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Early diagnosis of mental illness is as important as early diagnosis of cancer

This article [in the last issue – Friendship Shelter holds panel discussion, by Lynette Brasfield] and discussion should be on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. The major media does not cover this – and wonders why there continues to be violence and homelessness is rampant.

The answer is plain and simple – mental health issues have been treated like something outside of “health”. As said – we do not wait for cancer to be stage 4 before treating it. Why hasn’t government treated this issue?

Julie Ross

Laguna Beach

Free one-day parking pass for musicians who participate in Fête de la Musique

Congratulations on another great Fete (11th) – we marveled at the wide variety of people of all ages and ethnicities – the goodwill the City spreads during this event is incalculable! But the City should do a little by giving those musicians who play for free a one-day parking pass upon request.

Roger Kempler
Laguna Beach

‘Fraternity’ is more than a word to these USC Trojans

Considering their many successes in life, the question is worth asking:  Was there something in the water back in the 1960s when John Bruce, Tom Davis, Bill Eddy, Sandy Gilchrist and Pat Young became Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers at USC?

(Kappa Sigma has it roots in Bologna, Italy, beginning in the 1400s. Here in the US, the first Kappa Sigma chapter was founded at the University of Virginia in 1869.)    

Who knew that when they were undergraduates attending fall football games in the Los Angeles Coliseum, these Trojans eventually would end up living near each other at the beach, not to mention becoming business partners or life mentors to one another?

freidenrich John Bruce

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John Bruce

John Bruce: Originally from Alaska, the retired San Clemente pharmacist initially found his way to USC via three high school classmates, all of whom became his fraternity brothers.  

“To this day, they are my closest friends,” he says.

“My life has been blessed in so many ways. Don’t let anyone tell you the ‘SC mafia’ doesn’t exist, because it does,” he adds.  

“People used to come into my pharmacy and ask about my boys, both of whom became Army Special Forces (Green Berets). Today, I talk about them everywhere I go,” Bruce beams.

“I’m proud of the profession I picked. Ditto for being a Trojan and a Kappa Sig. All together, they have helped define me as a husband, father and friend,” he exclaims.

freidenrich tom davis

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Tom Davis

Tom Davis: “It’s been the best of both worlds for me – to be able to raise my family in Laguna and, at the same time, work in town,” says the longtime attorney.

“As a result, I’ve had the privilege of serving on several community, religious and cross-cultural nonprofit boards. I think my late mom and dad, who were terrific role models, would be happy to know that,” he claims.

And speaking of his parents, Davis’ father was a member of the USC Board of Trustees. “After he passed away, it was hard for me to remain an active alum. That is until two of my fraternity brothers stepped up,” he admits.

When the three of them visited campus, “Everything looked new to me. I felt like I did in 1968, when I was an entering freshman,” he muses.

“It’s been a while, but I have my tickets to next season’s football games. I’m glad because they’re near several of my fraternity brothers,” he states.

freidenrich bill eddy

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Bill Eddy

Bill Eddy: “I feel like I was born a Trojan. I remember hearing family members talking about USC like it was yesterday,” the Vietnam-era veteran says.

“When I joined the fraternity, you could count on two hands the number of brothers who lived in the house. A year or two later, we needed extra beds in every room.”

With an eye to detail, Eddy established a career in retail real estate in Hawaii. Today, he still is active in the industry. So much so, his “Eddy Line” newsletter is read coast to coast.  

“My family and fraternity brothers taught me what ‘loyalty’ really means,” he notes.

“Living in Newport, like I do, is a real gift. I’m lucky so many Kappa Sigma brothers have my back,” he adds.

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Sandy Gilchrist

Sandy Gilchrist: Newport Beach resident, Sandy Gilchrist, knows quite a bit about athletic and business competition.  

“Swimming in the 1964 and ‘68 Olympics was a dream come true for me, but watching my daughter, Kaleigh, and her teammates win an Olympic gold medal in water polo two years ago was an even bigger thrill,” he notes. 

“My kids have grown up with the sons and daughters of my fraternity brothers. It’s great knowing they all are friends,” he adds.

“I have lived here long enough to see the Newport skyline change for the better,” he says.  

Many local businesses including the former Newport Imports and multiple Southern California residential developers were financed by Gilchrist and his partners. 

freidenrich pat young

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Pat Young

Pat Young: “I grew up in Inglewood, but after college I moved to the beach. It doesn’t matter if I’m gone for a day or a week, coming home to Corona del Mar always is the best,” he says.

“Over the years, people have asked me if living on fraternity row was like ‘Animal House’ the movie. My answer is simple: It was way better,” he laughs.

“I know how important it is to ‘give back’ so I spend some of my free time volunteering with the local U.S. Navy League and serving as a member of Orange County’s Homeland Security Advisory Council,” Young adds.

His real estate activities have taken him from Southern California to Texas, Florida, Maryland, Alabama and back.

“Wherever I go, I seem to find fraternity brothers from other universities. I am truly thankful for our shared friendship,” he concludes.  

Other Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers: From Bruce to Young, all say other fraternity brothers like Tom Bahler, Jack Harrington, Rick Raczka and Allan Songstad have been equally successful in their careers. Bahler wrote hit records like “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” and “She’s Out of My Life” as well as collaborated with legendary music producer Quincy Jones for years; Harrington, a dentist by profession, built the first and only water park in the State of Hawaii; Raczka became a respected orthopedic surgeon in the county; and, attorney Songstad served as mayor of Laguna Hills several times. They all join in saluting WWII war hero Louis Zamperini, a USC Kappa Sigma brother from the 1930s, after whom the movie “Unbroken” was released in 2014.

