What happened to being good stewards of the beach?

Being raised on Pearl/Agate Street Beach. I looked up to the older locals almost like brothers. They were a tough group of surfers – and they taught me to respect the beach and ocean. Which, in a nutshell, meant not only did you not litter, but heaven forbid you walked past a piece of litter without picking it up. These guys were willing to fight every day for the beach they loved. There was a pecking order to every set of locals on every beach. That was the culture I grew up in.

Part of being a local meant being a good steward of the beach. Caring for it. Respecting it. Loving the beach.

I would not consider the Agate Street Beach staircase renovation project being an example of good stewardship of the beach. This project was started nearly four months ago. On a good day, there are maybe two or three guys working on it for one or two days a week, and that’s being generous. There is a huge rusty ramp now descending down from the cliff and into the water at high tide. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by James Pribram

Agate Beach

Workers have dumped approximately 37 Lego cement blocks onto the beach, which have already toppled over twice. In their words, “[They] have been put there to keep the ocean out.” 

Haven’t we learned by now that it is simple impossible to keep the ocean out?!

With two major swells forecast for this week and tides nearly reaching into the six-foot range, we (the locals who know the power of the ocean and tides) are extremely worried that all of these construction tools will end up in the ocean and be lost out there for good. This project is a nightmare waiting to happen and quite honestly, it looks as if it has been abandoned. 

In case anyone doesn’t remember, Laguna Beach is a Marine Reserve. It is an absolute no-take zone. No fishing, no nada. You are not even supposed to remove dead seaweed from its natural habitat – the beach. How in the world is such a mismanaged project happening like this in Laguna Beach?

In a town that is supposed to be so environmentally conscious? 

It’s one thing to be picking up metal stakes out of the tide pools and nails with pink ribbons off of the beach. But who is going to pick up the concrete blocks, and the rusty ramp if it goes into the ocean?

What if someone is seriously injured or worse?

When I raised this issue, I wasn’t looking for a fight with the City or the Coastal Commission. In fact, the ECO-Warrior Foundation is a partner of the Coastal Commission and the Adopt-A-Beach program.

The first phone call I made was to the code enforcement officer at the Coastal Commission, who asked me to document everything and send it to him in an email

Which I did. He never replied back regarding the email and didn’t return subsequent phone calls.

The same day I sent a similar email to the mayor. No reply. Then I called her and left a voicemail. She never returned my call.

So then I called the city manager and left a voicemail. No returned call. However I did get a call from Henry Hovakkimian, Assistant Construction Manager, because of my call to the City Manager. 

The only City employee who actually took my call was the chief lifeguard.

I went through the proper channels. Yet no one bothered to get back to me to explain what was going on.

At least someone came and picked up the rusty drills that they left discarded there. 

But is this good stewardship of the beach? Not a chance.

James Pribram

Founder, ECO-Warriors

Laguna Beach


Questions for Coast Inn development supporters

I know that everyone in Laguna Beach would like to see the Coast Inn restored to its former glory. It is currently an eyesore in this town. But to the supporters of Chris Dornin’s proposed development, I have a few questions: Do you know the details of what is being proposed? 332 bar/restaurant seats (200 more than previously approved) plus 24 hotel rooms and not one single parking place, which means hundreds of cars will need to park in the surrounding neighborhood every day, and possibly more when multiple events are held at the various venues.  

Do you know that the Boom Boom Room is not even mentioned in the plans? The name of that space has been changed – and there is no dance floor. Have you considered the increased traffic and public safety issues that will result from this intensification of use? Does our town really need to attract more tourists (last year six million people visited Laguna) and should the goal of attracting tourists be put ahead of the residents’ quality of life?  

Did you know that the hotel will look nothing like the historic photos, but rather the design is based on an artist’s rendering? Did you know that Mr. Dornin, the owner/developer of the Coast Inn fought against the rooftop deck on Mozambique because he lived in the surrounding neighborhood and therefore, as a resident, would be adversely affected?  

