Laguna Beach spotlights key accomplishments in 2023

0
791

Laguna Beach recently released its end-of-the-year wrap-up of 2023 projects, initiatives, and services, which the city regards as accomplishments. 

Marine Safety Operations in South Laguna: On March 1, the City assumed control of the beaches in South Laguna. Marine Safety operations were extended into South Laguna, providing the same level of service as the rest of the City. The additional area required recruiting, hiring, training and deploying more than 60 lifeguards. 

During peak (summer) operations at South Laguna Beaches from June 10, 2023, to September 4, 2023, the lifeguard team conducted: 1,953 rescues, 1,572 medical aids, 208,328 public contacts, 42,159 ordinance enforcement contacts and 109,520 preventive actions.

Public Works & Utilities updated all South Laguna beach signage and provided approximately 150 new trash and recycling receptacles for the public.

Mobile mental health services: On April 18, the City Council approved a two-year service agreement with Mind OC (Be Well OC) to provide the community with mobile mental health and substance abuse services. The program launched in Laguna Beach on Aug. 1 and is available to the public seven days per week between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris secured $1.5 million of state funding to support operating expenses during the initial two-year trial program.

Police department addresses loud vehicle noise: The Laguna Beach Police Department collaborated with agencies throughout Orange County to host four joint operations addressing the issue of loud exhaust. 

Police Department’s Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) implemented to address quality of life issues: Since the inception of the NET in May of 2022, the team has continued to expand and establish itself throughout the community:

Traffic Bureau: The traffic team was increased from two motor officers to four motor officers to address ongoing traffic safety issues. In addition, the City Council approved a staffing increase to add a dedicated traffic sergeant to provide team leadership. 

Park Rangers: Seven of the eight full-time positions are filled, and one person is now in the hiring process. Park Rangers are responsible for enforcing quality of life issues and crime within our beaches and parks.

Homeless Liaison Officer (HLO): HLOs conduct necessary enforcement of individuals who are refusing assistance. The HLO was successful reuniting 14 individuals with their homes outside the City through the City-funded Operation Homecoming program.

Community Services Officer (CSO): CSO Nicole Rice held many community education programs such as the Road Safety Expo, Citizens Academy, Ice Cream Social, Coffee with a Cop, Pizza with a Park Ranger, and Know-Your-Limits program, and hosted the City’s first annual National Night Out at Main Beach. 

K-9 Program: The police department welcomed K-9 Officer “Bear.” Corporal Priscilla Angeloni was selected as his handler. The police department now has canine support seven days a week provided by two apprehension K-9s. Corporal McGuire and K-9 “Rudy” cover the other half of the week.

Laguna Beach Police Department

Police Department reorganization: Command staff completed a comprehensive restructuring of the police department to improve communication, decrease the supervisory span of control, increase efficiency and aid in succession planning to develop future leadership.

Executive Team Promotions: Promoted three new members to the Executive Team. Mike Peters joined the Laguna Beach Police Department as its newest Captain after serving 26 years at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Sergeants Jesse Schmidt and Jason Farris were both promoted to lieutenant.   

Training: Enhanced training opportunities for police department staff, with an emphasis on leadership. 

Axon Body Worn Cameras (BWC) and In-Car Video: The Police Department is upgrading its legacy BWC system to the Axon Body Worn Camera and In-Car Video Platforms. This upgrade will enhance transparency and accountability between police personnel and citizens and document evidence that can be easily retrieved. 

Dell Mobile Data Computers (MDC): Replaced outdated Mobile Data Computers with new Dell computers. The new computers will empower police officers and professional staff to work remotely within the City, promoting greater flexibility and responsiveness. 

Cellular Phones: Equipped each Laguna Beach Police Department employee with a department-issued cellular phone for on-duty use. This strategic initiative ensures that our personnel have directories, resources, and tools pre-loaded into the phone at their fingertips. Adding these personalized mobile devices not only fosters seamless communication and collaboration among team members but also significantly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of daily operations. Officers can access critical information on the go, enabling faster decision-making and response times. 

