Undergrounding is proactive risk management

Undergrounding the utility poles is an excellent way to reduce risk of fires and protect our city. As a city, we have very real challenges as a result of our surrounding 16,000 acres of open space.  Undergrounding is proactive risk management.  

There were numerous vocal and entrenched activists who fought very hard against the construction of a five million gallon buried reservoir in Alta Laguna park just before the 1993 fire. It got built afterwards.  

Julia Kelly

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding is a cosmetic issue, not a safety issue

A recent article [in Stu News Laguna] spoke authoritatively about the value of undergrounding power line and poles. It interesting the resurrected issue should emphasize a specious public safety issue.

Years ago, the same issue was in vogue. Then as now, neighborhoods were encouraged to vote with those neighborhoods in agreement burying their utilities. Then the average cost per household was $15,000; today’s cost is unknown.

At that time the measure was understood to be cosmetic which it was. Today it is touted as a public safety issue which it is not.

For genuine public safety fire issues one need only look at the accumulation of tons of dry brush in Bluebird Canyon, the uninhibited vegetable hell growing onto many of the City’s streets, the absence of enforcement on uncontrolled plots of weeds and the existence of trees on the verge of expiry.

View equity, the only reason for undergrounding utilities, is more than placing a few miles of wire underground. To actually address this issue restrictions on trees must be incorporated in which the City embraces and enforces regulations such as those in Palos Verdes.

To foster undergrounding alone without considering restrictions on trees is pure, unadulterated hypocrisy.

John Kountz

Laguna Beach

This song about undergrounding was featured in Lagunatics a couple of years back…Sung to the tune of “Marian The Librarian” from THE MUSIC MAN.

Parody Lyrics by Chris Quilter

“The Mayor” 


A letter to Southern California Edison President Pedro Pizarro. Dear President Pizarro....How shall I put this?...Don’t transcribe that. Okay, here we go.


Bury ‘em… don’t be contrarian 

What can I write right here to catch your ear 

Your poles are sadly sadly so antiquarian, bury ‘em 

Heaven help us if the canyon had caught on fire 

And nothing we did prevented 

A disaster humani-tarian 

Your poles need buryin’ 


I want to make it clear, we live in fear

We need it badly, badly: utilitarian buryin’ 

We’ve a task force, and we’ve busted our whatchamacallits 

Though out work may have gone unnoticed 

I promise we haven’t been tarryin’, we wanna start buryin’ 


But what you must get

Our town can’t swing it

You can just bet

That the people will start to quarrel 

About any bond that we float

So we must let… Laguna vote


And if they approve this fiscal move

We’ll kick it gladly, gladly, it is a scary sum to bury ‘um!

It’s a long lost cause that we have to win

In a civilized town it is an unforgivable sin 

Opposing a cause so nonsectarian 

It is very dumb

If we don’t bury ‘um.

Bob Whalen is spot on regarding undergrounding utilities

I believe that Bob Whalen’s points are spot on – it is a safety issue to underground the utility lines – especially in the major arteries / evacuation routes.

There is no question that some of our past fires have started with downed power lines. In addition, downed poles/lines would be quite problematic after an earthquake or some major event requiring significant evacuation or access by emergency vehicles. 

In addition to safety, there is no question it would also improve aesthetics– especially in the neighborhood streets. I can tell you that 12 years ago, when we were shopping for a home in Laguna Beach, we eliminated one house because the wires were directly in the primary sight lines.  So, in this regard, those poles / wires were detracting value from that particular property. 

John Morcos

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding must happen for safety reasons

I completely support Councilman Bob Whalen in his view that we must underground the utility wires for safety reasons. 

Not only is the impact of fire a huge threat to our community but the wires falling on trees, and the subsequent road closures, is a safety concern and source of carbon emissions in our city. Every time first responders arrive at the scene of a downed wire or tree, traffic is backed up for miles, snarling traffic and causing idling cars to emit additional carbon emissions.