The bond that holds these Trojans together is their beloved Kappa Sigma fraternity. For more than 50 years, they have witnessed or celebrated Christmas Eve dinners and Passover Seders, births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and, yes, even war and peace. Now that’s true brotherhood.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Pot sales make sense

Laguna Beach has at least eighty retail outlets for alcohol, the deadly liquid which causes intoxication and alcoholism, a disease that kills millions of people every year – 

and yet we have no retail marijuana store. Our founding fathers said we are entitled to the pursuit of happiness, but the proposition legalizing “weed” in California is deeply flawed and expected sales are one half of what was expected. Experts say that because 60 percent of towns and cities won’t allow pot to be sold and taxes on dope are so high that marijuana may go back to being purchased on the black market.

Citizens of Laguna Beach who want to purchase marijuana at a store in Laguna Beach should have that right along with citizens who want to buy liquor products from stores, restaurants, festivals, etc. We have a legal right in California to pursue happiness for ourselves and for many – pot does just that.

If this city council and police chief can’t wise up in regard to “pot”, we should look for new council members and a police chief who will allow people to be happy.

What do you think?

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Finding a solution for the homeless challenge

A recent ad in the StuNews [paid for by Peter Blake] announces that long-term business owner Peter Blake has thrown his hat in the race for a city council seat. According to the ad, his main issue seems to be a desire to see the city eliminate homeless from Main Beach and the business district. While Mr. Blake has operated a well-managed and landmark business in the Village since 1993, it appears he has forgotten the good work of so many citizens to find a workable solution for the homeless. 

Recall that years ago, Laguna Beach, like many other cities across the country, experienced a dramatic influx of homeless people. At the time, the city did not have a coordinated strategy that would meet court ordered requirements. While many would have preferred to erect a virtual wall at our borders to keep homeless people out of the city, the courts ruled that this would not be tolerated. So, to deal with this challenge, city leaders and nonprofit volunteer groups united to develop a solution that would be legal, humane and fair to all. 

In 2018, while cities like San Diego, Santa Ana and Los Angeles have seen a catastrophic increase in homelessness, Laguna has a process in place that treats the homeless fairly and humanely while maintaining the population at a manageable level. Yes, homeless citizens are given meals and lodging. At the same time, they are registered, screened for drug use, given health checkups and provided with local transportation meant to get them outside the village center during the evening hours. 

Yes, we would all prefer to see no homeless in our Village but, given the unfortunate circumstances in Southern California and the legal requirements from the courts and the state government, our civic leaders have developed a solution that seems to have prevented the catastrophic situation now experienced by so many of our sister cities. 

Let’s hope that the coming debate leading to the city council election clarifies what solutions each candidate proposes for this and other critical problems facing our village. At this point, it is clear a law enforcement only solution will not work.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Don’t bury our money underground

Tonight the City Council will vote to increase taxes on residents by approving one of two measures increasing the local sales tax from 7.75 to 8.75 percent for the November ballot.  If passed, Laguna Beach sales tax would equal the highest sales tax rate in the County. Here are the two tax measures being proposed:

The General Sales Tax increase ballot measure requires only a 50 percent plus one, a simple majority vote. This measure is deceitfully worded to mislead residents to believe the tax increase will be used for “utility undergrounding” and “fire safety.” But the taxes can be spent instead on any “Other Essential City Services.” In other words, it›s a city slush fund and legally not a dime is required to be used for undergrounding. All the tax money goes into the “general fund.” The City says this gives it “latitude,” but what it really means is “we can spend it anyway we want,” based on the whim of the city council. Don’t be misled and manipulated by the City and City Council. This is a money grab by a city has budget surpluses year after year!

Letter zeiter cartoon

The Special Sales Tax increase ballot measure requires a 2/3rds vote. This measure is also deceitfully worded to mislead residents to believe the tax will be dedicated exclusively for “utility undergrounding and fire safety.” But read the small print. The tax money is not limited to just Laguna Canyon Road and PCH and the initial so called “evacuation routes” – it has now morphed to 14 arbitrary streets and “other areas.” All these streets should be paying to underground their own utilities, like neighborhoods have done for years, not riding on the backs of all taxpayers. But the city wants even more – it wants an open checkbook so this measure as drafted also allows the city to use the tax money for “other fire safety measures and improvements,” whatever the city decides that means, not you! It’s another blank checkbook that the city does not need! 

Stop this taxation now!

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

There is an alternative to undergrounding

I was very disappointed at last Tuesday’s Council meeting when for the second meeting in a row, the Council declined to react to my suggestion that there may be an existing alternate to undergrounding, and a $30 million City debt.

My understanding is that the Council never asked for investigations of alternatives, but focused from the beginning several years ago on undergrounding as the only solution to removing transmission poles along Laguna Canyon Road.

The alternative I asked to have investigated already has an overhead transmission line from the NW into the city transformer station on Laguna Canyon Road opposite the Sawdust Festival. Could this be upgraded at a fraction of the cost of undergrounding? Let’s at least have a utility consultant investigate.

Robert Reed

Laguna Beach

Next tree to topple over: Where’s the common sense?