New Insight Application: Launched the new Insight mobile application for police officers, allowing officers to send digital resources directly to residents via the application. Police officers now have immediate access to emergency management resources, public resources, forms, and scheduling information anywhere they have a cellular signal.

Ballistic Helmets: In September, the Laguna Beach Police Department received 60 new ballistic helmets. The helmets replaced aging U.S. Military surplus helmets acquired more than 10 years ago. The helmets provide rifle-grade protection while weighing less and allowing for greater maneuverability, comfort and safety.

False Alarm and Permitting Improvements: Implemented the Alarm Program System (APS) in March to assume responsibility for alarm permitting and false alarm billing that had previously been handled in-house. APS enables residents and businesses to conveniently apply for and pay their alarm fees online and by mail. The new system has resulted in better customer service and improved compliance.

Title 6 Municipal Code Updates: The City Council adopted an ordinance that significantly changed Title 6 of the Municipal Code related to animals. The changes included adopting an objective standard defining nuisance dog barking, providing due process for determining whether a dog is vicious and a public safety nuisance, and prohibiting a person from dragging a leashed dog while riding a bike.

Pets for Veterans: The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter launched a new no-cost Pets for Veterans adoption program in November to incentivize the adoption of pets by active-duty military and retired veterans of Orange County. The program will help place pets in new homes with the families of military members and retired veterans.

Laguna Beach Police/Water District Joint Wellness Center: Established a joint wellness center for Laguna Beach Police and Laguna Beach County Water District employees in June. The new center was created through funding from the Laguna Beach Police and Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

Fallen Officer Jon Coutchie Bridge Dedication: Sen. Janet Nguyen sponsored legislation to dedicate the Aliso Creek Bridge as the Officer Jon Coutchie Memorial Bridge. On Sept. 21, the 10 year anniversary of Officer Coutchie’s End of Watch, a formal dedication ceremony was held, attended by his family, friends, public officials, city staff and law enforcement officers throughout the County.   

Laguna Beach Fire Department

Fee Collections for Fire Life Safety: On July 1, the fire department began invoicing and collecting fees for fire life safety inspections, permits, and plan checks as part of the Citywide adopted fee schedule. The revenue generated will help offset the cost of providing this service to the City.

Completion of Fuel Management Zones: Completed work on the Fuel Management Zones (FMZs) before the fire season and made progress on the application for the four remaining zones being established. The Department has submitted an application for funding from a FEMA/Cal OES grant to offset maintenance costs on FMZs 16 and 19. The grant award-winning agency will be announced in January.

EOC Equipment Grant: Secured a grant for $14,700 to purchase new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) equipment from the California Office of Emergency Services. The department also received reimbursement funds for $293,982 from the 2021 Oil Spill Incident impacting the City. 

Marine Safety

Purchase and deployment of equipment in South Laguna: Purchased and deployed new lifeguard towers, chairs, communications equipment, lifeguard rescue vehicles and integrated a rescue watercraft into South Laguna operations. The new equipment allowed marine safety staff to provide lifeguard services, ensuring the public’s safety on the newly acquired South Laguna beaches.

On-Demand Tryouts: Developed an on-demand tryout program for Seasonal Ocean Lifeguards. The on-demand tryouts are now available by appointment at Main Beach seven days per week. More tryout opportunities provided flexibility for potential candidates and helped fill the Ocean Lifeguard positions at South Laguna Beaches. 

Holdover of Marine Safety staff due to conditions: Several South Laguna Beaches experienced late crowds, heavy surf conditions, or other situations that required lifeguards to be held over from their normal schedule. These situations typically occurred at 9th, 10th and Table Rock beaches. An overtime staffing schedule was initiated to keep lifeguards protecting the public during more heavily populated conditions. 