Numerous Sonoma country residents, who lost everything in the recent disaster in the wine country, are suing PG&E claiming poor maintenance of its high voltage lines. PG&E has revealed 20 electrical safety incidents Oct 8 & 9, including at least four in multiple locations in Sonoma County.

We cannot ignore the threat of global warming and the disasters this year alone that have been fueled by record-breaking carbon emissions.  

If Laguna Beach is complicit in ignoring the citywide power lines as the high risk that they pose, then the city could be held accountable in future litigation.

We must work to partner with SoCal Edison and the City to fund grounding of all lines. I support finding ways to increase visitors’ taxes and or higher parking fees so that they pay their share in protecting this beach community. 

Thank you for raising this important issue in the recent StuNews publication.

Rebecca Visconti

Laguna Beach

Impressed with Dianne Russell’s writing

Once again, I am extremely impressed with Dianne Russell’s writing. I provide her with some dry facts about certain aspects of spider biology and she manages to link the facts together, and then convey the information in a most interesting and accurate way. She wrapped Laguna Beach, the bolas spider, and Halloween into one web!! I think her prose is superb.

Lenny Vincent

Laguna Beach

Allow workers to increase their 401(k) contributions

Last week I suggested that next year’s 401(k) contribution limit be raised from $18,500 to $25,000. I was pleasantly surprised when several of my fiscally conservative friends in town told me they agree.

I don’t know if he heard about my idea via Facebook or Twitter, but on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer proposed a similar idea. His increase and mine were evenly matched ($24,500 vs. $25,000). What Sen. Schumer also proposed was allowing workers over 50 to increase their pre-tax contribution an additional $6,000 per year, bringing the total to $30,500.

It is beyond me why some in Congress want to decrease the amount middle class Americans can contribute to their retirement. Clearly, I believe my friends in town and I are on the right side of this issue.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Park Plaza

Whomever came up with this idea should take a look at it from the standpoint of a visitor to our city. “Embarrassing and cheap looking”, one valued visitor commented to me!

Edward Bobinski

Laguna Beach

Those classified Kennedy files

Like several of my Laguna friends, I was 15 and a sophomore in high school when President Kennedy was murdered in 1963.  Last Thursday’s announcement that most of the classified JFK files were being released reminded me of that terrible day in Dallas when my world -- and the world of my Baby Boomer generation -- was changed forever.

I never will forget shaking hands with the future president in September of 1960 at the San Francisco Airport. When JFK took the oath of office, my entire universe was uplifted. It is hard to put into words just what Camelot and the Kennedy family meant to America. It, and they, represented a true sense of endless possibilities.  

Suffice it to say that, when the president was killed, the entire country fell into a deep depression. Thankfully, it only lasted 10 weeks. That’s because Ed Sullivan introduced us to the Beatles in February of 1964. It was the elixir the nation needed at the time.  In some ways, the Fab Four’s performance that night has stayed with my generation for a lifetime. 

I am glad most of the secret JFK files finally are being released now.  This will help bring closure to the trauma we all experienced on Nov. 22, 1963.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Coast Inn graffiti is an eyesore

Attached you will find two pictures of graffiti (again) on Coast Inn.  I just wanted to show you what I drive by everyday as this building continues to become dilapidated.

We have eyesores all over, what should be, a world-class town. I will just leave it there and let you figure out why people are frustrated.

Keith Kesler

Laguna Beach

Why Park Plaza? Cool Trees and Longer, Better Lives

Why have volunteers from three local non-profits collaborated and contributed countless hours over three years, obtaining unanimous approval from seven city departments to create our new Park Plaza?  For a start - Cool Trees and Longer, Better Lives.

