Inside Design Review

Leslie LeBon, AIA


Design Review: To Go or Not to Go – That is the Question

I recently gave a tour of my newly renovated home to a neighbor; and she asked how long Design Review (DR) took because she is contemplating remodeling her own home. When I told her I didn’t have to go through DR, she looked at me like I was from another planet. Like many people in our town, she thought everything must undergo DR. Not so—here’s how the DR gate basically swings.

Development Exceptions (Zoning Code Section 25.05.040(B)(2)) include:

• Interior alterations (except to historic structures)

• Repainting

• Re-roofing with similar material (the key word is “similar”!)

• Window and door replacements

• Minor landscaping changes

• Patios on grade and decks less than three feet above grade

• Fences that comply with the zoning regulations (except chain link or wire mesh)

• Anything that is the opposite of the list below (i.e. additions less than 50%) but only if it   doesn’t have any other elements subject to DR.

My house avoided DR because it was primarily interior remodeling and exterior repair. But while the Exception list is relatively small, the mandatory DR list is as long as the average DR hearings of late. In particular, development subject to DR (Zoning Code Section 25.05.040(B)(1)) includes but is not limited to:

• Any new structure

• Additions that are 50% or more of the original gross floor area

• Additions that exceed 10% of the original gross floor area of an existing legal nonconforming structure

• Alterations or additions to a structure on the historic registry

• Additions that create a new upper story

• Additions that exceed a height of 15 feet above the adjacent ground elevation

• Modifications to previously approved design review plans including landscape plans

• Anything that requires a Variance or Revocable Encroachment permit

• Any instance where a coastal development permit is required to be issued by the city

• Any improvement in environmentally sensitive areas and on lots with a slope greater than 30%

• Grading in excess of 20 cubic yards (with exceptions)

• Swimming pools and permanent spas and associated equipment.

And with a list like this, it’s no surprise most people prefer avoiding the DR gavel and tailoring their projects accordingly – some by legally conforming and others by going unpermitted. In fact, some people estimate that up to 50% of all construction happening around town could be unpermitted. It’s not that people can’t afford to get permits; it’s that they are simply afraid of what they may be required to do – or be prohibited from doing.

Let’s be clear here: evading the City Building Department is not the answer. Even if you have a good contractor, most will only work with permits; and if you are caught (and many are), you will face fines at a minimum or worse, be required to remove the structure if it doesn’t meet DR approval.

That said, I have seen unpermitted finished construction get red tagged by the City and later get DR approval if the project met the DR criteria. On the other hand, I have also seen unpermitted and red tagged, finished structures that didn’t meet DR criteria be denied for approval – resulting in a very costly removal of the structure.

Some people think the City should have stiff penalty fees for unpermitted construction and make the owner tear it out before applying to the DR for a permit. This not only is a waste of resources and very disruptive to neighborhoods, it will scare people away from trying to bring an inherited illegal structure into conformity.

To reduce the fear and bring more projects to the City, perhaps the Zoning codes need to be revisited. For example, does a Revocable Encroachment Permit for an existing small planter really have to go through a full DR hearing or could it be better handled administratively? Does the Zoning department or the DR Board really need to spend hours carefully scrutinizing every little non-conforming issue when the majority of homes in Laguna are non-conforming? And given that new air conditioners are a lot quieter than the older models, are they really a DR issue? These are but a few examples that are ripe for reform.

More broadly, with time comes change and our Zoning codes need to be flexible and change with time. While our city staff doesn’t have the time to revisit codes every couple of years, they will change things if the majority of the citizens in our city deem it necessary.

Proud that we make open space a priority

I’m wondering what all the hoopla is about the open space initiative.

Seems to me that we all live here because we have the need to be submersed and surrounded in beauty.

I am relieved, and proud, that we find preserving open space a priority.  Let’s continue to be the example. It makes sense on so many levels.

Meghan E. Kelly

Laguna Beach

Eschew the flip flops – drive with bare feet

On September 13, as many of us do every day, I was driving in flip-flop sandals.

I was in the process of leaving the Whole Foods parking lot to turn onto Ocean Avenue, and after waiting for an opening in traffic, I began to pull out of the driveway.  As I switched my right foot from the brake to the gas pedal, the flip flop on my right foot wedged behind the brake and twisted.

When I tried to dislodge the sandal, the top portion of the sandal applied full-throttle pressure to the accelerator, shooting my car across Ocean Avenue and into a parked car.  The impact created a deafening and frightening sound, deployed the air bags and jammed me into my seat.

Within minutes, I was being assisted by police, fire and paramedic personnel, and then taken to Mission South Coast Hospital, where I was also well cared for.

It is difficult for me to consider what could have happened if my car had struck a sidewalk full of pedestrians rather than a parked car.

I share this terrifying personal experience to caution others of the dangers of driving in flip flop sandals.  The potential for danger is not worth the ease and comfort flip flops provide.

Lastly, I received good advice from one of the officers who came to my aid.  He simply stated that when he is wearing flip flops, he slips them off before driving, adding, “it is not against the law to drive bare-footed.”

Carl Post

Laguna Beach


Billie Louise (Crowley) Sumners

Billie Louise (Crowley) Sumners, a 40 year resident of Laguna Beach, died July 23, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. She was 94.