In his statements to Planning Commission and City Council, Mr. Dornin raised the exact issues as those who currently oppose the intensification of use of his Coast Inn development: parking, traffic, noise, public safety, view, aesthetics, light trespass, and loss of property value in the surrounding neighborhood. (Video of his testimony at PC and CC can be viewed on the Laguna Beach City website.)  

Of course Mr. Dornin has the right to change his position on rooftop decks, but that does not change the impacts and issues of which he is well aware. Would you support the development of this “entertainment complex” if your home was in the neighborhood around the Coast Inn? Please know that I respect everyone’s opinion and their right to support or oppose this project. For the record, my opinion is that the Coast Inn should be restored to its previous use, but the design and the intensification of use should be denied at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on Jan 23.

Terry Meurer

Laguna Beach


Hotel Laguna should be kept as pristine as possible

I’ve been here since 1958 and one of the first things that our visitors notice when coming into the town is the Hotel Laguna.  It’s a famous landmark and one that the city should try to keep as pristine as possible.  

With that being said, I believe that it’s possible to remodel the hotel to current day standards and still retain the original look and feel.  Something like the La Valencia in La Jolla comes to mind. I hope that the new owners and city council will consider this.

Gary Zaremba

Laguna Beach


Time to impeach Trump

Fifty or so years ago, a young Donald Trump was determined ineligible to serve in Vietnam due to bone spurs in his feet. Despite having graduated from New York Military Academy, Trump was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his high school classmates march off to war.  

Today, a 70-something Donald Trump serves as President of the United States. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently commented, “It is impossible to live your life under the microscope of the presidency and not have your true nature revealed.” That certainly was the case last week when Mr. Trump characterized the homeland of immigrants from Africa and Haiti as @#$%-holes.

That said, I believe it’s time Congress explore the notion of impeaching Mr. Trump. Not so much for what he said about immigrants, but because those testy old bone spurs clearly have gone to his head. As my wise father used to say, “Stay away from that guy. His elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.”  

America deserves a president who is fully capable of executing the requirements of the job.  As a lifelong student of politics, I am shocked Trump’s @#$%-hole comment hasn’t been completely rebuked by the GOP leaders in the House and Senate. I am sorry, but Speaker Paul Ryan’s tepid reaction that Trump’s hateful outburst was “unfortunate” really doesn’t cut it.

It’s time to look in the mirror people.  What does your reflection reveal about you and our country now?  It’s not too late to change what you see.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Historic Preservation Task Force: Necessary?

After attending the special City Council meeting on Sat Dec.16 2017 I came away thinking do the residents & property owners of Laguna Beach really need “this”! Only one of eleven of my North Laguna neighbors who I meet as I took a morning walk, thinks it’s a good idea. The other ten gave it the thumbs down.

Just because the vocal minority and the City’s bureaucrats want it doesn’t mean that it’s best for the community! Before the City forms a Task Force lets put the idea on the ballot or at least a survey of all property owners who might be impacted. Give the silent majority a voice, it’s only fair!

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach


Hotel Laguna is in desperate need of renovation

I have followed the continuing saga of the Hotel Laguna and have a few comments. First of all, a lawsuit seeking “financial restitution” truly seems without merit (no pun intended).

Regarding the hotel name, although Mrs. Andersen says it’s trademarked, photos from the 1930s show that the name has been in use since the beginning. I’m not an attorney, but isn’t there such a thing as public domain?

The Andersens operated the property for 30 years and never did a significant renovation. The entire place is run down and in desperate need of attention. Why would we think they’d choose to do so now? I understand that Andersen has a sentimental attachment to the hotel, but it’s time to move on. She has been operating two restaurants — both out of town — one of which has been open 18 months. Doesn’t that imply an “exit strategy”?