Park Plaza preserves a rare prize in Laguna - the last accessible group of towering shade trees in the downtown area. When the sun shines, it is measurably cooler and more comfortable in the shade of these statuesque trees.  Not solely because of the shade.  Trees are Nature’s very own evaporative coolers. Biologists call it transpiration cooling. Our heritage trees have root systems extending down as large as the tree itself. These massive, deep roots draw cool water up from the earth; and vaporize it around each and every leaf.  Scientists have found that transpiration allows one large tree to cool six-eight degrees more than just a shade structure without a tree. And Park Plaza’s towering three-story heritage trees transpire a ton. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Another view of Park Plaza

Last week, on the hottest days, you could sit in the shade of Park Plaza and be completely comfortable. If you don’t believe it’s cooler in Park Plaza than anywhere else downtown, go experience it for yourself. Join in the dance of chasing shade as the sun crosses over Catalina. It’s amazing!  And, as an added bonus, the whitewater views of Main Beach aren’t too shabby either.

Now, it’s true that many are skeptical or outright opposed to Park Plaza. I understand - change isn’t easy, especially if you’re the one being inconvenienced. My hope is that concerned locals will experience this beautiful chill spot for themselves, before they pass judgment. If folks sit long enough, they just might discover a new appreciation for this small strip of downtown public property, and come to understand and appreciate that this is far too valuable a place to just park eight cars, or as a traffic cut through. Arguably, the highest and best use for this outdoor naturally air-conditioned treasure needs to be for our community.

Our new Park Plaza is a place where families with toddlers can feel safe, away from traffic. Shoppers can take a load off, recover and keep on shopping. I saw a very pregnant mom ecstatic that she found a place to “refresh and rest before traveling on.” Park Plaza is for coffee klatch’s, dog owners and their pets, lunch with friends, romantic alfresco take-out dining at sunset from any of our fine downtown eateries, and the random meeting and connection with locals or travelers.  

Urban designers know these shaded pedestrian plazas are human interaction magnets. I’ve met someone knew every time I’ve visited the Park. I’m so fortunate that our local bard John Gardiner stopped by Park Plaza a couple times last week walking his dog, and we were able to connect before his untimely passing. I would have missed that opportunity if it weren’t for our new Park. People connect in plazas and that makes our city more enjoyable and more livable.

The AARP has a Livability Index for many cities.  A key element of a livable community is that it fosters interaction among residents. “Opportunities to connect and feel welcomed help lessen social isolation and strengthen the greater community.”  www.livabilityindex.aarp.org   

Sadly, Laguna Beach falls in the bottom half of all U.S. cities when it comes to “Social Engagement” (0.91 on index from 0-2) Until now, Laguna had no shaded public downtown areas that foster connections. Park Plaza is already working to make Laguna Beach measurably more livable. We all know that Laguna Beach has an aging population that could use every advantage to age even better.  Guess what? Seniors age better and live longer in livable communities. These are proven facts and reason enough to preserve Park Plaza; but add in that special uniqueness of being the chillest outdoor spot downtown (quite literally) and Park Plaza is a public prize that needs to be preserved for generations to come. Meet me or your friends at Park Plaza, and see and feel what this all about for yourself. You just might enjoy the change and the chill. 

Christopher Prelitz

Laguna Beach

Christopher Prelitz is the co-founder and president of Transition Laguna Beach. TLB worked with the LB Chamber and LB Beautification Committee in creating the Park Plaza trial.

Love this little area [Park Plaza]

Not ready to close off all of the downtown streets, but I love this little area! I even like driving by and seeing folks hanging out at the tables and chairs. I do wish they would use the lights they’ve hung, though - I have not seen them on after dark at all. Took an un-needed access alley and created a great space!

Michael Johnson

Laguna Beach

Meet Me at Park Plaza

People voted with their delightful derrieres this past week and declared the new Park Plaza the coolest downtown place to be - literally. There was no other place to sit outdoors and avoid being irradiated by our merciless heat wave. So with zero fanfare and even less promotion, the City proved that if you build it, they will come - and take a load off. Which people are doing in droves since they discovered this lovely, tree-lined shade corridor with enhanced greenery, Parisian café lights, and a perfect ocean view. It’s oh so tranquil and clean because, well, no cars!

