Fireplace grates strongly encouraged

Residents who have wood-burning fireplaces will be encouraged to install grates intended to cut down on harmful pollutants, the Laguna Beach City Council voted at its Dec. 10 meeting.

The council stopped short of making the stainless-steel grates mandatory but unanimously favored urging residents to install the devices, which fit standard 36-by-42-inch fireplaces.

The grates reduce harmful emissions by 78% and provide up to 115% more heat, said Lisa Leighton, a Laguna Beach resident and chief executive of Corona-based Canterbury Enterprises, which manufactures fireplace parts.

Leighton helped develop a type of stainless-steel grate, Earth's Flame.

"Residents will save on healthcare costs, and the grates help reduce lung disease," Leighton told council members. "This is a solution that reduces carbon monoxide by 60%."

The council, as part of its vote, also directed the Planning Commission to provide input.

"I don't want to make it mandatory; it seems like everyone has wood-burning fireplaces," Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said.

Resident Ginger Osborne supported the optional grates, saying that she sees air pollution when she goes running.

"Recently, when it rained our car was clean, and then the next day, the car was covered with ash," Osborne said, citing smoke she saw from fireplaces the previous night. "This ash is what is going into my lungs. Anywhere we can encourage members of the community to do this retrofit or install gas-burning fireplaces is much improved over earlier versions, and this is one health-promoting effects we can institute in our city."

Anyone building a new home or demolishing and rebuilding a fireplace won't need the optional grates because they are required to use natural gas instead.

"If you build a new house, the fireplace has to have a natural-gas system," Community Development Director John Montgomery said. "If you remodel and propose to demolish an existing wood-burning fireplace, that again has to be a natural-gas system."

Homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces can install the stainless-steel grates, which cost $500 to $600, Leighton said.

Wood burns more quickly with the stainless-steel grate and cuts down on ash piling up on the bottom and up the sides of the chimney, she said.

Laguna Beach residents can receive a $100 discount and free delivery, Leighton added.


City will look into quality of meals served to seniors

Rather than sign a five-year extension, the council voted for the city to discuss concerns raised with the food quality at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center, which provides meals and programs for seniors.

The council voted unanimously for an agreement among the city, Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. and Age Well Senior Services Inc. that will cover Jan. 1 through June 30, 2014.

Before the meeting, council members received comments from the public asking them to think twice about entering into a five-year agreement.

Age Well, a nonprofit that provides meal service to senior centers in several Orange County cities, has supplied food to the Susi Q since it opened in 2009.

"We need to examine with a little more diligence, that the quality of what is provided to the seniors is adequate," Councilman Steve Dicterow said.

Resident Arnold Hano said the food needs to be improved.

"I've eaten over there [at the Susi Q] on the advice of a longstanding member and was forewarned the entrees were inedible," Hano told the council. "I took [the person] up, and it was spot-on correct. The second time was on my own, and [the entree] was again inedible. The sandwiches are passable. I think a six-month extension is great. Let's find out what we can about the quality of food."

Seniors are encouraged to donate for lunch, served in the multipurpose room Monday through Friday, though they aren't required to pay, Deputy City Manager Ben Siegel said.

The suggested donation for those 60 and older is $4; for those younger than 60, the suggested price is $5.50, Siegel wrote in a follow-up email. Age Well receives any donated money, he said.

Patty Quilter, Susi Q program coordinator, has not received similar comments to Hano's regarding food quality, but the city will conduct its own survey of seniors in the spring and report back to the council, she wrote in an email.

Food is prepared off-site and delivered to the Susi Q, Quilter said.

The city owns the Susi Q, and Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. uses the multipurpose room as part of a lease agreement with the city, according to Siegel.

Age Well also receives funding for its meal program from government grants and private donations, the staff report said.

The city pays for utilities and cleaning fees for the lunch program, according to the report.

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