City Manager’s Office

City’s Homeless Shelter Program: The City contracts with Friendship Shelter to operate its low-barrier emergency shelter. In 2023, the shelter helped 292 individuals; 204 were served through the drop-in day program, and 102 were accommodated through the overnight enrollment program. Approximately 31% of the enrolled participants (26 people) successfully secured housing in 2023.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

Community Development Staffing: Filled several vacant positions, including Assistant Director. The Community Development Department is now fully staffed and prepared to provide a wide range of services to our residents.

City of Laguna Beach Awarded $200,000 Grant: The City was awarded a $200,000 competitive grant from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) via its Sustainable Communities Program (SCP) to support the City’s Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update, which includes an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This project is identified in the City’s Housing Element and is a City Council priority project.

City-owned Parcels to be Rezoned as Open-Space: The City Council approved a change of land use designations of 26 City-owned parcels from Residential/Hillside Protection to Permanent Open Space. These City-owned parcels were purchased via Proposition 12 funding; the re-zone ensures they will be maintained as undeveloped open space.

Outdoor Dining Program: Under the recent passage of Assembly Bill 1217, City Council extended the Outdoor Dining and Parklet program to January 1, 2026. Participating restaurants will have their temporary use permits extended by the Planning Commission to coincide with the additional two years granted by the City Council.

Promenade on Forest Program Extension: The Planning Commission approved a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) and a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) through January 31, 2027, to extend the temporary closure of a portion of Forest Avenue and allow temporary use of a public street as a pedestrian plaza (“Promenade on Forest Program”). Meanwhile, staff will proceed with the design, entitlement, and permitting to convert the Promenade on Forest Program to a permanent pedestrian plaza. 

Streamlining Ordinance Implementation: The Community Development Department implemented amendments to the Municipal Code to streamline the entitlement process by exempting certain projects from design review and expanding the scope of projects that can be considered at an administrative hearing. Staff is working on the next phase of streamlining.

SB 9 Ordinance/ADU Ordinance: The City Council adopted separate ordinances in response to recent changes in State law, allowing for more local control over lot splits and construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Staff is preparing an update to the ADU Ordinance to comply with State law while also allowing for additional control over coastal development permits and potential impacts to public views.

Significant Permits: Planning entitlements were approved for the new Laguna College of Art and Design student center. Building permits were issued for renovations of the Surf and Sand Hotel and Pacific Marine Mammal Center. The South Coast Theater (Rivian) is completed. Coast Liquor is near completion.

PUBLIC WORKS 

Utility Undergrounding projects included:

Completed Diamond St Underground Utility Assessment District 2013-02.

Conducted balloting to form the Woods Cove Underground Utility Assessment District 2014-02, which resulted in voter approval of the proposed district. 

Began construction of underground infrastructure for Park Avenue Underground Utility District 2021-02.

Improvement of City Facilities and Local Infrastructure

Constructed a retaining wall and widened Bluebird Canyon Drive to improve evacuation access.

Constructed a consolidated trash enclosure to reduce bin clutter along Forest Alley.

Renovated the Police Department armory.

Renovated restrooms and front lobby at Fire Station 1 without affecting operations.

Installed new fencing and landscaping for the dog play area at Moulton Meadows Park.

Renovated median landscaping along Laguna Canyon Road.

Installed a natural gas emergency generator in an underground vault to ensure continuous operation of the Irvine Cove wastewater lift station to prevent potential spills on the beach, preserve ocean views, and provide environmental protection of ocean habitat.

Rehabilitated a pump at the Bluebird SOCWA wastewater lift station to improve pump output and reduce power usage as part of the ongoing lift station preventative maintenance program.

Cleaned and maintained over 100 miles of sewer pipelines to minimize service disruptions and address wastewater system deficiencies.

Transition of Water Quality Department to Public Works Department: To better align the City’s workforce infrastructure and resources, the Water Quality Department, which includes the Wastewater Division, was merged into a division within the Public Works Department. Wastewater Division position titles and descriptions were updated to better align the job responsibilities of the division and certification requirements. This accomplishment will improve the talent resources of future recruitments.