The greatest asset our city has are the interesting and convivial people who live in it. Give us a chance to mingle, and we mingle hard. It’s what makes Halloween on Oak, Sawdust Locals, and Hospitality Nights the absolute best days of the year. Now we will have the opportunity for random, serendipitous encounters every day. As a reminder, you don’t have to eat gyro’s every time. You finally have a place to take that Whole Food salad (or any other takeout), swing by, relax, re-charge, and watch the world go by. Then help our merchants and go spend more money. This is a return to the village atmosphere that was obliterated by our slavish dependence on the car.

Now of course we brace for the usual outrage and torrent of negativity from the many who traffic in fear, and generally decry anything new. They’ll tell us the street is too important for motorists to allow pedestrian use, that we can’t sacrifice the eight parking spots, that it will be a haven for the homeless, that it will be filthy, that we have an adequate park across the street, that locals will never use it (only the dreaded visitors), and finally that the city pissed away $50K on something they could have done better.  

It’s like going to see movie and deciding after the first 30 seconds that it sucks. It’s only a test. It will evolve and improve aesthetically and in utility, especially if made permanent. For that to happen we hope inconvenienced drivers are accommodated with a better left turn option at Laguna St.

For the record, only $9,900 was spent on decor. Every penny of it is in the Plaza, because all the labor was performed by community volunteers. Where did the other $40K go? The first $8,400 went back to the city for lost meter revenue. The rest for set-up, upkeep, a traffic control plan for CalTrans, and approved safety barriers. That meant changing the traffic signs and signals, giving notice to motorists, re-paving the street with slurry seal, etc. It’s how things work to optimize public safety and enjoyment. The good news is that many of these are sunk costs making it far cheaper to maintain and extend the life of the Plaza.

As for the threat of homeless, of course there will be instances of bad behavior in a town as addled as Laguna. But does that mean prohibiting all of our rights to comfortable public space? We have to acquire the tools to coexist and mitigate bad behavior. It’s how we will survive as a species. 

So here’s a plea to the skeptics: please suspend judgment until the conclusion of the trial. Try and be open-minded, come experience it for yourself. You might just like it.   

Billy Fried

Laguna Beach

A great little spot

Park Plaza is a great little spot. So many residents are afraid of change. I think it will be a winner when all those naysayers get used to it. I love it!

Pamela Broadman

Laguna Beach

What $75,000 buys you in Laguna: Park Plaza

Park Avenue Plaza - sounds a lot like a New York City address, right?  But hang tight. The Park Avenue Plaza is not in New York City, but right here in Laguna on our own Park Avenue (actually the little street that parallels Forest that abuts the shawarma falafel stand on the way to the library). Our Council voted unanimously to spend $75,000 for a parklet with tables and chairs for a six-week “experiment” beginning October 21.

The grand vision is that Laguna Beach will be now more like a European village.  Billy Fried, one of the proponents of the plaza stated in a recent column that the aesthetics are “stunning” – What is stunning is how tacky this place looks – colored plastic lawn chairs?  There seems to be a difference in the eye of the beholder here.

The reality is our European village abuts a California highway with millions in car traffic. The trade-off means closing a favorite locals thoroughfare traveled by a car every minute with direct access to Glenneyre and Top of the World.  We will lose eight metered parking spaces with revenue of $1,400 in average weekly parking fees and face the very real possibility of compounding traffic backing-up on already congested Coast Highway that ultimately seems to benefit one private business owner who now has outdoor dining paid for by us.

Photo by Alan Boinus

Park Plaza

Not that wasting money is a foreign concept to this Council. Recall the public threw a collective fit last year when the Council’s other grand experiment in parklets took out at least two parking spaces on Forest in favor of a wooden barricade that many chided looked more like a livestock pen than anything park-like and cost the owner of Alessa restaurant $45,000?!

I asked Steve Dicterow if all this was worth it.  «Can’t people just walk across the street and go to a real park called, the beach?!”  “Won’t traffic back-up if two egresses are removed?”  “Won’t people be ticked-off having to turn left at Legion?”  “Won’t we be burdening library patrons who will find it more difficult to park now?”  And, “If Council wants a test, why couldn’t we try barricades first at a more reasonable cost?”

