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First 2023 council meeting agenda includes parking plan, Ti Amo surplus property declaration, fire code updates

By SARA HALL

During the first Laguna Beach City Council meeting of 2023, the new lineup of councilmembers has a busy and varied agenda.

At tonight’s meeting (Tuesday, Jan. 10), council will consider: A draft Parking and Transportation Demand Management report; declaring the city-owner former Ti Amo restaurant site as surplus property; 2022 updates of the California building and fire codes and local amendments and a resolution calling for the city to stand in solidarity with Iranian people.

The last item during regular business is an important one, a presentation of the draft Parking and Transportation Demand Management report.

During the item, council will also receive public input and provide direction as appropriate for the subcommittee’s preparation of the final report. Council will also direct staff to work with the subcommittee on drafting a funding and implementation plan for all short-term non-parking infrastructure opportunities and improvements, and on developing a priority list of parking infrastructure sites to further study and pursue (both involving and not involving a parking structure).

In January 2022, Mayor Bob Whalen and Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf formed the Parking Master Plan subcommittee to assess the city’s public parking needs, as well as study and develop possible solutions. 

The subcommittee held a public listening session, meetings with several transportation firms to refine the approach and discussions with private property owners to lease parking lots to the city for public parking.

The city also entered into an agreement with transportation planning and engineering firm Fehr & Peers to assist with the technical tasks for the Parking Master Plan, beginning with a parking needs assessment to quantify the existing parking demand in four key districts (North Laguna, Downtown, the HIP District and South Laguna).

If approved, tonight’s agenda item will also amend an agreement with Fehr & Peers to complete the final report for an additional $26,000.

The objective of the report being reviewed on Tuesday is to recommend strategies and actions that will help alleviate some of the adverse impacts on mobility in the city’s commercial zones and on the quality of life in residential neighborhoods resulting from visitors and employees in need of parking.

A parking needs assessment was prepared to evaluate the existing parking demand in several defined commercial districts and the abutting residential neighborhoods. This assessment served as the basis for three sets of recommendations: Increase the city’s supply of public parking; additional transportation demand management strategies and updates to the city’s parking regulations. 

The subcommittee is presenting the working version of the report to councilmembers and the general public for discussion. Input from members of council and the public will be incorporated into the final report, which will be presented to council in spring.

First 2023 council meeting Ti Amo

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Council will consider declaring the city-owned former Ti Amo restaurant site as surplus property

On the consent calendar (usually passed without discussion, unless an item is pulled by a councilmember or member of the public), council will consider a resolution declaring the city-owned property at 31729 and 31735 Coast Highway (also known as 31727 Coast Highway), the former Ti Amo restaurant, as surplus property and “not necessary for the city’s use.” 

The property was originally purchased in 2021 for civic uses, including a potential future fire station in South Laguna.

The city closed escrow on January 4 for a property at 31796 Coast Highway, which is considered a superior site for a replacement fire station. After more than a year of contentious split votes on the Ti Amo site and applying the potential pressure of eminent domain on the owner of the 31796 Coast Highway property, there was a consensus of support for the new location.

Tonight, if approved, the action will authorize the city manager to comply with the procedures under the Surplus Land Act, which requires agencies to first declare a property surplus land and offer such surplus land to various entities, including housing sponsors and other public agencies for the development of affordable housing, parks, or open space before the agency can privately negotiate any disposition of the land.

Councilmember Toni Iseman requested on June 7 that the council agendize a future item to consider selling the property at 31727 Coast Highway. 

While there was no official vote or action at the June meeting, there was general consensus on the dais to obtain an appraisal at the appropriate time in the future when the city might be in the position to sell the property.

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In 2021, in a split 3-2 vote on June 15, council authorized an agreement with Rincon Consultants Inc. in the amount of $89,199 to provide consulting services for the preparation of an initial study for the acquisition of 31727 Coast Highway and for a possible Mitigated Negative Declaration, if determined to be appropriate. Councilmembers Iseman and George Weiss dissented. 

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 on August 4 to approve city staff’s recommended general plan consistency determination for 31727 and 31735 Coast Highway.

