Laguna Beach officials telling motorists to keep quiet as they cruise the coast
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LAGUNA BEACH — When more than 75 motorcyclists recently stormed through town – some riding on the wrong side of Coast Highway and doing wheelies – City Councilwoman Toni Iseman said enough.
Loud motors on cars and motorcycles have been a problem in town for years, jarring residents from their tranquility, setting off car alarms and rattling store windows along Coast Highway in this laid-back beach town, officials said.
Now, Iseman and others want to find a way to stop the roar that echoes from the highway to the canyon as weekend road warriors cruise Coast Highway.
“I would like every entrance in town to have a permanent sign that says we enforce our noise ordinance,” Iseman said recently at a council meeting. “I would love to have people complain about ‘it’s too quiet in Laguna.’”
Councilman Rob Zur Schmiede agreed, saying it wasn’t just motorcyclists, but drivers with “high-end, souped-up cars that are ear-splittingly loud.”
On May 12, the Laguna Beach Police Department initiated its first enforcement crackdown on loud motors after announcing the campaign on its popular social media, posting “Loud exhaust is a no go in Laguna Beach! Throughout the next week officers will be conducting a special enforcement detail to crack down on loud-exhaust vehicles. Loud exhaust = BIG ticket.”
At each of the town’s three entrance points – along Laguna Canyon Road and on the north and south ends of Coast Highway – electronic message boards have warned motorists since April 19 that they are entering a quiet zone and vehicles with loud motors will face citations.
On May 12, police stopped 45 motorcycles for excessive noise and issued 26 citations. Twenty-four cars were stopped, with 21 receiving citations. A combination of fix-it tickets and citations with fines were issued.
Efforts to crackdown will continue, officials said.
Officers focused vehicles with modified exhausts and those revving their engines to make extra noise, said Lt. Joe Torres, who oversees the effort. No specific types of vehicle were targeted, he said.
“We hope to encourage those who drive through Laguna Beach to be respectful of the community and to not intentionally create excessive noise by revving their engines,” he said.
But, Laguna Beach is not alone with this problem. Coast Highway or Pacific Coast Highway – as it is known through most other coastal Orange County towns – is a scenic and enticing spot to cruise, especially on weekends.
San Clemente City Manager James Makshanoff said while it’s not come to the attention of the City Council, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies who patrol the town give tickets for violations. In Dana Point, since January, 21 citations have been handed out, officials said.
“We have not had the increased number of complaints about them recently as Laguna Niguel or Laguna Beach,” Dana Point City Manager Mark Denny said, “but it is my understanding that all of our law enforcement agencies are talking about ways to work together to reduce the number of those types of violations.”
Newport Beach, like Laguna Beach, gets its share of large riding groups. “If there are violations, we’ll take enforcement action,” said Sgt. Justin Morouse of the Newport Beach Police Department.
Huntington Beach Police Department also initiated a directed enforcement earlier this year after residents near Golden West and Pacific Coast Highway complained of excessive noise. The city started with electronic signs. A handful of motorcyclists and drivers were cited, Lt. Kent Ferrin said.
In Seal Beach, Sgt. Michael Henderson said loud motor noise has become a bigger issue in the last two years. The city runs an electronic sign campaign and police officers have done directed enforcement along Pacific Coast Highway and Seal Beach Boulevard following resident complaints.
Back in Laguna Beach, Iseman reflects on the recent effort.
“It’s not as easy as you think to catch these people,” she said.
She rode with an officer for two hours on Saturday. As the pair came upon a mob of 10 Lamborghini’s near Urth Caffe, she said the noise was loud.
“It looked like a circus line of elephants – trunk-to-tail, all lined up,” she said.
Though all the cars were loud, the police officer was only able to cite one driver – the others took off. To make a case in court, the officer had to document the noise with a decibel-machine reading.
“I’m hopeful this enforcement will go beyond Laguna Beach,” Iseman said, “to those motorists and cyclists who think of coming here and know there could be a ticket waiting here for them.”
Councilwoman Toni Iseman: Laguna Beach is ‘being loved to death’
Toni Iseman, shown in her Laguna Beach home on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 has served on the City Council for two decades and is the city’s longest serving politician. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)
LAGUNA BEACH — For Toni Iseman, it has long been about fighting for issues that impact the lives of residents of this small seaside town. Whether it’s pushing for a free trolley service to help ease traffic congestion, pressing for noise ordinance enforcement on motorcycles and loud cars rumbling through town, maintaining Laguna’s historic character or safeguarding the environment by protecting canyons, beaches and coves, Iseman has been at the forefront.
On Friday, Feb. 2, the five-term councilwoman and four-time mayor was celebrated for her achievements during a luncheon at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach. A capacity crowd honored the Nebraska native who moved to Laguna in 1970 and began serving on the City Council in 1988 [sic 1998]. Iseman is the longest consecutively serving council member in Laguna’s history.
Iseman, who served as the city’s mayor in 2017 and whose term expires this year, said on Monday, Feb. 5, she will only seek re-election if no other candidate shares her core values.
