LCAD traffic disruptions and safety concerns

Currently the traffic light at LCAD is set to go off immediately when someone pushes the button to cross the street. The traffic lights glow amber, then solid red and then flashing red, and traffic stops. Once the signal starts flashing red, motorists are able to proceed if the crosswalk is clear. Confusing instructions for the drivers are posted, but few proceed when red lights flash.  Most people stay stopped until no lights are visible. Understandably, most people do not feel comfortable driving through a cross walk when red lights are flashing.

The light should be regulated to stop traffic less frequently - like once every five minutes. It is not unreasonable to expect an LCAD student to wait to cross the street like any other pedestrian at any other stoplight in Laguna. This isn’t a radical concept. This will mean significantly less traffic disruptions on Laguna Canyon Road and our pedestrians will be safe.

The good news is that we have a candidate for city council, Verna Rollinger, who is willing to work with Caltrans on this issue. In fact, she has a demonstrated record of success working with various agencies within and outside of Laguna Beach. Verna has stated that she will work with Caltrans to help try to improve this difficult traffic issue.

Gary LeFebvre

Laguna Beach


Senator Moorlach is costing us dearly

My name is Dr. Ari Grayson and I am running to represent the 37th State Senate District because I know that the challenges California faces require thoughtful solutions.  I am a scientist and an educator specializing in architectural engineering and psychology.  I know that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is good for our environment, our health, our economy - and it creates good jobs.  A true leader sees connections and opportunities in challenges.  Unfortunately, incumbent senator John Moorlach seems incapable of making important connections.

Moorlach attacked SB 32, a bill that requires California reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Moorlach dismissed greenhouse gas emissions saying, “the state’s global impact is next to nothing.”  Moorlach fails to understand that the greenhouse gases produced in California affect the health of our communities before they spread around the world.

Rather than addressing the serious issue of greenhouse gas reduction, Moorlach turned to attacking the pensions of teachers, police, and firefighters.  Moorlach told the OC Register that pensions contributed to State and local budget woes.  But “Moorlach was dead wrong and he knew it.”  The real problem was an economic slowdown. Moorlach is also wrong when he proclaims that dealing with greenhouse gases will hurt our economy.

Here is the reality:

California wins when California leads:  California should invest in and lead the world in the manufacture and the use of green technologies.  We should be the Silicon Valley of green technologies.

Green technology will strengthen our economy:  Green technology presents an opportunity for innovation and creation of new businesses and will create the good paying jobs we need to keep our economy strong.

Smog and pollution: Smog once plagued Southern California, but our air quality is improving.  We need to work to ensure we always have clean air, sanitary water, and safe food.

Global climate change threatens our communities:  Sea levels are rising and even modest storms cause flooding on Balboa Island in Newport Beach.  Within a generation many of California’s beaches will be eroded and gone.  The cost of relocating homes, businesses, and the infrastructure could easily be tens of billions of dollars.

Moorlach lacks the vision of a leader.  A leader knows what they’re costing us is as important as what you’re saving us.  

We simply can’t afford Moorlach; he’s costing us too dearly.

Dr. Ari Grayson

Laguna Beach


Rights of Laguna property owners slashed by new proposed ordinance

Let Laguna Live!

Gene D’Isabella, a retired Laguna Beach firefighter, stepped to the podium in the Council Chambers in a final effort to protect his property rights. Gene moved to Laguna Beach in 1956, bought a modest home and worked hard to pay it off on a fireman’s salary. He drives the old fire truck every year in the Founders’ Day Parade, and drives Santa into town on Hospitality Night. Now, his rights as a homeowner were under attack by the very community he served with distinction for so long. 

A man who spent his career protecting others was now being forced to defend his property rights from an assault led by a small but vocal group seeking to declare his private home an “historic resource” and freeze it in time. Gene stood tall and, with a firm voice, once again explained to deaf ears that ownership of his home is his family legacy. He simply wanted to enjoy the same rights of life, liberty and property guaranteed by the United States Constitution. He wanted his kids to be able to inherit his property and to modify it as their personal needs would reasonably require. In Gene’s mind, this is what owning property is all about. This is why he worked so hard as a fireman ~ for himself and for his family. 

The seed of Gene’s problem germinated about three and a half decades ago. Between

July 15, 1980 and July 15, 1981, an “historian” drove around Laguna and photographed approximately 850 homes, assigning them an “E”, “K” or “C” rating. Gene thinks his home was rated a “C” – no elaborate structure in and of itself but, according to the anonymous historian who never spoke with Gene, the home vaguely “contributed” to the neighborhood. At the time, Gene was not alarmed. After all, the City General Plan clearly stated that the City’s preservation effort was to be strictly voluntary (Historic Resources Element – Laguna Beach General Plan [Introduction, Page 2]). If homeowners were so inclined, and Gene was not, they could apply to have their homes included on the City’s Historic Register. Successful Historic Register applicants could share in a variety of incentives, including reduced permit fees, relaxed setback restrictions, and even property tax reductions, but they were required to enter into a written contract with the State agreeing to maintain their homes in accordance with strict federal preservation rules established by the Secretary of the Interior.

The City’s current preservation ordinance makes reference to two different lists:

List 1, the Historic “Register,” requires an application and an evidentiary showing by the applicant at a public hearing that the home meets one of four specific historic criteria. The home also must maintain its “historic integrity,” which means that it looks about the same as it did when its defining features gained their importance.

List 2, the Historic “Inventory,” is the product of the above described drive-by photo safari in the early 1980’s in which homes were classified without input from the property owners. Involuntary inclusion on the Inventory entitled the homeowner to nothing in the way of benefits. If an owner no longer wanted to have his or her home included on the Register, they could make application to get off of the list. The only stated limitation to exit the list was that any incentive received had to be repaid to the government. Paradoxically, there was no way off of the Inventory. 

Over time, something changed in the way the City treated homes on the Inventory. Someone persuaded City staff that all of these privately owned homes should be quietly reclassified by the City and treated as “historic resources.” That’s right: they were no longer homes that belonged to the homeowner. They would now be resources controlled by so-called preservationists refusing to acknowledge the architectural tastes or housing needs of the owner. This shift, impacting about 500 Laguna Beach homes, was the biggest dollar-for-dollar land grab in the history of the City. 

