Moss Street Beach on track to get permanent lifeguard tower

A Laguna Beach lifeguard stands watch from a tower in 2016. Photo by Mitch Ridder 

Moss Street Beach is a step closer to getting a permanent lifeguard tower after receiving a green light from the Laguna Beach Planning Commission on Wednesday.

A new design plan proposes the replacement of the stairs and sidewalk, and the inclusion of a ramp, bicycle racks, and an enclosed permanent lifeguard tower. The City Council has already earmarked the necessary funds in the City’s budget.

The item has been slated for Planning Commission review twice but was extended both times to gather feedback from residents on the proposed tower, said project manager Matthew Oxford.

The rocky tide pools at Moss Street Cove are popular among photographers and snorkelers, but Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said the unpredictable high tides of the cove can prove dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.

Marine Safety staff responded to 176 medical aids in the last five years to Moss Street Cove, and the number is expected to increase in the coming years with the projected higher number of beachgoers citywide, Oxford said.

“It is a smaller beach, but for its size, it is well visited,” Snow said.

Snow added that a permanent enclosed tower would allow lifeguards to monitor the beach while protecting them from exposure to the sun and other elements.

Marine Safety supervisors identified an enclosed tower d as a top priority for the department in the City Council’s Strategic Planning Session on March 4.

In July 2020, an unusually high tide eroded over 32 inches of sand, leading to a gap between the bottom stair and sand at Moss Beach. The City installed a temporary wooden staircase for safety, but revamping the entire staircase is among the improvements that garnered near-unanimous support.

The permanent lifeguard tower remained an area of concern among some residents and commissioners.

“We did vet alternatives. That includes alternatives to the fiberglass tower model that was selected. It was critically important to the City to move forward with an enclosed tower design… of those options, this was found to be most minimally obtrusive,” Senior Planner Anthony Viera said.

There is no other location suitable to place a tower given the frequent high tides and unpredictable waves at the cove, Snow said.

“It’s a balancing act. I understand the neighbors’ concerns, but I also feel that our professional staff – if this is something that they feel will improve public safety and longevity and the safety of the occupant – I’m ready to lean towards that,” Dubin said.
Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the improvements, with Kellenberg dissenting.

“It is a beautiful, quaint, small human-scale beach of unusual beauty and we have a lot of beautiful beaches. And it’s just hard to accept the character of that structure of that scale in that space,” Kellenberg said.

In the coming weeks, the Moss Street Beach upgrades will move onto City Council for final approval.

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  1. Ugly, boxy fiberglass structure to be a PERMANENT fixture year round while only occupied by lifeguards during peak summer months…??? Nonsensical reasons given by the Planning Commission and Marine Safety to supposedly heighten safety only to dig a big hole in the sand to pour caustic cement to erect a man made material which no doubt will be wiped out by a big beach storm.
    Who will watch the fiberglass structure the other 9 months while locals and visitors climb, jump and play on top?
    Oh……and a never ending negatively impacted aesthetic of the idyllic spot of sand that is called Moss Point.

  2. Moss Street Cove is a beautiful but tiny pocket beach surrounded by historic homes and scenic bluffs and tide pools. It is a travesty to build a white “rocketship” fiberglass permanent lifeguard tower that will be used only three months out of the year and a vacant eyesore for the remaining months. It is like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Laguna Beach is an artist community where artistic and scenic beauty matters. A very commercial looking lifeguard tower further chips away at our artists legacy. Many times the only person on the beach is the lifeguard or at most a handful of visitors. It is a small beach with little or no sand and locals would disagree with the statement, “it is well visited”. Lifeguards like to describe their assignment to Moss Cove as their “meditation time” due to the lack of activity. Improvements or replacement of the existing temporary lifeguard chair with improved shading would be a better alternative than spending limited city funds on a permanent lifeguard tower. Lifeguard chairs have been in use for hundreds of years and all of a sudden it is not safe for our lifeguards? If we need permanent lifeguard towers start with our busy beaches and not our smallest beach. We love our lifeguards and they do a fabulous job protecting the public. Not supporting a permanent lifeguard tower on Moss Cove Beach does not mean we do not support our brave lifeguards. But it does demonstrate support for preserving the beauty of our beaches and coves as well as sound fiscal responsibility.

