By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
The Laguna Beach Police Department will replace six of its white patrol vehicles this spring with a new model that comes with a more traditional black and white paint job.
Police Chief Laura Farinella pitched the new color scheme to the Laguna Beach City Council on Feb. 19 for several reasons. Last month, the Irvine Police Department started rotating black and white police vehicles into its motor pool, making Laguna Beach the only police department in Orange County to exclusively use white vehicles.
“Having 6.5 million visitors, we want to stand out, we want to be recognizable when they flag us down and we’re at a scene,” Farinella said.
Over the year’s officers have complained that driving white patrol cars makes it difficult for them to stand out from animal control, parking services, beach patrol, and other city vehicles. Nordic Security also uses white vehicles to patrol clients’ properties in Laguna Beach and some community members have incorrectly assumed they were police vehicles, Farinella said.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow and Councilwoman Toni Iseman both said they preferred a new color scheme that features “police” in large letters to make the vehicles eye-catching for both residents and visitors.
Laguna Beach will replace its other eight police vehicles in its fleet once they reach the end of their lifespan.
Facelift coming to eroded Pearl Street beach stairway
A new beach access stairway is coming to Pearl Street following the Laguna Beach City Council’s vote to spend just over $1 million at its Tuesday meeting.
The existing stairway has been closed since last August because of erosion and low sand levels, according to a staff report. The construction contract awarded to Wright Construction Engineering calls for replacing and improving stairs, landscaping, walkways, and other amenities between the end of Pearl Street and the beach.
Laguna Beach is required to maintain and ensure public access to its beaches under the California Coastal Act; this mission is also codified in the General Plan. Pearl Street follows the beach access improvements at Agate and Thalia streets in 2017, which cost the city $1.8 million.
City officials plan to partially fund the Peal Street project by transferring $510,000 previously dedicated to funding repairs to the beach access stairway on Anita Street. These funds will be restored under next year’s city budget.
Since beach access is vital to Laguna Beach’s economy, it’s important for city leaders to fund public bathrooms, regular trash hauling, and marine safety patrols to ensure the natural resource is maintained for future generations, said Mike Beanan, co-founder of the ocean protection nonprofit Laguna Bluebelt.
“We all want access to the ocean, it’s just how much can we handle,” Beanan said. “As we improve access, we need to think about carrying capacity for the various coves.”
The lack of public bathrooms on the beach below Pearl Street raises the environmental concerns that come with visitors urinating and defecating in the ocean, Beanan said.
Jinger Wallace, also a co-founder of Laguna Beach Bluebelt, points to the recent closure of formerly pristine beaches in Thailand because of uncontrolled parties of tourists who trashed the environment.
“If we are concerned about the numbers of tourists coming to our beaches, we just need to have better enforcement,” Wallace said. “I think our city needs to heavily support our marine safety department.”