City briefs: Council supports fire pits at Aliso Beach

The City Council went on record with its opposition of a proposed ban on fire pits on Orange County beaches.

A letter will be sent to the Air Quality Management District suggesting that the fire pits should be left up to local governments. The letter came in response to a request from resident and local businessman Billy Fried, who asked the council to take action before the AQMD votes on the proposed ban.

"It is specious to say (the ban) is a deterrent to air quality in light of other issues," said Fried, who writes a column for the Coastline Pilot.

He said the decision should be left in local hands.

The request was added to the agenda as an emergency item that needs prompt action.

City Manager John Pietig will prepare a letter for the mayor to sign in support of letting cities decide whether to keep local fire pits.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted its opposition to the proposed ban at its April 23 meeting.

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Six appointed to Arts Commission

The council appointed four incumbents and two newcomers to the Arts Commission at the May 21 meeting.

Incumbents Ken Auster, Suzi Chavel, Pat Kollenda and Lisa Mansour were reappointed for two-year terms to the Arts Commission. Room on the board was made for Arts of Orange County founder David Emmes and Laguna College of Art + Design trustee Suzanne Mellor by expanding the commission to nine seats.

Laguna Playhouse Director Karen Wood urged the appointment of Emmes and Mellor, both associated with theater.

"He is an icon in theater, a very talented director and founder of South Coast Repertory," Wood said. "I am also thrilled to see Suzanne throw her hat into the ring."

Mellor is a former Playhouse board member.

"This is a huge opportunity to bring in a couple more commissioners," Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson said.

The commissioners were instructed to vote on which appointee should serve only one term so four seats would be up for appointment next year, evening out the lopsided vacancies.

However, the commission may consider recommending that the council extend their terms to three years with three seats open each year.

"I have been on the commission since Adam and Eve, and we had nine members and an alternate," said Kollenda, the sitting chair. "Now we have seven members and we are busier than ever."

Councilman Steve Dicterow, who generally favors streamlined five-member commissions and committees, supported the increase.

"Enlarging it makes it cumbersome, but the work load is enormous," Dicterow said.

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Incumbents reappointed to Planning Commission

Linda Dietrich and Norm Grossman were reappointed to the Planning Commission at the May 21 council meeting.

"There is a steep learning curve when you go on the commission," said Councilman Robert Whalen, who voted for both incumbents. "When I went on the commission it took me a while and right now we need a commission that is up to speed."

Whalen commented during the meeting about the lobbying on behalf of applicants.

"I have no problem with lobbying," Whalen said. "I only mentioned it in the interests of transparency."

Dietrich and Grossman each received three votes, the minimum for appointment.

Council members Toni Iseman and Steve Dicterow voted only for Grossman, who has served for 24 years, with a one year break from 2000 to 2001.

Mayor Kelly Boyd and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson voted only for Dietrich.

"My feeling was that Norm can be a resource to the city without being on the commission, which would open up a seat for new blood," Boyd said.

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Brook Street Surf Contest update

City Manager John Pietig asked Ben Siegel, assistant to the city manager/director of community services, to brief the council on changes that were in the works to ensure that the Brook Street Surf Contest be held.

Ben Siegel said the waiting period for the Brook Street Surf Contest would begin Saturday. He said Brandy Faber, a local surfer, proposed that the city allow a split weekend or to expand the window for the contest to Friday, Saturday and Sunday in order to increase the likelihood of having the contest.

Siegel said the flexibility would provide an opportunity for better waves. He noted that the changes would be publicized immediately.

— Barbara Diamond

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