She was born Dec 10, 1916 in Post, Texas to Dell and Lou Ella (Gantt) Crowley.

Billie’s early life consisted of humorous tricks played on her seven brothers and sisters; lots of singing and activities at church, [which did not include a forbidden attendance at a dance for which her father had to make a public apology.]

Following her marriage to Jewel Sumners in 1935, their honeymoon in Laguna Beach led then to make their home here. Their family life was blessed with the birth of son Warren and frequent visits from members of their extended families.

Here, next to the Pacific Ocean, with the scent of salt air instead of Texas dust, her love of life, sense of humor and concern for education led to positions as a member of the Laguna Beach Unified District School Board and as the long time secretary at her beloved Aliso Elementary School.  It was often said, by the principal and the staff, “Billie ran the school.”  A plaque with her name and date of retirement, 1974, was placed on the wall of honor at the District office.

Billie was also organized the first supervised all night party for the graduates of the LBHS Class of 1955.

Summer months were spent at their cabin on the Navajo River at the Crowley Ranch in Chromo, Colorado.  Surrounded by her Crowley, Shahan, and Eaklor cousins, roundups, picnics, and grand adventures were the order of the day under the Continental Divide.

In 1975, the Sumners moved to Tempe, Arizona where Billie‘s activities included golf and bridge.  Her University Methodist Church friends provided companionship and comfort until her death.

Billie was predeceased by her husband, Jewel; son, Warren; stepson, Happy; and seven brothers and sisters, Grady, Lonnie, and Jim Crowley, Odessa Hutto, LuDell Morgan, Mildred Collins, Maurine Stephenson.

She is survived by: grandchildren Steven Sumners (Shannon) of Port St. Lucie, FL; Kathryn Maguire (Jason) of Chesapeake, VA; great grandsons, Evan and Mitchell Maguire; and daughter-in-law Rose Sumners; as well as: many cousins and friends who will never forget her warm generosity, friendship and great sense of humor.

A memorial service will be held at the University United Methodist Church in Tempe AZ at 2 p.m. on Friday, September 30, 2011.

Stimulus spending for public works

Re:  Tibor Machan’s Op-Ed on “Stimulus-driven public works:  Projects multiply beyond apparent need, just to spend the money”, OC Register 9/21/11

Ed. Note: The Op-Ed in question can be read at the link below:





Mr. Machan blindly adopts a flawed premise and then bloviates for nearly 20 column-inches about how stimulus funds are wasted on unneeded public works projects without sound rationale.  Then there’s this gem:  “Unless one has roads with gaping potholes that just no longer can accommodate traffic, the time to spend funds on upgrades and fixes turns out to be arbitrary”.  He rants that Keynesian politicians, searching for stimulus targets, should not be making public works decisions; engineers should.

Well, Mr. Machan, the engineers have weighed in heavily on this.  They are making the recommendations for aggressive public spending on America’s infrastructure.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives America’s infrastructure a “D” on its infrastructure report card – a “D” for deteriorating water and sewer systems, roads, bridges, dams, and public buildings.

ASCE estimates deferred maintenance on America’s infrastructure to be $2.2 trillion and climbing.  And this vital investment, necessary just to keep us from backtracking into developing nation status, only keeps us running in place.  It doesn’t even address the funds needed for new 21st century infrastructure such as universal broadband, smart-grid power systems, high-speed rail, and green energy.  South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the BRICs are making the needed infrastructure investments to compete in a global marketplace.  Will America?

Mr. Machan is enamored with the unfettered free market, and, for the most part, so am I.  But (to paraphrase Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts candidate for Senate), he may forget that the publicly funded roads allow private goods to be efficiently moved to market; that workers in private enterprises were educated using public tax dollars; that the safety of private enterprises is guarded by public police and fire forces.

He may have forgotten that the greatest of American achievements were public endeavors, funded by tax dollars – the interstate highway system, the space program and the moon landings, winning the struggle with Fascism and Communism.  The resulting boon, benefits, and spin-offs to private enterprise from these public achievements are invaluable beyond calculation.

Some humility, acknowledgement, and gratitude at the immense value and contributions of the public sector are in order.  The public sector has a vital support role to play so that the efficiency of the private sector can be unleashed to realize its greatest potential.  That is the right combination for a winning nation.  Conversely, a failing infrastructure, unsupported by public funds, is a sure recipe for a future of American mediocrity.

Richard Henrikson, P.E., LEED AP

Principal of an Irvine Engineering Firm

Laguna Beach


Just Say No…

Nancy Hamm

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little invisible and while that’s not entirely possible since I feel like I might be the size of a walrus I am feeling slightly unheard. Maybe it’s because I repeat myself like a broken record to a 4 year old that has no intention of ever answering my questions unless they are along the lines of “Do you want a hamburger/pizza/candy?”

Or perhaps it’s my endless whining of how tired I am and then I’m piled with more things to do. All of this got me wondering how it’s possible to teach my child to assert himself when I haven’t managed to master this skill myself?

It’s not that I never assert myself in fact I’m very good at it when it comes to my immediate family. “Mommy can I have an ice cream for dinner?” NO. “Honey, will you run out and grab a six pack of beer while I watch the game?” Nope. No, nope and not going to happen seem to roll freely off my tongue and I can hold my own but when it comes to other adults in my life it never works out that smoothly and I’m often left feeling pushed into things that I most definitely would rather not do.

