A Message from Councilman Weiss

For more News and updates from Councilmember Weiss can be found regularly on his website at https://www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org/. Check back weekly.

Hello Fellow Residents,

The March 9th City Council Meeting considered a full agenda of items affecting residents. Here’s a summary; For more details these items go to my homepage:

Laguna Beach Neighborhood And Environmental Protection Plan Passes 5-0
This wide-ranging piece of legislation provides solid programs for improving the quality of life for residents and the community.

Proclamation Recognizes Arnold Hanno’s 99th Birthday;
Mr. Hanno sponsored one of the first ballot initiatives in California history.

Laguna Canyon Foundation Request For Naming Rights Agreement Passes 5-0
To acknowledge a one million dollar donation, the Council voted unanimously to approve naming the Laguna Canyon Foundation headquarters site “The Michael and Tricia Berns Preserve.”

Trolley Service To Return, 2021 Summer Parking Management Plan Passes 5-0
Good news: The trolleys are likely to be back in operation along Coast Highway and into Laguna Canyon Road starting on June 25.

City Council Censures Peter Blake – Vote 4-0
The City Council voted 4-0 (Councilman Blake abstaining) to censure Mr. Blake for violations of the City’s Rules of Decorum and Civility.

Thanks and feel free to email me or call me to discuss anything that migjt be on your mind,

George
949-295-0832

Hello Fellow Residents,

I am posting legislation being considered and decisions made by City Council on my new website. www.georgeweisscitycouncil.org

It’s worth taking a look at for a quick recap of some of the key issues currently being discussed at City Council meetings and for my position on those topics. It also has some quick links to City Government website pages and a current events story on the proposed Rivian Theater.

Council Moves To Censure Councilman Peter Blake

Resident Peter Blake was elected to the LB City Council in the November 2018 election. He took office in January, 2019. Since that time, friction began to develop between Councilman Blake and LB constituents over his verbal outbursts including professional and personal insults and overall aggressive behavior towards residents when they spoke publicly during city council meetings. The city council, city manager and the city attorney began to receive numerous complaints from residents who expressed fear of being verbally attacked by Councilmember Blake during meetings and shared their feelings that our Council Chambers now felt like a hostile government environment. Some residents stated that they felt as though they were also being insulted and harassed by Councilman Blake in emails from their communications sent directly to other council members.

After months of public turmoil, in September 2019, it became necessary for the LB City Council to create and adopt the City Decorum & Civility Policy. Councilman Blake voted for the D&C Policy but since has refused to abide by it and any other governmental conduct order including Roberts Rules of Order relevant to public official conduct.

Blake has rejected all attempts to address the issue and offer city council members and residents relief from such unruly official behavior has prompted an official censure action based upon the guidelines of City Decorum Policy by newly elected City Councilmember George Weiss. This censure resolution will be heard on March 9, 2021.

Note: The March 9, 2021 agenda item, meeting video footage, all constituent written censure related communications and attachments and the final City Council votes and decision will be added to this site following the meeting.

View Censure item #18 video here.

Media coverage on call for Censure of CC Peter Blake

LA TIMES

VOICE OF OC

STUNEWS

DAILY PILOT

OC REGISTER

VOICE OF OC 

LB INDY

STU NEWS

STU NEWS

One example of the disrespect Peter Blake shows for Laguna’s elected officials and residents taken from one of the the above interviews states,

“I’m the only one in a spineless group of council people that stands up and fights back. And yes, I have fought back. And yes, I have at times been brash and I’m proud of it. I have no issues with it whatsoever,” Blake said. “The silent majority in this community, they support me.”

The public pushback about Peter Blake’s behavior has been ongoing for well over two years. Volumes of local public outcry at city council meetings, in local print media and social media platforms exists from various resources such as The Laguna Beach Indy, Stunews, LB/SL Nextdoor, YouTubea, FB and individual private accounts. Other sources will be added to this site as they become available.

LB resident Michael Morris is often a target of Councilman Peter Blake because of his high-level involvement in Laguna Beach civics and his outspoken position on Blake’s behavior. Mr. Morris regularly offers input to the city council on finance and other important issues and is well respected by the community. Mr. Morris is also a founder of Laguna Resident First (LRF), a political action committee formed to give residents a voice regarding major developments and other city impact issues. Video footage on multiple examples of Blake’s in sessions conduct to residents can be viewed here

View an open letter to City Council from Resident Lorene Laguna with video footage of Councilmember Peter Blake’s comments during a council session here

Peter Blake “Mr. Monster” city council vides footage can be viewed here

Here is just a sampling of CC Peter Blake public newspaper exchanges with constituents who have spoken out about his intimidating and behavior.
2019-2021

We are finding that what Laguna Beach constituents are going through with a public official who is a self-proclaimed bully may not be unique. But how it gets handled and resolved is.

