Laguna Beach faces a number of important planning decisions in the near future and residents should take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the process, City Manager John Pietig told members of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy on Monday.
Pietig provided an overview of current and upcoming city projects, including development of a comprehensive strategy for the future of Laguna Canyon Road, to the full house at Tivoli Terrace restaurant.
Projects underway include the lifeguard headquarters at Main Beach, scheduled for completion by 2014; new playground equipment at Main Beach to be ready in the next few weeks; and improvements on Broadway such as better sidewalks, a safer crossing at Cliff Drive and art features that should be finished by the end of May, he said.
Looking ahead, the city is moving ahead with the design phase of a pathway connecting Top of the World to the fire road, expected to be completed by next year; another pathway will be built to link Laguna College of Art & Design to the public canyon parking lot; and renovations of parks including Alta Laguna, Moulton Meadows, Lang Park and the park by Top of the World Elementary School will soon be underway, Pietig said.
Resident input is welcome on two important planning topics: a hearing on the village entrance at 6 p.m. at City Hall on March 26, and a meeting to draft a view preservation ordinance at 4:30 p.m. at the Susi Q Center on March 12.
Planners working on a downtown parking management plan will report on their progress to the City Council this spring, said Pietig. How to fund the city’s transit system, now subsidized by nearly $800,000 a year in parking revenue, as well as decisions over imposing trolley fares or adding year-around services are also items on the city’s agenda, he said.
Residents should keep an eye out for a discussion of an analysis of Laguna Canyon Road by the City Council within the next three months, Pietig said.
While the first hurdle is an unfunded $30 million tab to underground utility lines, Pietig said the community should consider the road they envision and whether it should include pedestrian and bicycle lanes, traffic mitigation, or other alternatives.
Despite the recession, Pietig said Laguna’s budget is balanced and the city has maintained a 10 percent reserve of $4.8 million and a $4 million recession smoothing account, leaving the city with overall budget reserves of 18 percent. Property, sales and bed taxes, which account for 75 percent of the city’s general fund revenue, are all above projections at midyear, and the windfall helped to fund some important projects, he said.
The city may face some future challenges with increasing health care costs and unfunded pension liability, he said. Staff is reviewing labor contracts that are due to be renegotiated within the next 18 months and is looking at steps to reduce the city’s future liability, he said.