City hosts listening session to gather feedback, will present to council in April
Dozens of south Laguna residents packed into the Susi Q last Tuesday, eager to voice their concerns and hopes regarding the city’s recent takeover of south Laguna beaches from the County of Orange on March 1.
Laguna Beach Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow and Assistant City Manager Gavin Curran, along with several other city and marine safety officials, listened as residents took the podium to address issues affecting their part of town, from parking issues and lack of police presence to off-leash dogs and lack of bathrooms at the beach.
“Now that we own this beach access, it’s imperative that the city put in an official sidewalk from Seventh Avenue, where the hospital is, on the ocean side of the highway,” said 28-year resident Pat Menne, addressing safety concerns. “So you can park at the hospital, safely cross using the crosswalk, and then beachgoers can walk on the sidewalk or bike lane. It’s imperative that it gets done pronto for safety. The next issue is bathrooms. For years, we’ve had to chase people out of our bushes. It is imperative that we get bathrooms. One thing that did happen last summer – the parking structure at the hospital put up porta potties, but nobody knew about it.”
MJ Abraham, a 48-year resident of south Laguna, told city officials they weren’t just acquiring “sand and water,” they’re gaining a community of people who care deeply about south Laguna and its issues. She, and other residents, stated safety was a main concern – especially during the summer months when south Lagunans become inundated by beachgoers trying to find parking.
“Our problems are serious,” Abraham said. “We care about what’s happening. And we’re very concerned about the safety of ourselves and our children. Our neighborhoods are being overrun. The parking is a disaster. People are crossing (Pacific Coast Highway) – who cares about the jaywalking – there’s no police presence anyway. They have coolers and strollers and can barely get across the highway…whether it’s county or city, I’m not seeing a lot of great changes. I just ask that you really take the security part of this seriously because the residents need you to address it and get serious about it.”
Despite the mountain of issues brought forward, most south Laguna residents remain hopeful the city can finally make some headway on the problems plaguing them for years.
“I think many of us in this room believe that it’s much better to have our area controlled by you guys than by others,” said Scott Sebastian, who went on to discuss the estuary project. “So now you’ll be hearing more complaints than ever. But I also want to turn toward the future. This is a result of a lot of time and thinking on the part of the council and other people.”
Laguna Beach took ownership of all south Laguna beaches and coastal properties from the County of Orange as of March 1. As part of the transfer agreement, the county is giving the city a one-time sum of $22 million to counterbalance the added cost of providing services and beach maintenance.
The city started providing all services to South Laguna beaches on March 1, which includes enforcing municipal codes while keeping the current curfew hours. Marine Safety staffing consists of a patrol unit in South Laguna, a lifeguard at Aliso Beach and up to three additional lifeguard towers.
The Laguna Beach Public Works Department has taken over the maintenance of south Laguna beaches and adjacent beach facilities from Aliso Creek to the southern city limits. The maintenance includes custodial services to public restrooms, emptying trash cans, litter control, sweeping parking lots, graffiti removal and other public services.
Laguna Beach Marine Safety and the assistant city manager will compile the residents’ feedback and report their findings to Laguna Beach City Council in April.