New project lands in Commission’s lap

By Barbara Diamond

The Planning Commission on Wednesday will tackle another project of major interest to Laguna Beach property owners: revisions to the city’s ordinance governing second units inside an existing home or under a separate roof on the lot.

A workshop in July introduced residents, commissioners, members of the Housing and Human Services Committee and the Senior Housing Task Force to some proposed changes—primarily a reduction in the size of lots eligible for the second units and in parking requirements.

The goal of state legislation, passed in 2016, was to make it less onerous to develop affordable housing. The city ordinance would require changes to make it compliant with state law.

Laguna’s ordinance restricts second unit to lots at least 6,000 square feet in residential zones. 

Reducing the required lot size to 5,000 square feet would add almost 600 lots to the 3,700 parcels already eligible for additional development.

Staff is recommending changes in parking standards.

Questions have been submitted to the city about parking requirements for converting older detached garages to living quarters on lots less than 5,000 square feet, which now require two covered parking spaces. 

Revised legislation would omit the present requirement for two on-site parking spaces per unit and permit the property owner in some cases to develop the so-called “accessory dwelling” without providing additional parking if the dwelling is within a half-mile of public transportation. 

Staff will recommend that the owners of smaller lots made eligible for development under the revised ordinance must agree to a deed restriction limiting the accommodations to low-income residents. 

The proposed changes in the Laguna Beach ordinance are proposed to make affordable housing more easily developed. However, some concerns have been expressed about the increased density if the less restrictive standards are approved.

Guest column

Remembering 9/11: Mijo sings the national anthem with dogged patriotism, bringing comfort to grievers

Written by Cindy Ortiz-Plant

While sitting on my deck tonight, I was reminded of another September sunset, 16 years ago, when my little dog became somewhat of a local celebrity, Seminal moments in time are when you’re able to recall exactly where you were and what you were doing when a significant tragedy occurred. The assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King were like that for many of us older folks and September 11, 2011 became pivotal for a younger generation. 

In the hours after the twin towers went down and the Pentagon was hit, we were learning to cope with our disbelief, trying to assuage our grief and struggling to understand why – and how – this terrible thing could happen to us. In the days to follow, we watched with trepidation as seniors in high school and those in college signed up for the armed services. 

Sadly, we also witnessed a growing suspicion against Muslims or anyone who looked remotely Arab. Air travel, while being brown, became more tenuous. Our nerves were jangled and our fear was the worry that we might never be the same nation again. Cities and towns did their best to help salve the community wound and my town was no different. 

A few days after the attack, it was announced that there would be a candlelight vigil on Main Beach at sunset. We lived on Park Avenue, at that time, which was approximately eight blocks straight up from Main Beach. Armed with our homemade votives, (candles in pixie cups), and our collective desire to band together, we marched down to the beach. 

Submitted photo

Mijo brought comfort to grievers after 9/11

Our little six-year-old Chihuahua, Mijo, was anxious. Dogs are sensitive creatures and ours had picked up the vibe that something emotional was happening. He kept wanting to be close, hop on our laps and lick our faces. He knew something was afoot with his humans and he refused to stay home that evening. So, we took him with us on our hike. He trotted well enough for a short distance on his leash, but then he sat down and refused to walk any further, two blocks from our destination. Five pounds dripping wet, he was light enough to carry. 

Quietly we joined the crowd, me cradling Mijo in my arms. We marveled at how many people had gathered together on the Beach, on the lawn and in front of the lifeguard tower. Soon it would be hundreds and we would be packed together shoulder to shoulder. 

There were comforting hugs and heartfelt handshakes amongst neighbors and friends. There were speeches from city officials and prayers from our local religious leaders. It was a solemn affair and sadness hung in the air like a heavy wet blanket. Then, a moment of silence was prolonged while everyone lit their candles. Amidst this eerily somber convocation, someone’s beautiful, ethereal voice started to sing the first strains of our national anthem. Uh oh. I knew what was coming. I tensed up, anticipating a party foul and knew that I would be powerless to stop it. 

Ok. Please press the pause button on this dramatic scene for just a moment, while I give you a short bio on Mijo. 

