Andrea Adelson 2017-05-27 01:46:51
The owners of the Sandpiper Lounge, a well-known bar known for music acts and its Dirty Bird moniker, appealed without success to the City Council to refrain from adopting a citywide smoking ban that the brothers claim will hurt their business. Elected officials voted 4-1, with ex-smoker Kelly Boyd dissenting, in a second reading of an ordinance Tuesday, May 23, that is the first in Orange County to extend smoking prohibitions to public streets and sidewalks. Sandpiper co-owner Chuck Harrell predicted the regulations will hurt bars and restaurants, whose patrons typically light up on sidewalks outside the establishments. He suggested legalizing smoking after 9 p.m. Boyd, a former tavern owner, pointed out that an existing smoking ban in city parks and beaches is poorly enforced and predicted similar results for the new rules. “It’s Big Brother, big time,” he said. His fellow council members expressed more concern about the impact of second-hand smoke and environmental damage from cast off cigarette butts. Council member Steve Dicterow suggested a future revision could be made to carve out an exception for bar patrons. Mayor Toni Iseman called for a $1,000 fine for offenders. In other business, the council also enacted airspace restrictions over the city’s beaches and most populated parks, granting access only to drone operators with an FAA license. Elsewhere in the city, hobbyists can fly drones with restrictions that include invasions of privacy and interference with law enforcement or wildlife. The initial version of the ordinance was redrafted with input from commercial drone operators, police Chief Laura Farinella said. A second reading of the ordinance will take place next month. Council members also considered a city staff wish list for a surplus in the city’s $93.7 million budget, up 1.1 percent over the prior year. A second hearing on the two-year spending plan that begins July 1 is set for June 27. Elected officials decided about half of an anticipated total surplus of $636,500 will be set aside for unfunded pension costs. Of the remainder, $135,000 will fund two fulltime jailer positions, freeing sworn officers to return to patrol more quickly; $20,000 will pay for another 100 non-summer days of lifeguarding; and $25,000 was pledged towards a fulltime schools resource officer, assuming the school district will also help with the cost. Other approved requests included $30,000 for a consultant to assist with upcoming Coastal Commission projects and $15,000 to help with operating expenses for the non-profit that operates the day labor center in Laguna Canyon. At a budget workshop prior to the meeting, South Laguna Community Garden members expressed anxiety that a financial pledge for the garden was dropped from initial budget documents. Despite the omission, Council members Robert Zur Schmiede and Steve Dicterow both expressed an unyielding commitment to assist in the garden’s eventual purchase. Dicterow said he was nearly ready to “go the next step,” initiating eminent domain proceedings by taking private property through condemnation. Efforts by city officials and an attorney hired by garden supporters to reach the owner, a resident of Saudi Arabia, have been met with “radio silence,” Zur Schmiede said. “This is an asset for all of Laguna,” he said. Dicterow called the garden a model for nurturing community. By a 5-0 vote, the council also authorized litigation against the Moulton Niguel Water District over its $756,000 delinquency towards the operating cost of a sewage treatment plant in Aliso Canyon. The plant treats 6.5 million gallons of sewage daily from several jurisdictions, including Laguna Beach. The intra-agency dispute with the South Orange County Wastewater Authority involves Moulton Niguel’s request to exit a contract to operate the plant, said SOCWA general manager Betty Burnett in a May 17 memo. The city’s general fund, its primary operating fund, is proposed at $62.2 million in the coming year, up 1.7 percent compared to the previous year, budget documents show. The two-year budget assumes a 4.5 percent growth in property tax revenue, which accounts for more than half of the city’s revenue, and a 4 percent and 2 percent increase in bed and sales taxes, respectively, in each of the next two fiscal years.
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