The new policies also prohibit single-use plastic containers on beaches and trails, and forbid restaurants from distributing them with takeout orders.
The public is also restricted from feeding wild birds in city parks. The city is also regulating the use of shade structures on beaches, prohibiting the storage of bicycles on city beaches and parks, expanding the prohibition of personal property in public spaces, and more.
“This could be the most significant agenda item that I’ve seen presented to the council in terms of quality of life for our residents,” Laguna Beach Councilmember Toni Iseman said during a March 9 conference. “This is putting residents first. And I think the community is going to recognize the attention to detail that this has, and the recognition of the complaints that they’ve been issuing over the years.”
According to a city staff report, the quality of life has worsened during the past two decades due to extensive housing development inland of the city and social media, which has made Laguna Beach a popular year-round attraction.
There are an estimated 6 million visitors to the city per year, with the majority crowding smaller neighborhood beaches and the city’s parks and trails. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation since residents have been encouraged to spend more time outside.
The idea of regulating shade structures was discussed heavily, with Councilmember George Weiss saying it was a “tough” ordinance to put in place.
“What are we going to do, issue fines?” Weiss said. “Visitors are going to be very upset because they’ve done this in the past at various parks and at the beaches, and so it’s almost as like we have to tread easy here and for the first year, educate and warn people that this policy is coming into effect, rather than ticketing people, because it’s really not fair if they don’t know right away.”
Councilmember Peter Blake said the structures could cause people to drown if they can’t be seen by lifeguards.
“I’m at Main Beach almost every day, and I’ve noticed over the last year that the shade structures are getting larger and larger and manufacturers are making them so they’re more like structures and they’re inviting larger parties, a lot more trash to the beach,” Blake said. “The fact that you can’t see the shoreline is really the concern here because if you can’t see the shoreline, then you don’t know what’s happening and you can’t see somebody literally drowning out there.”
The city also plans to install “no littering” signs in impacted neighborhoods, alongside gates, and cameras at various trailheads. It will ask more park rangers to patrol the areas. Additionally, the city will be converting 35 drinking fountains into bottle-filling stations at public parks, beaches, and trails.
The city will spend nearly $1 million for the changes, which will come from parking meter funds.