What are your thoughts about elected’s behavior? Should they be allowed to degrade voters they have differences with in public and private? Please share your experiences with us.

LB Chat Publisher’s Open Letter To 2021 City Council

January 19, 2021

Dear Mayor Whalen and City Council Members:

Happy New Year. As the council moves forward in appointing a new city manager this
year, I ask that a professional recruitment firm be hired to conduct an open and extensive
recruitment to fill this important leadership position. Based upon city records, in
2010, Murray & Associates was hired to handle the recruitment process when CM John
Pietig was appointed. In 2012, this same firm contributed to the recruitment guideline
document below. It’s well worth a read.

https://icma.org/sites/default/files/303514 – Recruitment Guidelines for Selecting a Local Government Administrator.pdf

As a longtime resident, I am not convinced that we currently have an internal successor
pool to fill this position that would be supported by the majority of residents. We have
the opportunity to find a city manager with the type of leadership, interpersonal skills
and personality that city employees, residents and businesses desire and deserve. In fact,I would like to suggest that the council ask for some public input on the important attributes of a new city manager to use in their decision making and conduct an outsourced confidential city employee satisfaction survey to identify internal cultural issues that might exist that could provide valuable insight to the incoming administrator. Here’s an example of an employee survey that I found quite impressive. https://www.cityofpensacola.com/CivicSend/ViewMessage/Message/122077

I have personally participated in government employee surveys of this type and the results often surprise city leaders. Also, below is an article titled “It Starts With Civility: Elected Officials’ Role in attracting and Retaining Employees” that speaks to government recruitments, civility and leadership within council chambers. I believe this information critical to achieving positive engagement between public officials and constituents for a healthy and harmonious community.

Since 2018, we have documentation that clearly reflects our city having respect and civility issues that has consumed our civic environment and continues to divide us.
Much time and money has been lost due to a high level of discourse between certain
council members and the public. This is a good article written by two California city
managers who understand the intricacies involved in government recruitment and retention
and the importance of finding a strong administrator who listens and can implement
and execute ideas with the support of council members and the public.

https://www.westerncity.com/article/it-starts-civility-elected-officials-role-attracting-and-retaining-employees

Thank you for your time and consideration. You all have a big responsibility to the
community and I trust that you will take the utmost care in finding the right city manager
to unite and move us forward. Thank you for all that you do for Laguna.

Respectfully,
MJ Abraham
LB Resident

Note: Here’s a copy of my first LTE on this subject. It has been distributed to local media
and will be posted on social media outlets as well. It was published today January
19, 2021 in Stunews.

Include Residents in the Process How disappointing to discover that meetings regarding upcoming CalTrans work in South Laguna were not (until now) publicly held. I hope that the city will not make this mistake when it comes to recruiting a new city manager. An open recruitment process will boost confidence and trust in our local government.

Combined, Ken Frank and John Pietig will have served Laguna for 51 years. This powerful
position is pivotal for the city budget, overseeing projects of all types, coordinating with all outside agencies, and working well with staff and council. I encourage residents to get involved in this next chapter of a city manager and start generating ideas of the type of person we would like to see as our next city manager. The position requires strong leadership and management skills to navigate the often politically charged decisions that inevitably arise.

Laguna has a great climate, attractive compensation and beneCits like Fridays off. For a city its size, this job will be a compelling opportunity, likely generating inquiries from some of the best-run cities in the country. I hope that the council will take its time, include residents and choose carefully.

MJ Abraham
Founder lagunabeachchat.com
Laguna Beach Resident

LB City Elections November 3, 2020

2020 Election Results: (view full results here)
City Council: Incumbent Bob Whalen and newly elected resident George Weiss
City Clerk: Ann Marie McKay

Candidates’ information and statements Here
PACs and Local Organizations Campaign Support Here
Candidate Financial Support Recap-Here

GET TO KNOW LB CANDIDATES BEFORE YOU VOTE THEM INTO PUBLIC OFFICE TO REPRESENT YOU!

Thank you for being an informed voter. Our city’s health and future depends on it!

Laguna Beach Residents – our local leaders affect our daily lives.

Our elected officials represent US.They represent our values, our lifestyle, our space and place within our city, county, state and country. They become our face and our voice.

A council position is the most important, influential and powerful position in our City. It is critical that we understand the broad range of experience and expertise needed for this position and that we select the right individuals to work together to lead.

As we consider the candidate choices in this 2020 election, it is important that we take the time to learn all we can about each candidate before considering them as a top-level public office representative for our City.

Elected Officials Roles and Responsibilities

The responsibilities of our local elected officials include dictating local laws, policies and budgets. This person(s) will make decisions about our money, ocean, properties, roads, trees, traffic, businesses, safety, and quality of life in everything that we see, live and breathe every day.

