Staying true to his practice of foregoing oratory for the quick anecdote, Mayor Kelly Boyd summed up in short order the State of the City during the annual address.
“The city has really stepped up in terms of police, fire and marine safety,” said Boyd. “We are at the highest staffing level of safety personnel that we have ever had, and that is something we can all be proud of.”
Yet in looking back at his 16 years in public office over non-consecutive terms, Boyd said he also detects another change that he is less enthusiastic about. A long meeting used to end at 8:30 p.m., he said. Now, they routinely stretch to midnight. Social media has broadened public participation with more residents trekking to City Hall to add their two cents to the public comment period, sometimes in language that Boyd considers less than respectful. “What we’re seeing reflects what we’re seeing nationally,” said Boyd, who intends to retire from public office and will not seek re-election this November. Two other City Council incumbents whose terms are expiring have yet to announce their intentions publicly.
City department heads also outlined developments in increased resident safety, infrastructure improvements and business development during the Chamber of Commerce sponsored luncheon Friday, May 11.
Police Chief Laura Farinella said the increase in public safety is partially due to the addition of outreach officers and beach patrol, which have stepped up enforcement and citations.
“We have seen a decrease in thefts on the beach and a decrease of community concerns, especially in South Laguna,” Farinella said. “By partnering with residents and adding these officers we have made a significant impact on beach-related crimes and nuisance.”
Shohreh Dupuis, assistant city manager and director of public works, discussed fire risk related to undergrounding utility wiring on evacuation routes and the estimated $135 million cost of project. A discussion on the issue comes before the City Council on May 22.
She also touted other upcoming infrastructure projects, including the long-awaited village entrance, expected to break ground in September, and recently completed beach access improvements.
“These projects take a while to conceptualize and plan and we are so glad to design and build them for the community,” she said.
Though more prosaic, Dupuis pointed out that more frequent cleaning of sidewalks, public restrooms and beaches pays off beyond improving the city’s appearance. “Last summer was the first time we did not receive a complaint about restrooms,” she said.
Dupuis mentioned traffic smoothing improvements in the works, a proposed pedestrian “scramble” crosswalk at Forest Avenue and Laguna Avenue and changes at six Coast Highway intersections.
City analyst Ryan Hallett, in his last day on the job, outlined city efforts at business retention including beautification, initiatives such as Small Business Saturday and carrying out an arts plan.
Boyd also received tributes, including a light-hearted highlight reel of his public service, where he was seen behind the wheel of a city bus, checking out plans on a construction site and popping up in other unexpected places.
“He is a part of the fabric of this town, and his contributions on the City Council over the years have been important to making our City what it is today,” said City Manager John Pietig.
Boyd’s great grandfather settled in Aliso Canyon in 1871, one of the town’s original homesteaders. He considers the creation of the view preservation ordinance and addressing the city’s homeless issue by establishing an overnight shelter as some of his most significant accomplishments.