Ex-Irvine Co. urban planning executive joins Laguna Beach Planning Commission

Steven Kellenberg. File Photo

A former lead urban planner for the Irvine Co. was appointed Tuesday as the newest member of the Laguna Beach Planning Commission.

Steven Kellenberg of Laguna Beach was selected from a slate of eight candidates. He’ll replace planning commissioner Anne Johnson who has consistently served on the five-member panel since July 2000.

“I’m honored by being selected and I take it as a very heavy responsibility,” Kellenberg told the Independent on Thursday. “The work of the Planning Commission has always been really important but there are a number of issues coming forward that are really critical.”

After over 40 years with multiple urban planning and design firms, Kellenberg has designed new communities across the United States and multiple continents, he said. Closer to Laguna Beach, he’s consulted on the development of Rancho Mission Viejo, South Coast Metro Mixed-Use District, Ladera Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, and the Tustin Legacy Community Core.

Kellenberg will have a full plate of projects to get up to speed on including the Downtown Specific Plan, wildfire fuel mitigation rules, potential parking structures, Caltrans’ long-awaited improvements to Coast Highway, and Hotel Laguna’s restoration.

He is also interested in looking at opportunities to encourage development of accessory dwelling units as affordable housing. A regional plan for cities to rezone properties for the controversial Regional Housing Need Allocation is also very concerning and possibly an “overreach,” Kellenberg said.

“I’m just really excited about bringing my skills to the table in addressing those complexities,” he said.

Johnson announced at the Feb. 3 commission meeting that it would be her last after countless public meetings and workshops over the last two decades.

“I certainly enjoyed being on it,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there was a meeting where I attended and didn’t learn something. I think Steve will be a wonderful replacement”

In recent years, Johnson has left her mark on high-profile initiatives including the revised Historic Preservation Ordinance, Coast Inn, and the parking and conditional use permit elements of the Downtown Specific Plan.

“What I liked the most about it was that it was a very collegial board and that’s very important for the planning commission,” she said.

Artist Jorg Dubin and structural engineer Ken Sadler were reappointed by the City Council on Tuesday, signaling councilmembers are satisfied with commissioners’ progress on tackling complicated development matters.

Dubin caught some flak from councilmember George Weiss for his decades-long residency at a Laguna Canyon property that’s zoned as light industrial. Although, Weiss said he supports

“As a DRB member or any member of a committee that’s appointed by the City Council, I think you have to be, you know, squeaky clean,” Weiss said. “You took an oath to enforce those ordinances that we have and the General Plan and I find it hard that you haven’t applied for a CUP for your unit. I have that as a problem.”

Dubin noted that he has lived in his home since 1978 and how working as a full-time artist makes it difficult to afford a rental unit and art studio.

“I’ve only been able to stay in Laguna because of the benevolence of my landlord,” Dubin said. “I don’t feel that I have a conflict with where I live and work and my work on planning.”

City Attorney Phil Kohn shared the only requirement to serve on a city commission is to be a Laguna Beach resident.

The Planning Commission’s next meeting will be held via Zoom on Feb. 17.

View Our User Comment Policy


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here