New Solid Waste Collection Franchise Agreement: The City awarded the Franchise Agreement for Solid Waste and Recycling Collection Services to CR&R to commence on July 1, 2024, and continue for eight years. Transitional bi-weekly meetings with CR&R began on July 12, 2023.

Urban Forestry Grant: In September 2023, the Public Works and Utilities Department was awarded a $100,000 match-free grant by the US Department of Agriculture. This grant will lead to upgrading citywide digital urban forestry management tools, including Tree Canopy Analysis, Updated Tree Asset Inventory, and Tree Planting Site Analysis. 

Arundo Removal at Aliso Beach: In August 2023, the Public Works and Utilities Department began performing quarterly Arundo (Arundo donax) grass removal projects at Aliso Creek. These ongoing efforts have removed nearly nine tons of the highly invasive species.  

Public Tree Planting Program: The City has planted 42 trees and improved or repaired 33 tree wells.

Tree City USA Recognition: The City was recognized as a Tree City USA Community for the fifth consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation. The City hosted a public Arbor Day celebration with a tree planting ceremony at Moulton Meadows Park on March 9, 2023, which was proclaimed Arbor Day in Laguna Beach by the City Council.

New Beach Cleaner: In May 2023, the City purchased a new beach-cleaning machine dedicated for use at Main Beach and Aliso Beach.

City Fleet Vehicles: In 2023, the Fleet Maintenance Division made 13 new City vehicles ready for service.

Street Sweeping: In 2023, the Public Works and Utilities Department swept 14,500 curb miles throughout the City. 

New Slogan on City vehicles: The Fleet Maintenance Division installed decals of the City’s newly adopted PRIDE slogan on all City vehicles.

Weed Abatement Project in Downtown and City Parks: In July 2023, the Public Works & Utilities Department was provided $50,000 to oversee a specialized crew to remove weeds in Downtown and the City Parks. Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Chintala oversaw the project.

Fountain Repair at the Susi Q Center: The City and the Water District worked collaboratively to repair a non-functioning decorative fountain in the exterior seating area at the Community and Susi Q Center. 

Laguna Beach Community & Recreation Center: Facility maintenance team completed numerous projects to prepare the CRC for use by City departments. The work included installing new paint, flooring, HVAC repairs and elevator restoration. 

Replacement of Lighting Fixtures at Hagen Place Parking Structure (Lot 14): In October 2023, the Public Works and Utilities Department replaced lighting fixtures with energy efficient LED light fixtures at the Hagen Place Parking Structure (Lot 14). The work was overseen by Maintenance Supervisor Wayne Chintala.

Annual Nuisance Abatement Program: During July 2023, the City requested 95 property owners trim their overgrown vegetation as part of the annual Sidewalk and Intersection Visibility Nuisance Abatement Program.

Chevron Alignment Signs on Laguna Canyon Road: The Street Maintenance Division and Engineering Division collaborated to install new chevron alignment signs on Laguna Canyon Road. No traffic collisions have occurred along this portion of the roadway since the signs were installed.

Service Requests: Completed approximately 1,600 service requests repairing public facilities in 2023.

Storm/Emergency Response: Prepared for and responded to five significant emergency events, including major storms, wind events, and Public Safety Power Shutoffs. 

Recycling Events: More than 400 residents safely disposed of approximately four tons of hazardous waste in the City’s annual Paint, E-Waste, and Universal Waste Drop-off event and approximately six tons of paper by participating in the City’s Annual Document Shredding Event. Approximately 300 residents also took home 25 tons of compost at two Compost Giveaway events. Four composting workshops were offered this year.

Aliso Creek Berm Maintenance: Submitted permit applications to regulatory agencies in September for the maintenance of the sand berm where Aliso Creek meets Aliso Beach to the City of Laguna Beach.

American Public Works Association (APWA) Awards: Awarded the APWA Drainage, Water, Wastewater Project of the Year for the Irvine Cove Emergency Backup Generator project.

Guard railing Repairs: Repaired or installed guard railings along Cliff Drive, Agate Street, and Acacia Drive.