Photo by Pat Galez

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“Safety should be the City’s first priority,” says Pat Galez. “What are we waiting for? This tree on Coast Highway is about to topple over.”

Clarifications offered in response to Barbara Diamond’s article on the historic preservation issue

I wanted to thank Barbara Diamond for the article on the historic preservation issue and offer a couple of clarifications.

“Historic resource” is a defined term in CEQA. In a nutshell, lead agencies (like the City) are required to treat properties listed on a state or national historic register as historic resources. Properties listed on a local register, or on a valid local inventory are “presumed” to be historic resources. However, the presumption of historicity may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence.

In Laguna, we have a register. There is consensus that houses listed on the register are “presumptive” historic resources. We also have an inventory. However, the inventory is not valid to create a presumption of historicity, because it was not maintained as required by law to make it valid. Therefore, houses listed on the 1981 inventory are not “mandatory” or “presumptive” historic resources.

In Laguna, our General Plan makes it clear that our historic preservation program is voluntary and incentive based. The Mills Act, for example, is a powerful incentive for some owners to voluntarily participate in preservation requirements, in exchange for property tax relief. Other incentives exist as well, such as allowing a non-conforming structure to maintain the benefits of relaxed setbacks or inadequate parking in exchange for an agreement to preserve the old home.

For many owners of older homes, these incentives don’t help. Owners may need more space for their families. A senior citizen may need modifications to make the house more livable. The environmentally conscientious may wish to replace old windows with new, or an old garage door, or new siding, or new roof.

This is where the problem starts. To remodel a home, a homeowner must apply for a property development permit. This application goes to the City’s zoning plan check. If the house is 50 years old, or was listed on the 1981 inventory, the zoning staff requires that the homeowner hire a historic preservation firm to “assess” the house. This can cost $3,500 to $10,000, paid for by the homeowner. If the assessment determines that house does not meet the qualifications of an historic resource, the staff requires the report to be peer reviewed, again at the expense of the homeowner. The issue then goes to the historic preservation committee, which makes a recommendation to the DRB. The DRB makes a decision as to whether the house is an historic resource. That decision may be appealed to the city council. The city then takes a formal action to deem the property an historic resource, even over the objection of the homeowner. These are the so-called “discretionary historic resources” that homeowners are concerned about. 

Laguna has a robust DRB program that considers “neighborhood compatibility,” “neighborhood character,” and the “pattern of development” in remodel applications. A determination that a house is an historic resource subjects the property owner to restoration standards promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior for the “Treatment of Historic Places.” These restorations must also be approved and monitored by – you guessed it - an historic preservation firm at an additional expense to the homeowner.

Historic preservation is laudable, and should be encouraged through the use of incentives, as stated by the General Plan. For those who wish to participate, absolutely go for it. But for owners of homes 50 years old or older, who are not listed on a national, state or valid and voluntary local register, who simply wish to remodel their homes like everybody else, the City should not muscle them into an historic assessment at the homeowner’s expense. They should just go to DRB.

A property that does not fit the definition of “historical resource” as set forth is CEQA does not become an historical resource until the government takes an action to deem it so. If the government wants to force a property down that path, all of the expense and the burden of proof should be borne by the government, or by the party asserting historicity of someone else’s home.

Larry Nokes

Laguna Beach

Less emphasis on tree removal/replacement and more on important city issues

I read with interest the letter submitted by a long time member of Village Laguna in which its “accomplishments” were enumerated. I noticed the words Helped With, Supported, etc. used. But 99 percent of these activities were years ago. For many years, the organization ran as a 501(c)3 while using monies raised through its Charm House Tour to support their political favorites. Shortly after I made this public, they became a PAC, but this might have created a negative image so now they are a Mutual Benefit Corporation (nonprofit), which is typically used with condominiums or townhouses and is a good cover for various activities. They will not let go of their notion that our town should be inundated by eucalyptus trees just because early settlers planted a few of them. Good time to note that these were artists not arborists. These are the wrong trees to plant here; we all know that. There have been a lot of backroom deals made over the years because many of their members are on various committees and their “friends” in city hall have held important positions.

This leads me to the city council meeting of August 7, 2018. While discussing Agenda Item 10 – removing/replacing trees located on certain streets – one of their members came to the podium and suggested that the city needed tall and elegant vegetation to create an inviting entrance to our City – she said “we should plant something like Cypress trees and we could look like Tuscany.” I thought it was a brilliant idea – Cypress require almost no trimming, they grow straight up, don’t shed, don’t have the reputation of being torches, we wouldn’t have lollipop heads on them. Not sure about looking like Tuscany – why do some folks here want to look like some town in Europe? What is wrong with Laguna? We are world famous as a tourist destination but like Tuscany and other areas on the Mediterranean coastline (I have to been to many countries in the world with dramatic coastal towns) people do not come to see the trees. Most of these cute towns have narrow streets; there is no room for trees. Normally people do not want to mitigate their views. But here Village Laguna folks don’t care or understand the beauty of our ocean and hillside views.