When we adopted him, the breeder told us that his mother had been a singer and that most likely, he would be, too. As a small puppy he was known to yip to the strains of a piano. We weren’t quite sure what that meant. Soon, we discovered that any tune that we sang repeatedly, Mijo would join in and begin to howl along. The happy birthday song was his obvious debut. He never “sang” to songs on the radio or from CDs. Only to live music sung by people and not to every song. Over the course of a couple of years, he seemed to have developed a predilection for holiday songs. That meant he would most certainly accompany us to perennial favorites, such as “Happy Birthday”, “Silent Night” and “Take Me Out to The Ball Game”, cleverly syncopating his singing howls to the beats of each song. 

But his all-time, most cherished and favorite song, was “The Star-Spangled Banner”. He rarely came when called, but if he was hiding under a blanket or some pillows, all I had to do was sing out the first line, “Oh-Oh, say can you see” and just like Roger Rabbit, who was powerless to resist the temptation to respond to the beats of the song, “Shave and a Haircut” Mijo would succumb and begin to howl along. 

Ok, now press the play button and we are back to that crowded beach scene. 

The crowd decides to accompany the lone singing voice. A swell of voices begins to join in by the second line. Instinctively, I gently muzzle my doggie. But the Spirit is too overwhelming for Mijo. In his best and loudest doggie howl, he belts out his inner tenor, beautifully following the notes, the high ones and the low ones, giving it all of his heart.

Suddenly, I felt like Moses. The crowd murmured and parted around me like the Red Sea. Incredulous, all eyes were focused on Mijo as he howled jubilantly to: “And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air!!!” And by the very end of the last phrase: “And the home of the brave”, Mijo was in such fine form, that he ended his performance with a bit of a flourish. 

Suddenly, the crowd went wild! They gushed out their bravos and showered him with enthusiastic applause- and laughter. It was the most epic icebreaker of all time! Our little doggie Caruso was a star!  Mijo stayed to entertain with some of the other songs in his repertoire that evening, but he would always be remembered in town as the patriotic dog who had single-handedly made everyone smile and laugh when they were feeling so very sad. 

It’s been nearly nine years since Mijo crossed over the Rainbow Bridge and I still miss him. I will never forget the pain of our nation after 9/11, especially when there is a September beach sunset, like tonight. But, I will also remember the time when our talented and patriotic little doggie made a difference.

Laguna Food Pantry offers intimate “Come to the Table” afternoon benefit Oct 1 at private home

A new series of informal dining events will be launched with the revival of “Come to the Table” on Sunday, Oct 1 from 3 to 6 p.m. to benefit the Laguna Food Pantry.

“Several years ago, a group of us held casual neighborhood ‘Come to the Table’ benefit dinners and they were a great success,” said longtime Pantry volunteer Sharon McErlane. She and her husband Roger, also a volunteer for the Pantry, will open their gracious Dutch Colonial-style home and its magnificent garden to 80 or so guests for the event. 

“We’re gathering around our table so that all families in south Orange County are able to put food on their tables,” Sharon added. “We are committed to making sure no one in our abundant region goes hungry.” 

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Sharon and Roger McErlane, who are opening their home for this signature event

Guitarist and local wealth adviser Nicholas Yrizarry will perform acoustic flamenco music as paella, tapas, and sangria are served in the McErlanes’ elegant “secret garden.” 

A limited number of tickets will be sold at $95 each; reservations are required. To purchase tickets visit or call 949-497-7121.

Every weekday, Laguna Food Pantry collects and distributes 2,800 lbs. of free, fresh, nutritious groceries to serve approximately 100 low-income families. Half of those families include babies and children. 

Located at 20652 Laguna Canyon Road north of the Dog Park, the Pantry is open from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. 

New volunteers are always welcome. Phone: 949-497-7121

Here are the high holiday events and services taking place at the Chabad Jewish Center 

Upcoming events at the Chabad Jewish Center include the following:

Rosh Hashanah will take place on Wed, Sept 20 at 7 p.m. Additional services will include Thu, Sept 21 at 10 a.m. with Shofar Sounding at 12:30 p.m. and Tashlich Service at Montage Beach following Mincha services.  

There will be another service on Fri, Sept 22 at 10 a.m. with Shofar Sounding at 12:30 p.m and evening service at 7 p.m.

