Laguna Beach looks back at 2022 accomplishments, projects

By LB Indy Staff

 

This week, the City of Laguna Beach released a lengthy and comprehensive list of its initiatives and achievements throughout 2022 to mark the beginning of the new year. – Ed. 

 

Laguna Canyon road improvements – The City submitted a grant application to FEMA for $32.9 million for undergrounding utilities on Laguna Canyon Road and will continue working with Southern California Edison to pursue additional state and federal grant opportunities. Staff is also requesting proposals for the Project Approval and Environmental Document phase – which is the next step in the project development.

 

Increased police funding to address homelessness crime – The City Council approved the addition of a lieutenant position and added an outreach social worker to work with Police to address homelessness. The City received $1.5 million in state funds to give mobile social services through Be Well OC. The service starts in the new year for all Laguna Beach residents.

 

Acquired alternate site for Fire Station 4 – The City Council acquired 31796 Coast Highway in Sept 2022 for future use as a fire station. The City expected to close escrow on the site on Jan. 4. This fire station site will provide a modern fire station with vehicle bays to better support the City’s emergency medical response needs for South Laguna residents. 

 

Develop a climate adaption and action plan – The City is updating its existing Climate Protection and Action Plan, initially adopted in 2009, to further address the challenges of climate change.

 

Purchase of county library building and extended lease – Laguna Beach finalized the purchase of the Laguna Beach Public Library property from the County of Orange per an original 1970 agreement, entering into a 25-year lease agreement with the County. 

 

Ownership agreements of all South Laguna Coastal Beaches – The City completed negotiations with the County of Orange to take ownership of all South Laguna beaches and coastal properties, including Aliso Beach park and beach accesses and stairs. The City will begin Marine Safety operations at South Laguna beaches starting March 1. As part of the transfer agreement, the County will supply the City with a one-time sum of $22 million to counterbalance the added cost of services and beach maintenance.

 

Acquisition of St. Catherine’s School for community and civic uses – The City successfully negotiated to purchase the 6.5-acre property for $23 million, complete with gym, recreation field, classrooms, and administrative space to increase community, civic, and recreational opportunities in the South Laguna area.

 

Fire safety enhancements, Community Risk assessment and Standards of Cover – The City is contracting with Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to develop a Community Risk Assessment/Standards of Cover – a document used to develop and match appropriate deployment and response models to respond adequately to emergencies and fires. 

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

 

Newport Beach SWAT team joint agreement – The Laguna Beach Police Department has partnered with the Newport Beach Police Department SWAT team. 

 

The Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) – A new NET team was formed to address quality of life matters in the neighborhoods and parks. A sergeant and two corporals supervise the team, consisting of traffic-focused motorcycle officers, two community outreach officers who work with the homeless community and a new community services officer responsible for outreach and engagement. The team also includes the Park Ranger Program, which is responsible for enforcing quality of life issues and crime in beaches and parks. 

 

Wildfire response – The fire and police department responded to the 2022 Emerald Fire and Coastal Fire by activating the Emergency Operations Center, successfully protecting the people and property affected.

 

Fire Department Ambulance Program – On July 1, the Laguna Beach Fire Department placed two basic life support ambulances into service serving the City of Laguna Beach. The additional service provides a quicker response time for anyone needing transportation to a hospital under emergency medical care provided by fire department employees.

 

Fuel modification programs – The City completed all required weed abatements and fuel break zones and completed an electronic mapping project to illustrate fire management zone locations with specific mapping features accessed through the fire department website.

 

K9 and support dog programs – The Peer Support Program has added a Support Dog “Cooper” to assist in employee wellness and community engagement and to help comfort victims, witnesses, and community members exposed to trauma. The Police Department welcomed K9 Officer “Rudy,” and a second K9 will be added in the coming months. 

 

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) – CERT organized 15 emergency preparedness events for the community and various stakeholders, had over 30 new volunteers trained, and coordinated 930 volunteer hours of activities.

