Michele Hall enters City Council race

Flexibility is a big word for Michele Hall, whether that means teaching yoga or listening to a new perspective on a citywide issue.

Hall, 47, hopes to do more of the latter as a Laguna Beach City Council representative. She plans to run for one of three open council seats this fall.

The former president of the Laguna Beach Republicans has lived in the city most of her life and is no stranger to politics, though she has never held elected public office.

Hall was born in Orange and spent her early years in Texas. Her family moved to Laguna when she was 4, and Hall attended Aliso Elementary and Thurston Middle schools before graduating from Laguna Beach High School in 1985. (Aliso Elementary was closed years ago.)

She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1991, earning a degree in conservation and resource studies with an emphasis in water rights.

Hall developed an affinity for politics as a campaign consultant for Burbank-based Wessell Co., whose client list included Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and city and state Assembly candidates.

She returned to Laguna in 1993 to become executive director of United Laguna, a nonprofit that supported development in the Diamond-Crestview neighborhood and Treasure Island, now the site of the Montage Laguna Beach resort.

United Laguna had grown to more than 1,200 members when Hall left the organization in 1995 to stay at home with her two children, who are now in high school.

Hall, who teaches yoga in north Laguna, said several people suggested last year that she consider running for City Council. She consulted with her children and, after some thought, decided to give it a go.

The field is growing. Planning Commission Chairman Robert Zur Schmiede has also declared his intent to run for a seat on the council. Current Councilman Kelly Boyd will seek reelection, providing his health remains good, while Mayor Elizabeth Pearson and Councilwoman Toni Iseman remain undecided.

"I feel like the current council has done an amazing job ... but I feel like we need some fresh blood, someone who is not entrenched in city government and who can bring an outside perspective," Hall said.

Her primary concerns are the Village Entrance Project, parking, traffic, water quality and senior housing.

One of Hall's ideas is to close a block of Park Avenue east from Coast Highway to vehicular traffic. The space, she said, could provide a venue for musical entertainment, resembling the grassy area at Main Beach.

"It would be so cool to bring more special events downtown," she said.

Hall said she is eagerly awaiting the results of the pilot parking initiatives set for this summer; they include raising certain meter and lot rates. The council passed the trial programs in January to align pricing with demand and encourage drivers to use peripheral lots.

"I feel like the city is becoming more flexible, not so rigid," Hall said. "There's a nine-week window this summer [with the trial parking strategies]. If they don't work ask, 'How can we tweak them?'"

Howard Hills, president of the Laguna Beach Republicans, said Hall's track record speaks to a person who values the city's character and responsible development.

"She has a strong background in balanced growth, and that reflects stewardship," Hills said. "She values [Laguna's] village heritage and has a good relationship with the business community. Michele was a leader on the street, a grass-roots activist supporting development. We wouldn't have had a beautiful public park at [the Montage] without Michele's contributions."

Hall said she will start her fundraising campaign soon and, until then, continue teaching yoga and educating herself on key city issues. Earlier this week, Hall said, she read through the view-preservation ordinance, which the council will discuss Tuesday.

"I'll bring a fresh perspective, and I'm a strong leader," Hall said. "I not only live in this town, I love this town."

Hall is reminded of that when she walks her dog and sees the ocean and surrounding hills.

"I don't want to change the charm and character of this town. I want to enhance it," she said.

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