Historical Preservation Task Force Interrupted

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After many long meetings regarding the Historical Preservation Ordinance, the City Council voted in favor of forming a task force of residents to study and ultimately make recommendations back to them for action.

Council members Steve Dicterow and Toni Iseman volunteered to act as facilitators for the task force and subsequently interviewed and appointed 11 resident members.

At the first meeting members introduced themselves with a brief bio.  Kathy Jensen, representing the city attorney, in answer to a task force member’s concern, reassured that she was representing private citizens and not just a city government position. Steve Dicterow stated he didn’t want an artificial task force timeline or deadline. The direction to the task force was that it would be assumed that no rules/ordinance was in place and starting from a zero baseline, from scratch, to discern what discretion the city has regarding a historical preservation ordinance. Dicterow stated that one of the biggest issues has been the voluntariness of a home being placed on a (historical resource) list or not.

Dicterow asked Kathy, “Does the city have discretion or is this mandated by state law?” Kathy Jensen and Laguna Beach attorney Larry Nokes were invited to prepare their legal findings regarding what is required by the state and by CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, relating to historical resources.

At the second meeting, Kathy Jensen, discussed the requested legal findings of Rutan &Tucker, the city attorneys.

Unfortunately, Larry Nokes, who was invited to share legal findings, was not given equal time to go over those findings and was relegated to four minutes during the public comment section at the end of the meeting. The result being that the legal findings of the city attorney and of Larry Nokes were not equally presented to the task force.

The scheduled June 27 and July 17 task force meetings were cancelled by City Manager John Pieteg out of concern for potential litigation.  A special meeting of the City Council has been scheduled for July 31stso that the City Council, as the lead agency, can hear differing legal views and decide how to go forward.

It is my understanding that the city attorney as well as Larry Nokes, and perhaps others, will be given time to present their legal findings to the Council.

The vote of the City Council will determine the future of the historical preservation ordinance, the task force, and ultimately, the property rights of Laguna Beach homeowners. The special council meeting is Tuesday, July 31, at 5 p.m., council chambers City Hall.


Pat Carpenter, Laguna Beach

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