Letter to the Community: Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf

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Dear Laguna Beach community,

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf. Courtesy photo

It’s been an honor and privilege serving as your mayor over the last year. Engaging with this incredible community on so many levels has been a wonderful experience. I look forward to continuing to serve our City in the coming year and working with new Councilmembers Mark Orgill and Alex Rounaghi, who were sworn in during last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.  

As I reflect over the last year, we have many achievements to acknowledge and celebrate. As always, our top priority remains to protect the life and safety of our community from wildfire, and as we are all aware, we avoided two potentially significant fires this past year. Unfortunately, our Laguna Niguel neighbors were not as fortunate. We continue to enhance our Fire Safety Mitigation Plan and are excited to be partnering with both of our water districts to add additional Helopod water tanks along the wildland interface to provide more opportunity for helicopters to fill rapidly in the event of a fire. Fire Chief Niko King has commenced a Fire Department Community Risk Assessment with the primary focus on the risks and hazards specific to Laguna Beach. This study will help us further improve our ability to respond when needed. We are also hopeful that with the help of a Cal-OES grant, it may be possible to achieve our goal of undergrounding utilities on Laguna Canyon Road. More to come on the topic of undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road next year. The City also purchased the property located at 31796 S. Coast Highway as a site for a much needed and anticipated Fire Station 4.

This year, we also partnered with Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett to gain local control of all beaches in the City of Laguna Beach. Mayor Bob Whalen successfully spearheaded this effort over the last 18 months. Last week, his work came to fruition as the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved the transfer agreement allowing the City of Laguna Beach to take over ownership of all South Laguna beaches from the County. This will allow the City to provide consistent and excellent lifeguard services across all beaches within our City limits, including the ability to enforce the City’s municipal codes on South Laguna beaches. We anticipate assuming control of the beaches by March 1, 2023 with full lifeguard staffing ready for the summer months.

We also acquired a large property in South Laguna, and the City anticipates closing escrow on the 6.5-acre St. Catherine of Siena school property in the next couple of weeks. Acquisition of this property will provide the City with a unique opportunity to increase services to the community, with an array of possible long-term use concepts such as a community pool, cultural arts center, recreation facilities, and additional City or civic uses. After the property is acquired, we look forward to soliciting ideas from our community for desired uses and developing a master plan vision for all City-owned properties.

This year Mayor Whalen and I continued our work on the Parking Master Plan which will help us determine where we need parking in particularly impacted areas of the City and the opportunities in those areas for additional parking or parking solutions. The Parking Master Plan will offer recommendations to reduce the impacts of neighborhood parking while promoting vibrant and walkable commercial districts.             

We also continued to work on new and enhanced initiatives to improve the quality of life for residents while managing the impacts of visitors. Our new Neighborhood Enhancement Team – or “NET Team” will patrol our neighborhoods, beaches and parks to ensure proper use of our cherished community assets. This team includes Park Rangers, Community Outreach Officers to address homelessness, traffic motor officers, and a Community Services Officer responsible for outreach and engagement. Under the leadership of Police Chief Jeff Calvert, I believe all of these actions we have taken will result in an even safer community for all to enjoy.

Of course, no City Council actions can be implemented without the hard work and tireless efforts of our City staff. I extend my sincere thanks to City Manager Shohreh Dupuis and her team for their diligence, dedication and support as we address the challenges of our time. 

Over the next four years, I pledge to focus on the issues that matter to all of our lives: how to improve this town, enhance public safety, and address emergencies as they arise while looking toward the future. Now that the election is behind us, let us elevate our public discourse and focus on issues, facts and diligent problem-solving. I ask my fellow councilmembers to do the same as we look for short-term and long-term solutions to improve our community. Happy Holidays Everyone! 

In Community Spirit, 

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf

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