Gay Pride, Greenery and Flooding on City’s Agenda

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Chris Tebbutt’s efforts for official recognition of LGBT contributions to the community resulted in a City Council designation this week. Here, Tebbutt at a children’s literature reading about family diversity at El Morro Elementary last December. Photo by Marilynn Young.
Chris Tebbutt’s efforts for official recognition of LGBT contributions to the community resulted in a City Council designation this week. Here, Tebbutt at a children’s literature reading about family diversity at El Morro Elementary last December. Photo by Marilynn Young.

A wave of triangular rainbow pennants and a standing ovation accompanied the declaration of June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach.

Mayor Toni Iseman praised the newly established LGBT committee for seeking the proclamation, which notes the town’s role in reshaping national norms in the ‘80s when former resident Robert Gentry served as the first openly gay mayor in the nation.

“It took a village to make it happen,” said Iseman, who joined nine supporters adorned with rainbow leis in reading segments of the proclamation at the top of a five-hour City Council meeting Tuesday, May 9.

With obvious emotion, Chris Tebbutt, who organized the LGBT committee after moving to Laguna two years ago, expressed his gratitude for the welcome his husband and sons have experienced.

Other highlights included:

By a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd absent, council approved a $7.1 million landscape plan to aesthetically transform a prominent 397-space parking area adjacent to City Hall in part by sacrificing 25 parking slots.

Former city official Ben Siegel in the parking lot surrounding the historic digester, the focus of a proposed landscape makeover approved this week by the City Council. Photo by Jody Tiongco.
Former city official Ben Siegel in the parking lot surrounding the historic digester, the focus of a proposed landscape makeover approved this week by the City Council. Photo by Jody Tiongco.

“Driving in, I don’t want to see cement,” said Council member Steve Dicterow. Colleague Bob Whalen pushed for buffering along the lot’s edge, “so the walking experience is a good one.”

The approved village entrance plan includes a walkway to the art festivals and cosmetic improvements to a historic digester tower, now used for police department record storage. The council asked for the Planning Commission to further refine the plan. A construction schedule is under development, Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said afterwards.

City staff disagreed with the council’s choice, arguing for an alternate plan with 10 percent less landscaping that would retain all of the current spaces. City Manager John Pietig pointed out the benefits of retaining the 25 extra spaces for use by employees and currying approval from the Coastal Commission. “They are extremely expensive to replace,” he said.

Two residents who testified also favored that selection, while 11 others preferred the extra greenery.

Former Planning Commission member Norm Grossman questioned the premise that the Coastal Commission would demand replacement parking, citing a section of the city’s general plan. “I don’t think the policy applies,” he said, noting a net gain of spaces in the area.

The council also greenlighted $1.4 million in flood-control repairs to rehabilitate and increase by 26 percent the capacity of a culvert that overflows and most recently flooded Ocean Avenue businesses in December 2010.

The two year project includes reconstructing the transition intake upstream from Beach Street, adding 3.5-feet to the channel walls to contain flow and reinforcing the ocean outlet, says the staff report.

Green indicate new landscaping and a walkway proposed for an asphalt covered parking lot that fronts Laguna Canyon Road at Broadway Street. Photo courtesy of city planning.
Green indicate new landscaping and a walkway proposed for an asphalt covered parking lot that fronts Laguna Canyon Road at Broadway Street. Photo courtesy of city planning.

Whalen also pushed for seeking feedback from the business community about the possibility of also pursuing one of two other capacity-increasing alternatives. He favored the Ocean Avenue plan, an undertaking that would increase the channel’s capacity by 150 percent at a cost of $5.8 million and take three years.

Years ago, merchants opposed a similar plan on more heavily trafficked Broadway Street, Pietig pointed out. Though it too would have increased channel capacity by 150 percent and included $10 million in county funding, business owners feared they wouldn’t survive the construction disruption. “The cure may be worse than the problem,” Pietig said.

 

 

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