The Forest Avenue parking lot is part of the the proposed Village Entrance project. (Don Leach, Coastline Pilot / September 30, 2013)

  • Related
  • Bryce Alderton Signature

  • Topics
  • Crime
  • Homicide
  • Theft
  • See more topics »

Decisions on development and mobility throughout Laguna Beach figure to tell much of the city's tale in 2014, which will also see three City Council seats become open and two trials take place, one for a 2009 homicide and the other stemming from two deaths in a head-on auto collision.

*

10) Common Core rollout: This spring, California students in kindergarten through grade 12, including the Laguna Beach Unified School District, will take revamped practice tests that align with new standards that focus on critical thinking, writing and interpretation. Scores won't count toward a school's official academic ranking until the 2014-15 year, but the tests are likely to provide key insight into how well teachers and students grasp the retooled curriculum.

*

9) Possible permanent low-income housing: Friendship Shelter officials are looking at a 2-acre city-owned plot of land in Laguna Canyon as a potential home for the mentally ill. Shelter officials submitted a proposal to the city and are awaiting a response regarding the land near the Alternative Sleeping Location, which provides overnight housing for the homeless. The Friendship Shelter currently provides temporary housing, along with meals and support services, for 32 men and women at its facility on South Coast Highway.

*

8) Undergrounding: City staff are expected to return to the City Council in late January or early February with possible options for subterranean utility poles along Laguna Canyon Road, based on a consultant's recommendations. City officials are also looking into a comprehensive undergrounding project throughout Laguna and, as of late November, received proposals from two companies, though that information has not been made public yet.

*

7) Hiring an urban planner: Councilman Bob Whalen, Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson and Planning Commission Chairman Robert Zur Schmiede are members of a committee reviewing qualifications and determining what areas an urban planner should focus on. Expect parking and traffic circulation to be at the top of the list.

*

6) Aliso Creek restoration: The creek that begins in Aliso Viejo and ends at Aliso Beach Park has cut 20 feet into the ground in some places since the 1970s, causing concern. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to make the creek more stable and less harmful to native habitat.

*

5) November election: The terms of Mayor Elizabeth Pearson and council members Toni Iseman and Kelly Boyd are up next year. The three haven't said whether they will run for reelection. Candidates can officially declare their intent to run beginning July 14. Council members serve four-year terms. The general election takes place Nov. 4.

*

4) Murder trial for Jacob Quintanilla: Jacob Quintanilla, 25, of Lake Forest is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Jan. 10 in the Oct. 23, 2009, killing of Hotel Laguna catering manager Damon Nicholson, 40. Prosecutors have charged Quintanilla with one felony count of special-circumstances murder during the commission of a robbery. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison without parole. An Orange County Superior Court jury in December convicted co-defendant Matthew Thomas Dragna on the same charges. Dragna is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 28.

*

3) Village Entrance Project: The tentative plan is to incorporate a landscaped walkway in the vicinity of the Forest Avenue and Lumberyard parking lots. With a once-proposed parking structure no longer under consideration, the city can focus on how to boost parking efficiency and traffic circulation throughout town.

*

2) Legal proceedings related to double-fatality on Laguna Canyon Road: Robert McFarland Pettis, who is accused of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving the wrong way on a divided highway, is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 27. Pettis allegedly hit a Honda Accord head-on, killing two men about 6:45 a.m. April 2. The attorney for one of the victims filed a claim against the city alleging that the design and maintenance of the roadway caused or contributed to the collision. A sign alerting drivers heading north on Laguna Canyon Road that the two lanes merge into one just past El Toro Road was "obstructed by a tree owned and/or maintained by the respondents," the claim says.

*

1) Proposed artist live-work project: Sculptor Louis Longi and architect Horst Noppenberger teamed up on a plan to build housing for 30 artists in Laguna Canyon. Some neighbors say the plan, which calls for two two-story buildings, is too big and clashes with the area's rural character. The Planning Commission heard public testimony in November and is scheduled to take up the matter Jan. 8. One commissioner suggested a lower building height, claiming the structure as planned would compete with a nearby ridgeline.