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City to regulate commercial beach activities

Staff will review how other coastal cities deal with stand-up paddleboarding. City has received complaints about impact of businesses.

March 21, 2013|By Barbara Diamond
(DON LEACH )

Increased stand-up paddleboarding and related businesses have city officials worrying about the safety of Laguna beachgoers.

The City Council on Tuesday directed staff to review how other coastal cities have dealt with the increasing popularity of stand-up paddleboarding. The report will be passed along to the Planning Commission to consider while it devises an ordinance to regulate the recreational and business activities on the beach.

"The primary concern is safety for the participants and for other beachgoers," said Community Services Director Ben Siegel. "When you have a large number of paddlers congregating on the beach at one time, there's several boards associated with that and it takes up a lot of space on the beach and in the water.

"Lifeguards, per protocol, escort the paddlers through the surf line and make sure they stay away from hazardous areas and that diverts their attention from other responsibilities."

The city has also received complaints about the impact such businesses have on neighborhoods.

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For the past two years, marine safety officers and code enforcers have observed storage of paddleboard equipment on public and private property, sales of merchandise and the exchange of money on beaches where commercial activity is prohibited, according to a report by Siegel and Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow.

The illegal activity is the result of out-of-town companies doing business with no oversight, safety protocols, insurance or stake in the city economy, four local businesses owners said at the meeting. They called for restrictions and regulations to be enacted.

"It is unfair to those of us who pay rent, taxes, insurance, for training and staff," said Billy Fried, owner of La Vida Laguna, a North Laguna company that provides lessons and equipment for paddling, surfing and kayaking, with all financial transactions in the shop.

Fried, who writes opinion columns for the Coastline Pilot, proposed in 2009 a plan to conduct a kayak rental service at Treasure Island, but declined to move ahead with the project because of the conditions of approval imposed by city officials.

He presented a slide show Tuesday illustrating parked vans, allegedly using shopper's parking stickers, which residents pay an upfront fee for so they can park and shop local businesses, and stated that such mobile-based companies do not require customers to wear life jackets and send folks out on the water without supervision.

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