And it all occurred without a single homeowner receiving one word of notice. The City provided no opportunity or forum to these property owners to defend their property rights. Concerns about inclusion on the Inventory were raised from time to time by some homeowners. For about 20 years, concerned homeowners were regularly assured that it was not a big deal to be on the Inventory — it was just a quaint artifact from the 1980’s. Historic preservation, after all, was strictly voluntary. 

To the detriment of these property owners, the City started applying new rules to these homes, gutting homeowners’ rights in the process. The action was based on a misinterpretation of the California Public Resources Code and the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) that the Inventory gave rise to a presumption that the property was historic.

Please don’t fall asleep on me here, because you need to understand this next part if you own or want to buy property in Laguna Beach. Public Resources Code Section 21084.1 states that if a home is included on a state or a local “Register” (voluntary), or a valid Inventory (involuntary), CEQA creates a presumption that the home is an historic public resource. Any modification of that home that causes a “substantial adverse change” in the resource may have a significant effect on the environment. 

According to the statute, the presumption may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. As applied by the City, if your home is on the Register or the Inventory, your remodel options are limited to those set forth by the Secretary of the Interior. The determination as to whether or not your proposed remodel could be approved would now be made by the Heritage Committee. Comment at the Heritage Committee is not limited to people within 300 feet, like a Design Review hearing. But suddenly your application could be opposed by any hair-on-fire fanatic with a “preservation” bent. This was okay as far as the homes on the Register are concerned, because that is the deal those homeowners made with the City and the State. Register homeowners receive incentives from public funds in exchange for heightened regulatory control over future changes to their property. 

The Register premise did not hold true for Inventory homes. These property owners never made a contract with anybody. They were included on a list over which they had no control. But, according to the City, the Inventory homes had exactly the same burdens as the Register homes. But they had none of the rights. 

Unfair? Illegal? A taking? You’re darned right! 

But there was no way off of the Inventory list. Inventory homeowners are stuck in process hell. Not only are their remodel efforts subject to Design Review where neighbors within 300 feet could object, but these Inventory families are first required to go to the Heritage Committee, where every “special interest” citizen and/or preservationist in town can organize and oppose their project. In a cruel irony, the better care they took of their property, the more it retained its “integrity” and the more resistance there was to change. 

If you are unlucky enough to have been subjectively included on the Inventory in 1981, you are forced into an additional Heritage Committee review where your remodel dreams would be sent to the bottom of the design sea, weighed down by the anvil of the Secretary of the Interior standards as interpreted by seven lay people on the Heritage Committee.

 

Remodel proposals for Inventory homes are routinely rejected by the City because proposals do not conform to the Secretary of the Interior standards for the “treatment” of “historic resources.” Those lucky enough to get past the Planning application desk will then be shuttled off to the Heritage Committee. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on these applications and extra Planning hearings by the Heritage Committee. And, still, the owners of homes listed on the Inventory have been and are deprived of an opportunity to be heard regarding whether or not the home is historic before they are muscled into the Heritage Committee process. Homes on the Inventory are conclusively presumed by the City to be historic resources. 

Requirements placed on the City’s Zoning staff caused them to require Inventory properties to be assessed by an architectural historian, at the homeowner’s expense. This historic assessment routinely costs between $7,000 and $15,000. If the owner’s selected architectural historian determines that the home lacks “historicity” because it has been changed over time, the Heritage Committee and City can routinely force the homeowner to pay thousands of dollars more for the City’s selected historian to “peer review” the original report for which the owner had already paid thousands of dollars. An owner of an Inventory home can be into the process for $30,000 to $50,000 just to resolve the “historicity” piece of the process. 

More absurd, if the City-required peer review concurs with the owner’s finding that the property is not historic, the Heritage Committee has been known to reject both the owner and the peer review reports and simply deems the property historic. On at least one occasion, a member of the Zoning staff actually provided input into the peer review document, rendering the peer review report worthless or at least unreliable.  

What makes this sting all the more is that five years after its creation, the Inventory was never legally valid to create a presumption of historicity at all, because it was never maintained according to requirements of Public Resources Code Section 5024.1(g). This fact was acknowledged by the City Attorney on September 30, 2015. 

Dreams have been dashed and thousands of dollars have been spent by homeowners forced to follow a process that was not properly required by the law. Homeowners, like retired fireman Gene and other seniors just like him, have been deprived of the right to do routine window, door and siding repair without first complying with the Secretary of the Interior standards. An application that should have been granted over-the-counter required an historic assessment because of the Inventory, and a mistaken process requirement by the City’s Zoning staff. 

And so we arrive at fireman Gene’s heroic last stand. While many of us were focused on the aftermath of Presidential election debates, Gene was trying to salvage his property rights before the Heritage Committee, which was putting the finishing touches on a proposed revision to the “Historic Preservation Ordinance” that makes the old Inventory look like child’s play. 

As proposed, the new law will immediately impact the rights of an estimated 4,000 of the 10,000 residential properties in Laguna Beach, because if you own a home that was built in or before 1955, you are subject to the Secretary of the Interior standards when you sell or “alter” your home, unless determined not to be “historic.” This may require a professional historical assessment. Like people on the flawed Inventory, you no longer live in a home. You live in an “historic resource.” You have to disclose that fact when you sell your house, and so does your real estate agent.

And what’s worse is, you are doomed to the preferences of the person who built your house before 1955, even if the original designer had no architectural taste at all. Most of us are drawn to Laguna Beach because it is a community that supports creativity and individual expression. However, if the Heritage Committee has its way, going forward you will be subjected not only to Design Review, but also to an historic assessment. And owners will be severely limited to what they can do with their homes. 

Forget about expressing your tastes through your own architectural style, which a majority of the Heritage Committee thinks is okay. One member observed that homeowners would still be free to express their individual tastes on the inside of their homes. Anything on the outside is no longer yours; it now belongs to the Heritage Committee. 

As heavy-handed as these events sound, if you attended the hearings you would have heard one Heritage Committee member arguing for greater ability to “capture” more properties and bring them under her jurisdiction. Another member advocated that homes over 45 years old would be automatically included. Under his standards, by 2061 every home in Laguna Beach would be historic. Icing on the cake of this process is that four of the seven members of the Heritage Committee defied the direction of the City Attorney and voted to include in their proposed ordinance the properties identified in the invalid inventory as “C” structures. 