  3. The smallest and most magical tiny pocket cove has been singled out for a concrete caisson, fiberglass tower! WOW ! As stated above, to be used three months of the year, and most likely abused the remaining 9 months of the year . Most likely deteriorating and washing away during bad storms and Big Tides. Apparently there was a permanent structure in the 50’s – 60’s that did get washed out occasionally…and finally completely.
    Marine Safety says this is a good time to do it. The stair rehabilitation is budgeted , so add a permanent tower. We have the money…spend it. Agate and Pearl beaches are the most recent stair rehabilitations to take place. They are much larger, much busier beaches and they did not include permanent lifeguard towers. A Moss permanent tower does not make sense and seems to be a total abuse of funds. Spend our money because we have it ? How about spend our money where it is most needed.
    Moss Cove is a unique-setting . Unspoiled beauty and a historic cove…….perhaps a small but important contribution to Laguna Beach being designated as a Historic American Landscape by our National Park Service.
    It was heartbreaking to hear Planning Commissioners say the “stairs going to the beach are already ugly concrete…..”. Unfortunate that the attitude of adding more “ugly concrete “ is ok. The concrete stairs are the best we can do along the coast to safely navigate the landscape and topography of Laguna’s beautiful coast.
    I don’t see the justification for adding a lifeguard tower…as one commissioner questioned…”so ugly makes uglier ok ?”
    We cherish our lifeguards and the fine jobs they do. I don’t think anyone wants to deny them of their safety and comfort. And I doubt anyone believes there should not be a lifeguard stand as we have always had. But why ear mark the smallest, least busy cove to “add to their safety” over the larger beaches that surely must be more stressful and exhausting to work. Perhaps those beaches deserve the most comfortable environment for their busy days of serving our 6 million visitors a year in the order of their visitor numbers. (and rescues). If eventually all beach’s are to have permanent towers , why not spend money where it is needed most……in the order it is needed. Moss is not the 10th busiest beach (9 permanent lifeguard towers). Let’s practice fiscal responsibility

  4. Daniel Langhorne the city claims to have listened to public input before making a decision….does anyone know how many contact the city and said “No, please..” concerning the fixed tower? Did anyone from the city see(and accept) the votes cast thru the Laguna Beach Indy that OVERWHELMING said “NO” to the tower?

    Seems like there’s a plan put in place by city officials that REGARDLESS of Laguna citizen input, the city does what it wants…like a new parking structure off 3rd, a new fire house on PCH in south Laguna and now a new ugly fiberglass box veering over Moss Point.

    There’s SO MUCH more to this story other than lifeguards and safety. Mr. Snow is often quick to defend with his years of being with Marine Safety and protesting what he claims to know but I dare say he rarely has his toes on the sand.

  5. 100% agree with all of these other commentators.
    I’ve lived here for 50 years, been down to that itsy Moss strand many many times—-when there was an actual beach there.
    Often it’s only usable for a few hours, locals know enough to read tide charts and surf conditions and not even bother visiting.
    There’s seldom a true beach: It’s an ephemeral pocket spot, and my mind is boggled by this proposed permanent installation. Dumb both physically and fiscally.
    Sea level rise is real.
    Sand transport, an element of sediment that historically sloughed/eroded from our bluffs, plus replenishment, sand that was washed down Laguna and Aliso Canyons, is now minimal.
    Development (buildings), greenscape and hardscape (streets, sidewalks, walkways) dominate, so increasingly less sand deposition is taking place.
    It costs a “King’s Ransom” to import sand, ask San Clemente.
    That tower will become a “stranded asset,” literally strand-ed (little beach joke).
    There’s no there, there.
    Which mimes the brain housing of those Council members who voted for it: Nothing there.

  6. It is my understanding Council members have not actually voted for specific permanent towers and locations. They have expressed interest in their strategic planning to expand enclosed permanent towers overall. Let’s hope they look at this closely and realize how absurd the position of Marine Safety is on this. Marine Safety should want to protect the maximum numbers of people and offer comfort to the lifeguards working the busiest most stressful beaches.
    Letters to council members from residents (constituents) before they finalize this over other beaches may be helpful.
    These comments are spot on……mis use of funds for a beach that is practically non existent most of the time.

  7. What?! A permanent lifeguard tower at Moss Cove makes no sense; especially when you consider that it will be empty 9 months out of the year. A permanent lifeguard tower sends the wrong message to beach goers like me. A lifeguard tower signals that this beach is a good place to swim. And it’s not – even Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said the unpredictable high tides of the cove can prove dangerous for inexperienced swimmers.
    A far more effective and inexpensive approach is twofold:
    1. Post a sign that warns beach goers that swimming is hazardous for inexperienced swimmers.
    2. For the summer months, redesign the temporary lifeguard stand so that our wonderful lifeguards will be safer and more comfortable.


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