-income seniors who are eligible for affordable housing and assist them in making applications.

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Artist live/work fees waived

The council gave a boost to the development of nine artist/live work rental units by voting unanimously to waive half of the fees for the planning and zoning process and delaying the remainder until the building permit is issued.

Pearson and Councilman Kelly Boyd sponsored the agenda item, persuaded by the support of the arts community including Laguna College of Art & Design President Dennis Power and the council's expressed desire for affordable artist live-work projects.

Renting will be more affordable for artists than buying condos, Boyd said.

WHAT IT MEANS

Artist Louis Longi, who is developing an artist live/work project, can proceed with the hearing process at a reduced cost. If the Planning Commission approves the project, Boyd and Pearson will also ask for some consideration for the timing and amount of fees for plan checks and permits.

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Canyon road utility undergrounding

The council unanimously authorized the city manager to negotiate agreements with other agencies to buy up to $1.5 million in credits under California Utilities Commission rules to fund the Laguna Canyon Road Underground Utility District.

Under the commission's Rule 20A, Laguna can buy unused Edison allocations for burying utility lines underground from cities that have no overhead utilities.

The city will offer to buy credits for undergrounding projects for up to 55% of their value, funding the purchase from the city's street lighting fund.

WHAT IT MEANS

It depends on whether Frank can acquire the necessary credits, but boundaries for the district have been established in an engineer's report that was approved by the council and affected property owners have been notified.

If the credits are acquired, all overhead utilities within the district will be removed by Dec. 31, 2015.

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Revocable encroachment permit

An amendment to the city code designed to streamline the review process was given preliminary approval on a 4-0 vote.

WHAT IT MEANS

If enacted at the second reading, approval of revocable encroachment permits will be transferred to the Design Review Board.

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Hedge height review process changes

The council approved 4-0 an amendment in city code to simplify claims and lower the costs of filing complaints about a view-blocking hedge.

Filers of complaints will be refunded half of the fees if the claim is determined to be valid.

A second reading is required to put the amendment on the books.

WHAT IT MEANS

The council has acted on complaints by residents that the process is unwieldy and expensive. However, the Planning Commission still has reservations about the process and successfully lobbied the council for permission to work on a new ordinance, giving it high priority.

—compiled by Barbara Diamond

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