That’s exactly what happened this past Saturday at my baby shower when I sat surrounded by gift wrap, boxes and baby paraphernalia. I thought that I had been clear, “Yes, thank you, I’d love a shower. You can do whatever you like but I just don’t want to open gifts in front of people.” The last part I muttered at least five times on the day of the shower but the hostess vetoed my pleas and there I sat. At what point can an adult say to another adult, “Listen to my words, I said NO!”

At the end of the shower my little niece asked if she could open a gift given to my son. Of course but then I thought it best to ask my son first. After all, he hardly seemed to notice the gift in the first place and was now contentedly swinging away on his cousin’s play set. Fabrizio, I shouted, can Juliet open this toy? “I’m swinging.” Yes, I know but can she open this toy?  “No I’m swinging” I began to think that he didn’t quite understand what I was asking him. Yes, I know you’re swinging and you don’t need to stop but can she open this toy? “I understand and I said no!”  At this point I felt the need to do what I’ve told him so many times, listen to his words. No meant no and he had tried to make his point without being harsh but I was the one who just didn’t get it.

Huh, well I guess he doesn’t need anyone teaching him how to assert himself. Maybe I should be taking his lead on this one.


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

Citywide speed limit reduction a good idea

Thank you Don Knapp for being concerned about our public realm (streets). You’re suggesting a citywide speed limit reduction in an effort to facilitate street legal golf carts.

Here is a concept you may love. It’s called 20s Plenty. Take a look at this 4-minute film. http://www.streetfilms.org/no-need-for-speed-20s-plenty-for-us/

There are multiple reasons to have a citywide reduced speed limit; noise, air quality, safety, safer walking and biking, which in turn promotes active healthy life styles. This will encourage locals, youth and adults who chose not drive to shop and do chores; cuts the use of fossil fuels, saves money and of course will facilitate the use golf carts.

Michael Hoag

Laguna Beach

Reply to Michael Hoag

Thanks Michael for your support of a general concept of lowering speeds on Laguna’s streets not solely for the purposes of accommodating  “street legal” golf carts.  I really do not understand why the city would believe that increasing speeds thru semi residential or commercial areas from 25 mph to 30 mph would render them safer.  What does a 5 mph increase really do?  It makes our streets more dangerous not safer because so many of our streets are without sidewalks.

Federal Department of Transportation statistics show that a pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 30 mph is many times over more seriously injured than if struck by a car traveling at 25 mph. Consider that in a posted 30 mph speed zone Laguna motorists are likely to be driving at 35 mph (plus), and that the nature and extent of a pedestrian’s (or bicyclist’s) injuries increase dramatically with each 5 mph speed increase -- at 45 mph and above they are usually fatal.
30 mph speed zones passing through semi-residential commercial neighborhoods don’t make sense. They actually encourage higher speeds by motorists.

Don Knapp

Laguna Beach

Why Laguna needs to legalize “street legal” golf carts

Laguna Beach is an ideally suited community for non-polluting electric vehicles like electric golf carts. The Vehicle Code’s 25 MPH (or less) speed zone use restriction placed on “street legal” golf carts, and some of the city’s 30 MPH speed zones severely restrict their legal use here.

To get downtown, or across town, from most residential neighborhoods in Laguna using a “ street legal” golf cart, you must break the law by either driving in or thru a 30 MPH speed zone (Hillcrest, Cliff Drive, Glenneyre etc.).

You can’t legally use a golf cart to get to our beaches, banks, downtown shops, super markets, and our restaurants and cafes from most residential neighborhoods. In effect, “You can’t get there from here” in a golf cart and this doesn’t make any sense in a town like ours. Why doesn’t the city make “street legal” golf carts legal? It’s simple to do.

Just lower speed limits to 25 MPH from 30 MPH. Create some well defined “corridors” where “street legal” golf carts can be legally and safely driven across our town and into downtown using public roadways.  It is hard to understand why so many streets passing thru mixed residential and commercial areas of our town are posted at 30 MPH anyway. It encourages motorists to go 35MPH and more.

Slow down the traffic.

Make our “alternate route” streets safer for bicyclists and walkers, and legalize the use of “street legal” golf carts in Laguna Beach.

Don Knapp

Laguna Beach

Don’t nix artist live-work in the canyon

We have done enough already to eliminate artists from living and working in Laguna Beach with our very high rents both commercial and residential.

We don’t need to force them out a altogether with a Planning Commission act that would ultimately drive the final nail in the coffin of our creative community.

Don Knapp

Laguna Beach

Sept 11, 2001 and the Patriot Act

On September 11, 1973 my wife and I were in New Delhi, India. While walking over to the American Express Office in Connaught Circus we picked up a copy of the Times of India and read with horror that the military had overthrown the democratically elected government of Chile. The Hindustan Times, another English language newspaper, had on it’s front page a three panel cartoon showing a military plane dropping a bomb on the bold face word “Chile” in the first panel, an explosion in the second panel, and the word “CIA” in the third panel. The insight of that three-panel cartoon in the Hindustan Times that September morning was confirmed years later when the question of “why” was finally answered.