Even the City historian, who has a very low threshold, opined that these homes were not historic but were just old. In their zeal, Heritage Committee members Rick Gold, Ann Frank, Linda Morganlander and Regina Hartley ignored the opinion of the historian, the direction of the City Attorney and the input of the public, and sought to drag in as many homes as possible. They broke ranks with their more rational colleagues, Clark Collins, Mike Boone and Debbie Lewis, and produced the proposed ordinance demanded by the small and vocal group.

This is not intended to be an indictment of the Heritage Committee, or of any appointed Committee or Board. The work that they do is difficult, and they are dedicated and well intentioned. Still, I heartily disagree with the end product. The hearing process, in which the public testimony was ordinarily limited to two minutes per speaker, ignored property ownership rights. Special and dominating voice was given to groups who want to control what property owners are allowed to do with their own homes. Committee member Morganlander admitted that she has a “focus group” with which she meets outside of the public hearings. This just seems wrong!

If this proposed ordinance goes unchecked, it will add an additional burden to already bewildering property development standards. The ordinance will petrify Laguna Beach. Any change to the exterior of the home will need to comply with the Secretary of the Interior standards. The Heritage Committee also contemplates the formulation of its own “Style Guide” that will dictate what homeowners do. 

Respectfully but honestly, this seems nuts!

Most people in town, including me, enthusiastically support the concept of equitable preservation of views and privacy. Our Design Review ordinance is supposed to take care of that, and it does. The point is that Design Review is already expressly charged with ensuring that proposed designs are consistent with the pattern of development and the mass and scale of the neighborhood. If this proposed ordinance passes, it won’t be the owners or the neighbors who decide the architecture, even if the the owner and the neighbors all hate the existing structure and want it to be remodeled. Small, organized opposition will show up at the Heritage Committee to argue that the taste of some person who owned the house in 1955 should trump the taste and needs of the property owner. The house will be stuck in time like DNA in amber. There will be less and less fresh architecture: no new ideas, just old houses.

 

Our Historic Ordinance should do one thing and one thing only: Preserve properties that are actually “historic,” not just “old.” As stated in the General Plan, this should be a voluntary process laden with incentives and supported by a contract. It should not be compulsory.

Historicity should be established through a nominating and hearing process as described in the Laguna Beach Municipal Code and the Public Resources Code. If a house is not on the Register, it is not historic. Revisions to old houses will continue to be handled through Design Review, which will allow appropriate remodeling and updating of old homes that may no longer meet the needs of the owners. New windows, door, facades and floor plans, and even the size of the home may be freely revised in accordance with Design Review standards. 

That works. Neighbors get a say, and so does the homeowner. The decision is not left to a long-dead, original designer and the Secretary of the Interior in Washington D.C., or a Heritage Committee Style Manual. 

Restrictions are cumulative and can be devastating. For example, the Downtown is as dark as a dungeon at night. It does not look all that welcoming. Every year at Hospitality Night, people ask why we can’t have more light in the Downtown. It is because we have chosen darkness. The colors are fading into a common, drab, neutral, boring palate. Storefronts are vacant and brick and mortar retail is struggling to survive. Much of this is directly attributable to our regulatory schemes that creep into our Municipal Code over time. And the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance is a doozy. 

Again, this article is not intended as a criticism, in any way, of the diligent people appointed to serve on committees or discretionary boards who are charged with the obligation to carry out the applicable laws. Rather, this is an observation that Laguna Beach’s regulatory scheme is oppressive, regressive, and out of hand. If this proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance passes, the overall regulatory scheme will become much more burdensome. “Old” and “dilapidated” will be the new “historic.” The oldest art form, architecture, will be dead.

So while many of us focus on the aftermath of the Federal election debates, our rights are getting gashed right under our noses by our own local government. To people like fireman Gene, sometimes it is not the big and bureaucratic federal government that impacts your freedom; it is the small and local City government that needs to be watched. 

As observed by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine:

“The myth of localism is rooted deep in our political psyche. Left and right alike use small and local as terms of approbation, big and bureaucratic as terms of abuse. None of us is equipped to see that the government that actually oppresses us is that which is closest to us.”

City Council and Planning Commissioners: Please reject this proposed Ordinance. Brighten and lighten things up a little! For the sake of current homeowners and for the generations to come . . . 

LET LAGUNA LIVE!

Laurence P. Nokes

Laguna Beach


Trumping Trump

Psychologists across this great nation say Donald Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder characterized by making it clear he knows everything. He insists on being the exception to the rule. He projects an image of superiority, makes a great first impression but quickly wears out his welcome. He boosts his ego by implying others are inferior, assuming everyone adores him and putting his own feelings ahead of other people’s needs. 

Could we elect a mentally ill president?

U.S. psychologists like Harvard’s professor Howard Gardner says Donald Trump is a textbook narcissistic person. Clinical psychologist George Simon told Vanity Fair that Trump’s “lies are so classic, that I am researching video clips to use in workshops.”

Trump’s shortage of empathy can be seen clearly in his stances on immigration, Muslims, women, etc. 

Would he act on behalf of the people or would he be a dictator? 

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Trump or Clinton in November?

Will it be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? I’m hearing this question being asked from one end of town to the other now.

Generally speaking, voters care about two issues in a national election:  First, which presidential candidate has the best economic plan for our future; and second, which of the two candidates will keep America safest.

If you believe the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and several other financial publications, consumer confidence today is at its highest level since 2007 (which marked the beginning of the great recession).  If, as Donald Trump claims, a Hillary Clinton presidency will be tantamount to a third Barack Obama term in office, then bring it on.  Building on the president’s record of success, my hope is Hillary can extend the record job growth and stock market climb, as well as reduce America’s debt and unemployment rate.

As for keeping America safe, it’s pretty clear which candidate former high ranking military, state department and homeland security officials support.  When you add in the fact that none of the five living presidents, from Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush to Obama, endorse candidate Trump, I’d say this truly is a vital piece of the safety puzzle voters need to consider when picking the next commander in chief.

