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Fire zone vote could be conflict of interest

Laguna Niguel city staff must decide whether three council members have conflicts of interest when it comes to passing a state-mandated ordinance.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is required by state law to identify “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones” in every city, City Manager Tim Casey said Wednesday. Then the city has 120 days to recommend and approve an ordinance adopting the zone. This month marks the 120-day deadline.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, council members Gary Capata, Linda Lindholm and Joe Brown noted that they live in the affected zone, which is in the western edge of the city, adjacent to the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, South Laguna Beach and part of Dana Point.

During the meeting, Councilman Robert Ming showed hesitation in adopting the ordinance, which would include a new building code. He indicated the city might not be able to get the 3-0 vote it would need to pass it.


Casey said a 2-1 vote would mean the city is not acting in a manner that’s consistent with the state mandate. As a result, he said, the city attorney will review the situation and talk to the Fair Political Practices Commission and solidify whether it is a conflict of interest for the three council members who live in the area.

“This may be uncharted territory,” he said.

The adoption of the ordinance would implement ignition-resistant building standards in the zone. This will only apply to new buildings, not remodels or additions.

There are currently 37 vacant residential parcels in the zone that would be affected.


The building code is related to wildfire construction and details how to better safeguard homes in that area. According to the staff report, the additional costs would range from $2,900 to $8,410 for a 2,500-square-foot home.

Because building a home in that area would cost upward of half a million dollars, Casey said, the additional costs do not seem extraordinary.

Casey said there hasn’t been a wildfire that he could recall since the incorporation of the city. The 1993 Laguna Beach fire posed a possible threat.

The ordinance will be up for adoption at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Twitter: @joannaclay