As important as this responsibility is, local individuals are often elected by voters who know very little about their personal lives, professional occupation experience, successes or failures, interpersonal skills, visionary and leadership skills, and most important their ability to oversee a complicated city government’s operations, assets, multimillion dollar annual budget and other financial and legal activities.

The folks we elect are game-changers. It is up to us to determine if they are the right fit by evaluating their ability to meet our needs. We must explore their qualifications and history with every bit of scrutiny we would give to anyone holding our destiny in their hands because the consequences are great. Their education, experience and success will move us forward, or quite possible risk us becoming stagnant or going backwards.

We must keep in mind that this isn’t a volunteer position or a social membership. It is a paid position with benefits and the person hired to fill it will be in a decision making capacity that will impact our futures. 

Click here for CC compensation/benefits.

Like many of us, individuals who run for CC will be our friends and/or acquaintances. For some, this poses a loyalty issue. We encourage you dig deep this election and ask yourself objective questions such as;

  • Do I continue the status quo in every election? 
  • Do I take the time to find representatives that have proven their value to the community? 
  • Do I elect individuals that have proven they can make sound and logical decisions on my behalf? 
  • Am I pleased with the position and direction my City is going in?
  • Have I reviewed the incumbents voting records?  Do I agree with them a reasonable percentage of time?
  • Have the incumbents listened to the majority of constituents?
  • Do the incumbents lean towards special interest groups?   
  • Do I elect an individual based upon professional eligibility and proven performance ad success or do I elect only friends I know? 

Sounds so simple, right? It’s not. It’s time consuming and often confusing.

Sadly, local voter numbers are in decline. This is hard to understand since local elections give voters the greatest voice and opportunity to be heard. Our local officials are elected to represent the majority, and when a large fraction chooses not to vote, small groups rule and thus bias is prevalent. This hurts us all.

Get Involved. Local elections take place every year and they have long lasting implications.

By choosing the most experienced, trustworthy and transparent representatives, voters can help create and pass laws reflective of how we feel. Local politicians play a major role in all of the decisions that have a direct influence on our day-to-day lives. Our laws, streets, safety, education, thriving and healthy communities are influenced by their ability to leverage our tax dollars and make good financial decisions for us.

Our local elected officials decide how our public safety is managed. They have input as to how our police officers are trained and ensure that self-policing is in place and monitored. Sometimes local citizens take action to make their voices heard as well as keeping the check and balances needed so the majority of interests do not take over.

They’re involved in guiding voters to pass bills that can take precedence over national law. A perfect example of local power overriding national laws can be witnessed in the reform in the use of marijuana in California when voters chose to make marijuana legal for medical or recreational purposes. Supported by local voters, this has had substantial local impacts in each state creating long-lasting effects on economies, legal systems and more. 

Our local politics can shape federal policy. When you elect officials who support the causes you believe in, you become part of making a change at a state level. As states address issues and revise their laws some eventually are adopted at the federal level. The Federal government often waits to see how the new law evolves at the state level to determine its value. They may also nullify state laws if they choose. Our elected officials become our voice at all levels of government.

This election year, we have 5 City Council candidates – 2 are incumbents.  LBCHAT has included individual candidate information and any/all public information documents the may provide you with more insight into each candidate.

Candidate Public Forums:
Stu News Article – Laguna Beach Candidate Forums available here
August 24, 2020 Village Laguna and Laguna Summit Candidate Forum here
September 24, 2020 Canyon Alliance of Neighborhoods Defense Organization(CANDO) Candidate Form here
Laguna Beach Arts Alliance on September 26. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here
Greater Laguna Beach GOP candidates’ forum online on September 30. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here
The South Laguna Civic Association candidates’ forum online on October 5 here
Radio station KX FM 104.7 and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will present a virtual forum at 5:30 p.m. on October 9. For their Forum please request information directly from their website here

City Council Candidates:
Bob Whalen / Incumbent* SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Steve Dicterow / Incumbent* SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Ruben Flores SOQ and Disclosure Forms
George Weiss SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Larry Nokes SOQ and Disclosure Forms

City Clerk Candidates:
Ann Marie McKay SOQ and Disclosure Forms
Mariann Tracy SOQ and Disclosure Forms

Political Action Committees (PAC): Disclosure Forms
Laguna Residents First (LRF) PAC
Liberate Laguna (LL) PAC
Village Laguna (VL) PAC
LB FIrefighter’s Association PAC
LB Police Employee Association PAC
Laguna Public Recreational Facilities Conservancy (LPRFC)(PAC)

OTHER: Individual Reported 2020 Campaign Contributions
Sam Goldstein – 2020 campaign contribution 24 hour report Disclosure Forms

CC Candidate Public Background Records – ELECTION 2020
LBChat provides candidate personal and professional information to assist voters in
vetting individuals seeking public office in Laguna Beach.

