A Note From The Mayor
By Sue Kempf
This week started with sobering news that the cause of the Feb. 10 Emerald Fire was attributed to sparks from overhead power lines igniting very dry vegetation.
Our top priority is to protect the life and safety of our community from wildfire. Following a utility-pole related fire in 2015, we have been pushing the utility companies to underground their lines through Laguna Beach with no cooperation. In response, and while continuing to pressure our state legislative representatives, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen and I authored a comprehensive wildfire safety and fire mitigation plan that was passed unanimously through the City Council in 2019. The preponderance of this plan has been implemented by staff and we continue to look for opportunities to augment the plan. However, even the best measures and plans cannot protect us in the event that a power line makes contact with increasingly dry vegetation. As a community, we must rise together to develop a plan to get these utilities underground. This is a critical safety issue that requires commitment, financially and otherwise, to take the safety of the town into our own hands.
In the coming weeks, Mayor Pro Tem Whalen, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis and I are planning to meet with Emerald Bay Service District representatives and Southern California Edison to push for urgent action. We call on Southern California Edison to prevent another devastating fire from occurring by underground utilities now in Laguna Beach and along Laguna Canyon Road.
Last Tuesday, the City Council heard an exciting staff presentation about the possible acquisition of the 6.5-acre St. Catherine of Siena school property located at 30516 Coast Hwy. Acquisition of this property would 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, performance venue, recreation facilities, and additional City or civic uses. It was wonderful to see so much community support to find the highest and best use of the property on Tuesday night. Given that Laguna Beach is largely built out, opportunities like this are rare. I look forward to continued discussion and public input when the item returns to the City Council on Aug. 16 with a detailed financial purchase plan and other partnership opportunities to explore. Over the coming months, we will continue to solicit ideas from our community and will develop a master plan for this site and all city owned properties to create a vision for wonderful community serving facilities and venues that we can all enjoy.
Finally, I am happy to report that the Festival of Arts and the Sawdust Festival are doing well this year, and report 2019 pre-pandemic levels of participation and ticket sales! I visited the Sawdust recently and, once again, the artistry and creativity is so Laguna. Check it out! I also thoroughly enjoyed the Pageant this year and as usual it proves to be a unique, interesting, and fun experience. I encourage you to get tickets. Be sure to bring a coat as our lovely Laguna evenings can get chilly.
I hope to see you around town enjoying the heart of our Laguna Beach summer!
In Community Spirit.
Sue is the Laguna Beach Mayor and has served on the city council since 2018.