 

Marine Safety rescue vessels  The City Council approved the reinstatement of the Marine Safety rescue vessel program. The rescue vessels are scheduled to deploy before summer. The rescue vessels will deliver immediate lifesaving services, such as rescue and emergency medical services while providing a stable platform for on-water emergency operations, which improves public safety.

 

Enclosed lifeguard tower at Moss Street Beach – Marine Safety received approval from the Planning Commission and City Council to install an enclosed lifeguard tower at Moss Street Beach. City Staff is also assessing other locations.

 

Junior Lifeguard Youth Program – Marine Safety staff carried out the Junior Lifeguard program without restrictions. Almost 500 children ages 8 to 14 participated in a program that teaches ocean safety, rescue techniques, beach activities, physical fitness, and Marine Safety operations in an environment that accentuates courtesy, respect, and good sportsmanship.

 

WATER QUALITY

Lift station improvements – Replaced the Laguna SOCWA sewer lift station’s 38-year-old emergency generator. Installed a new Irvine Cove Lift Station Emergency Generator in December. Adding the emergency generator to the Irvine Cove facility significantly reduces the demand for emergency response staff during power outages. Both generators were partially funded by grants.

City-side sewer rehabilitation program – Completed a five-year program to video inspect all 95 miles of the City’s sewer collection system. In each of the last five years, a fifth of the City was inspected. The inspection results identified repairs and replacements conducted in that year. In 2022, more than 5.4 miles of gravity sewer pipelines were rehabilitated by trenchless lining techniques. The project will extend the service life of existing pipes by more than 50 years and help prevent sewer spills.

Design of sewer system improvements – Engaged in the design of several capital improvements, including the Anita Street Lift Station Reconstruction and street end project, the North Coast Interceptor Condition Assessment project, and the replacement of the North Coast Interceptor along Aliso Creek (Reach 5).

Plumbers coordination to prevent sewer spills – A Plumber’s Workshop was held to educate local plumbers on the steps they can take to prevent sewer spills. The plumbers are also trained on the use of “Forward Lateral” which is used to expedite permit processing of sewer inspection videos by plumbers for property owners.

Private Lateral Improvement Program – This program assists private property owners in repairing or replacing their private lateral. These pipes are often found to be choked with tree roots. In 2022, one lateral per month was successfully repaired to improve the property and prevent sewer spills.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT 

Implementation of Historic Preservation Program – The updated Historic Preservation Program was certified by the California Coastal Commission and implemented by the Department of Community Development. The updated program provides a variety of incentives for voluntary listing of properties on the City’s Historic Register.

California Coastal Commission Certification of streamlining and wireless ordinances – The California Coastal Commission approved a Local Coastal Program Amendment for updates to the City of Laguna Beach Municipal Code intended to substantially streamline the entitlement process, particularly for residential projects, while still maintaining a high level of review and opportunity for public involvement. The Wireless Ordinance brings the City into compliance with State and Federal telecommunication law while retaining local control to protect the character and aesthetics of neighborhoods.

Fee update/staffing plan – Completed a comprehensive analysis of the Community Development Department fee-based services to achieve better cost recovery. The City Council adopted the updated fees and an associated staffing plan intended to improve service levels.

New Queuing System – The Community Development Department implemented a new front counter queuing system (Q-Flow), allowing customers to get in the queue remotely and receive status updates on their place in line.

Housing Element Adoption – The City Council adopted the sixth Cycle Housing Element, which has been reviewed by the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) and is near certification.

Ordinances Adopted – The City Council adopted an SB 9 Urgency Ordinance to address recent changes to State housing law. The Council also adopted the Mass, Height, and Bulk Ordinance to better regulate large-scale development projects, as well as an ordinance creating new regulations and design guidelines for underground parking structures.

Significant building permits – Building permits were issued for the remodel and adaptive reuse of the Laguna Theater (Rivian), the remodel of Coast Inn and Coast Liquor, and remodel of the Pacific Edge hotel and Surf and Sand Hotel.