Commissioners and staff emphasized that they were only affirming GP consistency for possible future public benefit use and not a specific use (such as a fire station).

The city entered into escrow to acquire the property, most recently occupied by Italian restaurant Ti Amo by il Barone. The city offered $2.7 million.

In a split vote on August 24, council took the next step toward acquiring the Ti Amo property in South Laguna for future civic uses, including as a possible replacement for the neighborhood’s local fire station.

At that time, councilmembers again voted 3-2 to certify the initial study/mitigated negative declaration for the acquisition of 31727 and 31735 Coast Highway; and directed staff to complete any steps necessary to close escrow on the subject property. Councilmembers Iseman and George Weiss dissented. 

Although many of the comments during each previous discussion revolved around using the property as the future site for the fire station, that was not the issue at hand, then-Mayor Whalen pointed out during the August council meeting.

It was clearly stated that the purpose for the discussion and vote was to consider the IS/MND and if the property is suitable for acquisition for public purpose, “not necessarily a fire station, but possibly a fire station.”

Planning Commission considered making a parking lot out of it and couldn’t figure out the ingress and egress, Iseman pointed out during the discussion this week. 

First 2023 council meeting Emerald Fire houses

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Photo by Devon Dick

Updated fire codes are on next week’s council agenda

Also during regular business, council will consider adopting the 2022 editions of the California building and fire codes, and local amendments to Title 14 and 15.

The latest state codes were adopted by the State Building Standards Commission and were mandated for statewide enforcement on January 1. The new ordinances based on state law and included amendments based on local conditions specific to Laguna Beach. Administrative provisions for the enforcement of the building and fire codes are also included. 

Some of the most noteworthy changes to the 2022 California Building Standards Code and local amendments include:

–Increased energy efficiency for new and remodeled buildings.

–Revised thresholds of 65% for construction recycling requirements.

–Fences more than 72 inches require building permits (previously required of all fences).

–Retaining walls more than 48 inches require building permits (previously required of all walls).

–New residential and major remodeled homes must comply with electric vehicle charging and solar voltaic infrastructure requirements.

–Building permits will remain active for one year after issuance, except for projects starting because of building code enforcement.

–New opening protections and venting requirements for structures in the high fire severity zones.

–Increase in the number of accessible units within a hotel or motel.

–Clarification of swimming pool barriers.

–Rain sensors for sprinkler controllers.

–Wall and ceiling insulation must be ignition resistant.

Earlier in the meeting, during extraordinary business, Mayor Bob Whalen and Councilmember Alex Rounaghi are recommending that council adopt a resolution calling for the City of Laguna Beach to stand in solidarity with Iranian people and those suffering from oppressive regimes. The resolution asks the city to stand in support of the Iranian-American community and support sanctions against the government of Iran.

Also during regular business, the council will: Hear the continued public hearing and balloting for the proposed undergrounding utility assessment district 2013-2 (Diamond Street) and consider an ordinance amending city code regarding regulation of single family residential one- and two-unit developments and urban lot splits pursuant to California Senate Bill 9.

The council agenda is available online here. The regular meeting begins at 5 p.m. 

Members of the public may speak in person in council chambers. 

To participate via Zoom, you may click here from your computer or smart phone. You may also call 669.900.9128 and wait for instructions. The Webinar ID is 91641723096#. If you have issues getting into the Zoom meeting or raising your virtual hand to comment, you may text the city clerk at 310.722.5051.

The meeting can be watched live on Cox channel 852 or on the city’s website at www.lagunabeachcity.net/agendas

Comments may be submitted on any agenda item or on any item not on the agenda in writing via mail to the City Clerk at: 505 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, CA, 92651, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by using this interactive form. Comments were emailed to the City Clerk no later than 3 p.m. on January 9 (the day before the City Council meeting) in order for comments to be submitted to the members of the City Council the day prior the meeting, which provides them sufficient time to review the comments. 

You may continue to provide written comments up to 12 p.m. today (January 10, the day of the meeting). While these comments will be provided to the City Council at 2 p.m., councilmembers may not have sufficient time to review them prior to the meeting.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

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