LBCHAT will publish all public documents related to public office campaigning including:
candidate qualification statements, campaign finance disclosure forms and related
financial information, websites/podcasts, candidate forums, news articles and personal
and professional public information obtained from candidates and through public
information sources. In addition, a Laguna Beach Police contact report listing: arrests,
restraining orders, repossessions and other violations will be obtained in accordance
with the California Public Record Act. Code# 6253 (CPRA)

_______________

LBCHAT Election Archives
2018 Election link Includes incumbent Toni Iseman election candidate information.
2016 Election link Includes incumbents Whalen and Dicterow election candidate information.

LAGUNABEACHCHAT.COM
CHAT stands for City Hall Accountability and Transparency. Our Mission: Laguna Beach
CHAT desires to advance accountability and transparency. We serve residents by
providing them with an open and honest platform to gain knowledge about City officials,
functions and decisions that impact our quality of life and our local community.
We welcome resident/voters opinions and feedback. Please share them with us.
Send to: contact@lagunabeachchat.com.

Thank You. Was this helpful? Please send us your feedback (click here)

Liberate Laguna Backers File Campaign Finance Complaint

LB City Council Election November 6, 2018

Congratulations to the 2018 City Council Elected officials:
Toni Iseman (City Council Incumbent)
Peter Blake (Gallery Owner) – Billy Fried Interview on KX 93.5 FM Click here
Sue Kempf (Planning Commissioner) 

Candidates’ information and statements here
Candidate Public Information Documents here
Local Clubs and Organizations Campaign Support Forms here
Stu News and KX 93.5 FM Candidate Forum October 2, 2018 – Watch here

Candidate Financial Support Recap- Click here

Laguna Beach Residents – our local leaders affect our daily lives.

Our elected officials represent us. They represent our values, our lifestyle, our space and place within our city, county, state and country. They become our face and our voice.

A council position is the most important, influential and powerful position in our City. It is critical that we understand the broad range of experience and expertise needed for this position and that we select the right individuals to work together to lead.

As we consider the candidate choices in this 2018 election, it is important that we take the time to learn all we can about each candidate before considering them as a top-level public office representative for our City.

Elected Officials Roles and Responsibilities

The responsibilities of our local elected officials include dictating local laws, policies and budgets. This person(s) will make decisions about our money, ocean, properties, roads, trees, traffic, businesses, safety, and quality of life in everything that we see, live and breathe every day.

As important as this responsibility is, local individuals are often elected by voters who know very little about their personal lives, professional occupation experience, successes or failures, interpersonal skills, visionary and leadership skills, and most important their ability to oversee a complicated city government’s operations, assets, multimillion dollar annual budget and other financial and legal activities.

The folks we elect are game-changers. It is up to us to determine if they are the right fit by evaluating their ability to meet our needs. We must explore their qualifications and history with every bit of scrutiny we would give too anyone holding our destiny in their hands because the consequences are great. Their education, experience and success will move us forward, or quite possible risk us becoming stagnant or going backwards.

We must keep in mind that this isn’t a volunteer position or a social membership. It is a paid position with benefits and the person hired to fill it will be in a decision making capacity that will impact our futures. Click here for CC compensation/benefits.

Like many of us, individuals who run for CC will be our friends and/or acquaintances. For some, this poses a loyalty issue. We encourage you dig deep this election and ask yourself objective questions. Do I continue the status quo in every election? Do I take the time to find representatives that have proven their value to the community? Do I elect individuals that have proven they can make sound and logical decisions on my behalf? Am I pleased with the position and direction my City is going in? Do I elect an individual based upon professional eligibility and proven performance ad success or do I elect only friends iI know? Sounds so simple, right? It’s not. It’s time consuming and often confusing.

Sadly, local voter numbers are in decline. This is hard to understand since local elections give voters the greatest voice and opportunity to be heard. Our local officials are elected to represent the majority, and when a large fraction chooses not to vote, small groups rule and thus bias is prevalent. This hurts us all.

Get Involved. Local elections take place every year and they have long lasting implications.

By choosing the most experienced, trustworthy and transparent representatives, voters can help create and pass laws reflective of how we feel. Local politicians play a major role in all of the decisions that have a direct influence on our day-to-day lives. Our laws, streets, safety, education, thriving and healthy communities are influenced by their ability to leverage our tax dollars and make good financial decisions for us.

Our local elected officials decide how our public safety is managed. They have input as to how our police officers are trained and ensure that self-policing is in place and monitored. Sometimes local citizens take action to make their voices heard as well as keeping the check and balances needed so the majority of interests do not take over.

