Council votes to readopt height limit

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to readopt a citywide 36-foot maximum building height ordinance, a provision of an initiative voted for by residents in 1971.

Although the initiative was invalidated by the California Court of Appeal in 1973, the 36-foot maximum was included in the city's zoning ordinance until removed in 2008 as superfluous because most city zones have 36-foot or lower maximum heights.

"I feel it is important for the citywide 36-foot-maximum intended to be approved by the electorate to be re-instated in the municipal code for easy accessibility," said Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger in her proposal for readoption.

As required, the proposed ordinance amendment was referred to the Planning Commission, which voted 3-2 for readoption.

Commissioners Anne Johnson and Linda Dietrich opposed the amendment on the grounds that it was redundant, as well as inappropriate to apply a regulation to the entire city that did not take into consideration unique constraints and conditions of disparate zones.

The maximum building height in Laguna has not changed since 1971, Community Development Director John Montgomery said.

Councilman Kelly Boyd voiced a concern that the amendment would eliminate the possibility of developing senior, assisted living or artists work/live projects that might exceed the height limit by a foot or so, particularly in areas where flooding or topography might be constraints.

The 36-foot limit is a maximum, not a guarantee and may not be permitted, depending on other factors, such as view impairment.

Tuesday's vote came after the first reading of the proposed amendment. A second reading is required for passage.

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