Guest Articles – Laguna Historic Ordinance Meeting

The City Council is accepting applications for the Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force. The Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force was created by the City Council at its January 23, 2018, City Council meeting.

The Task Force will consist of (9) nine members of the Public selected by two City Council members who will act as liaisons and non-voting members of the Task Force. The purpose of the Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force will be to attempt to reach consensus on the Historic Preservation Ordinance and to provide recommendation(s) back to the City Council.

Applicants may be contacted by a City Council member prior to the appointments so please be prepared to make a brief statement about your desire to serve on this Task Force. Laguna Beach residents who are interested in serving on the Historic Preservation Ordinance Task Force should obtain an application from the City Clerk’s office or on-line from the City’s website, www.lagunabeachcity.net and file by Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. Questions may be directed to the City Clerk’s office at 497-0705. Applications will not be accepted after the February 28, 2018 deadline.


Let Laguna Live (LLL) appears to be the only organized effort to stop the adoption of the “revised” historical preservation ordinance. LLL having a meeting for all interested citizens and homeowners in Laguna Beach. Please attend for information about the Historic Preservation Ordinance and how it will affect your property. There are ways you can get involved to keep your property rights intact. The Let Laguna Live! Board and an expert will discuss next steps.

I have written a lot on this subject but let me try to summarize my position. I would like LLL advocate these positions and welcome any support.

Some facts:

  1. CEQA does not mandate any city adopt a historical ordinance, registry, inventory or survey. The City is free to design their own local historical program .. or not have one at all. (I have this in writing from the Local Government & Environmental Compliance Unit
    California Office of Historic Preservation)
  2. All local building permits are exempt from CEQA unless a structure in on the federal state or local “registry.”
  3. Creating an “inventory” or “survey” traps all the homes on this list in the CEQA review process AGAINST the will of the home owner.
  4. Laguna is the only City I can find that requires registered home owners to sign a perpetual contract that can never be terminated.
  5. The proposed ordinance to declare all homes over a certain age to be a “potential historical resources” subjects these homes to time consuming, costly CEQA environmental reviews .. without the owner’s consent or due process.
  6. The Laguna ordinance PROHIBITS an unregistered home owner from filing for Mills Act (a 10 yr contract with substantial property tax reduction) UNLESS the first sign a PERPETUAL contract .. only to learn the City will not grant MILLS ACT. This is a huge disinceti8ve to participate in the historical preservation program.

What needs to be done;

City Council should REJECT the proposed amendments and instruct the staff to draft a NEW ordinance based on simple policy positions:

  1. All applications for Registration should be VOLUNTARY. Any property that is now registered without the consent or will of the homeowner should be allowed to terminate.
  2. The use of perpetual contract should be terminated. Like other cities, registration is voluntary and the regulation of a registered homes is controlled the city code enforcement just like any other permit.
  3. Halt all efforts to create a “survey” or “inventory”. Stop spending taxpayer money on outside consultants who drive by your home and place you on a list against your will. These “lists” serve no purpose other than to encumber homes without due process.
  4. Marking un-registered homes “potentially historical” because of their ages should be rejected.
  5. Process applications for registration with Mills Act concurrently. You get both or you get nothing. Other Cities do this .. Pasadena is the best example.
  6. Draft the new ordinance to minimize CEQA review of historical resources. State that only registered homes are subject to CEQA review .. thus limiting future demolition and remodeling.
  7. Drop incentives such as reduced fees and variances from energy and environmental codes for registered homes. They have little value as financial incentives. Registered homes that violate current energy efficiency laws should be brought up to code to save energy, GHG emissions, fire safety, etc. This is a public safety issue. Safety is more important that preserving an old dangerous structure.

Please feel free to state your own positions and attend this meeting.

Douglas H. Cortez

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