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Laguna Beach looks back at 2021

Laguna Beach, Calif.- The City of Laguna Beach began the new year with a look back at the list of accomplishments for 2021.

From public safety and water quality to infrastructure and recreation it was another productive year. Here's the recap

City Initiatives

Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan – Implemented 22 programs and a series of municipal code amendments to help reduce visitor impacts on neighborhoods adjacent to beaches, trails, and parks.

Single-Use Plastic Ban – Laguna Beach became the first city in Orange County to ban restaurants from distributing single-use plastic.  The City also prohibits the use of these items at City beaches, parks, and trails.

Purchase of 31727 Coast Highway – Purchased 31727 Coast Highway in South Laguna for future civic uses.

Promenade on Forest and Outdoor Dining Program Extended Through January 2024 – The City Council also directed staff to return to City Council in 2022 with permanent design concepts for a permanent pedestrian plaza on Lower Forest Avenue. To date, a total of 37 businesses operate under an Outdoor Dining Permit, including 9 parklets.

Hiring of New City Manager – The City Council unanimously selected Shohreh Dupuis as the next City Manager of the City of Laguna Beach. Ms. Dupuis began her duties as City Manager effective June 12, 2021.

Public Safety

Response and Reopening of City Beaches after Oil Spill – Coordinated with the United States Coast Guard, Department of Fish and Wildlife, and City staff for the successful and safe reopening of City beaches after the Huntington Beach Oil Spill Incident.

Safety Enhancements – As Part of the Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan, provided year-around tower lifeguard service to Crescent Bay, Shaw's Cove, Victoria/Lagunita Beach, and Treasure Island Beach. Also added "Mermaids" lifeguard tower at North Victoria Beach to further improve life safety issues for beach visitors and address municipal code violations during the peak summer season. 

Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Plan Implementation – Completed the installation and testing of the expanded Outdoor Warning System of 21 loudspeakers placed around the City and finalized the Evacuation Time Estimate Study to better understand the time required for evacuations, impaired access concerns, and further emergency planning and decision making. 

Fuel Modification Programs – Completed all required weed abatements and fuel break zones. Coordinated with Community Development to update the zoning code and provide homeowners administrative Design Review approval for standalone fuel modification projects.

Defensible Space Guideline and Ordinance Approval – Gained City Council approval for a Defensible Space Guideline and Ordinance and created and maintained a program for Civil Code Section 1102.19 (AB38) required inspections.

Mutual Aid & Equipment – Responded to multiple wildland fires throughout the state, took possession of new OES Type 3 Fire Engine and placed a secondary utility vehicle in service for remote rescues.

Successful Police Academies – Citizen's Academy Class #27 resumed after coming to abrupt halt in March 2020 and all original attendees graduated, and eighteen teens went through the Teen Leadership Academy to learn about fundamental leadership traits, problem solving, diversity and tolerance, adversity, and resiliency.  

Mission Hospital Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Report (CPTED) – Worked with Mission Hospital employees to draft a CPTED report to examine ways to mitigate the ongoing nuisance and criminal activity in or around the facility.  Ongoing meetings with Hospital officials continue on a regular basis, with a goal of working together to address community concerns. Progress reports will be provided to the City Council in early 2022.                

Programs Reinstated – Reinstated the Surfer Awareness in Lifesaving Training (SALT) to a live, in-person format, providing enhanced education for our schools and the community and reinstated the Junior Lifeguard Program with the largest participant enrollment numbers in over five years. 

Water Quality

Lift Station Improvements – Completed a $1.8 million improvement to an 87-year-old sewer lift station at Victoria Beach to prevent sewer overflow spills and added a new urban water diversion unit. Replaced Bluebird SOCWA sewer lift station's 37-year-old emergency generator. 

Nyes Place Odor Control Improvement Project – Installed a new $450,000 odor control system to successfully eliminate sewer odors on South Coast Hwy near McAulay Place.  

Sewer Rehabilitation – Rehabilitated 3.8 miles of gravity sewer pipelines at 106 different locations by trenchless rehabilitation techniques.  The project will extend the service life of existing pipes by more than 50 years and help prevent sewer spills.