Steve argued that traffic can be easily diverted onto streets like Jasmine and Myrtle through north Laguna neighborhoods to Rosa Bonheur.  But then, wouldn’t we be backing up traffic at Broadway and still not be anywhere near Glenneyre?

Perhaps the Shawarma Plaza is a good idea.  But then why didn’t Council follow Bob Whalen’s suggestion and work with CalTrans to pull some parking spaces along Coast Highway in order to create a left-turn pocket on Laguna Avenue before venturing with its experiment?  After all, if we are willing to sacrifice eight parking spaces, why couldn’t we sacrifice some for a left-turn lane to benefit residents?  Not coming up with viable solutions before spending taxpayer money or inconveniencing residents dooms what might otherwise be worthy of consideration.  Unfortunately Council’s idea of an experiment makes guinea pigs of us all.

Alan Boinus

Laguna Beach

Irony in two photos

While photographing last Sunday’s protest at Main Beach, a passerby called my attention to a paradox.

The photo of two homeless people was taken 30ft. away from the massive police presence.

The photo of the police was taken from the same spot in the opposite direction.

I believe this to be a local community issue: The irony of people forced to sleep in the street, while massive amounts of our revenue is devoted to “public safety and the right to protect free speech.”

Maybe something to think about, maybe something to write a few words about...

Chris Kreymann

Laguna Beach

Probation for reckless driving?

I have a studio in Laguna Canyon: I listen to the almost daily sirens; I watch people drive with ridiculous disregard for the fact that people have to enter and leave from their dwellings and businesses, I watch people speed and drive inattentively or aggressively.

So, I find it outrageous that a person can drive recklessly on Laguna Canyon Road and kill two men in the prime of their lives and walk away with probation and community service as a penalty.

I pray that this perp. feels great and tremendous remorse, has made restitution, and goes down on his knees every day to ask for forgiveness.

But each of us can honor the victims of this crime in our own way by taking a chill pill and mellowing out when we drive Laguna Canyon Road. How? By driving with grace and compassion. Let someone make a left turn, don’t tailgate, stay out of the bicycle lane, don’t use the center lane to pass, and do not speed.

So in memory of those who have lost their lives:

Please Slow Down and Mellow Out. It’s a beautiful road.

Hedy Buzan

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach does have public sculpture commemorating local indigenous people

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, in the public communications segment, 96-year-old Bruce Hopping’s spokeswoman claimed that Laguna Beach did not have a public sculpture commemorating the indigenous peoples of our area. 

Please be advised that the Art in Public Places requirement piece for parking lot #20 in South Laguna, titled “From the Beginning”, does indeed commemorate the original occupants of our area long before someone showed up and called them “Indians”. 

The sculpture was executed by South Laguna sculptor in residence Jorge Fernandez as winner of the Arts Commission competition in 2010 for the parking lot project and installed in 2011. The sculpture was funded by the people of Laguna Beach.

Tom Slattery

South Laguna

Author Bill Bryson has advice that makes sense for us in Laguna

Summer is over and, unsurprisingly, Laguna’s still jammed with tourists and cars. PCH is darn near impossible! Downtown, no place to park, and few shops sell anything locals need, anyway.

I love Laguna, you love Laguna, everyone loves Laguna.  But it could stand improvements. Have some ideas? Who doesn’t? Read what this guy, Bill Bryson, in his best seller, «The Road to Little Dribbling,”suggests about changes that movers and shakers in a little village like Laguna, a retail paradise, could use, as follows:

“I would like to see a government that says, We’re going to stop this preposterous obsession with economic growth at the cost of all else. Great economic success doesn’t produce national happiness. It produces Republicans and Switzerland. So we’re going to concentrate on just being lovely and pleasant and civilized.  We’re going to have the best schools and hospitals, the most comfortable public transportation, the liveliest arts, the most useful and well stocked libraries, the grandest parks, the cleanest streets, the most enlightened social policies. In short, we’re going to be like Sweden, but with less herring and better jokes.

Wouldn’t that be delightful? Of course it will never happen.”

That says it, doesn’t it?!