I worked with Joe Hanauer during his acquisition of The Pottery Shack and transformation into The Old Pottery Place. At the beginning there was opposition but, now, rightly beloved with resident serving businesses, including one of few remaining brick and mortar bookstores. There could not be a man more devoted to keeping the historic aspects of our community intact … but improved. And with Greg MacGillivray as a named partner… along with James Ray, I’d call them the dream team to take control of the run down hotel, and continue to be fine stewards of our village, as has been Mark Christy with The Ranch. 

Thank goodness The Montage sold Christy and partners the property, or we’d almost certainly have condos on the golf course by now.

Leslie Cunningham

30-year resident of Laguna Beach


No soul in concrete stairs at Thalia

Why is it [that] each project taken on by the Corps of Engineers, when finished, looks like something built by the Corps of Engineers?  No soul!  Couldn’t they use river rock or flagstone or something that is not concrete?

Robert Story

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Ben Rogers

January 27, 1994 – December 13, 2017

Ben Rogers passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of December 13.  

Ben was the light of all our lives, full of a deep kindness towards all, a generous spirit, and a light-hearted presence. Many have shared how Ben would encourage them, and how much he was looking forward to the future. He touched many.  

He and his sister Lily were born in Newtown Connecticut one frozen winter night, moved to Grosse Pointe Farms Michigan at age three, then to Laguna Beach when four.  Ben grew up a local boy, attending the Presbyterian preschool, TOW Elementary, Thurston and the High School. He was an Indian Guide, a Scout, played soccer, but most of all LOVED playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club and anywhere, really.

His first job was delivering the Laguna Beach Indy in the Mystic Hills neighborhood. He studied Kempo Karate for eight years and also competed at the County level in Track and Field in the Hurdles. 

He attended the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad and was able to march in the National Memorial Day parade in Washington DC in 2011, playing the snare drum.

Ben attended the University of Arizona, and was planning to finish up at Cal State San Marcos in the fall.  

He is survived by his parents, Kate and Jim, his twin Lily, his brother Will, his step-sister Sara, and also his beloved dogs Gracie and Coco.

A memorial service is planned at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 30 at 10 a.m. All are welcome to come remember and celebrate Ben.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ben’s name to the ASPCA.


Obituary

Steven P. Duncan

April 4, 1954 – December 15, 2017

Steven Paul Duncan passed away Friday, December 15, 2017, at the age of sixty three surrounded by his entire family. He is survived by his wife Anne, his four children, Madison, Riley, Jamie, and Liam, his very soon to be son-in-law Graham Harris, and his mischievous cattle dog, Marley.  

Born in London, England and raised back and forth between Geneva, Kentucky and California, Steve first moved to Laguna Beach in 1962 with his mother, Betty and his grandparents Emily and Will Cowie. The family later opened the Horseshoe Cafe in downtown Laguna Beach. A graduate of Laguna Beach High School and University of California Irvine, he earned his JD from the University of San Diego in 1986 and proceeded to run his own practice in Laguna Beach as a plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyer.  

Steve lived a life as full as his booming laugh. He was cultured, irreverent, and the sharpest of wits. He was an avid tennis player, surfer, and sailor in his younger years. Steve loved the time he spent ranching and co-owning a dairy calf business. He also loved playing—or as he would say, “trying to play”—the guitar and listening to opera, show tunes, and the Appalachian music his Kentucky grandmother used to sing.  

More than anything, he loved his family. Steve refused to let the harshness of his earlier years take his goodness, and worked hard every day to change the trajectory of that life for his children. With a heart even bigger than his personality, Steve welcomed any and all into the warm embrace of his family and modeled integrity through his words and actions. Of all of Steve’s accomplishments and adventures, nothing brought him greater pride than his wife and children, whose compassion, humanity, and humor will carry his legacy.


There are solutions to the short term lodging challenges

Thanks to the City staff, appointed and elected Laguna Beach officials, and all those involved for all the time and effort spent developing for Laguna a fair, balanced, and equitable approach to the issue of short term lodging.