Sewer System Planning and Management – Conducted a Special City Council workshop for the long-term planning of the sewer system, established $34.2 million in 5-year sewer user charges for capital improvements to the City's aging wastewater infrastructure and reserve, and certified the City's 2021 Sewer System Management Plan.

Sewer Video Inspections – Completed the 5-year CCTV inspection program of the entire gravity sewer system (approximately 86 miles).  To date, the data has been used to plan and execute rehabilitation projects of 10.2 miles of pipeline in need of repair.  Also started "Forward Lateral" Program for electronic processing of sewer inspection videos for plumbers and property owners. 

Community Development

California Coastal Commission Approval of Downtown Specific Plan – The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a Local Coastal Program Amendment for updates to the City of Laguna Beach Downtown Specific Plan (DSP), to streamline the permitting process and revised the parking requirements for businesses in Downtown Laguna Beach. 

Customer Service Enhancements – Modifications made to enhance customer service in 2021: 

  • Created an online application and payment process for Real Property Reports. The updated report format reduced the turnaround times to an average of two weeks.
  • Created an online appointment option for virtual or phone meetings with a planner or in-person meetings with a plan checker.
  • Filled all 38 full-time positions during 2021, including a new Systems Analyst, part-time contract plans examiner and part-time contact code enforcement officer to work weekends.
  • Developed a planning/zoning plan submittal matrix with sample plans to provide guidance on the application process.

New Permitting and Queuing Systems – Acquired a new permitting system (EnerGov), which allows for online application submittals, electronic plan reviews, and more efficient project tracking for staff and the customer. The Community Development Department also acquired a new front counter queuing system (Q-Flow), allowing customers to get in the que remotely and receive status updates on their place in line.

Cost of Services Study – Completed a comprehensive analysis of the Community Development, Water Quality, Public Works, and the Fire Department fee-based services, including application fees for new construction and development. Revenue and Cost Specialists (RCS) prepared a Cost of Services Study, which provided potential fees increases to achieve up to 100% cost recovery.

Safety Element/Housing Element – The updated Safety Element/Housing Element has been reviewed by the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) and is near completion. It is set to be adopted by the City Council in January 2022 and submitted to State HCD for certification in February. 

Wireless Ordinance – The Wireless Ordinance brings the City into compliance with State and federal telecommunication law, while retaining local control to protect the character and aesthetics of neighborhoods.

Streamlining Ordinance – The Streamlining Ordinance is intended to substantially streamline the entitlement process, particularly for residential projects, while still maintaining a high level of review and opportunity for public involvement. It is pending certification by the California Coastal Commission.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance – The ADU Ordinance brings the City into compliance with State law while maintaining local control, to the extent feasible, over the review process and development standards.

Hotel Laguna & Significant Projects – City staff entitled renovations to the lobby and restaurant at Hotel Laguna. The restaurant is now open and enjoyed by the community. Several significant projects were entitled in 2021, including the Planning Commission's approval of Rivian's application to restore and occupy the historic downtown theater. Separately, the City Council approved significant renovations of the Pacific Edge Hotel.

Facilities & Capital Improvements

South Coast Highway Culvert Project – Caltrans rebuilt a channel underneath South Coast Highway which could have caused significant traffic issues for drivers.  The City worked with Caltrans to ensure most work was completed in the evenings and a measured approach was taken to complete the project in an expeditious manner. Successfully received over $100,000 reimbursement from Caltrans for intersection control costs.