Traffic Calming: Conducted speed surveys and installed traffic calming measures along Temple Hills Drive and Bluebird Canyon Drive to address neighborhood concerns about excessive motorists’ speed.

Sunset Avenue Water Line Rupture: Coordinated restoration of the roadway, slope, and private property damaged because of flow from a ruptured water pipe on Sunset Avenue.

Grant to Improve Roadway Safety: Awarded $200,000 Safe Streets and Roads for All grant from U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety for the development of a comprehensive safety action plan.

Coast Highway Street Resurfacing: Coordinated the resurfacing of Coast Highway north of Ledroit Street and south of Seventh Avenue with Caltrans. 

TRANSIT, PARKING, & COMMUNITY SERVICES

On-Demand Transit Service: Laguna Local on-demand microtransit service expanded in January 2023 to serve more neighborhoods in North and South Laguna. The service had 63,000 boardings, a 91% satisfaction rating and an average wait time of just 8.4 minutes.

Trolley Services: There were more than 612,000 boardings on the City’s free trolley services in 2023. Special event trolley services to the summer art festivals and Sawdust Winter Fantasy were expanded.

Senior Transportation: The City provided more than $140,000 of City and grant funding to Sally’s Fund to support senior transportation services, including the purchase of new hybrid-electric vehicles. 

Parking and Transportation Demand Management Report: Completed a comprehensive report assessing the City’s parking needs and developed proposed short- and long-term solutions to increase parking capacity, improve use of existing parking facilities, and reduce neighborhood impacts. 

Mobile Parking Transactions: There were 218,000 Frog mobile parking transactions in 2023, an increase of 56% over the prior year; improvements were made to the Laguna Beach Parking app and a new one-time payment option was introduced.

Parking Technology Improvements: Replaced single-space parking meters on Laguna Canyon Road and Frontage Road with new multi-space pay stations with “pay by plate” technology. Installed six new pay stations in Aliso Beach parking lots.

Recreation Programs: Provided recreation programs to more than 8,500 community members. Opened and expanded recreation programming at the new Laguna Beach Community and Recreation Center. Awarded $250,000 in Community Assistance Grants, and processed over $1.9 million of revenue transactions.

Special Events: Hosted special events including Patriots’ Day Parade, City Youth Track Meet, Brooks St. Surf Contest, college, professional, and local beach volleyball tournaments, an outdoor family movie night, July 4 fireworks show, World Kindness Day, LOVE Laguna, preschool Halloween event and Hospitality Night.

Facility Updates: Three permanent pickleball courts were added at Alta Laguna Park, resulting in six pickleball courts at that facility. The new Community and Recreation Center opened to the public with weekly volleyball, basketball, futsal, and pickleball programs at the gymnasium as well as pre-school classes, summer camps, and skateboard classes.

Fleet Electrification and Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Master Plan: Completed a comprehensive plan that analyzed the feasibility and cost of transitioning the City’s municipal fleet to electric vehicles and installing additional public electric vehicle charging stations. An implementation plan is expected to be finalized in 2024.

FINANCE & TECHNOLOGY SERVICES

Financial

Processed more than 15,600 vendor invoices, resulting in more than 14,500 vendor warrants and 1,100 vendor ACH payments.

Completed and submitted seven annual compliance reports to state and federal agencies and participated in 5 audits conducted by independent third-party auditors as a requirement for funding received by the City.

Prepared over 1,600 journal entries during the calendar year and as a component of the fiscal year-end close.

Processed more than 35,000 timesheets and issued over 10,600 paychecks to City employees.

Administered a City-wide budget of approximately $130M and processed 40 budget amendments.

Modernizing Business Practices

Upgraded the City’s network infrastructure which included replacing 14 network switches at 7 locations and updated the central firewalls for City Hall.

Enhanced the City’s cybersecurity with the development of Multi-Factor Authentication, continued cybersecurity training, and the creation of a City-wide Incident Response Plan established to detect, respond to, and limit the consequences of a malicious cyber-attack.