On September 11, 2001 I was stepping out of shower when my wife called out and said a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. My first thought was that this was a repeat of the tragic accident in 1945 when a Mitchell B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building. While watching the World Trade Center tower burning, we were stunned to see another plane crashing into the second tower. Again my first thought was this was pay back for the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile on September 11th all those years before.

Driving to school that morning my wife and I listened intently to National Public Radio as the various announcers and reporters told us “what,” “when,” “how,” “where,” and after repeating that over and over an announcer finally put forward a possible “who.” Despite the fact there was no credible information as to “who” conducted the attacks, NPR was speculating that the attacks were carried out by al Qaeda. On the other hand no one on NPR that morning attempted to speculate on the “why” question.

At school the “why” question was paramount on everyone’s mind. The overwhelming consensus revolved around some vaguely understood connection between the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and Israel and the Palestinians.

Later at home my wife and I watched the news. CBS played a tape of President George W. Bush’s remarks at Emma Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida immediately following the attacks. President Bush said, “Today, we’ve had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country...I have ordered that the full resources of the federal government...conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and to find those folks who committed this act.”  I turned to my wife and said I did not hear the “why” question answered. My wife told me to sit tight because she was certain the “why” question will be answered in due time.
CBS then played another taped message from the President delivered from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana where the President said, “...Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended.”  I again turned to my wife and asked here if she was satisfied with that “why” answer.

Following the Barksdale message CBS News broadcasted an address to the Nation from the Oval Office by President Bush. Bush said in part, “Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts...These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat...America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” The President had elaborated on his Barksdale Air Force Base speech but the answer to the “why” question remained vague and shadowy.

On September 20, 2001, President Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress Following the 9/11 Attacks. The President said, “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom...On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country...a world where freedom itself is under attack...Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda...its goal is remaking the world -- and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere...”

Nine days after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,  President Bush continued his theme that the terrorist attacks were motivated by al-Qaeda’s hatred of American freedoms. But the President added another new layer to the “why” question when he asserted al-Qaeda had a dream of remaking the world in al-Qaeda’s own image. Again I felt let down and more uneasy then ever because the “why” question was being answered too simplistically. There had to be more to these horrendous terrorist attacks than an enigmatic hatred of American freedoms.

I remained bothered by the failure of President Bush and the corporate news media to answer the “why” question in a more profound and penetrating way. Moreover, President Barack Obama’s lack of interest in the “why” question when he became President of the United States was also disconcerting.

I finally resolved to dig deeper myself.

Several years ago I came across an interview with Osama Bin Laden conducted by the PBS show titled Frontline. The Frontline interview was conducted in May 1998 nearly three and a half years before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This is what Bin Laden said, “The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control. These are the reasons behind the singling out of America as a target…They rip us of our wealth and of our resources and of our oil. Our religion is under attack. They kill and murder our brothers. They compromise our honor and our dignity and dare we utter a single word of protest against the injustice, we are called terrorists.”

According to Bin Laden, his hatred for America [wa]s rooted in American foreign policy in the Middle East particularly where 60,000 American troops had been stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia (land of the two Holy Mosques, Mecca and Medina) and the propping up of the Saudi family dictatorship.
Later I discovered a speech given on September 20, 2001 by then former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.S. Government Reform Committee.  Netanyahu said, “A simple rule prevails here: The success of terrorists in one part of the terror network emboldens terr orists throughout the network. This then is the Who. Now for the Why...the main motivation driving the terror network is an anti-Western hostility that seeks to achieve nothing less than a reversal of history...This hatred is the product of a seething resentment that has simmered for centuries in certain parts of the Arab and Islamic world...(the) West (had) penetrated Islamic realms in North Africa, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf...For them the mission was clear: The West had to be first pushed out of these areas. Pro-western Middle Eastern regimes were toppled in rapid succession, including in Iran...Nothing better illustrates this then Osama bin Laden’s call for Jihad against the United States in 1998.

“He gave as his primary reason not Israel, not the Palestinians, not the ‘peace process’, but rather the very presence of the United States ‘occupying the Land of Islam in the holiest of places’ and where is that? ‘The Arabian peninsula’ says Bin Laden, where America is ‘plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, and humiliating its people’. Israel, by the way, comes a distant third...”

Were the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 motivated by al-Qaeda’s deep hatred for American freedoms or was it motivated by American foreign policy in the Middle East?

Which ever “why” answer one finds compelling, there are, nonetheless, two certainties, which have emerged from the terrorist attacks:

First, almost 3,000 innocent people died. The United States Government owes the victims and their families a truthful and definitive reason why they died.

Second, whatever freedoms we may have enjoyed before September 11, 2001, those freedoms have been abridged by the very same government that claimed it wanted to protect our freedoms.

Look no farther then the United States Patriot Act.

T. C. Borelli

Laguna Beach

US Patriot Machine…

For those who regard our new “sculpture” in Heisler Park as patriotic art…

Today is 9/11 and I heard the host of the OC Television Channel say, “Half of all Americans polled cannot tell you what year 9/11 occurred.”

