Edison agrees to work with city when replacing utility poles

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously to enter an agreement with Southern California Edison to waive the need for a coastal development permit for replacing utility poles.

"We feel like this was a win for [the city]," Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen said.

He said Edison has been replacing poles with little communication or agreement with the city.

Public Works Director Steve May said Edison was not required to get a permit to replace a pole with one of the same size and location but should have for replacements that were taller or in a new spot. Edison is not usually required to get a permit for replacing poles but they were needed because Laguna is in a coastal zone.

Because of the agreement, instead of seeking such permits, Edison will give the city a list of poles being replaced for the next year and give residents advance notice when the poles are being replaced, Whalen said.

Whalen added that the agreement also makes sure Edison will "minimize height increase where possible and be sensitive to view impacts."

A staff report indicated that some of the utility poles could increase in height by 5 to 10 feet.

"We want to be proactive in trying to mitigate view impacts," he said.

"We're a town with homes with views," Councilwoman Toni Iseman said, adding that just a few feet could have a "profound" effect on a homeowner's view.

Frank Wasko spoke for Edison at the meeting and said 80 poles will be replaced because of safety concerns. No new poles will be added.

Edison must inform residents by placing a notice on the pole to be replaced two weeks before the start of the project.


Fine for smoking in hazardous areas

Also on Tuesday, the council unanimously passed the first reading of a new ordinance to enact a $1,000 fine and misdemeanor charge for smoking and having an open flame in hazardous fire areas.

Those areas are indicated by posted signs and include Alta Laguna Boulevard, along the West Ridge Trail, on both sides of the Fire Road, at the Carolyn Wood Knoll View Park and at the end of Lavender Road, Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse wrote in an email.

The city has an ordinance prohibiting smoking in public parks but it did not expand to areas not labeled as a public park like the terminus of Alta Laguna Boulevard.

The proposed ordinance moves on to a second reading set for Jan. 21 and if approved will be enacted 30 days after the meeting.

At the Jan. 21 meeting, the council can vote on a resolution that will give enforcement officers the option of issuing an administrative citation or a misdemeanor.

LaTendresse said the option to issue a misdemeanor would be in place to deter repeat offenders.


Police officer memorial fund

The council voted to match donations to the police officer memorial fund up to $10,000.

The memorial will be in honor of fallen Laguna Beach officers and is slated to be installed near the front door of the police station on Forrest Avenue. It will be designed by a local artist .

Det. Larry Bammer, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees Union, said the fund has raised $24,000 on the way to a goal of $40,000.

There will be a fund-raiser on Jan. 27 at Mare Culinary Lounge that will feature a silent auction, no-host bar, buffet dinner and a live auction.

Tickets are $75 to $100 and can be bought at the police station or online at the page for the LB Police Officer memorial artwork fund-raiser on http://www.eventbrite.com.

Bammer said he hopes to have the monument completed in time for the first anniversary of officer Jon Coutchie's death on Sept. 21.

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