FACILITIES AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS

Utility Undergrounding Program – Conducted balloting to form the Diamond St Underground Utility Assessment District 2013-2, and obtained Design Review approval for Woods Cove Underground Utility Assessment District 2014-02.

Improvement of City Facilities and Local Infrastructure

Repaired and resealed 11 lane miles of streets in the Village and Hobo Canyon neighborhoods; Repaired and re-paved the Peppertree Parking Lot; Stabilized a 100-foot slope along Bluebird Canyon Road west of Saling Way; Removed five utility poles and 500 feet of overhead wiring in Bluebird Canyon; Renovated the Police Department restrooms and dispatch area; Renovated the field and related facilities at Riddle Field; Constructed storm drain improvements along Jasmine Street; Repaired the headscarp retaining wall at Flamingo Road; Installed guard railing at unprotected drop-offs along Queda Way and Ceanothus Drive; Remodeled an existing space within City Hall to provide a Mother’s Room for City employees; Replaced outdated office furniture and created new office spaces to provide enhanced functionality and uniform appearance throughout City offices; Provided maintenance services to the newly acquired Public Library at 363 Glenneyre Street and replaced 450 streetlights with LED fixtures.

American Public Works Association (APWA) Awards – Awarded the APWA Drainage, Water, Wastewater Project of the Year for Jasmine Street storm drain improvements.

New trolley windows – The Fleet Maintenance Division worked with an outside vendor to create new roll-up windows made of clear plastic for the City’s older trolleys. This allows for easy opening and closing as needed, rather than scheduling maintenance to install/uninstall the windows.

TRANSIT, PARKING & COMMUNITY SERVICES

On-Demand Transit Service – The City launched the Laguna Local on-demand micro-transit service in Nov. 2021 using hybrid-electric vehicles, with 32,000 boardings in the past 12 months, a 90 percent satisfaction rating and an average wait time of just 8.7 minutes.

Trolley Services – The City’s free trolley services carried more than 538,000 boardings, continuing post-pandemic ridership recovery faster than most local transit agencies. Ridership in the summer of 2022 was 20 percent higher than in the summer of 2021.

Summer Breeze – The Summer Breeze trolley service from Irvine to Laguna Beach was expanded to operate on Friday nights, and saw a record ridership of 15,000 boardings, which was 75 percent higher than summer 2021.

Winter Express Pilot Program – The City worked with the Sawdust Festival to begin a Winter Express trolley service on a pilot basis between Irvine and Laguna Beach during the Sawdust Winter Fantasy Event. This service will help to mitigate temporary parking capacity issues near the Sawdust Festival during the Laguna Canyon Channel replacement project.

Senior Transportation – The City provided approximately $130,000 in City and OCTA grant funds to Sally’s Fund to support senior transportation services, including purchasing new hybrid-electric vehicles.

LCAD Parking Lot – Staff negotiated a new parking lot lease with LCAD to expand the summer parking capacity for festival staff and artists by 100 spaces, seven days a week, during the summer months.

Mobile Parking Transactions – 140,000 Frog mobile parking transactions, an increase of 145 percent over the prior year.

Recreation Programs – Provided recreation programs to over 7,800 community members at the Community and Susi Q Center, the community pool and the outdoor recreation facilities, awarded nine families scholarships as part of the Recreation Committee Scholarship program, $250,000 awarded in Community Assistance Grants, and processed over $1.6 in revenue transactions.

Special Events – Outdoor special events including City’s ninety fifth Anniversary, Patriots’ Day Parade, City Youth Track Meet, Brooks St. Surf Contest, beach volleyball tournaments, a Veteran’s Day Celebration, World Kindness Day, Laguna Beach Dog Park thirtieth Anniversary, LOVE Laguna, preschool Halloween event, and Hospitality Night.