After all that effort, is must be frustrating that late in the day at its hearing last Thursday, after hours of detailed deliberations over a few parking spaces in Malibu and old pipes at Playa Vista, the Coastal Commission announced that they only had the room until 7:00PM and that the hearing on Laguna’s adopted ordinance would be constrained by that time limit.

The result was short shrift given to all sides in a hurry-up hearing of Laguna’s request for certification of an amendment to its Local Coastal Plan incorporating the short-term lodging ordinance the City has adopted unanimously after many months of and thousands of hours of citizen and City debate.  (And not that many issues in Laguna result in unanimous opinions.)  Whether a more extensive hearing of an issue with widespread consequences for many communities throughout California would have led to a better decision is debatable, but what is not debatable is the appropriateness, or actually lack thereof, of the manner in which the hearing was held.

While most Californians understand the mission of the Coastal Act is to assure there are no gates or fences impeding physical coastal access, the current Coastal Commission seems to be embarking on its own social engineering mission, 1) aggressively broadening its scope by stretching definitions and 2) imposing unfunded mandates on local communities.

Its current efforts to reinterpret the word “access” as more than physical access to include a requirement that local communities provide unlimited affordable vacation accommodations to anyone who wants a day at any specific beach of the visitor’s choosing at any time of their choosing at a price the visitor can afford reflects both these issues.  The stretch of the definition is obvious. 

An unfunded mandate is a requirement by one level of government that another level of government perform certain actions with no funds provided to do so.  In this case, the state requires cities to do something costly and requires the city to absorb the cost.  That the Coastal Commission is doing this to local communities is less obvious, but no less consequential.

While visitors bring additional revenue to a community, visitors also bring additional cost. The problem is, in Laguna’s case, the additional cost far exceeds the additional revenue. Because Laguna graciously hosts so many visitors annually, compared to other cities in California with our population, the cost to run the government of the City of Laguna Beach is roughly three times the cost to run cities of similar size with little or no visitor impact. The shortage is made up by the residents with funds paid by local residents that should be used for local resident needs that are instead diverted to cover the extra costs due to visitors.

There are solutions - -two of which are:  The State of California Coastal Commission can rein back in its overreach and work for reasonable balance between visitors and residents. And the State of California can provide the funds to the local communities that will cover the additional costs resulting from the state’s requirements. By the way, that number – the shortage -- is about $25,000,000 per year or something like $2,000 per year per Laguna household.

John Thomas

Laguna Beach


Sign numbing

For a City with the strictest sign code, we sure do love electronic message boards! These PD signs are meant to warn drivers of dangers related to traffic, accidents, etc., yet the LBPD inexplicably has decided to use them constantly, at several locations in, out and around town, to display such helpful messages as “Have a nice day!” and “Happy Holidays!” Really? This is the “look” we want for our town? Now we are numb to the signs, so if they do display useful messages for their intended purpose, we won’t pay any attention! And as a bonus, they increase the danger to cyclists, by forcing them into traffic. Thanks LBPD! 

Ann Marie McKay

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Catalina Raine Kollock

November 14, 2017 – December 16, 2017

Catalina Raine Kollock was born with tremendous love at home on November 14, 2017. On the morning of December 16, 2017 she passed peacefully from this world surrounded by her loving family. 

Catalina Raine is a perfect angel. She is a beautiful ray of light who is loved deeply by family and friends. In her brief time on this earth, her radiant soul touched the lives of so many. Though she is no longer with us in body, her spirit will forever live on in all of our hearts.

Catalina Raine will always be cherished and loved by her mother and father, Teresa and Ryan, her brother Jackson, her three sisters Layla, Stella, and Scarlett, her grandmother Donna, her great grandmother Gloria, her uncle Joey, and so many more who were blessed to know her.

Memorial services will be held at Neighborhood Congregational Church in Laguna Beach on Friday, December 29, 2017 at 3 p.m. followed by a brief reception at Bridge Hall. The family requests that guests please dress colorfully and avoid wearing black.

