LAGUNA BEACH, CA — Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen delivered the State of the City Address Tuesday evening from his home over Zoom.
The online meetings are the new method of getting city business into the public eye since the coronavirus began. Since March, when Laguna Beach officials made swift, proactive decisions, coronavirus challenges have been vast to the city, county, state, country, and world.
"Nobody planned for COVID-19 to hit. While the lack of preparedness can't be overlooked, it's our response that matters," he told the populace at large.
First, the city council made the impossible decision to implement a beach and business shutdown, among the first to do so in southern California. Second, they initiated the rapid plan and implementation of closing Promenade on Forest to cars, to keep restaurants and businesses going. At the same time, major town events were shut down for the summer, and more events are shuttered through the fall and winter as COVID-19 persists.
Most recently, Laguna Beach has determined to cancel December's annual Hospitality Night, according to Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. Instead, Promenade on Forest will be decorated holiday style. Santa will come on a trolley, driving through neighborhoods to wave to families. This will be a re-launching point for the trolley service to return to town, as planned for January.
Promenade on Forest will remain at least until January 2021, they said.
According to City Manager John Pietig, that decision to restore trolley service will be revisited upon public health officials' recommendations at that time.
"We're not out of the woods yet, either on the public health front or the economic recovery" of Laguna Beach, according to Whalen. Still, he thanked all of Laguna Beach's first responders - the firefighters, police department, and city workers, who have stepped up amid the current trials.
In a city where 6.5 million people visit annually, the decisions made swiftly and quickly were the ones that enabled Laguna Beach to reopen first in California, with their active recreation plan, Whalen said.
With Promenade on Forest propping up those businesses, Whalen said that if he's reelected to the City Council, he will hope to put a road map into place to keep that section of roadway closed to traffic and open to pedestrians.
Whalen added, "I think it's a great addition to our community, and we'll try to see what we can do to make it permanent when that option comes back in January."
How do you think the city of Laguna Beach is faring amid the coronavirus pandemic? Let us know in comments! or by emailing your Patch editor.