Barbara’s Column

Council retreats to review ongoing projects plus 2017 accomplishments and plans for 2018



The City Council and City Manager John Pietig believe that the city needs to cut back on the number of policy revisions and major projects in any given year. 

Too many projects underway at the same time overburden staff and city advisory bodies and drag on – and on – the council and Pietig opined at its annual retreat on Saturday at the South Coast Water District offices. 

“Choose one or two and get them done,” said Mayor Kelly Boyd

To that end, the council voted to delay action on a second swimming pool for a year while the council tries to clear some key projects off its overloaded plate.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

One pool will have to be enough for 2018

Councilman Steve Dicterow will break the news to the Recreation Committee.  

Light at the end of the tunnel, the Village Entrance, that is

The Council reviewed and hopefully would approved a final design for the Village Entrance at the Feb 14 meeting. The goal is to break ground this fall. 

It’s only taken 30 years to get to this point and no one will be happier to actually get this project done than Pietig, who put together the agenda for the retreat. He was assisted with the presentation by Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson and Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis.

Key projects update

Utility Undergrounding: One public survey showed community support for undergrounding utilities along major evacuation routes. A second survey will be conducted after a period of public education on ways to finance the project. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Canyon could become a bottleneck during disasters

Staff will bring its evaluation of the Park Plaza experiment to the council on March 27. 

A traffic engineer has been hired to conduct a study of intersections along South Coast Highway from Broadway to Legion Street to determine how traffic flow can be improved. 

Removal of the Cork Pine in front of City Hall and planting of a replacement tree is art of a landscape plan to be presented to the council in March.

Laguna Canyon Foundation and Laguna Greenbelt will review the Caltrans environmental documents for the widening of the 133 from El Toro Road to the toll road. Estimated cost of the project is between $30 million and $39 million.  

Downtown Specific Plan amendments are being scrutinized by the Planning Commission, with a report to the council hoped for this summer.

Laguna Canyon zoning issues

The proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance and modifications to the Laguna Canyon Planning Study still need a lot of work, according to Pietig. An update is expected at the March 6 council meeting on canyon zoning and development issues.

“I was surprised to learn that we have eight options to implement the Laguna Canyon Road Task Force recommendations,” said former City Councilwoman Vern Rollinger, one of the three residents in the audience at the retreat.

Dupuis said three of the options have been recommended for council consideration.

Projects mulled to increase capacity of Channel - and parking

City staff is meeting with Caltrans for the coordinated development of a project to increase the capacity of the Laguna Canyon Channel and rehabilitation of deteriorated sections of the channel.

Another analysis and evaluation of parking structure investment options lots is underway, with a staff report expected at the July 25 council meeting. 

A new Landscape and Scenic Highways Element is being developed. The Planning Commission recommended the council not include the Landscape and Scenic Highways Resource Document.

South Laguna parking demand and ways to reduce are being assessed by staff.

Done is done

Pietig’s agenda for the retreat also included a list of 2017 accomplishments, starting with improvements to public safety funded by Measure LL.

The funding allowed the city to hire two additional beach patrol officers, another community outreach officer, more paramedics, Fire Marshal Jim Brown and two more Marine Safety officers; and to set aside $1 million annually for utility undergrounding.

Councilman Bob Whalen suggested a smaller paramedic truck would be better suited to Laguna’s narrow streets instead of rolling a full-size fire engine for medical calls. 

Facility and Capital Improvements

Notable improvements in 2017 included rehabilitation of the Laguna South Orange County Wastewater Authority lift station, cleaner sidewalks, funded by Measure LL, a pedestrian and bicycle trail accessing the Fire Road, and Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park, completion of the Milligan Drive Bridge, a joint effort of the city and Sarah Thurston Park residents, and the Oak Street and Mountain Road Beach Accesses – “A huge success,” said Pietig.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New stairway at Mountain Road improves beach access

More than 30 streets were repaired and re-sealed, the sidewalk on Cress Street was extended from Bluebird Park to Temple Terrace, and renovations to the former Recreation Building and the Police Department Lobby.

“They may not be sexy, but they are important,” said Pietig.

Community Development

The Community Development Department served a record number of people in 2017 in addition to workshops, plan check reviews and building inspections.