As a student of politics for decades and a sixty-something father of three, I have voted in every presidential election since 1972.  That said, I never have seen an election year like this one.  With approximately six weeks still to go in this cycle, I’m bracing for several “October surprises.”  And why not?  

Hasn’t this campaign season been one giant surprise after another?

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Vote for Verna

Do you want a city council person who is more responsive to Laguna residents or to visitors?  If you answer residents, your choice for city council should be Verna Rollinger.  Council members, Steve Dicterow and Bob Whalen persisted in supporting the building of a visitor-serving parking garage at the Village Entrance at a cost of $65 million despite public opposition.  It took establishing a public movement, the Let Laguna Vote campaign, to cause Dicterow and Whalen to finally scrap the plan to build the garage.  Verna Rollinger was a part of the opposition from the beginning and a leader in Let Laguna Vote.

Another example of insensitivity to residents’ concerns is when Whalen and Dicterow went against City Staff and Planning Commission’s proposed ordinance to prohibit short- term lodging in residential neighborhoods. The community expected the council to adopt the ordinance as recommended but Whalen and Dicterow formed a sub-committee to find a way to allow some short-term lodging in our neighborhoods. Another grass-roots campaign was required before Dicterow and Whalen relented and adopted the Planning Commission ordinance.

If the incumbents had a better ear for resident concerns, the community wouldn’t need to expend such efforts to campaign against their unpopular ideas.

For these reasons and more, I urge you to vote for Verna.

Darrylin Girvin

Laguna Beach


An advocate for McGraw

An advocate for the incumbent city treasurer stated that we shouldn’t tinker with an operation that is functioning well.  Does he really believe that the voters of Laguna Beach shouldn’t review the scope of work of an elected position that has not been challenged in 17 years?  The city of Laguna Beach finance department and independent auditors have also ensured that our city has met state and municipal guidelines during rising and falling interest rates.  The primary goal of municipal investments is capital preservation.  The treasurer has achieved a little more than 1% return.  The incumbent sought a full-time position in February 2016 and it was rejected.  The council voted 4-5 to keep the hours at 25. In May 2016, she set an agenda item to hire an assistant Deputy Treasurer for over 35K per year and it was completely ignored.   

In his letter, the incumbent’s chief fundraiser also misquoted Ms. McGraw.  It is reprehensible that a part-time, elected official has created a bureaucracy that now costs our city as much as that of a full-time police officer or firefighter.  Anne McGraw is a well-qualified candidate and is endorsed by four council members, former city council members and community leaders. She is prepared and qualified to do the job at a much lower cost to Laguna Beach.  If we all recall, Susan Morris, our former City Treasurer was not a CPA. The voters of Laguna Beach are educated and financially literate.   Let’s discuss the real issues.

Safa Hodges, Esq.

Laguna Beach


Disappointing parking meter problems in North Laguna

At the beginning of the year I received a parking ticket at a meter located near the Urth Caffe on Aster Street. The ticket was written at 9:27 in the morning and it was cited as a street sweeping violation. All the cars, at least five or six, on the same side also had a ticket on their windshield. After parking my car I was sure the car was close to the curb and within the white guidelines and about three dollars in quarters were fed into meter. 

After receiving the ticket time was taken to find signage notifying people about the street sweeping day and time. The sign was there seven feet above ground and buried among cables supporting a utility pole and bushes at least five feet across a sidewalk from the curb. I felt the signage was inadequate and street sweeper did not belong in that area at that time of day with shops and restaurants open for business. 

A letter was sent to the police department and directed to the citations department. Several months went by and there was never a response. A visit was made to the police department and questions were asked about my earlier letter. The response was they had many issues about the meters in this particular location and that City Hall needed to be contacted. My original letter to the police department was evidently not forwarded to the proper City agency but I was told to contact the Public Works department.

At least four or five different City contacts were forwarded to me one at a time. One even put me to the assistant City Manager who yet sent me on to another City agency. I truly doubt if any city employee even investigated this location. The City did reimburse me the cost of my $43 ticket. 

This one half block of Aster Street off N. Coast Hwy has parking meters on both sides. The City treats this section as if it were part of the residential street that is being swept. It is not. One could easily suspect that this unfair ticketing has been going on for years. 

A suggestion was made to have those particular meters tagged for easy view to alert those parking there about the street sweeping day and time. As of this writing this unfair ticketing continues and no changes have occurred. 

Very disappointing indeed. 

Jim Gothard

Laguna Beach


Reelect Laura Parisi

As a Chief Financial Officer for 30 years, I was always of the conviction that you don’t tinker with an operation that is functioning well. 

In the case of the City Treasurer Laura Parisi, the incumbent has done a superior job of maintaining the risk, liquidity, and yield of Laguna Beach’s investment portfolio over the past 17 years. She accomplished this following the state’s and city’s investment guidelines, and, more importantly, in a financial environment that ranged from rising to falling interest rates.

Ms. Parisi’s opponent has indicated that her background is as an independent bookkeeper, accountant, and bank operations manager. As a CFO, it is my experience that, as valuable as those skills are, they are not the same as required to be a Treasurer for a municipality. 

One further issue for me is the opponent’s claim that the Treasurer’s office has expanded and the opponent can reduce the department’s cost by $100K. Based on the budget and actual cost data that I was able to obtain at the city’s website, the department has been spending between $150K-$160K for the past few years. As a financial executive, I would find it to be extraordinarily difficult to reduce those expenditures by $100K or about 65%.

For these reasons I would encourage you to reelect Laura Parisi as our City Treasurer.

Richard M. Holder

Laguna Beach


Why a liberal Democrat is going to vote for Howard Hills for School Board

If someone had asked me yesterday “are you going to vote for Howard Hills for School Board”? I would have responded absolutely not. Having lived in town for 40 years, I knew of Howard Hills as a lifetime Republican; vaguely someone that had worked as a lawyer/ international negotiator in government in the era of the Bush Administration, not my favorite time in American history.