If the poll is accurate, it would appear the US Patriot Machine has missed their mark.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Nancy Hamm PhotoSchool’s back…

Nancy Hamm

School is officially back in session and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. Yes, I spent much of the summer anxiously looking forward to this week and there were days when I’d have gladly dropped my 4 ½ year old off at any willing friend’s house but the sudden change of schools left me feeling less like I was getting a couple hour break and more like I was sending him off to college.

Ok, so that might sound like a bit of an (ok, huge) exaggeration but it’s true. With the near doubling of school hours I had to prepare Fabrizio, my son, to the new fact that he was expected to “have a rest”. After pouring over the school guidelines I saw that they ask for each child to bring their own sheet, blanket and small pillow. My first back to school shopping list, better yet what a great way to get Fabrizio excited not only about his new school but about the idea that he was going to be napping there.

So off to Target we went and boy was this kid excited. I let him have complete say, which is hard for me, especially when he’s grabbing for everything from the movie Cars and all I want to do is vomit. I walked out of the store spending $50 dollars on a Cars sheet, blanket and a Lightening McQueen shaped pillow but he was so proud of himself. I, on the other hand, was having heart palpitations. Somewhere in that aisle I was having a flash forward of about 15 years. In my mind we were no longer picking out naptime bedding for pre-k but we were picking out bedding for his freshman dorm room. All I wanted to do was scoop him up and say “That’s it; you’re never going to school. Let’s go home and have some ice cream.”

From that moment on I began to panic about sending him off to school.

Ridiculous, I know. I had suddenly become that mother that cries when her kids go off to kindergarten, when they have their first word or steps without her. I became one of those moms that I roll my eyes at and internally make fun of. I guess the thing of it is I never had to miss any of those moments. I was always there taking it all for granted. And so, over the last week my anxiety rose to new levels and I began to worry about everything from my husband’s job to the cat. It wasn’t until I dropped Fabrizio off at first day of school that I realized why I had been so worked up.  I wasn’t truly angry with the neighbor parking in front of our walkway (well, maybe a bit). I was worried about Fabrizio, my funny little guy with glasses and bedhead.

My reluctance to leave the playground Monday morning didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for his big adventure. With barely a peck on the cheek and wave goodbye he was off. All smiles and more confident than I’ve ever seen him, he really is a big boy now and I couldn’t be prouder.


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

Laguna needs a new attrition plan for the private automobile

Have you ever sat motionless in Laguna traffic wondering where the guy in front of you is from? You might have thought if he wasn’t driving a car Laguna’s streets would be a little less crowded, or you thought, “He’s one of those 4 million summer visitors.” Well here is a surprise, moving-citation data from LBPD shows the guy in front of you is 94% likely to be from California, 43% likely from Laguna or our closest 5 neighbor cities, and 26% likely to be a Laguna resident. So don’t blame traffic on visiting Oklahoma drivers, the problem is us.

Naturally most people get around Laguna by driving because the alternatives to driving are oh so “inconvenient”. How inconvenient is sitting in traffic motionless? Let me deliver the final clue now; ever consider yourself as part of the problem? If your answer feels like a confession that’s good, press on.

So how did we arrive here today with a transport system that shows it’s inadequacies despite years and years of refinements, paid consultants and parking shuffles? Since the 1950’s Laguna Beach like so many other cities around the nation has experienced an erosion of city infrastructure caused by the automobile. Erosion begins with little bites first: left-turn pockets, one-way streets, bigger intersections, road widening, straightened roads, faster speeds, greater LOS (an engineering term I call Level of Suffering).

Then come the desperate bites swallowed whole: the by-pass road, the expressway, the toll road, more expressways, the mega-transfer lot and the smartcard activated underground robot parking garage (Made in Germany).

Building automobile infrastructure is in direct opposition to what I’ll call “transit infrastructure”, bus lanes, crosswalks, bike-paths, and pedestrian sidewalks. The preponderance for automobiles causes a dynamic effect, the more space provided cars in cities, the greater becomes the need for cars.  Still more space is allocated for them, both when they are moving and when they are idle. Laguna has not been immune to automobile erosion, look at an aerial photograph of the Art Festival grounds and you will be astonished to see 80% of the livable space is paved over for parking spaces and Laguna Canyon Road. The actual Festival Buildings are packed into the remaining 20%.

Irvine development is planning 5000 more homes near the Great Mall. Guess what those folks plan to drive to the beach? Automobile erosion no longer delivers a single means of mobility for us, Laguna needs a new attrition plan for the private automobile and some working alternatives. Complete Street Policy is a solution with a working track record, every person you see walking, biking or busing means one less car on the road and another parking space is free. If you recognize that further automobile erosion is unworkable in Laguna Beach, you are ready to complete the streets.

The Task Force for Complete Streets meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. community center.

Les Miklosy (Chair)
Task Force for Complete Streets

Continue the quiet zone

Tortilla Flats, now Mozambique, was allowed to build a multi-story, multi-dining room, multi-parking area with the possibility of multi-bars years ago, which probably can hold 175+ customers and a staff that can number over 30.

To say it is built in a residential area sounds very political. Coast Hwy is Laguna’s major commercial street. The police will tell you that 80% of crimes take place within two blocks of Coast Hwy.

To rent, build, or buy a residence in the first block east of Coast hwy and not expect parking and noise problems is absurd.