Public Transportation was augmented in 2017 with the launch of weekend service to Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights. Comments from riders have been positive. 

The Trolley Tracker has been improved and 552,119 riders boarded the trolleys during the 10-week summer season. However the off-season local transit service remains in jeopardy. Dupuis has developed a comprehensive public awareness campaign due to hit the media in a couple of weeks. 

If ridership does not increase, the transit system could be drastically changed or even discontinued.


The City was recognized by the Orange County Tobacco Coalition for adopting a smoke-free public places ordinance and gained a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. 

The Bay Beach Report Card identified eight Orange County Beaches as California’s Cleanest Beaches. Seven of the eight are in Laguna Beach.  

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading 

LB jewelry designer Adam Neeley honored with First Place AGTA Spectrum Award

While gemstone industry professionals and jewelers from around the world gathered for this year’s Tucson Gem Fairs, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) celebrated Adam Neeley as a winner of the organization’s prestigious Spectrum Award. 

This honor gives Neeley the distinction of holding the most jewelry industry awards of any jeweler by age 33. 

For more than 30 years, AGTA has brought the finest of design and gemstone cutting together annually for their Spectrum Awards, which is considered the world’s premier gemstone and pearl design competition. 

Neeley, a Laguna Beach-based Goldsmith and Jewelry Designer, won his first Spectrum Award in 2012 at the age of 28.

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AGTA gives first place to Adam Neeley at prestige event

At a Champagne reception and Gala event held Saturday, Feb 3, AGTA recognized Adam Neeley’s pendant “Cosmos” with the honor of First Place in the category of Business/Day Wear. It’s easy to see why; Neeley’s Cosmos pendant is a showstopper with its grand scale and strong visual movement. 

The modern form showcases a 24.06 carat, specialty-cut morganite by renowned lapidary Stephen Avery and is accented by 3.14 carats total weight of diamonds. 

“I wanted to showcase the spectacular cut of this beautiful morganite by echoing the scintillation within into radiating curves,” Neeley said.

Neeley executed the design with extreme precision, using sweeping lines of rose gold spiraling outward into white gold. 

“People have fallen in love with the beauty of rose gold again and I wanted to create a new visual effect with the metal. This design has two different colors of rose gold and white gold to create a color fade from rose to white.” 

The design took months of planning and meticulous work to complete. Neeley enthused, “It’s a huge honor to be recognized by this important competition and top level industry judges.”

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Submitted photo

“People have fallen in love with the beauty of rose gold”

While happy to celebrate, Neeley spent most of the week treasure-hunting. The annual Gem Shows at Tucson serve as the primary gem-buying occasion in Neeley’s year. 

“At Tucson, I’m focused on inspiration and discovering the most exceptional gemstones to use in my designs. This year I came away with some breathtaking jewels.” Those gemstone finds, combined with Neeley’s ambitious vision for his newest jewelry collection, promise dazzling things in the year ahead.

From his studio on Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, Neeley has been designing and creating unique jewelry since 2006. 

Neeley’s work has been recognized by industry authority the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) at their annual Vision Awards on nine separate occasions, most recently in June of 2017. 

As a member of the prestigious American Jewelry Design Council, Neeley is shaping his artistic medium and the evolution of the jewelry industry. He’s also making history; his pendant “South Sea Glow” is a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection.

Those interested in discovering Neeley’s creations are invited to visit Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry at 352 North Coast Highway in Laguna Beach year round, or at the upcoming La Quinta Arts Festival, Booth #945. During this busy season, visitors are encouraged to make an appointment to meet with Neeley personally. 

For further information or questions, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Outdoor Display Workshop discusses ways to boost business as six-month trial period begins

The Chamber of Commerce will hold an Outdoor Display Workshop for local business owners to learn how to attract customers and capture more foot traffic. 

The event will take place at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street, on Feb 28 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Submitted photos

Examples of outdoor signage

This follows the approval by the City of Laguna Beach of a six-month trial period allowing outdoor display of A-frames and/or merchandise for downtown merchants, beginning March 1.

The workshop will provide information about current rules and proposed changes, offer good examples of outdoor displays, reveal how signage can enhance the village character, and explain why this is important to the entire business community beyond the downtown district – including the HIP district, North Laguna, Pearl Street, South Laguna, and the Canyon.