Yesterday, I was helping my daughter move into a new home on Tyrol Drive. Howard Hills walked up the drive, handed my daughter a “Hills For School Board” flyer and briefly explained to her why he was running for the position; he began to leave as I walked up and ascertained who he was. Knowing him as a devout local Republican, I jokingly said “Howard wait a minute, I know you’re a big Republican, I’ll make you a deal, I’ll vote for you if you don’t vote for Trump”. He immediately responded, “You have a deal”. At first I thought he was joking. However, he emphatically followed-up saying “the country can’t afford to have that guy as President, he scares me and he scares every Republican I know that has worked in government, people who understand how much damage he could do”. 

Wow, not the response I expected but happy to hear.

After we spoke about “Trump”, I asked him about the School Board, why he wants to be on it and specifically what his thoughts were regarding the “baseball field” e.g. the inherent danger of someone being seriously hurt by the fly balls that continue to sail over the fence into St. Ann’s Drive. He said that “in general the School Board is insulate and non-responsive to the community concerns and that if elected he hoped to establish a more community responsive approach”. 

A “community responsive School Board” is something I personally think is needed. Two years ago I attended a School Board public meeting about the baseball field; although promises were made to address the danger issue and also the removal of the newly planted Eucalyptus trees that will grow to 80 feet tall and ultimately block local resident’s views, nothing has happened except for some street signs that alert pedestrians that they’re in a fly ball zone. Evidently the School Board doesn’t care about resident’s views and they seem to think that if someone is struck by a fly ball those signs will shield them from a horrendous lawsuit. Just isn’t so folks, not only will the School Board get into an unnecessary law suit, the city will find themselves involved as well. 

It’s called “Murphy’s Law”. I was not surprised that Howard was of the same opinion, in fact he told me, “as a lawyer, I can say it’s a big liability issue for both the School Board and the city, one that could cost the taxpayers millions in damages not to mention the potential loss of life or damage to an unsuspecting person who happens to be on St. Ann’s at the wrong time.” We concluded our discussion I wished Howard well and told him he had my vote and thought to myself how I was wrong in assuming that all Republicans are Trump idiots.

Norm Marshall

Laguna Beach


No on Measure KK

Of the 16,000 voters in Laguna Beach, I’ll bet that less than 1% have actually been to a “Medical Marijuana Dispensary” in the surrounding vicinity.  And why might that be?  Because at the present time you have to have a Medical Marijuana Card for access, and only a holder of the card is allowed into these very secure shops that are protected by armed guards.

As a cancer patient, I was advised to get a card (I did) and try some of the remedies offered to reduce pain.  These cards are good for only a year and cost $100 from an issuing doctor.  The doctor may have been enjoying a mild high himself, but he did give me some interesting info about CBD (non-hallucinogenic) and THC (hallucinogenic).  The CBD is an oil extracted by commercial-grade equipment from marijuana plants, whereas THC is the hallucinogenic plant ground up into edibles, smoked, or vaped.

These pot shops are all around Laguna Beach in commercial areas, where they belong.  When you drive up, there is an armed guard in the parking lot. The inside entry is a bulletproof area for the receptionist, who checks your license and ID, and only the licensee can enter through a double door system for both the entry and exit, where you are greeted by another armed guard.  The staff inside appear to be pot users themselves, who can direct you to the products, which are pricey and somewhat of a crap shoot to try, since there is no control over the concentrations that are claimed for the edibles.   

I doubt that these young pot users have even sampled the edibles, which are intended primarily for medicinal, rather than recreational, use.  Payment is, of course, all cash.

The mixtures in the edibles vary from 100% CBD to mixes of CBD and THC with varying concentrations.  I found the edible concentrations varied within the products, so that one bite might be all CBD and another might be all THC.  Seems like kitchen-made products with little or no quality control.  Did they help my pain? Not really!

There are plenty of industrial areas outside the City for these shops, and we don’t need visitors coming to town to buy pot and get high if our state law changes and legalizes marijuana, thereby eliminating the need for a license.  Greed is driving this Measure, and passing it will bring more stress to Laguna Beach residents, our limited police and fire resources, which are provided at our cost.

I would urge you to think carefully about these issues and Vote NO on Laguna Beach MeasureKK.

Victor Opincar

Laguna Beach


We need Rollinger and Mancuso

I am voting for Verna Rollinger and Judie Mancuso for Laguna Beach City Council because we desperately need enlightened leaders. 

Mayor Steve Dicterow’s latest scheme to have OCTA busestransport visitors from the freeway to our bus terminal was a bust and I believe it cost $80,000 of your tax dollars. Dicterow’s latest statement “I don’t think people have a right to live in Laguna” reflects his skewed thinking process. 

Early on Dicterow wanted to build a skateboard park in Moulton Meadow’s park but forgot to askArch Beach Heights residents what they thought about it. Dicterow said the food at the Susi Q senior lunch was inedible, but no one had ever seen him at senior lunch. He voted to cut down trees downtown and said we needed more cops downtown until he went on a ride along with our cops and realized our cops are stretched thin as it is. 

He voted to build a huge 500-car garage at the city entrance and sat by while city department heads and other city employees got bigger and biggersalaries and pensions. He had the unbrilliant [sic] idea of painting our cop cars black and white. 

Bob Whalen and Dicterow sit by while the micro managing city manager causes an on going brain drain at city hall as a endless list of transit managers, department heads and other employees leave. They satby as a police chief from out of town was hired rather than promoting one of our cops to the position of chief who knows and respects our town and it’s history. They watched and did nothing as the bagel place onOcean Avenue tried to move 40 feet west in the same building and was harassed by the city for a year. They were never consulted when the city manager suddenly decided to strip the only park downtown of it’s public benches--the pepper tree and original playhouse park across from the Zinc and this was a destination point for downtown folk who wanted a cool place to sit. 

Whalen and Dicterow did nothing to encourage Smart and Final and/or Stater Bros to bid for the Albertson’s store and have offered no leadership to reach out to theLGBT travelers to continue to come as they have for decades to our internationally listed “gay” beach, West St and spend their travel dollars at our hotels, art galleries, shops and restaurants. 

We need Rollinger and Mancuso and we need to ask our micro managing city manager to retire and live comfortably on his $225,000 + annual pension. 

Now is the time for a change.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Art death-spiral reality at The Laguna Playhouse

Last Saturday, The Laguna Alliance for the Arts threw a candidate forum about the Arts in Laguna Beach at the Laguna Playhouse at 9:30 a.m. (an ungodly time for most artists and candidates).