Robert Story

Laguna Beach

Good things in the pipeline for Laguna

I am so thrilled that Park Plaza is moving towards a sound reality.

I can’t wait for it to open on October 21st and plan on using it as much as possible.

I am such a happy (Laguna) camper this week. 

  1) Anticipating Park Plaza and

  2) Hearing the plans for rehabilitating the Aliso Creek Estuary which I learned about last night at a meeting held by the Laguna Ocean foundation (www.lagunaoceanfoundation.org)

Thank you to those who live in Laguna that spearhead, and work exceptionally hard on projects that are forward thinking, creative and, in my opinion, essential and in the absolute best interest for our village community.

You have both my support and enthusiasm.

Debbie Naudé

Laguna Beach

Re: Water district seeks to regain independence (Stu News, 10/10)

Last week the City Council voted 3-2 against District General Manager Renae Hinchey’s proposal to the Board of Directors to consider restoration of the Laguna Beach County Water district’s (LBCWD) independence. Mayor Iseman and Council Member Dicterow voted in favor of separation.

Two and a half years ago we had a major water leak in our home whilst we were on vacation. The LBCWD could not have been more helpful but the leak occurred at the beginning of our two-month billing cycle and our water usage went from 11 to 25 units. We have continued to follow the water district’s service ever since and have been strong supporters of Smart Meters.

The water district is well respected, and we applaud its leadership role in our community. The annual SmartScape event, the Art of Conservation program, the installation of Smart Meters, the title of #1 City for water conservation, and the excellent customer service provided are a credit to its staff and customers. Consequently, we believe the water district’s time has come to operate independently and here’s why:

The water district was formed in 1925 by its ratepayers. It belongs to the ratepayers and therefore, ratepayers should be allowed to decide how the District is governed, not the city council.

The City Council has an unprecedented full plate with city projects and issues and leaves little time for attending water district board meetings and activities.

With Climate Change a reality, the only focus and pursuit of the governing body should be water decisions, without devoting time to deal with numerous other city issues and interests.

The extra layer of approvals that occur by holding both a Commission and Water Board meeting that review an identical agenda is cumbersome, unnecessary and an extra expense to the ratepayers.

We believe the time has come for The City Council to relinquish their governance and allow the LBCWD to re-establish as an independent special district governed by one board to provide water services in the most efficient and responsive manner to its customers. 

As Council Member Whalen suggested it might be better if the ratepayers decided and we should have a vote on this. 

Charlotte & Alex Masarik

Laguna Beach

Meet you at Camp David

As I try to come to grips with the horrendous scenes from Las Vegas, I can’t help but wonder what Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and James Inhofe (R-OK) are thinking. 

Within hours of the recent killings, Majority Leader McConnell announced it was too soon to talk about gun safety legislation.  Then, out of the blue, Inhofe said last Wednesday sanctuary cities are the breeding grounds of violence in this country.

To McConnell I respectfully must ask:  If 50 members of Congress had just been shot and killed in Las Vegas, would you still say it’s too soon to talk?  And to Inhofe I have to ask: Since virtually all the mass killings in the U.S. are triggered by white, American males, would you care to elaborate?

If Las Vegas had been Iraq or Afghanistan, I guarantee you Pentagon heads would have rolled if 50 troops and 500 others had been killed or wounded in one battle.  So what’s different about the shootings here at home? 

I urge President Trump to invite the NRA, 2nd Amendment, ACLU and gun control advocates to a 1-week sit down at Camp David.  Some of my Laguna friends don’t think any good will come from the meetings, but I do.  Remember, President Carter brought old warriors Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel to Camp David in 1978.  After nearly two weeks of bickering, both sides finally agreed to a peace agreement.  To this day, it still stands.

To do little or nothing, as McConnell suggests, or to blame mayors and cities for the mass killings as Inhofe says, will not change America’s killing fields.  Bringing all stakeholders in the gun control conversation together for a week at Camp David seems like a rational and, hopefully, useful thing to do.  

As far as I am concerned, what have the participants -- and the American public --- got to lose? 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beachh

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