“We’re at a turning point,” Iseman said Monday, reiterating points she made during a speech at her tribute. “The town is cranky, tired, and impatient — traffic, perhaps the crush of the tourist, especially their cars. “Hundreds of thousands live nearby in Irvine, Lake Forest, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo,” she said. “There are tens of thousands of houses yet to be built. We are their beach. The developers advertise proximity to Laguna. People come here because there’s a ‘there’ there and we welcome them, but not their cars. We are a coastal town, not a coastal resort. We are being loved to death.”
When she first took her seat on the council in 1998, Iseman said, she was most troubled by parking, traffic and development. These have become amplified, she said. “Some people come here with an attitude that they can do what they want,” she said, expanding on similar points from Friday’s event. “It’s up to us to set the boundaries.”
Iseman, known for speaking her mind, cautions developers who want to use the town’s reputation as a way to make money. “Laguna is turning into a profit center for people who want to scrape and build,” she said.
As an example, she points to a renovation at the Coast Inn, asking where all the parking there will go and what impacts a project slated to cost $25 million might have on the neighboring community. She also points to noise enforcement as an issue that continues to trouble her and others in the community.
“Motorcycles come into town and infringe on our life,” Iseman said. “They rev their motors with all the people on the sidewalks and make the car alarms go off. It’s a good time for them but not for us. I would like aggressive enforcement so that they tiptoe through Laguna.”
A highlight for Iseman in 2017 was the city’s proclamation declaring June as LGBT Heritage and Cultural Month. “Like so many things, it was just the right time,” she said of the proclamation. “We, Laguna, are ahead of our time. Hopefully, the rest of the country will come along.”
During Friday’s event, two tables were sponsored by the LGBT Heritage and Cultural Committee in recognition of Iseman’s support. “What strikes me most about Toni Iseman is her unbreakable stand for the LGBT community,” said Chris Tebbutt, who with other gay leaders founded the LGBT Heritage & Culture Committee in 2017. “More than that, she is a steadfast champion of humanity, equality and love. It’s just who she is.” “My favorite quote of Toni’s is something she said 20 years ago and again last year at our proclamation,” he added. “In Laguna Beach we don’t merely tolerate the gay community, we embrace the gay community.”
Iseman announces candidacy for City Council
by Barbara Diamond - in StuNewsLaguna 8/14/2018
Councilwoman Toni Iseman announced this week that she will run for her sixth consecutive term on the City Council. The decision was not an easy one, she said, but she felt compelled to run because of the significant issues facing the city. “There is so much at stake,” said Iseman. “I just realized I could not live with myself if I didn’t run. It would be so hard not to be able to vote – so hard not to be able to explain my position.” Iseman has never been shy about expressing her opinions. “I think after all these years, I have made everybody in town mad at me at least once,” said Iseman. “But I think they know my heart’s in the right place.” Angering voters may not be the way to win elections, but council members must not be afraid to make tough decisions, Iseman said. “They have to be aware that decisions have consequences and look beyond the approval,” said Iseman “We can’t look at the approval of a place like the Drake (proposed replacement for Tabu) without being aware of the impacts on public safety. That corner is dangerous now, without having a nightclub there.”
Iseman most often speaks off the cuff when addressing a group, only rarely resorting to notes. She uses analogies to make her points. She is a commanding speaker, perhaps due to her career in education – teachers have to be able to hold student’s attention – and as a high school and community college counselor. She retired in 2005 from Orange Coast College, prior to her third term on the council.
A resident since 1970 of Laguna Beach, Iseman was first elected to the City Council in 1998. “I was recruited then and I am still being recruited,” she said. She is the darling of Village Laguna.
Iseman’s core values have not changed. She puts individuals first, residents’ wellbeing ahead of visitors, and preservation of the Greenbelt and Laguna’s unique character as essential. “The same, only better” has been her mantra for years.
Iseman’s main concern when she first ran for office was the preservation of Laguna Canyon. It was known, but not publicized, that she was the Laguna Canyon Phantom, who posted Gillette Razor-type signs in the dead of night opposing planned development in the canyon.
Once committed to a position or a project, she perseveres, even when on the short end of a 41 vote, nibbling away, perhaps asking if the motionmaker would consider changes in the motion. She frequently will request the mayor to extend the time allotted to a speaker about issues of particular interest to her or ask a question that prolongs public testimony.
Iseman can be a pit bull, for example, her decadeslong opposition to federal laws related to cell towers and to the Cox Cable franchise she calls a monopoly, both to no avail, but she can be practical when it suits her. She fought tooth and nail against moving the city’s corporation yard to ACT V, yet that relocation led to one of Iseman’s biggest triumphs: adoption by the council of her proposal to offer free trolley rides into town for tourists that park their cars at ACT V. The free rides have resulted in increased ridership and fewer cars clogging city streets. Improving downtown traffic is one of Iseman’s pet projects. She considers the prohibition of southbound lefthand turns off of Coast Highway unless specifically permitted and the use of young traffic controllers on weekends at highly traveled intersections as two major achievements – although she is frustrated at the time it took to implement her ideas.
“The traffic controllers took at least five years from the time I first thought of it,” said Iseman. She would like to take another shot at convincing downtown employees to park at Act V and be shuttled to their jobs. “It would have to be businesses with more than 10 employees and they would get paid from the time they park their cars,” said Iseman.