Council OKs new sister, friendship cities

The City Council on Tuesday gave its blessings to the adoption of a new sibling by the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. and the friending of another.

Sister Cities is not a city-sponsored organization, but Mayor Jane Egly and Councilman Kelly Boyd participated in the selection of San Jose del Cabo in Baja California as a potential sister city and St. Ives, England, as a friendship city.

The association requested council and public participation in the selection of future sister cities back in March. Since then, 20 submissions were evaluated and 18 eliminated from consideration. Association members visited the two remaining contenders at their own expense.

"After going thought this process, LBSCA would like to ask for the council's blessing to confirm that we may contact our counterparts at San Jose del Cabo and St. Ives to solidify our relationships," said association President Karyn Philippsen.

Egly had previously visited San Jose del Cabo, which is near Cabo San Lucas, as a tourist and found much to commend it.

"It is a delightful village," Egly said.

Selections for sisterhood are based on mutual interests, with no other sister city relationships or at least none that conflict with Laguna Beach, and an understanding of what makes a successful relationship, according to the criteria cited by the association.

Other criteria include:

•Official consulate nearby and officials available to participate in events.

•Similar topography, demographics and community values on education and public safety.

•Accessible by rail or plane.

•Similar businesses related to tourism and hospitality, and those with minimal environmental impact and an emphasis on the arts and surfing are key components of the criteria as well.


Why San Jose del Cabo was chosen?

The city is a two-hour flight from Orange County. It was safe enough for President Obama to attend a G-20 conference there in June.

While fishing is an important industry, so is the preservation of an estuary, bird sanctuary and one of the world's largest living reefs a few miles away.

Peopled with artists, the town even has an art walk on the first Thursday of the month and a civic sculpture collection.

Charming colonial architecture contrasts with the rampant building in Cabo San Lucas farther south.

"It doesn't have a coastline of high-rises," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson.

However, the resident population is 70,000, compared to Laguna's 24,161.

Some Laguna Beach residents have added to the San Jose del Cabo's population by buying second homes there.

Language is not a barrier, according to the association.

Criteria for a friendship city is the same, except more time is needed to solidify the relationship. St. Ives is a walkable seaside town with many art galleries and restaurants, and an economy based on tourism. Its population is 11,165 — considerably less than Laguna's.

Its links with Laguna include an interest in one of Laguna's premier artists, William Wendt, and Laguna Art Museum contacts with London's Tate Gallery, which has a second site in St. Ives.

The city has some of the best beaches in England.

Town Council members visited Laguna and suggested the friendly relationship, which could bloom into sisterhood.

The Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. was established in January 2008 with the goal of initiating and maintaining long-term and beneficial relationships with similar cities around the world.

Menton has been Laguna's sister city since the beginning, with the relationship solidified by a visit from the French city's students and the Skype contacts between the students in Odile Dewar's French classes and Menton students of English.

"While we have had successful projects and exchanges with Menton, there is always a need to reach out to additional and closer sister cities for tourism and business opportunities," Philippsen said.

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