They’re involved in guiding voters to pass bills that take can precedence over national law. A perfect example of local power overriding national laws can be witnessed in the recent reform in the use of marijuana in California when voters chose to make marijuana legal for medical or recreational purposes. Supported by local voters, this has had substantial local impacts in each state creating long-lasting effects on economies, legal systems and more. Our local politics can shape federal policy. When you elect officials who support the causes you believe in, you become part of making a change at a state level. As states address issues and revise their laws some eventually are adopted at the federal level. The Federal government often waits to see how the new law evolves at the state level to determine its value. They may also nullify state laws if they choose. Our elected officials become our voice at all levels of government.

This election year, we have 12 City Council candidates. LBCHAT has included candidates ballot statement for those who submitted them, contact information and any/all public information documents the may provide you with more insight into each candidate. In addition, we prepared an in-depth personal and professional questionnaire and asked each candidate to participate. If they agreed to do so, their questionnaires are accessible under their listing.

We hope that this information along with attending local candidate forums assist you in making the best choices possible for leadership in our City. (Forums click here)

Thank You. Was this helpful? Please send us your feedback (click here)

Liberate Laguna Backers File Campaign Finance Complaint

Are There Grounds For Proposing The Undergrounding Ballot Measure?

An extensive utility undergrounding campaign funded by taxpayer dollars is well underway by city officials, staff, and hired legal and finance consultants targeting a November 2018 ballot measure.

The urgent move to underground city power poles has become a concerning and controversial issue for many reasons but primarily because it requires our city to take on substantial long-term debt by either taxing ourselves (property assessment tax), or increasing the local sales tax, or possibly both.

While the final initiative is still in progress, there is growing concern that the city is moving at record speed on the issue and failing to listen to its residents and prove that their information is entirely accurate and factual. This concerns LBCHAT and it should concern every property owner and resident too.

Here are some concerns expressed by residents (in no particular order) and some facts on the utility undergrounding initiative:

Fact: In March 2017, the City created a new Undergrounding Manager position at $230,000 per year. This hire will be in place 18 months prior to our opportunity to even vote for or against the initiative in November 2018 and will cost us about $345,000 annually. The City estimates over 6 1/2 years and possibly $10M spent before construction would even begin on undergrounding due to planning, engineering and approvals. Click here for UM job description and salary pdf.

Concern: The city appears to be moving forward as if Laguna voters have already approved the measure.

Fact: Campaign consultants were hired to conduct surveys crafted to support the initiative costing approximately $240,000. First survey results did not provide the support expected so a second survey was approved by City Council and is currently in progress. In addition, records are showing that nearly $30,000 was spent on TV advertising on CNN and Fox News stations through Cox Cable.

Concerns: The campaign outreach messages are fear-based and have has outraged some Laguna residents. Many survey participants have called the surveys bogus and blatantly obvious that they were created to produce the results the city intended to support the measure.

Fact: Laguna fire history: Contrary to what residents may be hearing during this recent urgent undergrounding movement by the city, the fact is that there have been no major fires caused by utility poles in Laguna Beach. The devastating 1993 fire was caused by arson. Laguna like many other cities in California falls under the high-fire danger umbrella. This is one reason why all utility companies state-wide are already abiding by and implementing strict fire safety regulations for electrical distribution systems.

Concerns: Residents felt safe with their fire departments performance and now have concerns due to the city fire fear promotions. Why has the city not promoted UU before now since the big fire they refer to happened in 1993?

Fact: Fire safety issues have been addressed in light of recent fires and California’s drought conditions. In December of 2017 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered all utilities to implement new fire safety measures for electrical distribution systems in high-risk areas. The CPUC and Cal Fire created a “Fire-Threat Map” where stricter fire safety regulations are being implemented, including some in Laguna in Tier 2 (high) and Tier 3 (highest) areas, and especially along Laguna Canyon Road. These regulations create significant new fire prevention rules for utility poles and wires, and frequent monitoring and inspection of all utility poles, including immediate correction of safety hazards in high fire threat areas, correction of non-immediate fire risks in Tier 3 and 2 areas within 6 months and 12 months, respectively, and major new rules for vegetation management. Click to view Fire Map Report here. These safety measures will sharply reduce the proposed risks.

Concerns: Why are we rushing to underground in proposed evacuation areas rather than allowing SCE to comply with the new regulations? If SC Edison fails to comply and meets the new regulations, its quite possible they could be legally required to underground the utilities at their own costs.

Fact: The urban parts of Laguna Beach (downtown and residential zones along PCH) were excluded from the CPUC Fire Threat Map because they have low vegetation fuel density, very low continuity, and a high degree of access for fire suppression forces. They are deemed low risk for a fire to grow out of control and based on this the CPUC rejected the City’s urging to designate its downtown urban areas as a high risk zone.