Park Rules Ordinance Update – Staff drafted and received City Council approval of updates to the City’s municipal code related to park rules, which will help assure the ongoing safety and enjoyment of the City’s public parks.

CULTURAL ARTS

Live Music and Events 

-Presented 245 live music performances free of charge.

-Presented Circus Bella at Bluebird Park and Luce Puppet Company at Heisler Park.

-Established and appointed the Youth Art Board in an advisory capacity to the Arts Commission.

-In collaboration, presented the 90th Festival of Arts anniversary concert featuring Lee Rocker.

-Presented a concert at the Festival of Arts by Artist in Residence Pamela Madsen.

Temporary Art Installations

-Installed three temporary installations including the Third Street Stairs by Beau Stanton.

-City was awarded “Best New Art Program” for temporary installations by the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts.

ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES

Employee Investment

-Successfully negotiated labor contracts with the Laguna Beach Municipal Employees Association and Marine Safety Association.

– Hosted City’s first in-person Employee Health and Wellness Fair with 18 vendors and a healthy lunch.

– Reviewed over 900 employee applications and onboarded over 70 new full- and part-time employees.

-In partnership with the police department, developed a recruitment and promotional process that accelerated and incentivized police officer hiring that included bonuses for lateral police officer and dispatcher positions.

-Initiated more than 15 employee training opportunities.

-Developed TD Insights – a comprehensive, monthly e-newsletter highlighting all training and development offerings and learning resources and tools.

-Several initiatives have been implemented to enhance and improve the employee experience, including increased employee training opportunities and wellness initiatives and incentives.

Modernizing Business Practices

-Upgrades to the City’s network infrastructure included replacing 18 network switches at five locations.

-Enhanced the City’s cybersecurity with improved password policy and cybersecurity training.

-Deployed over 60 computers, laptops, tablets, and phones.

-Implemented City Hall security door access system and issued security ID cards to all employees.

-Created IT Champion program for better communication and collaboration with departments.

Financial

Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting – This is the sixth year the City has received the highest form of recognition in government accounting and financial reporting.

The City Council approved the creation of the Laguna Beach Financing Authority and an $11.5 million financing toward the purchase of 30516 Coat Highway (St. Catherine of Siena School Property.)

Issued over 10,000 Parking Permits.

COMMUNICATIONS

City’s Community Newsletter – Produced content to publish 51 weekly community newsletters sent to Laguna Beach residents and businesses.

City Chats Podcast – Produced over 40 Episodes of the Laguna Beach City Chats Podcast with a total of 347 minutes of content.

City’s Photo Contest – Re-launched the City’s Photo Contest in October 2022 and received over 120 submissions from 46 participants.

MISCELLANEOUS

Tree City USA Recognition – The City was recognized as a Tree City USA Community for the fourth consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation. The City hosted a public Arbor Day celebration with a tree planting ceremony at Bluebird Park on March 7, 2022, which was proclaimed Arbor Day in Laguna Beach by the City Council.

Public Tree Planting Program – The City has planted 40 trees and improved or repaired 48 tree wells.

“Laguna Roots” Program – The City started a biennial urban forestry newsletter, called Laguna Roots, which provides seasonal tips and insight for tree owners and information regarding the City’s tree management program.

Invasive Plant Control – Staff successfully led a multi-agency response to an outbreak of the invasive plant, Stinking Roger (Osteospermum calendulaceum). This was the first time this plant has ever been observed on the North American continent.

Clean CA Maintenance Agreement – In March 2022, the Public Works Department entered into a three-year maintenance agreement with Caltrans allowing the City to be reimbursed $150,000 for litter and graffiti removal along portions of Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road.

Recycling Events – Over 500 residents safely disposed of approximately 16 tons of hazardous waste by participating in the City’s annual Paint, E-Waste and Universal Waste Drop-off event and Shredding Event. Residents also took home 20 tons of compost at the annual Compost Giveaway event. Lastly, four composting workshops were offered to the community this year.

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