Councilmembers Elizabeth Pearson, Mayor Iseman and Kelly Boyd are correct again when they voted to continue with the effort to quiet the neighborhood as much as possible.

West Hollywood has blocks and blocks of resident only parking; perhaps the city manager should check with them and get more ideas.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Inside Design Review

By Leslie LeBon, AIA


Welcome back to my column, Inside Design Review. To start things off, I decided to review the Pet Houses recently designed by seven local architects (including yours truly), for the annual Pet Parade Charity. These extraordinary pet homes were unveiled at a reception on Aug 19 at the Tivoli Two/Art-A-Fair grounds and are currently available for bidding at http://www.projectpethouse.com. The final auction will be at the Pet Parade on Sept 11.

Even Pet Houses Require Design Review

Pet House Photo

Photos by Faye Chapman

Leslie LeBon and Tom Simpson at the “Cattage”

One would think that simple little houses for cats or dogs might escape design review scrutiny. Not in Laguna Beach! In fact, these homes were reviewed by a temporary Pet House DR board consisting of Mayor Toni Iseman (no stranger to DR), City Manager John Pietig, Laguna Art Museum Director Bolton Colburn and Laguna Board of Realtors President Nancy Pooley.

After careful deliberation and a given set of criteria (Design, Craftsmanship, Functionality, and Creativity/Imagination), the judges awarded “Best of Show” to architect Morris Skenderian and builder Don McKeehan for their contemporary dog house “Project Penthouse 2011.”  Marshall Innins and Ken Fischbeck grabbed Second place for “The Witches House,” and Third Place went to Bauhaus enthusiasts, Kasey Zantos and Donna Ballard, for the “Bow House.”

It’s not a simple task to judge design given its subjectivity and the many external issues involved.  So the question is this: Did this All Star team of design review experts get it right? Given my expertise as an architect and five year Design Review Board member, here’s how I see it:

First, each house gets 5 out of 5 on all of the criteria. They are all unique, clever and well built. That said, some pet houses stand slightly above the others in any given criteria.

My choice for “Best of Show” goes to the Zantos/Ballard “Bow House.” Their house doesn’t look anything like your typical doghouse, yet it is quite functional for small dogs.  It’s use of materials (steel frame with wood louver vents, a green roof with pebbles and a stainless steel planter filled with succulent plants, built-in food dishes and drawers for doggy things, all come together in a compact package. I see this looking quite elegant on someone’s patio. It’s both sculptural and functional at the same time – and the most innovative.

My top score for craftsmanship goes to the Innins/Fischbeck “Witches House.”  Marshall did mention that Ken was about to kill him during the construction of this masterpiece and you can see why. There isn’t a straight roof or wall on the house. It reminds me of the Mickey’s Toon House I once designed for Disney World -- not an easy feat. This house can be used by a large dog or several small dogs. If one were to add carpeted platforms in the voluminous space, it would make a great place for cats too (sans the spray misters).  Due to its height, this house will need a large space and because of the misters, you may want to install it outside. But do keep in mind any potential view corridors, I’m just saying.

The Lasater/Oligino “Come Sit Stay” gets the top score for creativity/imagination. In typical Anders iconoclastic form, he did not design a house but rather a contemporary dog couch, complete with Dalmatian print fabric.  It will surely make any dog happy to have its own couch (no more fur on your human couch); and it, too, will look great on someone’s patio or even in the family room.

Kirk Saunders’ entry for his “Shade Woof” is simple and a good example of fine craftsmanship. Built with the help of his son and wife, it reminds me of a nice piece of furniture.  It’s more of a traditional-shaped doghouse, but its design and use of materials is anything but, with its thoughtful blend of rustic metal and wood. Smaller dogs will be quite comfortable with the louvered wood and corrugated metal walls. This, too, would fit nicely on someone’s patio or porch.

As for the judges’ award for Best of Show, the Skendarian/McKeehan showpiece is a very contemporary house for very sophisticated dogs. Its elegant use of sustainable wood and stainless steel put together in horizontal format and complete with a bubble window tower, would make Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius very proud to know that even a dog will enjoy his legacy. The striped interior dog bed will give any pooch a great place to stretch out.  The size beckons the yard and will look beautiful in a well landscaped area or a large patio.

The Martinez/Carey duo skillfully created a true-to-form Craftsman bungalow, “The Rascal House”. The detail is true Craftsman style all the way down to the fine paint job with its great color palette. Its use of space is divided into an L-shaped split level, and the house interior has wall-to-wall indoor/outdoor carpet to make any size dog quite comfy. This will look stunning in a Craftsman home’s yard, but will also complement any style of house.

The LeBon/Simpson “Cattage” received the “Peoples Choice” award. Outside critiques gave this cat cottage the top score for functionality. The front porch scratching posts, the cat door, the attic “crawl” space, and the weathervane cupola cubbyhole make this a great hang out for any cat(s). It’s also furnished with a cat couch, sleeping pad, and scratching (door) mat. And don’t forget the catnip window boxes that will ensure endless usage. Since many cats stay indoors, it will fit well in a family room or outside on a covered porch.

As this concludes today’s Pet House Design Review, you will have 15 days to appeal to City Council if you want to challenge my decisions. But please be mindful of our Council members use of time when considering your appeal.