Concerns: Why is the City is insisting on undergrounding utility poles in these areas using the “evacuation routes” they have arbitrarily created? All neighborhood streets become evacuation routes so why not address all poles citywide? Fallen trees, light poles and parked cars provide as much obstruction in an evacuation as does a fallen power line. We can’t remove all trees because they might possibly catch fire and obstruct roadways. 90 percent of all fires are human caused (cigarettes, campfires and arson) and electrical transmission fires causing widespread damage are an extremely low percentage of all fires.

Fact: The City Underground Sub Committee City leaders and staff actually traveled to the CPUC in San Fransisco to present the argument for moving Laguna into a high-risk category. Click here.

Concerns: Residents are publicly complaining that as a result of the City’s fire and fear-tactic actions, their homeowner and fire insurance rates have increased and some policies dropped as insurance companies no longer want to insure homes in our city. This backlash from the fire danger promotion may cause substantial increase in insurance rates and possibly cancellations of coverage for our area.

Fact: Laguna Canyon Road is a State owned Right of Way, and is the responsibility of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). They are currently planning its widening and will pay for the removal of poles and overhead wires. Caltrans already underground their utilities at Big Bend in 2016 due to concern’s of vehicle safety.

Concerns: Why do Laguna homeowners and residents need to spend millions funding a 30 year bond and adding 1% sales tax when SCE and SDG&E has annual funds available to underground utilities and they can lobby the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for additional funding. Why would our city burden us with this type of long-term debt when in fact overhead utilities most likely will be obsolete in next 10-20 years. If the poles and wires are scheduled to come down is the city’s proposal just to to secure more tax revenue forever by adding the $1% sales tax of undirected funds? When it’s not deemed necessary any longer for undergrounding the sales tax stays in place until voters vote it out. The city will never revisit this and concerns are that it will continue along with our other tax dollars and go towards the Employee Pension Fund and other City Council whims.

Fact: Many residential neighborhoods have already paid tens of thousands of dollars to underground their own neighborhoods with their own money. Many neighborhoods still cannot afford to form assessment district and costs to underground the utilities in their neighborhoods. Some local assessment districts are still paying: Coast Royal, Agate/Glenneyre, Woods Cove, Diamond/Crestview, Ruby Catalina to just name a few. In the Diamond street area the average assessment was $66,000, and Agate/Glenneyre was $54,000.

Concerns: Some of these neighborhood undergrounding’s were on so called “evacuation routes.” Should they now be strapped with paying other neighborhoods to be underground in arbitrary evacuation routes? Neighborhoods still without underground utilities will still need to pay too underground their own neighborhoods and other “evacuation routes” utilities. This personal debt is going to quite possible bankrupt many on fixed incomes or make it difficult or impossible to live in Laguna any longer.

Fact: Revenue resources: The City has determined that the only solution to under grounding utilities is by asking taxpayers to shoulder the majority of the financial burden.

Concerns: The city has not done the proper due-diligence in exploring and working effectively with SCE or other entities to share the burden even though several utility companies and Cal Trans are stockholders in the main evacuation routes. It doesn’t appear that the City has considered leveraging its own revenues to support a revenue bond or looked at the possibility of using Measure LL, the street lighting fund, or the $6.2 million in the City’s disaster contingency fund which could support a substantial debt towards undergrounding.

Fact: Our City annual budget is increasing each year.

Concerns: The City seems to be getting comfortable with a growing annual budget. Some residents feel its growing too rapidly and yet problems are rising and city services and quality of life is deteriorating. Many say its time our city leaders live within its means, stop spending like trust funders, make better use of discretionary expenditures and use existing budgeted tax dollars to underground the utilities at a rate we can afford. Assessing residents for 30+ years on their property taxes bills that are no longer tax deductible under the new federal tax law if they exceed $10,000 will have an impact for sure. Raising our sales tax also has negative and long-term impacts. There is no control over where the tax dollars are to be spent.

Fact: Fire and police support UU. Both of these public safety employee groups strive to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and part of this involves looking at related risks. It is with the best of intentions that they endorse lowering risks in our community and their opinion is important to us.

Concerns: Keep in mind that they are also part of a city government system that expects to be supported when decisions are made at the highest levels. There appears to be a difference of opinion as to what is desired vs necessary in regards to undergrounding and funding. Why haven’t these public safety departments bought this forward prior to 2017 and demanded something be done if in fact undergrounding poles is so dangerous and necessary?

Fact: In the City’s capital improvement plan, over $30M is allocated to items like fire station remodel ($6M), community pool ($15M!!!) and sidewalks on PCH ($9.7M) which is a state highway.