In lieu of flowers, the family would be eternally grateful for donations to their GoFundMe www.gofundme.com/kollockfamily, Paypal (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), or Venmo www.venmo.com/Ryan-Kollock.

All of these will help support the family in these trying times.


New shared use community path is an immediate public health concern due to high risk of pedestrian/bike collision

Last Friday morning I was walking my youngest daughter to Top of the World Elementary School. We were at the base of the new path that connects Sommet du Monde with Alta Laguna Blvd, when seven mountain bikers tore down pedestrian only path at high speed. I had to push my daughter rapidly into the fence. We were both very shaken. We were all very fortunate that no-one was seriously injured.

I am aware that mine is not the first experience of a near collision. This is a shared community path and is the only route to TOW school from Arch Beach heights community. The near accident occurred at the base of a steep incline which is a blind spot. The multiple signs for bikers to dismount and walk this short connection path are not effective enough.

I believe it is now a more dangerous pathway for all users than it was before. For the sake of our community can we please have some form of a physical barrier to divide the path safely. I have already spoken to the City Council representative responsible for the path planning. I am concerned that no action will take place and that it’s only a matter of time until a serious accident occurs. In the mean-time I urge our community to be careful on this path.

Kirsten Rogers

Laguna Beach

Short term lodging is a danger to the future of our town

In the recent spate of comments about Short Term Lodging on the social network website Nextdoor, who see STL as a boon to Laguna Beach and are full of ridicule and condemnation for Village Laguna, City Council and Staff, sadly lacking is a consideration of what this might mean for the long-term future of our town. 

Consider this:  Our Sister City, St Ives, in Cornwall, England, no longer has a stable, long-term residential soul like ours and is deemed a ‘ghost’ town by many, because the unchecked proliferation of Short Term Lodging resulted in fewer permanent residents and more absentee owners with homes vacant except in the lucrative, summer rental months. Because of this STL invasion caused primarily by recent online media, the St Ives Council finally held a referendum that was passed by 80 percent of its residents, to restrict the purchase by absentee owners of second and third new homes. The High Court of England ruled in favor of the referendum last year. 

In light of results like this, please think about the future of Laguna, not now, not tomorrow, but in five or 10 years.  We may well go down a similar path and become a town with no soul, like picturesque St Ives or hip Balboa Island, if we allow unlimited Short Term Lodging in our residential areas. Our supply of long-term affordable rentals will be drastically diminished, and we will become just a place of profit-making short-term rentals.  We should beware those unintended future consequences, and work together to protect our residential neighborhoods from rampant commercialism before it’s too late.

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach


Obituary

Joseph M. Petrovich

February 4, 1926 – December 3, 2017

Upon announcing his passing, his youngest son referred to him as his “Mentor.” He, in fact, was a mentor to many people thanks to his common sense and his frank honesty. Joe passed away just two months short of his 92nd birthday. He lived a full life.

He was born in Los Angeles, California one of five children - three sisters and one brother. His dream was to play professional baseball. After high school he joined the Army while World War II was in full force. He was stationed all over including Okinawa, Japan. He remembered VJ Day extremely well as that was the event that sent him home to his family. He started college at Loyola Marymount University and then earned his degree in Engineering from the University of Southern California.

He moved his family to Laguna which included two sons, Joey and Chris. Both boys went through the Laguna School system where Joey excelled in music becoming a local icon and Chris excelled at sports. Joey, unfortunately, passed away almost 14 years ago in a big blow to the family. Although three very different people, they bonded through baseball.

Joe is survived by his sister Cecelia, his youngest son Chris and his granddaughter Jade (15). Joe adored his only grandchild. No memorial services are planned. However, as a way to honor the Petrovich family, a GoFundMe account has been created to fund the existing Joey Petrovich Songwriter Scholarship at Laguna Beach High School. 100 percent of the donations will go into the scholarship to help young musicians.