This event was a real live play of everything that is wrong with the arts today in a city that still relies on its past and the hearsay of elders that Laguna Beach is still artistically relevant. Just because organizations believe that they do great work and politicians feel they did their due diligence with supporting them does not mean it is so. 

I must say beforehand that what I encountered was all in good faith, I work with governments, art organizations and artists but most seem blind. This forum had little to do about art and all about the working relationship between the City and art organizations.  

It appeared to me that the questions comprised by the 21 local arts where in the similar vein. The question of how many arts organizations the candidates support and belong to, made everyone cringe. As if one enjoys or understands the arts means one has to belong to an art organization. Does belonging to PETA proves that someone understands and loves animals? In my experience, people of arts organizations know about how to run a company but actually know the least about the function of the Arts or understanding artists and the creative process. The fact that the host built up her last question with the non-sequitur topic of nudity in art, just confirmed this disconnect from what is important.

What was not mentioned was that this City has only a handful of about 80 galleries that are doing okay. The rest is [a] month-to-month struggle for survival because people’s behaviors has changed and fewer and fewer buy art. Even though the recently signed Master Plan has forty plus sub-goals, it did not even consider galleries. Nor did the plan consider a digital strategy in a time where the only reliable connection to everyone is the smart phone.

Contrary to what the ruling parties say, working artists rather want to get paid instead of being treated like a charity case. Most artists want to express themselves and that is the priority of an artist’s process of conception, creation and exposure. Artists do not mind to drive into the City as long as have a venue to perform. If Laguna provides housing and Santa Ana has venues, artists will live here but perform outside our town. 

You keep artists if you keep creating opportunities to express themselves, not because you house them. The affordable housing is an illusion that serves only political means to make the city look like it cares. The average house in Laguna Beach is about $1.7 million, so, no more discussions about low income housing. Let it go.

Open Laguna Beach to international artists, because artists from all over the world are already side by side on the web. Allowing all artists to expose their art does not increase competitions but inspiration to expand an artist’s creative achievement. Artists that need to rely on being locally protected or shielded from other creatives have lost their way a long time ago.

No one mentioned Laguna’s music scene. Music has become more dominant in audience engagement than all the other arts without arts organizations and government. What did it? The passion of individuals like Nick Hernandez, Rick Conkey, Clay Berryhill, Beth Wood, and Mozambique restaurant are continuously having to reinvent the wheel with little to no support. To introduce new artists and keep the arts conversation going, Laguna’s radio station KX 93.5 with Jason Feddy and Tyler Russell McCusker built an important support community for musicians.

Bottom line, this event was a confirmation that the politicians are happy with the work that arts organizations deliver and want to keep continuing on this very muzzled path that will eat away the leftover of artistic relics that this city image still possesses. Veiled from the truth, this incestuous co-dependent way of co-existence only guarantees peace and the justification of doing art, instead of creating new opportunities for artists to express themselves. For example, repurposing the festival grounds. Even if it would only be for 8 months of the year to give up some power to artists and real creatives to express themselves without an organizations or commissions creative approval. Instead, allow creativity to grow organically with the help of artist’s leaders. Allowing the freedom to expose an artist’s expression is how you create a fertile ground for creative innovation.  

Think about all the private funds and government support for the Arts in the US, and still, 95% of working artists live around the poverty level. What holds this death-spiral of the Arts in place is that artists love what they are doing so much that they would do it for free. Everyone knows this and the fact that if an artist wants more money there are 10 in line that would do the job for the offered sum. Because of this, musicians get the same amount per gig in restaurants and venues to perform in our City since 1990.

My question is, similar to that for charities: What is the percentage per donated dollar that goes to the creative individual without whom there would be no art? Do you want to live in a future Laguna Beach that engages audiences with creativity and wonder next to its beauty, or do you want to keep pretending Laguna is an art town with lukewarm inspiration that loses out in its artistic attraction to the mobile phone.

The Alliance for the Arts refused to hand out its original questions to the press and individuals like they were details of a defense contract. Now that is powerlessness when done in the name of the Arts. If Laguna wants art that is alive, it needs to let go of its delusion of being an art-relevant city and the control that keeps this lie in place.

Michaell Magrutsche

Laguna Beach


Enough with the smoke screen

As election season nears, some will try to claim credit for the work of many.  Supporters of the incumbent city treasurer are perpetuating a myth that our elected, part-time treasurer is solely responsible for investing our city’s $100 million! A part-time, elected official?

Municipalities are restricted by law to very narrow investment choices for these funds; the finance department and the city’s financial consultants must be howling with laughter at these claims.

Earlier this year, the 17 year, unopposed incumbent proposed to the city council that her position be made fulltime. In addition, she claims that for the past 10 years she has actively sought a position that required her to “volunteer” hundreds of hours of overtime.  At staff’s recommendation, the city council voted 4-1 to limit the city treasurer position to part-time hours to try to rein in the excessive hours being billed to the city for banking and accounting services.  

Anne McGraw has run her own bookkeeping business with large, local clients providing the same services for over 14 years. Prior to that she had a 18 years of banking operations experience.  McGraw has students in our school district and I’ve personally worked with her on fundraising campaigns for education. She is honest, straight forward and a team player.

If the incumbent thinks she’s been “volunteering” her time without pay for 10 years, we should question her judgment or motivations. Enough with the smoke screen!

Julia Kelly

Laguna Beach


Alta Vista streets

The City of Laguna Beach and the City’s Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee and the neighborhoods will be conducting a meeting on Monday, Sept 12 at 6 p.m. at the Susi Q Community center to discuss a “proposed pilot program” for streets off of Alta Vista Way.  

If implemented, several other neighborhoods, especially the older neighborhoods in Laguna Beach, may have more restrictive parking or no parking in the future. Many of these older neighborhoods have older homes with only a one-car garage or no garage. And, many of these streets and neighborhoods were developed 70 plus years ago by City of LB engineers and were only partially paved, not paved at all and/or have steep topography difficult for access.  