Concerns: If undergounding utilities is so essential to our safety, why is a community pool prioritized as a capital improvement over undergrounding? Adding numerous staff over the last 3 years has added to our City’s payroll and hugh unfunded pension liabilities. It is projected that the costs of the City employees health insurance plan is expected to increase by 18%. Other questionable spending is the purchase of $3 million in new vehicles in under 3 years, replacing low mileage vehicles and spending millions of dollars purchasing real estate that is was not considered necessary. How can we sustain such budget expenditures?

Note: We hope this information has been helpful to you. Other concerns and facts will be added as they are shared with us. If you have additional concerns and facts on this topic, please send them to us for possible inclusion.

LBCHAT focuses on city government accountability and transparency matters related to city business activities, city representatives, city management, escalating legal and consultant budgets, the overall increase in annual city spending and of course tax increases. We encourage voters to become more knowledgeable before casting their votes on in the November election.

We have attached several documents obtained from the city addressing undergrounding for your review and will be adding others as they become available to us. Click here:

The Independent Review Team 11-21-17 (“IRT Report”)

Community Survey And Ballot Measure Advisory 12-05-17

Bond Counsel Consultant Special Tax 12-06-17

Financial Advisors for Ballot Measure 01-09-18

Consultant Agreement Pre-election 01-10-18

Undergrounding Master Plan Presentation 02-06-18

City Undergrounding Campaign Spending 2018

Two local groups have cropped up in support or opposition to the UU measure. We encourage our subscribers to review their positions and better understand facts and concerns. They are:

S.T.O.P. www.stoptaxingourproperty.com
Underground Laguna Now! www.undergroundlagunanow.org

Here are more links that provide information on the Utility Undergrounding:
http://stunewslaguna.com/archives/letters-a-obituaries-archive
https://www.lagunabeachindy.com/guest-column-103/
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Laguna’s Citywide Hazard Report Raises Questions and Concerns

Have City officials ignored basic safety infrastructure for decades and focused too much on aesthetics?

The City of Laguna Beach just released a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (LHMP) for public review and they are asking for the input by 5 p.m. March 6, 2018. The draft document is lengthy but well worth the read. Click here for the full report.

In Brief…The City states that the purpose of the LHMP is to allow public safety officials and city staff, elected officials and members of the public to understand the threats from natural and human-caused hazards in our community. They claim that the LHMP will:
– Let Laguna Beach plan for future emergencies
– Be more prepared in advance of disasters
– Use strategies to reduce instances of property damage, injury and loss of life due to disasters
– Protect public health and safety and save money
– Strengthen the mission of public safety officers (police and fire staff), providing them with clear roles and responsibilities to build a safer community
– Make Laguna eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA)
– Make Laguna eligible for financial assistance from the State when disasters occur

The LHMP identifies these natural hazards requiring protective measures: 
– Drought
– Extreme heat
– Floods
– Geologic snd seismic hazards
– Nuclear hazards
– Severe weather
– Wildfire
– Affects of climate change and other hazards that pose a threat to the community

The LHMP is divided into four main sections: 
Chapter 1: Summary of the identified hazards
Chapter 2: Hazard assessment/threat to LB and vulnerability to future disasters
Chapter 3: Hazard mitigation strategy
Chapter 4: Maintenance of the LHMP

LBCHAT Observations, Questions and Concerns..
The LHMP is a well-constructed report that meets FEMA regulations and may position the City for grant funding. The report appears to be more of a public relations document rather than a scientific effort.  The information within the plan is not new information but rather data that the city has had for years. The report often exaggerates some hazards and minimizes others.  It does not examine current and past city policies, procedures, and ordinances for accuracy and “good practices.”

While we applaud the City for creating the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and fully support a plan to prepare and address future emergencies we are concerned about the serious nature of the contents identified and feel they raise safety and security questions that property owners/residents should be asking city leaders and staff.
For example…