The city deployed over 216 computer devices (laptops, tablets, and phones) city-wide, 23 mobile data computers for safety vehicles, and four new CCTV cameras at the Montage, Marine Safety HQ, and the Surf and Sand Hotel.

Implemented Police Department advanced security door access control system.

HUMAN RESOURCES & RISK MANAGEMENT

Employee Recruitment & Retention

Reviewed over 7,400 applications for open recruitments throughout the City and onboarded 166 part time employees and 61 full-time employees. 

Implemented Job Elephant as a strategic resource for recruiters, optimizing job advertisements by selecting platforms tailored to specific job types. This streamlined approach not only provides valuable data on job performance but also simplifies the process by automating postings across multiple advertising websites, accompanied by a consolidated invoicing system.

Revamped the candidate background and onboarding process by integrating an online background platform via Sterling and implementing a paperless I-9 verification process through NeoGov Onboard.

Employee Development and Engagement

Expanded employee training opportunities to offer more than 25 different in-person, onsite sessions, including The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team for Management, Building a Culture of Collaboration, Leadership 101 (a 4-part series) for 30 frontline employees, Customer Service in the Public Sector, and Writing Letters, Memos & Emails along with a variety of virtual legal, compliance and skill development trainings offered through third-party vendors.

Hosted several employee engagement events including an enhanced employee picnic at Aliso Beach, five summer events celebrating newly adopted City Values and four Fun Friday theme days for employees.

Provided upgraded City-branded giveaways to employees to reflect our commitment to building the Laguna Beach workplace brand and investing in our employees. 

Employee Benefits and Wellness

Created and adopted Citywide Vision, Mission and Values.

Hosted the second annual Employee Benefits and Wellness Fair with more 24 vendors and enhanced experiences such as a golf simulator, 360 photo booth opportunity, and 32 raffle prize opportunities.

Created and implemented the Human Resources & Risk Management SharePoint page, consolidating essential resources such as policies, benefit information, employee event details, and supervisor resources. This centralized platform enhances accessibility, streamlines employee information retrieval, and fosters citywide efficiency.

Established a partnership with FunEx, an employee benefits program offering exclusive access to a diverse range of discounted activities, providing savings on popular attractions such as amusement parks, water parks, movies, zoos and museums. This no-cost platform enhances the city’s commitment to employee well-being by prioritizing work-life balance.

Introduced Pet Insurance and Legal Shield Insurance as new employee benefits. These additions not only contribute to a more comprehensive benefits package but also strategically position the City to attract and retain top talent.

 Risk Management

Reached an agreement with the Laguna Beach Firefighters’ Association Local 3684 (LBFA) on the terms of a workers’ compensation Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. An ADR program allows for workers’ compensation claims to be processed with greater expedience and equity, benefiting the employee’s return to work process and reducing the City’s overall workers’ compensation liability costs.

CULTURAL ARTS

Live Music and Events

Engaged thousands of attendees of 250 live music performances.

Presented special performances by Pacific Opera Company, Circus Bella, and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

Engaged more than 500 artists to present live music, visual and performing arts events.

Distributed “Artist Innovation Grants” to individual artists.

Public Art 

Five temporary sculptures were installed outside City Hall and on Laguna Frontage Road.

A temporary mural was installed at Alta Laguna Park.

One permanent mural was installed on the bridge near the Sawdust Art Festival.

Maintained and restored public art pieces in the City collection.

 Communications

City Council Meetings Streamed Via YouTube: Implemented a YouTube live stream option for City Council meetings that began with the November 7, 2023, City Council meeting. The YouTube live stream option is one of City Council’s priorities in the City’s Communications Plan.

City’s Community Newsletter: Produced content to publish 51 weekly community newsletters sent to Laguna Beach residents and businesses via Nixle and email.

City Chats Podcast: Produced 21 episodes of the Laguna Beach City Chats Podcast with a total of 264 minutes of content.

City’s Photo Contest: Launched the City’s Photo Contest in October 2023 and received 122 submissions from 45 participants.

Share this:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here