Now, the committee has determined that these streets they developed are too narrow for Emergency vehicles and the parked cars. They propose to restrict parking on one or both sides of most of the streets in the areas.  The emergencies vehicles have been servicing these streets for the past 70+ years and spend no more than 4 hours per year on some of these streets, if that.  

We have been told that it means “no parking”, no parking for any vehicle at any time, including moving trucks, delivery trucks, etc. For example, for North Queda Way, it is proposed to have “no parking” on the whole street except the home at the end, no moving trucks, no delivery trucks; that is unreasonable. On these streets, the property values for older “historic” and non “historic” homes without a garage will decrease by 80%-90% and home values will decline on the other streets due to highly restrictive parking.  

Maybe the City should consider widening the streets to accommodate their trucks and the needs of the neighborhoods.  

If we, our friends, our gardeners, or our worker can’t park on our street, sorry, but we will be parking on your street which, most likely, has little parking to spare.  Keep in mind, that the majority, if not all, of the people implementing this proposal will not be affected and have more than adequate parking.  

Please attend the meeting to work on a solution that works for the property tax payers/ property owners, it may impact your neighborhood in the future.

Mary Ann Loehr

Laguna Beach


Build multiuse paths for pedestrians and bikes

Multiuse paths serve an alternative to the automobile roadway for connecting Laguna’s outlying communities with downtown. 

South Laguna, Canyon Acres, Sun Valley, and North Laguna neighborhoods would benefit from multi-use paths for pedestrians and recreational bikes.  

Every pedestrian or recreational bike rider removes a roadway car and frees-up one parking space for those of us who must drive. That is the strategy behind a Complete Streets serving a modality of roadway users. Lets test the concept; re-purpose the existing pathway from Canyon Acres to the Village Entrance as a multi-use path. 

Some Council members oppose multi-use paths citing inevitable collisions between riders and pedestrians because recreational bikes are misunderstood. Equipped with fat-tires they travel much slower that the Spandex variety and handlebar bells offer a pleasant warning on approach. Council members should recognize recreational bikes will serve day-trippers from Laguna neighborhoods with an alternative to the automobile and help relieve traffic congestion.

Build it and they will come.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Our city government is a “…dark ages mess”

Historically speaking, I don’t know if Native Americans who lived in or near Laguna Beach smoked “weed.” Certainly some of the early 1900 bohemians did and as we should all know for a fact, hundreds did and still do starting with the hippie-love culture of the 1960’s to this day. One Orange County dispensary recently reported they have over 700 Laguna Beach clients. 

I urge every Lagunatic to vote in November and vote Yes on proposition 164, the statewide recreational marijuana proposition. 

We will wait for the local voters in relation to local dispensaries but we should be able to call and order “pot” delivered to our front door. A dozen people have asked me why we didn’t choose a new police chief from our department. Chief Farinella is a technocrat from the Long Beach police department who goes by the book, apparently doesn’t care of or know about our marijuana history and scares people with statements regarding pot delivery like -- “I am fearful of dispensaries at someone’s door step.”

Liquor is one of the most addictive, dangerous drugs in the world and yet we have more than fifty restaurants and stores where it is sold. 

People who have a medical marijuana card have had to pay and show medical records to get a card and they must renew it every year. 

Councilperson Robert Zur Schmiede and other city council members, and the police chief make these people sound like criminals. 

Marijuana is not a class A drug, no matter what the federal government says. A recent federal court ordered the DEA to stop harassing people who live in “pot states.” Pot is not a gateway drug. Marijuana is not comparable to the dangerous drug liquor is. 

It’s time for new progressive people to come forward and run for city council. People who believe in pensions and medical plans for city employees, including part-time year-round bus drivers, but take a hard look at huge city hall salaries and pensions, like the $241,000 a year our former city manager is paid. 

Our city government has become an elite, autocratic, dark ages mess -- telling our citizens what to do and not do. 

Laguna Beach needs new progressive leadership now. 

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


We need to be cognizant about candidates

Last Monday, I attended a Laguna Beach Candidate’s forum hosted by Village Laguna at the City Council Chambers.  For the first time in 17 years, our current City Treasurer, Ms. Laura Parisi, is being opposed in her re-election by Ms. Anne McGraw.

While competition and debate for political offices should always be encouraged, we need to be cognizant about who is investing the $100 million for Laguna Beach.

Ms. Parisi has demonstrated a consistently high investment return on our money while arguing for internal controls.  On the other hand, Ms. McGraw has not shown experience in managing Laguna Beaches’ large investment dollars.  With her 3-minute speech all she really did was attempt to attack Ms. Parisi.

This is what a candidate does who really does not have the experience or education to be our City Treasurer.   Ms. McGraw commented that we don’t need a Treasurer who is a CPA.  Well, Ms. McGraw, if you look around at the cities you mentioned, several are in financial and legal trouble because they did not have experienced or educated personnel as their city treasurer.

As stated, I will always encourage debate in politics.  However, I want my $100 million to be managed and invested by a proven and educated person (Ms. Parisi).

Jeffrey A. Miller

Laguna Beach


“…bad behaviors must stop…”

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to the City Council

While observing the council meeting last night, August 30, I noticed that two of the councilmembers talked back to the person at the podium.   Both times was because the speaker was Judie Mancuso who is running for City Council.   This response only makes the council look like they are worried about a council contender also, the strong response makes council members look unprofessional and like bullies.  That is not how I want to see my city council!  This is a form of bullying and it has to stop!  We need our council to be good listeners and not reactive to opposing thoughts or opinions.  

You who spoke out of turn have lost my vote!

Thanks to Kelly Boyd’s view ordinance professional Landscape Contractors now must deal with a hostile environment to do business in this town.  Several times while working in client’s gardens groups of neighbors have accosted my employees.  Example: they were moving existing “Dwarf Pigmy Date Palms” (plants were 3-4 feet tall) to a more appropriate location.  A group of neighbors came running down the street and were all yelling and waving a copy of the ordinance, saying we couldn’t plant these palms, they are not on the list.  

Because these people were so rude and mob like, we pulled all the plants and my crews because nobody deserves to be attacked for doing their job.  After encouraging the homeowner to hear the neighbor’s concerns new acceptable plant material was installed.  However, my company and employees were treated like criminals and will never forget that.  Had the neighbors introduced themselves to the new homeowners like respectable people do, they would have been able to voice their concerns then and there with a minimum of drama and ill feelings. 