Given their recent past history of delaying important projects such as making our city safer from fire and other disasters, solving the parking/traffic issues, solving our homeless problem, instead they want to spend money as if there is no tomorrow on more frivolous items. I suggest the reader think very carefully about who from the ten folks running (so far) for city council, they vote for. We may bring back more nepotism and be ruled by a few and in the end destroy our small unique and beautiful city.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Mylar balloons kill sea creatures and harm the ocean – time to ban them

Last week I was working on a local whale watch vessel and noticed a shiny, colorful object floating on the ocean. An exotic marine creature? Not. It was a Mylar foil balloon that had drifted from someone’s Mother’s Day celebration and made its way to the sea. And then I remembered last June, when the crew and I removed many “Congratulations, Graduate!” balloons from the water. Balloons are given to celebrate life events, yet for marine animals, balloons and other plastic trash may mean death. Yes, Mylar balloons are shiny and festive, but they often end up in the ocean, where sea turtles, whales and fish make the deadly error of ingesting them, having mistaken them for food. It is heartbreaking to see birds, dolphins and sea lions entangled by the balloons – string and all. And those that don’t directly injure ocean creatures eventually break down into micro plastics that will take hundreds of years to decompose. Even on land, floating Mylar balloons are a hazard, often coming into contact with power lines and causing power outages or fires. Did you know that California law requires that all Mylar balloons be weighted so they can’t take flight? Given the many hazards they pose, I’d like to put forth a challenge to my fellow coastal citizens: Omit Mylar and latex balloons from your graduations and other worthy celebrations this year – and every year. 

Imagine our new graduates and their families using sustainable decorations that protect our precious coastal waters. Imagine stores refusing to sell Mylar balloons. Imagine launching the next generation into a future that solves the plastics problem. 

This is my challenge. We can do this!

Cheryl Procaccini,

Laguna Beach

Over-ticketing is a problem

In the past many months I have observed the excessive and unnecessary over-ticketing of the parking meters on that part of Aster Street near the Urth Caffe. These tickets involve the two mornings of street sweeping in this particular commercial district where parking meters are located. This street sweeper arrives at this area between 9 a.m. and noon. The sweeping at this time services a residential street up to High Drive and ends at the commercial area near the Urth Caffe. I have seen as many as six tickets placed on the windshield of cars that were parked with limited knowledge and viewing of other signs posted regarding street sweeping times. 

If the signage was more adequate and viewing more adequate there would be way fewer tickets given. I have gone to this location many times to view the ticketing process and found it staggering. Numerous emails have been sent to various members of the City Staff to discuss and to view this issue. No one offered to meet me at the site in question to view the unfair ticketing that takes place twice weekly. Finally, someone from the City did meet me outside Urth Caffe and observed the situation. This on-site meeting took place nearly a month ago and there was agreement with this City staff member that something should be done.

This gentleman has remained in contact with me and has presented signage information to those who make the signage for the city. I was informed that that the new signage was in process with some delays and that it would be attached to each parking meter for easy reading. This morning, June 5, I did drive to observe the meters in question and found no additional signage but five tickets were attached to various windshields. 

This unfair carnage must stop. It has been going on for years and years. It does not represent the friendly nature of Laguna Beach. Street sweeping should not occur in any commercial area with parking meters during business hours. It is unfair. Thank you. 

Jim Gothard

Laguna Beach

Grandma Edison is still needed

I am all for electrical energy alternatives, they are the hope for a less polluted future. However, if you are selling your surplus electricity to Grandma Edison, you need to be connected to her.

Also, and what is often neglected in the discussion about renewables, is the need to have a back up to a personal power supply.

Let’s just say you have solar panels and a battery system to power your home and something breaks on a holiday and you can’t get a vendor who has the parts needed to make a repair before your freezer thaws out, or, you have a vacation home and are not always there to monitor the power but you have pumps for irrigation or other gadgets that you need running, the smart option is to still be tied to the grid. When there is a failure of components or a planned maintenance of your system, your power transfers automatically to your back up power supply, Grandma Edison.

Additionally, many people cannot afford or do not want to dabble in newer technology, should they be forced to? Will they be given a date by which they must be on their own?

How about multi-unit buildings that may not have room for enough solar panels for their tenants changing needs. Also, businesses such as restaurants and markets would unlikely be able to operate reliably without a backup power system. Generators are the typical stand by power system today, at schools, hospitals, research institutions and data centers to name a few. In order to back them up in case of a power failure, these institutions rely on large, polluting, gasoline or diesel powered electrical generating units. 

In the future it may well be that Grandma Edison is relied on as the back-up power system of choice. I would prefer to see electrical wires placed underground. Underground wiring is more reliable than sun bleached, flapping in the wind cables strung between poles. Not just for the aesthetics, but also because there is a real need for this utility.

John S Walker

Laguna Beach

Re Blake letter: without housing, homelessness is exponentially worse in Denver

While it’s true that I haven’t lived in Laguna for over three years I found I had to respond to Peter Blake’s letter in Stu News on June 15. We now live in Denver and I can tell you for a fact the homeless problem here is exponentially worse than in Laguna for the simple fact there is not a homeless shelter or housing of any kind that can handle the size and scope of the problem here. 

The homeless take up residence in the alleys behind homes, in parks and along the many riverbeds that run through this beautiful city. And they continue to come to Denver even though there isn’t much in the way of infrastructure to help them. If Mr. Blake had any knowledge of or experience with the Friendship Shelter he would recognize it for the wonderful, helpful organization it is. 

If he had any experience with the many thankful and outstanding “graduates” of the Friendship Shelter program like I have he wouldn’t malign it for being part of the problem. Spend some time talking to these graduates and you will most certainly feel different about homeless people in general and the Friendship Shelter in particular. Closing up all the homeless housing in Laguna and expecting the homeless to leave as a result is ignorant at worst and naive at best.