• Why does the study not distinguish between fires that start in urban areas from downed utility lines and wildfires? What is the probability of an urban line starting a wildfire and traveling into the chaparral?  How many “wildfires” has Laguna Beach experienced in the last 100 years that were caused by downed utility lines in the city?
• Why does the report cite data only for the 100 year and 500 year flood scenarios? Have residents and businesses not experienced flooding from 5 year, 10 year, 25 year, and 50 year floods?
• Why are the watercourses in the city not part of the report?  Are they not the source of most frequent flooding and mudslides in neighborhoods?
• Why does the report only have a hazard map for earthquake induced landslides/mudslides, which are rare, and not one for rain induced landslides/mudslides, which happen regularly and often spectacularly?
• Why did the study not make use of the 2017 National Climate Assessment Report? For example, the committee decided not to include hurricane risk because of past weather patterns. The NCA report indicates that over the next 20 years hurricanes that hit Baja will likely move northward as the California Current warms.
• Why did the study not include an examination of city ordinances to assess whether they reduce or exacerbate natural hazards?
• Why did the study not examine the quality of Initial EIRs prepared by the Dept. of Community Development to assess their accuracy and full disclosure of risk?
• Drainage issues appear to be a serious threat. Has the City Master Drainage Plan written 11 years ago been implemented?
• The report lists 17 high-risk areas scattered throughout the city. Are residents aware that they live in a city-designated high-risk area?
• Why hasn’t Laguna had a Hazard Mitigation Plan until now when the report clearly identifies serious potential disasters in our area.
• Have we ignored potential hazards while focusing on aesthetics like the village entrance or the under-grounding of utilities?
• The driver to conduct the hazard identification effort is to gain grant or other disaster funds. Haven’t they always been available to us?
• Will the plan only be implemented if grant monies are available to us?  How many additional staff will be needed to implement and oversee this plan?
• What has been done to educate the public on environmental risks prior to this report?
• Will Laguna residents receive a higher level of environmental scrutiny by agencies such as CAEPA, Coastal Commission and FEMA?
• Should home sellers and RE agents advise new home buyers of the risks identified in this new City LHMP?  Will the LHMP have home insurance impacts?
Reference material worth reading: LB Flood History 1937-2011 by Village Laguna. Click here.

LBCHAT Subscribers
After reading the full LHMP report, you may have questions of your own. Submit them to the city and please share with LBCHAT. We do have to ask … are you concerned that City officials have ignored basic safety infrastructure and focused primarily on aesthetics and building tourism? And, are you satisfied with the vision, direction and effectiveness of our city leaders?  

Share your thoughts and comments with us at contact@lagunabeachchat.com. We want to hear from you!

Local resident comments on LHMP:

One of the things that you mentioned in your article is that people are concerned about how the LBHS will affect insurance rates. They have already been affected, but many people are unaware. If you have a longstanding policy insurance companies cannot arbitrarily cancel, but if you need a new policy, no major insurers are writing new policies in Laguna Beach.

Last year our company, Fireman’s Fund, went out of the home insurance business, so we had to find a new policy. Our broker came up with a high-risk, high premium policy from a Swiss company. We were looking at $6,000 per year premiums for a standard policy, which did not include earthquake insurance, and no commercial company would insure us for mudslide.

We were able to get a reasonably priced policy only through the State of California high risk pool, but even that is expensive.  The State itself is the insurer. Farmer’s insures the contents of the house, but no major company will insure the house even for fire, flood, or wind.

The insurance underwriters have calculated the risks that the City Council continues to deny, as they order trimming and removal of trees and vegetation that hold the soil. In the city’s Initial EIRs for the view ordinances it did not disclose that the ordinances would be applied to flood zones, landslide/mudslide zones, or watercourses. The city has been applying these ordinances to Laguna Canyon, Bluebird Canyon, South Laguna and all at-risk areas.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) State Law Causing A Household Stir…

No matter what position you hold on the issue of providing and regulating additional housing within Laguna Beach the subject has become extremely controversial.

Much of the controversy is in response to the interpretation of the new California State Law 65852.2 (click here for pdf) related to the creation of Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) by municipalities. The new law was signed by Governor Brown last year. The State’s intent was to address a proposed California housing deficit and to encourage more affordable housing options, especially in coastal and higher-income areas. The new State law promotes less restrictive ordinance guidelines and other than State guidelines and existing zoning codes, minimal interference by municipalities. In essence, the push is to relax or loosen-up current housing use restrictions to accommodate more renters and provide homeowners looking to generate extra income the option of sharing their home or
unused space.

Laguna Beach has an existing Single Resident Unit (SRU) Ordinance 25.17 (click here for pdf) and is currently in the process of updating the ordinance to comply with the new State Law requirements.

According to Monique Alanz-Flejter, AICP, Associate Planner, Community Development Department, City of Laguna Beach. “We are currently accepting and processing applications with the current SRU Ordinance criteria, as well as adhering to the parking exemptions required by State law, and waiver of water and sewage connection fees, and exceptions for fire sprinkler requirements. A draft ordinance will be presented to the Planning Commission on December 13, 2017 for their final recommendation to the City Council on the proposed changes.”

This topic should be of interest to all property owners and residents as changes to the current LB SRU ordinance regulations will have a direct impact on Laguna’s residential neighborhoods, city-wide density, parking, students, those with disabilities and senior populations and possibly yet unknown shared taxpayer fiscal considerations. LBCHAT encourages homeowners and residents to review the local SRU ordinance, the new State Law and the revised draft ordinance (when made available to public) and to communicate your thoughts and opinions to the Planning Commission as well as the City Council when the final recommendation goes forward.

Please feel free to share your thoughts via our contact page and we will add your comments below this article. There are strong opinions and support on both sides of this issue. Lets hear from our subscribers!