You also have 5 days until the online auction ends so get those bids in ASAP! You can place your bids online at http://www.projectpethouse.com. If you miss the online auction, the live auction will be held on Sunday, September 11, 2011, during the 15th Annual Laguna Beach Pet Parade & Chili Cook-Off at Tivoli Too, 777 Laguna Canyon Rd. Doors open at 11:30 a.m.

This is a great way to help our pet community and get a custom-designed pet home - a tremendous value in return.


Portland – less stress – more green thinking

I’ve just returned from a six-week sojourn in Portland, Oregon. Quite a contrast to OC.

I rode a bicycle maybe 100 miles a week on average. There are extensive bike routes all across the city and large numbers of cyclists. The most noticeable thing was the courteousness of the car drivers. They would always give me a wide berth, crossing into the other lane to pass on two-lane roads, and patiently following behind me on blind curves until it was clear to pass. Remarkable, and very different to the behavior of drivers in So Cal.

The transit system is exemplary. There are 80 miles of electric train lines and streetcars, with frequent and free service in the downtown area, and there are ambitious plans for further extensions.  Considering that OC has roughly the same population as the entire state of Oregon, about 3 million, and that Portland’s population is only around 500,000, the complete lack of any kind of electric train or streetcar service in OC is quite shocking.

An entire 4-lane roadway was torn out and replaced with a riverside park and a downtown parking structure was removed and replaced with what is now a well-used public square (Pioneer Square). There are many pleasant tree-shaded public squares in central Portland and many public parks throughout the city.

There are some very large and well-attended street fairs too, particularly the Alberta Street fair. These seem very enlightened city policies that would definitely enhance the quality of life if enacted in OC.

The people were noticeably friendly, with plenty of time to talk. There seems to be less stress up there. Maybe it’s the mild climate and all the greenery. (I should add that it rains all the time, just in case anybody thinks it would be a good idea to move there!)

Charles Alban

Laguna Beach

Laguna’s Art in Public Places is worth seeing

One of my favorite walking destinations is Monument Point in newly re-done Heisler Park and on Sunday, September 11 at 11 a.m. Semper Memento by artist Jo[rg] Dubin will be dedicated. Consisting of two remnant I-beams from the NY City World Trade Center Buildings authorized for use by the NY/NJ Port Authority, the massive metal beams crisscross each other over a brilliant chrome sphere set on a cement base shaped like the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C. The sphere exudes hope and the sculpture, which was given to the city by a donor, is going to add to the ambiance of Monument Point.

Thank God we now have more than 65 pieces of public art, all of which can be viewed on the Laguna Beach City website. Two recent additions include the wonderful whale near the new amphitheatre in Heisler and a great sculpture near the new parking lot in South Laguna. Another favorite is near the Gazebo in Heisler and I call it Coming Out, partly because it has no title. It apparently is made of clay by artist Jerry Rothman and others include one of the first public art pieces, the Boy and His Dog, across from the Cottage Restaurant, which was created by Ruth Peabody in 1933.

The Shopper by Andrew Myers downtown at Ocean and Beach is fun as is Industrial Mount near the southeast corner of the Wells Fargo Bank, by David Brunetta. Four more favorites are the beautiful fish mosaic - Life Force by Dora De Lands - below Montage’s second pool and Voyager by Linda Brunker at the South end of Treasure Island Park and across Coast Hwy at Wesley, something many miss are what I call the rings, standing proudly at the west end of Lang Park and called Music of the Spheres by Nancy Mooslin and in the patio of Lang Park some mosaic walls you won’t believe installed by people in the community under the direction of artist Gerald Basil Stripling in 2004.

The Summer street banners are the “icing on our cake” as far as public art goes in Laguna Beach and I am wondering, what your favorite public art is?

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Chair of City’s task force says City is wrong in dealing with CalTrans

On 26 August 2011, a post on the Laguna Beach City website notified us the intersection at Laguna Canyon Road and El Toro is planned for road widening by CalTrans.  Days later the post reads “repaving” not “widening” but still offers no mention if the project complies with legal mandates for highways under Complete Street Policy  (DD-64 for CalTrans).

Has Laguna City once again allowed CalTrans to shove more traffic down our throats?  Under CalTrans our village is bisected with Pacific Coast Highway, now we wish to tri-sect the city with another four-lane super highway?

What is the end game of this highway strategy? Whose strategy is this? Do we want to increase traffic flows in and out of Laguna Beach? Have we not had enough of traffic? Check with the technical literature and the experts (Shoup, Vanderbuilt, Jacobs) they clearly state examples where increased vehicle capacity is sucked up immediately by latent demand of drivers.

In English that means for any traffic capacity you add to a road, drivers will simply change their driving habit to fill the extra capacity and congest the road.

Widening this road is the wrong solution for traffic congestion in Laguna Beach and it defies Complete Streets Policy. At best this is business as usual for CalTrans. There is a better way to reduce traffic and revitalize business tourism in Laguna Beach.

Discover how.

The task force for Complete Streets Policy meets the second Tuesday of every month at 5 p.m. in the Senior Center.