If Mr. Blake is running for City Council I might have to move back just to make sure he isn’t elected. Trying to scare folks into solving an issue by “closing Pandora’s Box” doesn’t mean you’re qualified for office it just means you’re a bully without any meaningful ideas on how to work through the issue. Just one man’s opinion.

Kevin Donavan

Denver, CO

The Caltrans Improvement Project

Caltrans holds the record on road re-alignments for Laguna Canyon Road, each time to “mitigate congestion and improve safety and facility operations.” In 1993, ten alternative routes were considered between the 405 and 73 toll road, one was chosen for SR-133, the two-lane divided highway we use now. As Caltrans put it, that alternative did not preclude the “opportunity” to expand the highway to six-lanes later on. 

The present SR-133 Improvement Project is another Caltrans road re-alignment to mitigate congestion for the remainder of LCR, from the 73 to El Toro and the city limits. How’s that worked out for us since LCR was a two-lane rural country road in 1910? In the project before us Caltrans says adding 2,100 feet of additional lane will not add extra roadway capacity for traffic, it merely adds another queue for merging traffic, like another ticket queue for entry to Disneyland. Does anyone see preparation for a four-lane highway?

Caltrans’ mission is moving lots of cars fast as safely possible, like from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with the shortest possible trip delay. They are good at it. The trouble is the same roadway design for Las Vegas is used for Laguna Beach and inappropriate for a State Route ending in the Pacific Ocean. The good news is Caltrans is beholding to a State DOT mandate, one that moves transit passengers not just their cars. 

If Caltrans were to revisit the SR-133 Improvement Project and honor their mandate, the new design could satisfy the LB Greenbelt, the Laguna Canyon Conservancy, CANDO, STOP, and actually reduce vehicle congestion too. Caltrans would meet their roadway safety objectives and underground Edison utilities without expansion to four lanes. Worth $39.3 million, that would be a gift to Laguna Beach. Let’s encourage Caltrans to re-visit their plans before construction begins February 2021.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Surfers: Respect the Lifeguards!

I was at the beach yesterday, and I watched a surfer, working the waves outside the surfing area at St. Ann’s, narrowly miss a little kid playing in the surf. The lifeguard swam out to the surfer and I presume, asked him to be careful and stay in the surf area. I saw the surfer say something in response, and I couldn’t hear it, but from body language, I could tell it wasn’t nice, then the surfer flipped off the lifeguard and paddled away.  

My son is a guard, and I asked him if he gets blowback like that, and he said, “All the time.” He said the worst are more often locals, because they resent being told what to do on “their” beach. He said he often gets abuse, and more often, ignored, and it’s embarrassing and disheartening. Dudes! Really??? It’s a public beach! There are reasons for the rules! My son had 10 saves the other day! The lifeguards are only doing their jobs, and their jobs are important, and their jobs matter! The ones manning the towers are usually just kids trying to earn some money during the summer. They don’t deserve that kind of abuse! Please!  Be respectful of the lifeguards! 

Please teach your kids to be respectful of the rules, and the lifeguards. And, next time you’re at the beach and you see a lifeguard do something good, tell them how much you appreciate them! Trust me, they need that kind of encouragement sometimes.

Lynn Whitlock

Laguna Beach

Historical Preservation Ordinance Task force Interrupted

After many long meetings regarding the Historical Preservation Ordinance, the City Council voted in favor of forming a Task Force of residents to study and ultimately, make recommendations back to them for action. Council members Steve Dicterow and Toni Iseman volunteered to act as facilitators for the Task force and subsequently interviewed and appointed eleven resident members.

At the first meeting members introduced themselves with a brief bio. Kathy Jensen, representing the city attorney, in answer to a task force member’s concern, reassured that she was representing private citizens, and not just a City Government position. Steve Dicterow stated he didn’t want an artificial Task force timeline or deadline. The direction to the Task force was that it would be assumed that no rules/ordinance was in place and starting from a zero baseline, from scratch, to discern what discretion the City has regarding a Historical Preservation Ordinance. Dicterow stated that one of the biggest issues has been the voluntariness of a home being placed on a (historical resource) list or not. Dicterow asked Kathy, “Does the City have discretion or is this mandated by State law?” Kathy Jensen and Laguna Beach Attorney Larry Nokes were invited to prepare their legal findings regarding what is required by the State and by CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act, relating to historical resources.

At the second meeting, Kathy Jensen discussed the requested legal findings of Rutan & Tucker, the City attorneys. Unfortunately, Larry Nokes, who was invited to share legal findings, was not given equal time to go over those findings and was relegated to four minutes during the public comment section at the end of the meeting. The result being, that the legal findings of the City Attorney and of Larry Nokes were not equally presented to the Task Force.

The scheduled June 27 & July 17 Task force meetings were cancelled by City Manager John Pieteg out of concern for potential litigation. A special meeting of the City Council has been scheduled for July 31 so that the City Council, as the lead agency, can hear differing legal views and decide how to go forward. It is my understanding that the City Attorney as well as Larry Nokes, and perhaps others, will be given time to present their legal findings to the Council. The vote of the City Council will determine the future of the Historical Preservation Ordinance, the Task Force, and ultimately, the property rights of Laguna Beach homeowners. The special Council meeting is Tuesday, July 31 at 5 p.m., Council Chambers, City Hall.   