Donate here: www.gofundme.com/Joey-Petrovich-Songwriter


Time to follow New York’s example in reducing smog?

From the website of the City of New York: “You can report an idling vehicle, other than an authorized emergency vehicle, that is parked with its engine running for more than three minutes, or parked next to a school with its engine running more than one minute.”

In other words, you can receive a ticket if you let an engine run for more than three minutes while your vehicle is parked. 

In Laguna Beach and elsewhere, I have seen vehicles-cars and trucks, with engines running while stopped for 20-30 minutes. Since there appears to be a problem with a change in climate around the world, with the destruction of 400 acres of forest per day, fires & smoke almost everywhere in California, and the refusal of certain segments of the U.S. population to admit that there is a problem, perhaps the City Council of Laguna Beach might consider copying the law from New York.

The naysayers and tobacco industry said that to deprive cigarette addicts from smoking in long, steel tubes seven miles in the air, was unfair. Eventually, governments could no longer ignore reality, and prohibiting smoking in airplanes, restaurants and bars became the norm, and not many suffered because of this. 

The auto industry fought tooth and nail to prevent regulations that would require seat belts in vehicles, proof notwithstanding, that such laws would save many lives. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and we always buckle up when driving.

So, how about if the City of Laguna Beach addresses this problem? The City, to its credit, has outlawed smoking on the streets, so can we go a bit further and let citizens know that it is not right to sit in a vehicle with the engine running, polluting the air, and contributing to a degradation of the climate?

Common sense has worked. May it continue.

David E. Kelly

Laguna Beach


Keep Park Plaza; underground utilities

I feel [the plaza] it should be on Forest but support the continuation of Park Plaza and hope eventually it will end up on Forest. This would require the merchants who are entrenched on the way it has always been and fearful of any change to gain confidence. Is that possible? Keep Park Plaza. This is Laguna Beach. Unlike suburbia we are a community with a town center and need a plaza type place to meet, relax, have a cup of coffee.

On the topic of undergrounding...

Imperative major routes are undergrounded without any delay. If we need to evacuate with only two routes this could be a problematic, at best, but the possibility of downed poles (and it only takes one) requires that we must think safety above all else. I would like to see the entire city undergrounded with reservations on who pays. My neighborhood, amongst others, is already undergrounded at our cost. I feel we’ve paid and shouldn’t pay for everyone else who hasn’t stepped up to the plate.  Costs should be meted out by neighborhood property assessments.

Kathleen Jepson-Bernier

Laguna Beach


Is it just me?

Is it just me that thinks the City has favored the commercial property interests over the resident homeowners?

Is it just me that thinks closing Park Avenue is a bad idea? The Police say the traffic count was low, so no damage done. However, the traffic count was low because that street is used primarily by locals. It’s our relief valve, traffic wise. The City says the new park can be used to allow bar patrons to “sober up” and have allowed it to be open until 2:30 a.m. What a slippery slope. My recollection is that recently the police chief found that allowing the bars to remain open later created a uniformity. That’s great! Bars open longer means more drunks later, but no worry, go to our park to sober up. Thanks.

Is it just me that is disturbed by the fact an “anonymous donor” provided $10,000 to improve the new park? That park is a city street. That is the citizens property. Who gave the money and what’s their agenda? Why is the city accepting anonymous money? The last time we saw anonymous donations was when there was a ballot referendum to allow a marijuana shop in the city. The voters spoke up and shut that down.  Furthermore, if we are now into closing streets, I live on a cul-de-sac and I’m sure my neighbors would “donate” monies to close our street off to outside traffic.

Is it just me that cannot understand why the city is proposing to spend $7,000,000 on a village entrance and another $30,000,000 for a parking garage? We need more tourists and day trippers? I think most residents would say no. The commercial interests would be the only ones to benefit. 

