Laguna Beach city leaders now officially control their entire city waterfront after county leaders agreed to hand over the remaining county beaches to the city. 

At issue are 1.2 miles of beaches south of Treasure Island Beach that fell into a confusing legal status as part of the city limits but still under county jurisdiction – something that city leaders said made it difficult to enforce local regulations like smoking bans on the beach. 

City council members unanimously asked to take over the beaches back in September after two years of negotiations, citing an uneven enforcement of city regulations. 

“The contract lifeguards for the county basically are looking eyes on the water all the time, whereas our lifeguards are city employees,” said assistant city manager Ken Domer at a September city council meeting. “They’re looking at not just the water and doing an exemplary job but also at the quality of life issues that occur on the beach around them.” 

While beach hours will remain the same, Laguna Beach officials have declined to answer whether or not parking costs will increase, saying they’re reviewing the rate and that the county parking lots generally bring in $300,000-$450,000 per year in revenue. 

To read all of the city’s rules, click here.  

Read: Laguna Beach Moves To Take Over County Beaches

While this shift gives the city more control, it doesn’t come without a cost. 

With this shift, around 40% of the city’s coastline will be new land, and it will cost the city an extra $2 million per year to manage the coast, along with an extra $1 million dollars the first year to handle the transition.  

Currently, the county provides lifeguards and covers the maintenance costs like landscaping and cleaning of those beaches, but those will now be the city’s responsibility. 

The city is also taking over the Aliso Beach parking lot, which will now function under the city’s parking system as opposed to the county’s. 

“It’s a sizable increase to our maintenance responsibilities,” said assistant city manager Ken Domer at a September meeting of the Laguna Beach City Council. 

The county will be giving the city $22 million for taking over the land, a move that supervisor Lisa Bartlett called a “win-win,” at the county board meeting on Tuesday. 

“We will no longer have to maintain these very expensive areas along the coastline,” Bartlett said. “The county will actually break even in about six to eight years, and will save a substantial amount of money down the road that we can invest in our other parks projects.”  

While the city is set to spend that cash over 20 years, projections from city staff show that the city’s general fund will have to fill in some of the gap. 

In the first year, that’s expected to cost just under $296,000, but 20 years from now when the money from the county has run out, it’ll be over $1.8 million. 

In a statement to Voice of OC, Domer said it was the best move for the city and that their budget could handle the added strain. 

“The City having local control of all Laguna beaches is very important to our residents,” Domer said.  “The lump sum payment from the County was designed to subsidize the cost for up to 20 years, after which the expenditures will be absorbed into the City’s budget.” 

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a Groundtruth initiative. Contact him at nbiesiada@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.

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