Pat Carpenter

Laguna Beach

City has full discretion on Historical Preservation Ordinance

Please attend the July 31 special council meeting to voice support of a new Historical Preservation Program (HPP) that is based on voluntary participation and private initiative. This meeting will focus on the discretion the City has under state laws to implement a new ordinance. 

These facts show that the City has maximum discretion:

--Messages from senior planners at the CA Office of Historical Preservation have confirmed “there is no legal requirement that a city have a registration program or an inventory”;

--Over 400 CA cities have chosen not to have an HPP. They are not breaking any laws.

A survey of dozens of cities with HPPs show that each is starkly different from the others. This demonstrating that each City freely exercised their discretion to design an HPP responsive to
wishes of residents;

--Neither CEQA nor the Coastal Act mandate a City have an HP ordinance.

Lagunans do not want to be forced onto a registry, inventory or survey without their consent. CEQA exempts home building permits unless the home is on the National or CA Registry or on a local registry. The existence of subjective “windshield” survey or inventory has been interpreted by some as a mandate force your home into costly and lengthy CEQA review process. Placing your home on a list of “eligible historic structures”, against your wishes, may be a wrongful “taking” and lead to unwanted litigation.

Other cities have clear ordinances that declare participation in any HP program strictly voluntary. Many cities rely [on] private philanthropic preservation foundations to motivate homeowners to preserve the historic character of their homes. Most cities use high National and State standards to select truly historic homes. Other have created “districts” or “preservation zones” to encourage private preservation initiatives while “immunizing” other homes from CEQA control. Many rely on the Mills Act as the only significant incentive. No other City has the onerous “agreement” Laguna demands of historical homeowners. This agreement is a huge disincentive.

Please speak out on July 31. The Council must accept the fact that we have total local control of this issue. The Council should create a new “committee” chartered with the task of writing a new HP ordinance from scratch, borrowing the best ideas from other cities while avoiding their mistakes, and complying with clear detailed directives. Those should include 100 percent voluntary participation, no surveys or inventories to avoid CEQA entrapment, insist on the CA and Federal high standards, grant Mills Act contracts concurrently with registration, and encourage formation of a private preservation society to drive private initiatives. 

Doug Cortez

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding is for Warlocks

The City’s urgency in undergrounding utilities is the mitigation of risk from wildfire caused by SCE utility poles, yet nothing in the schedule or execution of this project actually mitigates fire risk until project completion. That’s because the project duration is so long the town remains under threat from fire while you are busy replacing poles – for 51 years. It’s like a moon-shot project, first you subsidize a spaceship for twelve years and $25.4 billion, but you land a man on the moon at project end.

The undergrounding project plan calls for removing Laguna’s threatening utility poles. City Undergrounding Supporting Documents show four wildfires occurred in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2015 associated with SC Edison utility poles. One pole was located along a main evacuation route (LCR), one fire started by a fallen tree, one by a car impact, two caused by SCE equipment failures.

Taken in sequence the projects LCR, Evacuation Routes, and Residential Assessment Districts would take 51 years to complete (6+15+30) for $200 million ($90M+$45M+$65M). Fifteen years into the project our traffic will increase by 167 percent and the threat from wayward drivers will also increase. Fifty-one years in, the project will finish and the Warlocks below ground rejoice (H.G. Wells: The Time Machine). Above ground the power delivery technology has changed, the buried utility is now obsolete and the Eloi are screwed. Apollo 11 doesn’t go to the moon anymore because the purpose for going and technology are both obsolete.

The supporting documents show one encouraging slide titled City Acquisition of Electrical System, the last bullet reads “Costs and Debt Unknown” but sadly the project has not investigated this option. Another slide titled Harden Existing Utilities System explains how the existing overhead utilities could be upgraded and “hardened” from fire danger in 2-4 years. If we want to mitigate Laguna’s risk from wildfire we should do something effective like turn the power off, or better perform inspections upgrades and install impact barriers around poles while we study replacement utility technologies. 

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Million Dollar Quartet was worth every penny

My wife and I took our adult son out for dinner and a show last night hoping that Million Dollar Quartet would prove worthwhile. We saw the show in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and were hoping the local version would live up to what we saw in Tinseltown. As it turns out the local production was far better then what we saw in Vegas in every regard. 

The cozy Laguna Playhouse provided the perfect setting and the performance was off the charts spectacular. We felt all the performers were great but the standout was Billy Rude who played the part of Jerry Lee Lewis. His enthusiasm combined with his athleticism was worth the price of admission alone.

Ron Marshall

Laguna Beach

Show photo IDs at grocery stores?

President Trump’s assertion that people today need to show photo IDs in order to buy groceries is so 1980s. That’s when most people paid with a check. The usual response from the grocery clerk was to call the store manager before accepting said check. More often than not, that’s when the shopper had to show a driver’s license or some other photo ID. 

Today, the vast majority of customers use a credit or debit card when buying groceries in town at Pavilions, Whole Foods or Ralphs for example. About the only time someone needs to show a photo ID is when he or she is 20-something (OK, maybe 30-something, too) and wants buy alcohol or tobacco. So while the president is hyper-technically correct about one group of shoppers, I don’t believe anyone 40 or older ever has to show a photo ID at the grocery store. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Defending Village Laguna

Village Laguna, a 47-year-old, local and purely volunteer membership organization, is now being targeted by a few potential city council candidates and called a “danger” to our Village. 