Is it just me that thinks the city should be looking at the big picture issues such as 1) the movie theater has been closed for years; 2) Hotel Laguna is about to close down; and 3) Irvine Company will soon build something like 1,100 apartments at the intersection of 133 and the 405?  

Is it just me that feels the city, which has a massive budget, is wasting our monies on closing useful streets, grand entrances, garages and so much other nonsense it’s hard to keep up? I think the city needs to stop wasting our resources and use the massive tax flow for the benefit of the residents.

Is it just me that feels that a city of this caliber should have a first-rate family recreation center including indoor basketball, fitness center, rooms for yoga, Pilates, spinning etc? The city can find real estate and funds for expensive items that generally benefit the commercial interests. Why can’t those funds be applied for the benefit of the residents instead?

If it’s not just me, I suggest the residents speak up and let their concerns and wishes for the use of their tax dollars known.

James Bridy

Laguna Beach


Historical Preservation Ordinance: CEQA’s role is misunderstood

Please attend the Council meeting, Dec. 16 [at] 9 a.m.  The Planning Commission ordinance revisions expand the definition of an “historical resource” under the CEQA law. Hundreds of homes Laguna will become subject to time consuming historical reviews at your expense.

CEQA grants each city the legal right to enact, or not, an historical preservation (HP) ordinance, in their sole discretion. There are over 500 cities in CA. The CA Office of HP reports less than 100 cities have HP ordinances. Ron Parsons, State Historian told me “there is no legal requirement that a city have a registration program or an inventory”.  Over 400 cities have opted not to have a HP law. 

The proposed revisions build on the flawed 1981 survey. Using the drive-by opinion of a paid consultant the list is now about 1018 and each is “recoded”. This list includes some of 298 homes now on the old “registry”. This means over 720 homes will be “un-registered” but designated a HR against your will. It gets worse. All homes over 70 years old will be treated as HR’s. In time, thousands of homes will become subject to costly historical reviews. You will be “presumed guilty” and forced to defend your home at your expense. All based on an arbitrary consultant’s opinion.  Dozens complained about this at the PC meetings, but some commissioners said Sorry, CEQA is making us do this!”  Not true.

The ordinance requires registrants to sign an undefined “agreement”. The actual agreement (not on-line) co

mmits all current and future owners to accept control of your home by the City ... forever! It appears Laguna may be the only city with this onerous agreement. It denies due process, excludes the   right to terminate, and forces you to accept change of law risk. It conflicts violently with the 10 year Mills Act contract.

The City Council should reject the revised ordinance, suspend it, and instruct the staff to design a new ordinance which respects homeowner rights and immunizes owners from unwanted CEQA controls. All registrations should be strictly voluntary. There is no need for expensive inventories or surveys. Mills Act contracts should be the only incentive. Stop the practice of forcing a homeowner on a perpetual registry before they can apply for Mills Act. Other cities don’t have this disincentive.

Other cities have preservation society charities (Laguna has none) which has proven that the historical character can be preserved by voluntary actions and residents who love our history. Design Review has done a good job of protecting each of us from a neighbor who wants to “mansionize”, block iconic views, or disrupt the historical pattern of development. Other than a voluntary registration/Mills Act program, we don’t need this complicated, unfair, over reaching “revised” ordinance. 

Doug Cortez

Laguna Beach


Setting the record straight: Robert Elster, Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council Vice-chair, clarifies his views on undergrounding

This is in reference to Barbara Diamond’s December 8th article on the Laguna Beach City Council Meeting of December 5th. While I was quoted twice in the article, some sort of an honorable recognition I suppose, in part I was misquoted and would like to set the record straight. I am firmly in support of undergrounding of utilities within the city, particularly along major evacuation routes from the city.

In paragraph eight of the article, Ms. Diamond incorrectly grouped me with Judy Mancuso in claiming that the proposed survey would be “be spun to get the response the council wanted…”  While this was Ms. Mancuso’s assertion, it was not mine.  My comment was that the proposed survey of 500 residents seemed to be an inordinately small number, roughly two percent of the Laguna Beach population, and suggested that the survey size be increased.  

