Our Laguna: What the city accomplished in 2010 — a lot

The city annually issues a list of accomplishments for the calendar year. Of the 51 accomplishments in 2010, only one — the establishment of a permanent shelter for the city's homeless population — was included in the Coastline Pilot's list of the Top 10 Stories of the Year, which was more about people than projects. Our top story was the Dec. 22 flood, which happened after the city's list was issued.

Also spotlighted by us — not in any order:

•City Council election;

•Travails of Laguna Terrace Park renters trying to buy the land under their mobile homes;

•Public outcry about the proliferation of cell towers, over which the city has little control;

•City finances, including the budget, early retirement of the half-cent sales tax that established a disaster fun and helped pay bills for the Bluebird Canyon restoration not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's $34 million reimbursement;

•Marine Reserve designation for virtually all of Laguna's coastline, with Kelly Boyd the only council member opposed;

•Immigration sweeps;

•Restoration of the Coast Inn; and

•Speedboarding — which may be a Top 10 story again this year.


Here's what former City Manager Ken Frank — whose retirement made him the Newsmaker of the Year — thought were the city's key accomplishments through Oct. 29, 2010.


Community Development

•Adopted many specific recommendations proposed by the Business Assistance Task Force, which is co-chaired by the dynamite duo of Toni Iseman and Elizabeth Pearson.

Recommendations included extending free parking in the downtown lot and urging residents to "shop local" and landlords to reduce rent.

"I saw a list of 34 businesses that were approved last year, not all of which were due, of course, to the Business Task Force, but I don't think it has been fully recognized for what it has done," City Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said.

"The city is always being criticized as being anti-business and I don't think that is true — and 34 approvals show that."

•Adopted numerous changes to the zoning code regarding procedures, definitions, setbacks and nonconforming structures.

•Adopted an enhanced booklet of design review principles and guidelines.

The booklet shows illustrations of what the Community Development Department, headed by John Montgomery, considers good design.

•Instituted a comprehensive customer service effort in Community Development.

•Prepared an environmental impact report for the Village Entrance Project.

The emphasis has changed from parking to park.

"There is no groundswell for a garage at the Village Entrance, but if we remove parking we have to find an area in the vicinity for 60 or 70 vehicles," Pearson said at the council retreat in January.

The California Coastal Commission opposes the elimination of parking spaces.

•Amended the hedge height ordinance.


Public Facilities

•Undergrounded the utilities on Lookout Drive and Poplar Street.

•Created 15 new parking spaces on Cliff Drive by making it a one-way street.

•Reconstructed all of the alleys north of Boat Canyon.

•Adopted a 20-year plan for improvements to the sewer system.

•Replaced the alarm system at all of the 25 sewer pump stations.

•Installed a quick-connect emergency power device at the Irvine Cove pump station.

•Created an underground utility district for the Big Bend portion of Laguna Canyon Road.

The council authorized the city manager to buy Edison credits for undergrounding from cash-strapped cities for 55 cents on the dollar because Laguna has exhausted its credits.

•Repaired, relined or replaced about 45 sections of metal storm drains that were deteriorated.

•Repaired and resealed about 30% of the city's streets.

"It was the largest street project ever undertaken by the city in terms if area, although not cost," said Steve May, director of Public Works. "It cost $1.5 million."

•The Fire Department got new apparatus doors at Fire Station 1, a new roof on Station 4 and a new roof and siding for Station 2.

•Obtained a grant to re-landscape and beautify Broadway from the bus depot to Forest Avenue.

Councilwoman Jane Egly is a strong proponent of spiffing up Broadway

•Updated the fuel-dispensing equipment behind City Hall.

•Secured local approvals for a new lifeguard headquarters, public restrooms and sewer pump station at Main Beach

The Coastal Commission approved in January an amendment to the city's Local Coastal Program, which allows the construction of the project as conceived — which probably will be one of the Top 10 stories of 2012, when it is expected to be completed, according to City Manager John Pietig, who served as point man on the project.

•Secured grant funding for improvements to Heisler Park and began construction on the third phase of the renovation, which will conclude the $8-million project — $4.5 million funded by grants and $3.5 million by the city.

•Completed a major renovation of the Bluebird SOCWA Pump Station and installed a more energy efficient, super oxygenation system at the Bluebird SOCWA Pump Station.

It's supposed to make it smell better.

The city also began the replacement of the emergency power transfer switches at the Bluebird and Laguna SOCWA sewer lift stations.

•Found and constructed a new manhole along a lost section of sewer line located in the steep terrain of Hidden Valley Canyon.


Public Safety

•Participated in the Golden Guardian exercise with Mission Hospital.

Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Louise Callus said the exercise tested the city's emergency services.

•The police department also created a booking fee reimbursement program to recoup costs.

Other accomplishments on behalf of the police department:

•Obtained a grant to purchase laser radar units, a traffic enforcement tool, Callus said.

•Obtained a grant to replace old portable radios.

•Upgraded the computers in patrol cars.

•Completed a multi-year effort to scan old paper reports into the computer system.

•Created a civilian supervisor position to oversee Parking and Animal Services.

Jim Beres is now the man in charge. His job includes overseeing the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, which was slated for renovation when the Dec. 22 flood damaged what was already decrepit. Fortunately, plans for a temporary shelter on Laguna Canyon Road were in place and it is up and running.

•Conducted three sobriety checkpoints to reduce the incidence of driving under the influence.

Accomplishments on behalf or by the fire department:

•Received a state grant to replace emergency extrication equipment.

•Began a funding program for firefighter training through Santa Ana College.

•Achieved a Class 3 fire protection rating from the Insurance Services Office.

Laguna Beach property owners may get a break on their insurance under the new rating, based on the city's ability to protect its residents and businesses from fire.

"The city was a Class 4 in the last ratings, but we knew with all the things we have been doing, that we would fare better this time," Fire Chief Kris Head said.

The city is vigilant in clearing brush in the interface between developed areas and wild lands and property inspections conducted by the fire department.

Biological studies were commissioned to extend the fuel modification zone and remove invasive plants in Oro Canyon.

The department also created "Ready, Set, Go!," a fire prevention and best practices program for property owners.

David Horne heads up Red Flag Patrol, a cadre of volunteers who keep watch on high fire risk days in cooperation with the Fire Department.



•The city picked some more parcels for open space. Acquisitions included four additional lots in Arch Beach Heights including the Lutz parcels which were to be into the new view park, dedicated in November. The city also purchased the Hopkins Trust parcels on Bluebird Canyon Drive for open space, but shed property on Olive and Linden streets.

•The city opened up free parking all day for 10 months of the year for downtown employees and visitors.

•Summer trolley service to serve Three Arch Bay was extended.

The free trolley service is seen as a way to reduce the number of cars looking for parking spaces downtown.

All in all, it was a very good year — at least until December.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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