Yom Kippur will be on Fri, Sept 29 the Kol Nidre service at 6:30 p.m. Additional services will be on Sat, Sept 30 with morning service at 10 a.m., Yizkor Memorial Service at12:30 p.m. and Mincha and Neilah service 5 p.m. with communal break the fast.

Services and programs open to the community. No tickets needed to enter. English/Hebrew Prayer Books, Soulful cantor, Children’s program. Seat reservations available. 

To RSVP for the High Holiday programs, call Chabad at 949-499-0770, or visit our website at Chabad is located at 30804 S. Coast Hwy

Dr. Jason Viloria discusses the State of our Schools at LBUSD PTA Coffee Talk at Hotel Laguna on Sept 20

On Wed, Sept 20, from 8:30 – 10 a.m., the LBUSD PTA Coffee Talk hosts a yearly presentation on the State of our Schools at the Hotel Laguna, 425 S Coast Hwy. At the meeting, Dr. Jason Viloria, superintendent of LBUSD, and district staff will update the community on the strengths of our schools, progress that has been made, and expectations for the future.

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

Dr. Jason Viloria, Superintendent of LBUSD

The event will highlight key goals and initiatives for the 2017-18 school year, including on-going continuous improvement efforts, the goal to foster and sustain strong relationships, and the focus of “every student, every day.”

For LBUSD PTA members, the event is free. For guests and non-PTA members, the fee is $10.

Attendees are asked to RSVP at:

Harken back to the days of iconic clubs as Laguna Beach Live! presents THE REAL LA LA LAND on Oct 4

For an evening of toe tapping and head bobbing, don’t miss The REAL LA LA LAND as they perform on Wed, Oct 4, from 6-8 p.m. at Montage Resort as part of the Laguna Beach Live! series. THE REAL LA LA LAND is a musical showcase from the perspectives of former jazz club bartender and singing waiter Dave Damiani and trumpeter Bijon Watson.

Like Ryan Gosling’s character in the film, Dave Damiani and his group of talented jazz musicians are in pursuit of bringing back the class, style and swagger of iconic clubs like the 500 Club, The Copacabana, To Copa Lounge, and the Cocoanut Grove. 

Click on photo for larger image

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in Seb’s Jazz Club from the movie La La Land

In homage to the American Songbook, think “Feel Good” music

They will perform outdoors on the bluff top of Montage Resort. Tickets for the sunset concert, are: VIP $100, includes best seating, signed CD, and Meet & Greet with the artists; Premium $50 at center tables; and Standard $30 theater style seating in the rear. Doors open at 5 p.m. to purchase food and beverages. 

For tickets, go to or 800-595-4849. 

For information, call 949-715-9713.

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast: TOW resident Mary Scifres pens a book on leadership

Local author, leadership consultant, and motivational speaker Mary Scifres has published her first book on transformational leadership – The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast: A story of transformation

Scifres will be signing books and talking about her inspiration at University United Methodist Church in Irvine, 18422 Culver Drive, near the UCI campus, on Sun, Sept 24, at 4 p.m.

A veteran author in the arena of church leadership and creative worship, Mary brings her 25 years of publication and writing experience to this new endeavor, linking transformation lessons from Disney’s films Beauty and the Beast to the ancient lessons of scriptures and stories of Jesus’ life and teachings.

In the pages of The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast, Mary illuminates the teachings of Jesus in light of the lessons that Belle, Beast, and their fairytale friends discover as they embark on journeys of both personal and communal transformation. 

The book signing is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase, or can be purchased on-line through Amazon and Kindle Publications. The Audible version will be available in early November.

Wesley District Community Meeting is set for Sept 20

Residents of Wesley District (Nyes Place from Ashton to PCH, and all streets south to Aliso Circle) are invited to attend a community meeting with Mayor Toni Iseman on Sept. 20 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Laguna Terrace Park clubhouse, 30802 Coast Highway. 

This meeting is to give voice to Wesley District residents about neighborhood issues and concerns and to discuss possible solutions. Residents are urged to take this opportunity to make their voices heard.

Directions: From PCH, turn inland at Montage Resort Drive, then make an immediate left past Laguna Lodge and the Chabad Center. Follow sign up the hill to the office/pool/clubhouse area. Limited parking will be available near the Chabad Center, and in front of clubhouse. 

Please carpool (or walk if you are close enough). RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so we can ensure the capacity of the clubhouse isn’t exceeded. 

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