Food and beverages will be provided. 

Recently revamped and reenergized Hobie Surf Shop exceeds expectations in more ways than one


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

When one walks through the doors of the recently remodeled Hobie Surf Shop, which celebrated its grand opening last Saturday, it’s obvious that there have been substantial physical changes. Hobie Surf Shop took over the adjacent space and now occupies the entire building. The goal was to create a store that feels light, bright and open and appeals to the consumer on every level. 

And it certainly does.

“We’re taking the next step up in terms of the physical space, exposing the original truss ceiling, incorporating reclaimed wood flooring, adding a completely new and relocated sales counter and upgrading lighting and all surfaces,” Mark Christy, the owner, explained last month during the remodel.

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Hobie’s new expansive space and festive tiki bar

The physical changes are obvious, but there’s something else. The beachy aura has been enhanced too. Everything appears more expansive, not only is the ceiling is higher, there’s more breathing room, and the relaxing vibe that one expects here. It takes one back to the mellow times of the 50s when things were “more laid back,” and surfing was born.

And preserving that surfing heritage is especially important to Christy.

Christy explained that the remodel is intended to highlight to a greater extent the role that Hobie Alter and his partner Dick Metz played in transforming surfing from a fringe sport into a cultural phenomenon, infusing a sense of history into the flagship shop and celebrating a story unique to Hobie stores in the reenergized interior.

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Remodeled exterior showcases vintage surfing and store photos in windows

And he succeeded. The interior feels like a vintage museum celebrating the birth of skateboarding and surfing and the surfing culture, an homage that resonates throughout the store. 

Along part of one wall, vintage surfboards are exhibited next to incredible photos of Hobie Alter and his partner Dick Metz during the 50s and 60s that visually tell the story of the beginning of surfing. And letters and information about Hobie’s innovations beckon one to read on and on.

To further bring back that era, there’s a handcrafted tiki bar in the back corner. Almost everywhere one looks, there’s a piece plucked from that time-period.

But there’s more.

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Display of surfing and art books

 “There is so much talent here, and sadly, the window for these artisans to exhibit their creations to the public is often limited to a few weeks of the festival season. As such, you may see some ‘outside-the-box’ things you might not typically see in a surf shop,” Christy said. “Above all, we want to make the place interesting for our customers (and ourselves) and reflective of the town we love.” 

To this end, he’s added craft pieces, for example, ocean blue pottery and large paintings of the sea. And there’s a substantial display (with chairs to sit and peruse the merchandise) of surfing, art, and other books.

Maddi Hall, who worked at Hobie before the remodel says, “It’s exciting to see everyone’s reaction when they come in. Now it’s more fun to work here.”

Unbelievably, this transformation took only three weeks. It’s still uniquely Hobie Surf Shop with its high-quality brands and water-lifestyle clothing, but now it clearly harkens back to its roots. And it was worth waiting for the reveal.

Hobie Surf Shop is located at 294 Forest Ave, 949-497-3304,

Studies in Blue by Scott

Photos by Scott Brashier

Catalina Island perches on hues of beautiful blue

Blue sunrise, with scattered clouds

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Weeds as food? Eating the Weeds workshop by Abe Sanchez opens eyes and piques palates on Feb 24

Native foods expert Abe Sanchez will host a workshop “Eating the Weeds” at the South Laguna Community Garden Park on Sat, Feb 24 at 10 a.m. The Garden Park is located at Eagle Rock Way and Coast Hwy. 

Sanchez will open participants’ eyes and pique their palates as he discusses sources of food from plants considered to be weeds, often from plants that made up the diets of the Native Americans who lived on what is now the Laguna Beach coast. 

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Submitted photo

Abe Sanchez conducts Eating the Weeds workshop on Feb 24

Attendees will learn about these ancient foods, and how to gather, prepare and eat them to not only improve our health, but that of the environment as well. 

Abe Sanchez is a founding member of the Chia Cafe Collective and co-publisher of “Cooking the Native Way,” distributed by Heyday. 

The public is invited to attend. There is no cost for the workshop, however, contributions are welcome. 

To make reservations, go to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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