I have been a member of Village Laguna since the days they were fighting to have the Treasure Island Park and beaches preserved for residents. At that time, the developers of the Montage wanted to close the beach for the exclusive use of their “Hotel Guests”. Since I lived nearby, I wanted to preserve resident access to Treasure Island’s beautiful coves. Village Laguna was one of many groups who banded together to fight this land grab by out-of-town financial interests looking to maximize their profits by taking our beaches. 

I stayed a member of Village Laguna when I saw that they had a proud history of fighting to preserve, protect and improve those features of our town that makes us so unique. Let’s count the ways Village Laguna has been at the forefront of so many good initiatives:

1. Preventing the building of multi-story hotel towers along our bluff tops and beachfronts through the passage of the heights ordinance.

2. Saving Aliso Creek and Canyon from being channeled and helping restore it to as natural state as possible.

3. Helping to buy the open space that surrounds Laguna and preventing it from development.

4. Helping to create the Laguna Canyon Foundation to manage our open space and to continue to add to it while preserving our amazing green footprint throughout the Village.

5. Helping to preserve the historic character of our village through education and advocacy for proper restoration and reasonable expansion.

6. Preserving the “Resident Serving” business focus in our downtown. (It’s why there are no box stores here or designer boutiques like are found in so many malls and tourist traps across the world.)

7. Supporting the Marine Preserve that is making our beaches safer and healthier.

8. Advocating against the commercialization of our beaches and preventing food stands and beach rentals from establishing a foothold.

9. Supporting quality education in our local schools so they remain vibrant and magnets for our best students.

10. Working to reduce vehicle traffic in our downtown through support for trolleys and peripheral parking during the summer months. 

I hope the reader gets my point. There are so many other critically important initiatives supported by Village Laguna members over the years that this letter could run into multiple pages. 

When I hear false criticisms of Village Laguna, they sound like projection from financially focused groups that want to monetize our infrastructure, degrade our environment, eliminate any opposition to the destruction of our neighborhoods, and wish to have true control over our city government for their financial benefit. 

The reason why so many residents have supported Village Laguna over the years is that they know that Village Laguna members are committed to the task of preserving what Laguna means to all of us. As a membership organization comprised primarily of local citizens who freely donate their time to its work and expect and receive no financial benefits, many Laguna residents consider Village Laguna our “Citizen watchdog” making sure that our civic leaders do what they promise and help pass laws and regulations that protect our wonderful town. 

Laguna would not be the jewel that attracts millions of visitors if our many volunteer civic organizations did not work every day to preserve its best qualities. I am so proud to be a resident of Laguna Beach and a volunteer member of Village Laguna. You are invited to participate in this important work. 

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

One-cent tax is misleading

The city is deliberately misleading the public with the false concept of a one-cent tax. The city of Laguna Beach is asking for a one percent sales tax increase (from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent). Saying one cent is at a minimum deceptive and can be misleading to a large majority of your readers. This proposal to support underground utility poles is a 13 percent sales tax increase and should be clearly reported and disclosed as such. 

Craig Brashier

Laguna Beach

Adults more stressed than students?

Count me among many who admire PTA and SchoolPower leader Tammy Skenderian. Her public endorsement of a proposed LBUSD school calendar change invites a respectful dialogue on our town’s political values.

With refreshing candor Skenderian discloses past opposition to a mid-August back-to-school schedule. Now, with students at LBHS, a return to classrooms in summer best meets her personal needs.

Fine, except Skenderian admonishes parents who disagree to “put their personal agenda aside” for kids and community. Not her intent perhaps, but that logic suggests her personal agenda is civic minded but not so the personal agenda of opposing parents.

She also gives in – as we all can at times – to some gratuitous civic scolding, e.g. “disappointed and saddened by behavior of some parents,” “personal attacks on our administrators and volunteer school board members,” “voice opinions appropriately,” “let’s not lose our minds.”

Many parents would tell a counter narrative of “personal attacks” by politically immature school officials aimed at moms and dads daring to openly challenge school policy. Examples include a dozen parents in math professions publicly vilified for respectfully opposing trendy unproven math curriculum.

Our elected school board used public school staff and funds to co-produce with SchoolPower social media ridiculing parents advocating for children. Targeted parents were graphically portrayed “losing their minds” and hiring a biker hitman to kill the school superintendent. That so-called “satire” was posted on LBUSD’s website and screened at SchoolPower’s gala.

BTW turns out parents challenging math curriculum were right. LBHS underperformance in math compared to schools spending half per student is no laughing matter.

The larger lesson is that school officials demeaning parents as irrational, “crazy” or selfishly opposed to greater good poisons our public school civic culture. The chilling effect on robust public debate breeds toxic social intolerance we all channel at times, until too many well-meaning parents feel not only stressed, but ambushed and “personally attacked” for speaking up.

It’s not just supporters or opponents of school calendar change or any single issue who define civic culture. We all need to work on listening more before we speak, disagree when it matters, and do so respectfully.

High performing school boards promote real diversity by creating a strong public record on the merits with full and fair participation, and then stand by decisions without taking sides in divisive public or private civic shaming.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Praise for Sid Fanarof from one of our international readers

I have just read your write-up on zpizza’s new breakfast menu in their South Laguna restaurant.

