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Laguna Beach

South Coast Water District and Laguna’s Sanitary Sewer System (SSS)

For 22 years my NGO, Clean Water Now, has confronted our home, the City of Laguna Beach, regarding its chronic beach closures over SSS Overflows (SSSO) that reach the receiving waters of the state, affecting recreational ocean lovers and fragile marine environs alike.

This sad history has included the constant posting of Fecal Indicator Bacteria (FIBs) signs, warning the public of California’s AB 411 listed exceedance prescriptions regarding storm/surface drainage polluting discharges. Basically, on any given day, it seems as if a beach somewhere in our City has these high FIB concentration signs posted on it.

It’s time that the City pivot, and realize that with innumerable controversial and time-consuming issues on our plates, some elastic thinking needs to take place.

20 years ago, the City annexed the LB County Water District via the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO’s governing statute is the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Government Reorganization Act of 2000 (Government Code Section 56000 et seq.). Laguna officials and taxpayers should study this legal option in depth.

A recent example of how these reorganizations work to the benefit of both agencies is the nearly complete Santa Margarita Water District/City of San Juan Capistrano LAFCO certification process. The CSJC as everyone knows has had a mountain of problems with both their drinking and wastewater collection systems. Clean Water Now has been working in a close, collaborative manner with officials at both to assure a smooth merger next spring. The lead-in has created a lot of trust between the CSJC and SMWD – a necessity for success.

CWN believes that the only long-term solution for our quandary is to revisit these past South OC analogs, at least consider this strategy, begin the conversation regarding consolidation, and start negotiating with South Coast Water District as the easiest, relatively seamless annexation transition.

CWN believes both the water delivery and waste collection infrastructure should be transferred together, but at minimum the archaic, entropic SSS. Our water quality department employees would then transition, becoming SCWD staff.

For those unaware, the recent SSSO at The Ranch was attended by a system de-watering, a temporary yet hugely gross volume, intentional discharge at Bluebird Beach to alleviate pressure, and involved the City sending out a distress signal to the more trained, highly skilled SCWD staff.

The two staffs are already collaborating, shared services occurring due to customer area overlaps, so SCWD is quite familiar with our SSS. Obviously, by the City’s post-Thanksgiving SSSO comments, we do not seem to have the in-house expertise. In my opinion, consolidation solves most of the City’s existing holes or deficiencies.

CWN believes that one critical element should be included in such a LAFCO procedure: Expand the SCWD five Board members to seven. Presently, the approximate 5,000 residents of South Laguna have no representation on the Board.

Our proposal is that of the two new at large Director positions, at least one must be a resident south of Ruby’s Diner but north of Monarch Bay, formerly the old county zone annexed by the City in 1987. The other Director must live north of Ruby’s but within LB City Limits. Our suggestion would then right the wrong of literally taxation without representation.

The City then completely divests, some creative fiscal crunching, some risk/cost assessment analyses plus complex negotiations take place. The solution is right there, next door, a very competent water and sanitation district friend we already know and work beside that takes on the heavy burden of properly rehabbing our decrepit SSS.

Laguna has an enormous backlog of deferred SSS maintenance, and with these disgusting yet in CWN’s opinion preventable overflows, added to our arguably under-performing storm water system, we can recover our stained image: All it will require is a City Council with vision, that acts boldly now, that understands we’re in over our heads and more importantly doesn’t unconscionably wait until the next major catastrophe to react.

Roger E. Bütow is a 48-year resident of Laguna Beach and Executive Director of Clean Water Now (est. in 1998).

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

Residents may lose tennis courts

Speaking out in Laguna Beach about the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters Board of Directors is like saying something bad about motherhood and apple pie – but I believe it is wrong to take away our residents’ tennis courts next to the Festival of Arts grounds and replace them with a parking lot. I also believe Mo Honarkar, who wants a hotel north of Astor Street and another one across from Ralphs, would love to see the tennis courts gone so he could have a parking lot for patrons of his nicely, restored “wing” restaurant on the Festival grounds.

The tennis courts should be “grandfathered” and kept where they are. They offer our residents the chance for re-creation, and affect the players in positive physical, mental, and emotional ways. As is the Festival, the courts are on city property and like anyone else going to the Festival grounds, the tennis players have to find a parking space and walk to the courts.

The Pageant and Festival board is not sacred and should stop the tennis court debauchery!

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Unsafe beach entrance at Pearl Street Beach?

After being closed all summer and being months behind in finishing, this is
how the Pearl Street Beach stairs are being left. How much did we spend on
the parking lot called the “Village Entrance”? How about the safety and
beauty of our Beach Entrance? I hope you publish these pictures – better
yet, go down and look at low tide.

Letter Ross

Click on photo for a larger image

Julie Ross

Laguna Beach

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