Les Miklosy (Chair)

Task Force for Complete Streets LB

Bike commuters “in the know” now let all know their preferred route in Laguna

Guests of the Montage Resort and visitors in general often ask for a rental bike to visit our scenic canyon vistas and our beaches. Unfortunately the Montage cannot accommodate their guests with rental bikes, neither can Laguna Cyclery since there are no rental bikes or bike facilities in Laguna Beach.

However visitors and residents alike would be pleased to know there is a safe accommodating but unofficial bike route in Laguna that serves Victoria Beach in the south to Emerald Bay in the north. The route makes it possible to traverse Laguna without the need for a car or parking and satisfies one goal set by the 2030 Vision Plan (find at www.lagunabeachcity.net) published in 2001.

The route was originally proposed by Laguna Beach residents Robert Taylor MD and Mick Donoff and is used regularly by those bike commuters “in the know” rather than driving a car. The route was chosen to (1) improve cycling safety within Laguna Beach; (2) avoid streets dominated by automobiles (PCH, Canyon Road); (3) chooses streets to minimize changes in elevation making the route easy as possible.

The City should recognize and publicize this route by printing the map in local newspapers, linking to the city website, and posting the map in congested public locations like City Hall, Post Office, Wells Fargo, B of A, Farmers Market, Main Beach, and our participating cafe’s and bakeries.

Cycling and pedestrian mobility are components of Complete Streets Policy mandated by state law. Every cyclist you see means one less car and guests to Laguna would be pleased to be accommodated.

Download a map from the writer as a PDF here

Les Miklosy (Chair)
Complete Streets Task Force LB

Hydraulic fracturing may be ruining our groundwater supply

An essential element of a viable Democracy is that its citizens be accurately informed, and that, once informed, they actively participate in the process of decision-making.  I fully believe that when the people of this nation have the information they need, they will make good choices.

Many are concerned that the process of Hydraulic Fracturing to obtain natural gas from deep within the earth’s surface may be a threat to the purity and availability of our water supply.  The question is, should the present method to obtain natural gas be allowed to continue until good information is available to permit the public to make a good choice?

What do we know at this time? We know that natural gas is a much cleaner alternative than coal or oil. We know that the supply of gas available in our nation represents the amount of potential energy equal to the remaining supply of oil in Saudi Arabia’s reserves. The largest deposit is in the Marcellus Shale in our eastern states.  Other large shale deposits are being explored in Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana, in the Four Corner area, and yes, in California. That is the good news.

We also know that a single well uses two million gallons of water a day.  About half that water, loaded with chemicals used in the fracking process, comes to the surface.  Municipal purification plants can’t deal with that much contaminated water, so it is stored in plastic-lined containers.  Some of that water leaks back into the earth.  It has been documented that those living near those wells are no longer able to use their customary water supply - sometimes the water coming from their faucets can actually be ignited.  That is the bad news.

What do we not know?  We don’t have enough information at this time about how much damage is being done to our water supply.  How much of the contamination is going into our streams?  The Environmental Protection Agency is making a study, and is supposed to make a preliminary report next year.   We don’t even know what chemicals are being used in the process.

AB 591 which would require drilling companies to disclose what chemicals they use is being considered in California, but pressure from energy companies will prevail to kill it unless there is enough public pressure to counteract their influence.  If our water supply is affected, will it cure itself if the drilling stops, or is it permanent?

As precious as energy is to us, it pales to the importance of a viable water supply, which is a basic necessity.

The question remains, should Hydraulic Fracturing be allowed to continue until a clean method of drilling is developed?  Should it be stopped until we have assurances that our water supply remains unaffected?

Let your elected representatives know if you think they should take action on this.

Jean Raun

Laguna Beach


Hamm PhotoBrown Bagging…Pre K

Nancy Hamm

It’s amazing how easy it is to deceive the mind into taking a mental vacation. The last couple of weeks in France have been a fantastic release to the stresses of the last few months. Now that it’s time to bid au revoir to summer break and bon jour to the new school year I’m extremely grateful to myself for having taken that time.

I’m especially grateful since the transition into pre-k is turning out to be a stressful one.  When you’ve got a child with additional needs you tend to walk into “typical” situations on eggshells, just waiting for the judgment to begin (I know it’s a horrible way to think but when talking to my friends with “special needs” kids [a phrase that completely offends me] it’s not an uncommon one).

That’s what the last year at Fabrizio’s preschool was like. Even though they tout themselves as full-inclusion, a term that means that they are not only open to taking kids with extra needs but equipped for it, it was obvious that the teachers weren’t up for the task. Often the kids with needs that required a bit more direction were ignored, labeled trouble or discretely asked to leave.

All of this was infuriating and even though Fabrizio was well loved by his teachers and his classmates it was clear from the beginning that they didn’t know how to deal with him. So now that we’re just weeks away from the beginning of a pivotal year some hard decisions needed to be made. Is it more important for a child to stay somewhere that he likes and keep his friends or go somewhere that will better prepare him for life in a “typical” classroom? The answer is easy but it’s hard to get myself to make the phone call.

There are a lot of things that I loved about the school last year – the staff, parents and campus but that’s mainly superficial. At the other school the teachers are superior in every sense but the campus and its location aren’t nearly as appealing. How shallow, right? I know but just because it has a brown bag exterior doesn’t mean that it isn’t Bloomingdales quality and that is something that I have to keep reminding myself.


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

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