These kinds of bad behaviors must stop!  What has happened to the Moral Compass of the world? People removing Political Signs from other people’s yards must stop.   It’s an attack on the First Amendment.   All parties are acting like spoiled children and big bullies.  

I look to the City Council to model appropriate behavior.  Your actions will go a long way towards improving neighbors’ relations and kinder commination, be the example not part of the problem. 

Liza Interlandi Stewart

Laguna Beach


Equal rights start in schools

I agree with a local mom’s observations about mainstream media’s stingy coverage of women in the Olympics.  In contrast, local media gave us inspiring coverage of our town’s very own Fischer sisters, leaders on the U.S. women’s water polo team in Rio.

As a dad and grandpa helping raise seven girls, I know there is nothing subtle about bias that can limit young women in full realization of their God-given gifts and creative potential.  Our public schools play a vital role in empowerment of girls at any early age to know they are second to none in pursuit of their own dreams and destiny.

As with other personal freedom and moral responsibility issues, students in Laguna Beach schools often have been ahead of our town, country, state and nation.  As early as 1969 Homecoming was democratized by student initiative to promote equality and true not token diversity.  In 1970 students broke the gender barrier at LBHS by affirmatively recruiting and electing the first female Student Body President.  A student government communications director ensured local media featured the milestone event (at lbstudentsfirst.com click “photos/growing/up/Laguna”).

Fast forward to 2002 when local students joined the cause led by my wife and daughters to raise $10,000 for Sima Wali, the heroic woman who defied Taliban rule in Afghanistan forbidding education of girls (at lbstudentsfirst.com click “photos/personal-family”).  Risking prison or death she ran underground schools where girls could learn to read and open the gates of knowledge, and our students became part of her noble cause.

Student driven civic empowerment through student government at LBHS has been allowed to wane.  Recent adult orchestrated “focus group” exercises fall far short of meaningful democratic student civics.  Our School Board does not even comply with its own bylaws enabling a student government representative to participate in Board deliberations and cast advisory votes.

Ten years ago I called for revival of more robust student government at LBHS under a new student ratified constitution.  We advocated student driven youth civics to bring students out of gadget dependent social isolation into face-to-face interconnectivity and a more vibrant campus life.  Collaborative computer based learning is vital but no substitute for on and off campus civic empowerment giving all students new leadership options, exemplified by the LBHS student recently appointed to the board of the community food bank.

We are selling our kids short by making community service too often a chore just to punch a ticket for graduation.   Local media reported California Department of Education Healthy Kids Survey findings of increased substance abuse at LBHS and “anguish” due to social disconnection.  An appropriately calibrated Grade 5 through Grade 12 student government program will help reverse negative socialization, create healthy social encounter, and give all students a new ladder to leadership.

Early development of American civics based on equal rights and responsibilities for all leads to good citizenship. It all begins in our schools.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach


Fond memories from Friday’s Laguna Beach Looking Back photo

Click on photo for a larger image

 

The Laguna Beach Post – Circa mid 1950s

Katy Weld (seated) and husband, John (to her left) held community gatherings long before StuNewsLaguna – and much more often!

 

I loved seeing the picture in today’s StuNews, from the holdings of the LB Historical Society, of the staff of the LB Post in the early 1950s.  

The distinguished looking man in the dark turtleneck is my father Glen Ingles, then the editor. Seated on the ground is a pressman, Gene Bergmann. 

The woman in the back row is Roberta Taylor. On the other side of the pillar is Skip Fickling, whose widow Gloria is still in town.

As an indication of our family’s history with journalism, my daughter Karen, a reporter with the AP in NYC, has this picture hanging on a wall in her apartment!

Glenna Matthews

Laguna Beach


Raise your glass for Joe…

Every day about 2 p.m., a dapper little guy named Joe would stop by the benches where we all sit at Main Beach and join our conversation for the day. Joe was always a welcome addition to the group with a smile and a distinctive high-pitched voice. We called him “Andy Capp” or “Dapper Joe”. He walked with a walking stick sometimes and always wore a cap and a bright pink or other loud colored pants.

At 78, Joe was more seasoned in life than the rest of us.  He worked in corporate real estate and then drove a limousine part time after he retired from real estate.  He would always be willing to help with a question about finances or just life in general.  He spoke about traveling and he loved to take cruises when he could.

Joe would walk three times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening from his small-refurbished garage apartment in North Laguna, where he lived for 24 years, to downtown Laguna.  Afternoons, he would go to the library and catch up on the news and read the papers.

Joe would stop and talk with many others along his route on the boardwalk and I’m sure had the same pleasant effect on all those he came in contact with. He never spoke much about his personal life.  He once told me that he didn’t have a great relationship with his kids and I could tell he wished that it was better.

One of my friends had mentioned that he hadn’t seen Joe in a week or so and I agreed with him and wondered where Joe had been.  Maybe he took one of his cruises to Tahiti.

One day while sitting at the beach we witnessed a police chase and a woman hitting 11 vehicles and she tried to escape from the police.  It was the talk of the town and we all were amazed by it.  There was also a small article in the paper about an elderly man who took his life in Heisler Park early Sunday morning.  Little did we know that the elderly man was our friend, Joe.

We were shocked to hear about it.  The paper said that he left a note and we all wondered what would make this dapper, spry little guy take his own life.  There was news that he was going to have to leave his garage apartment of 24 years due to some illegal housing code.  I would hate to think that this would trigger him doing such a thing.  There were many people that knew him that would have easily found a place for him if he had reached out to us.

I wonder how many people are asking the same question that we asked: “Have you seen Joe lately?” Whatever it was that troubled Joe, he is at peace now and in a good place.  

We will all miss his dapper little walk, his cheery voice, his smile and the loud clothes he used to wear.  The article in the paper said that no services had been scheduled for him and I thought, what a shame.  We all are thinking of him down at the benches at Main Beach and will always have him in our thoughts.  He will be missed by many. 

The next time you’re out with your friends having a drink, raise your glass for Joe and send him your best wishes.

Dennis Rooney

Laguna Beach

 

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