I did suggest that the survey, particularly of a larger population, would also be an opportunity to personally ensure that the residents surveyed were fully informed, before they responded, of the proposed General Obligation bond purpose, the proposed Community Facilities District, and the financial impact to each of the surveyed residents of both the GO and the CFD.  That’s not spinning the survey.

In paragraph 10, I was also quoted regarding the danger of telephone poles and lines falling in an earthquake and blocking egress routes for residents.  While true that I did mention earthquakes, the major point of my comments was that overhead utility lines and poles are threats in more ways than just starting fires, and are more common occurrences. For instance, downing of poles and electrical lines due to traffic accidents can block streets and impede first responder access to accidents, as well as disrupting commercial and residential traffic; this can happen, and has, on both major arteries / evacuation routes and on feeder streets in Laguna Beach neighborhoods.  Replacement of damaged poles and overhead power lines can further disrupt traffic.

Robert E. Elster

Vice-Chair, Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council

Laguna Beach


Don’t forget Sandy Hook

As we approach Dec. 14, the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I want to remind everyone to keep the memories of the 20 youngsters and six adults who were gunned down alive. I can’t begin to understand what the families of the innocents who died that terrible morning must still be feeling; nonetheless, I want them to know there hardly is a day that goes by that I don’t think about their loved ones.  Maybe it’s because I have three children or that I taught preschool at Anneliese’s in 1974-75.  No matter the reason, my hope is one day Congress will do the right thing and pass effective, responsible gun safety laws. Only then will the families and I feel a sense of closure to one of the most horrific events in modern American history. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Morass of above ground utilities is the single biggest threat to our public safety

The City Council at its recent meeting voted unanimously to advance the measures to bury overhead power lines in Laguna Beach. I applaud this decision, and urge the whole community to do so. We all should support this important effort for the compelling reason that the morass of above ground utilities is the single biggest threat to our public safety.

Laguna Canyon Road, our other critical ingress/egress roads as well as over 60 percent of our residential neighborhoods continue to have above ground archaic and dangerous power lines and transformers. This is totally unacceptable and should concern us all for many reasons.

The fact is that above ground power lines and transformers throughout our City present an imminent risk of catastrophic fire - whether triggered by winds, other weather conditions, earthquakes, malfunction or other causes. Recall the devastating 1993 Laguna fire and the recent Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa which was caused by above ground electric wires. These fires ravished the communities, destroying thousands of homes (including my sister-in-law’s), even into areas where utilities are already underground. And beyond fires, downed power lines and poles, from whatever the cause, present significant safety risks including electrocution from live wires and blocking access for people evacuating and first responders arriving in the face of a catastrophic event, as well as overhead wire radiation and the risk of collusion to motor vehicles.

Undergrounding also carries significant benefits including (1) City beautification, (2) increased property values, (3) improved pedestrian circulation by removal of obstructing poles in the middle of sidewalks which particularly hinder access for the disabled, (4) undergrounding provides the opportunity to cost effectively add high speed internet fiber (and needed competition to the Cox Cable high-speed internet monopoly).

There are some “naysayers” who advance arguments which I do not find persuasive in the face of the extreme life safety risks. One is that undergrounding is too costly, but those costs pale in comparison to the losses from a fire or other catastrophic event, not only monetary but the human toll in injury or death, and the destruction of our homes, possessions and memories. Another is that the risk from above ground utilities is overblown, but just ask our Fire and Police Departments, or any of the thousands of people who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire and many others that have been cause by overhead wires. 

And another is that people who have already paid to underground utilities in their neighborhoods will have to pay twice, but the Council has made clear that will not occur. Only those areas not yet undergrounded will pay for that work. The whole community will only pay for undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road and the other critical ingress and egress routes which benefit us all.

The recent winds and fires bring home the point - the time to underground is NOW.

Tom Gibbs

Laguna Beach

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