Utility Undergrounding Program – The following Utility Undergrounding Districts were formed:

  • Park Avenue Underground Utility District 2021-2
  • West Street Underground Utility Assessment District 2021-1
  • Fairview-La Brea Underground Utility Assessment District 2021-3 Improvement of City Facilities and Local Infrastructure – Completed design and construction of the following projects to improve City facilities and local infrastructure:
  • Repaired and resealed 14 lane miles of streets in the Top of the World neighborhood
  • Renovated the southerly Main Beach Park restrooms
  • Reconstructed a failing retaining wall on Baja Street
  • Replaced decorative asphalt pavers on Ramona Alley
  • Repaired a portion of failed slope supporting Summit Way
  • Replaced the stairway between High Drive and Cliff Drive adjacent to Diver's Cove
  • Improved the electrical system at Riddle Field
  • Repaired 15,000 square feet of damaged sidewalks Citywide 

American Public Works Association Awards – Awarded the APWA Drainage, Water, Wastewater Project of the Year for erosion control improvements and new pedestrian bridge over Laguna Canyon Creek adjacent to the Animal Shelter and awarded the APWA Facilities Project of the Year for renovation of Main Beach Restroom.

Transit and Parking

On-Demand Transit Service – Implemented "Laguna Beach Local," a free on-demand, shared-ride transit service in the Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights neighborhoods.

Contracted Trolley Operations – Successfully transitioned to a new contracted trolley operator, LAZ Parking, providing additional staffing resources and operational flexibility for the City's transit system.

Summer Trolley Service – Resumed Trolley service in June 2021 after being suspended for more than a year due to COVID-19, resulting in more than 323,000 boardings during the summer and festival season.

Smart Parking Program – Placed new QR codes promoting the Laguna Beach Parking app on all parking meters and pay stations resulting in more than 100,000 mobile parking payments.

Administrative Services

Financial Achievements – Awarded Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the sixth consecutive year and achieved a balanced budget for Fiscal Years 2021-22 while maintaining a 20% General Fund Reserve.

New Laguna Beach City Website – Successfully launched a new Laguna Beach City Website at www.lagunabeachcity.net with easier to use search features, easy to read mobile responsive version and overall improved usability for the community.


"Path to Plastic Free" Marketing Campaign – Marketing campaign promoting awareness of the City's Plastic Free Initiative as part of the Neighborhood and Environmental Protection Plan was displayed over 780,000 times to target audience from July – October 2021.

City's Community Newsletter – 60 editions of the City's Weekly Community Newsletter were published online in 2021 and read a total number of 185,000 times by residents. 

New City Podcast – Started new in-house weekly City podcast, "City Chats" on Spotify to discuss City Council action with the Mayor, upcoming events and topics of interest.

Laguna Roots Program – The City started a biennial online urban forestry newsletter, called Laguna Roots, and provides seasonal tips and insight for tree owners and information regarding the City's tree management program.


Pickleball Court Conversion – The multi-use pickleball and tennis court project at Lang Park was completed and three permanent pickleball courts were converted on one tennis court at Alta Laguna Park. 

Community and Susi Q Center Reopening – Laguna Beach Seniors and the City of Laguna Beach worked together to safely re-open the facility in July 2021.

Recreation Programs – Outdoor recreation programs resumed serving over 4,300 community members at both the community pool and the outdoor recreation facilities. The Recreation Committee scholarship programs served five families who would not have been able to participate in programs otherwise. 

Special Events – Outdoor special events returned this fall including a pre-school Halloween event, beach volleyball tournaments, a Veteran's Day Celebration, World Kindness Day, Hospitality Night, and the Santa Parade.

Cultural Arts

Live Music and Events – Presented Circus Bella at Bluebird Park in September, and live music at the Promenade on Forest from June through December.

Temporary Art Donor Program and Street Performer Ordinance – Established a Temporary Public Art Donor Program and accepted $50,000 in donations and City Council adopted a Street Performer Ordinance.

Temporary Art Installations – Installed temporary public art by Casey Parlette, Jeffrey Skarvan & David Zinn, installed a mural at Main Beach Restrooms by Lynn Basa, a ceramic inlay design at Heisler Park by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr and accepted an artist designed bench from Marlo Bartels donated to the City by friends and family of Al Hathaway.


Tree City USA Recognition – The City was recognized as a Tree City USA Community for the third consecutive year by the Arbor Day Foundation.  

Public Tree Planting Program – The City has planted 40 trees and improved or repaired 48 tree wells.

Green Business Certification Program – The City recognized 17 businesses that have met the California Green Business Network certification requirements by implementing programs to conserve our natural resources.

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