You are very lucky to have Sid Fanarof in Laguna.

We have some of the world’s great restaurants here where I live in Cape Town, so why should I envy you guys?

Because the food Sid Fanarof creates always seems so simple and yet is quite sublime…and usually healthy.

From an infrequent visitor to Laguna Beach.

Marilyn Honikman

Cape Town

No one has opened Pandora’s Box

In Barbara Diamond’s article last week, newly minted candidate for City Council Peter Blake states: “I do not want the homeless fed, or provided with showers or permanent housing. We have opened Pandora’s Box and I want to shut it.”

Peter, no one has opened Pandora’s Box. Let’s catch you up with some truth: 

For three decades, our community has responded with well-considered, best-practice models. As a result, in the current county crisis, Laguna Beach is considered an expert resource consulted by other cities as they begin wrestling with the issue. We are ahead of the game. Why would anyone vote to go backward to methods proven not to work?

Laguna Beach has more shelter beds per capita than any other city in Orange County. That’s something to be proud of, not something to mock.

Laguna is not unsafe, and pushing a false narrative that residents are under threat of violence by homeless people is a dangerous fabrication. LBPD statistics show that the violent crime rate has remained mostly the same or lower since the ASL opened in 2009 – a testament to the ample enforcement that exists in our fair burg.

If ever we needed proof that homeless people don’t bounce around to find the best deal, it’s right now. If our city’s showers, shelters, meals and permanent housing options were the magnet Blake thinks they are, we’d be overrun right now. Four hundred people were relocated out of the riverbed area in Anaheim and their short-term motel vouchers have mostly run out. Yet we are not seeing an increase in homeless people in our town.

The facts are clear that housing ends homelessness and that well-run, housing-focused shelters can hasten housing placement. 

One last note: they are people, not a category, so let’s refrain from calling them “the homeless.”

Anyone seeking office as a public servant needs to have a basic grasp of a problem he purports to be able to solve. Our political environment these days is too often crowded with politicians saying things that ‘feel’ true but don’t have facts to back them up. While Blake’s angry bluster about the 75 or so individuals in our town may make those who are uncomfortable with homelessness feel a little better, it won’t address homelessness in any meaningful way. Haven’t we had enough of that kind of politician? 

Those who wish to learn more about honestly addressing the issue of homelessness might check out and sign on to

In community,

Barbara McMurray

Laguna Beach

Handling the homelessness issue: Peter Blake responds

Thank you in advance for allowing me to respond to Barbara McMurray’s letter to the editor dated June 8, 2018.

In her letter Barbara quotes me as saying that we have opened Pandora’s Box regarding our handling of the homeless in Laguna and offers to “catch me up on some truth.”

Barbara states: “For three decades, our community has responded with well-considered, best-practice models. As a result, in the current county crisis Laguna Beach is considered an expert resource consulted by other cities as they begin wrestling with the issue. We are ahead of the game. Why would anyone vote to go backward to methods proven not to work?”

My thoughts: Barbara, for starters we have not had a homeless problem for three decades. The magnitude of our problem began in 2009 with a frivolous lawsuit filed by the ACLU that implied that we were harassing the homeless. We were forced into establishing the Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL) and The Friendship Shelter was chosen to run it. Before that we had a homeless population that was small and consisted of some out of town transients and our fellow resident homeless that we loved and took care of. We are currently considered experts in how to mismanage our homeless situation and the fact that we were “ahead of the game” exacerbated the problem as more transients came to Laguna seeking assistance. Our surrounding communities studied us and learned what NOT to do. They sat back and watched while new transients arrived and made our town unsafe and turned the canyon into ground zero for addicts and criminals. We were thanked for our efforts by being sued again by the ACLU and other homeless advocates. Surrounding cities learned from us that no good deed goes unpunished. Not a single city stepped up to the plate to follow our lead as Dawn Price predicted years ago. They simply were not that ignorant!

Barbara states: “Laguna Beach has more shelter beds per capita than any other city in Orange County. That’s something to be proud of, not something to mock.”

My thoughts: She’s right. It’s not something to mock but to actually use as a lesson as to how not to cower and allow ourselves to be forced into a situation like this again. If Barbara and the Friendship Shelter have their way we will build a 45-unit apartment building to permanently house the chronically homeless right next to the 45 shelter beds at the ASL. Add to that the 32 currently housed at the Friendship Shelter building on Coast Highway and the rest housed in apartments and hotels and you have a number that far exceeds any reasonable approach to solving the homeless problem as a community. We simply do not have the resources to handle this situation. Sorry!

Barbara states: “Laguna is not unsafe, and pushing a false narrative that residents are under threat of violence by homeless people is a dangerous fabrication. LBPD statistics show that the violent crime rate has remained mostly the same or lower since the ASL opened in 2009- a testament to the ample enforcement that exists in our fair burg.”

My thoughts: Now Barbara is deflecting from the main problem we are facing by stating violent crime statistics. She intentionally neglects to discuss the low level crimes that the transient population are responsible for including break-ins both in cars and homes, vandalism, theft, public intoxication, drug possession and the administering of dangerous drugs in public and lewd behavior including masturbating, urinating and defecating in public. Only a fool could assume that Laguna is as safe today as it was ten years ago. 

Barbara states: “If ever we needed proof that homeless people don’t bounce around to find the best deal, it’s right now. If our city’s showers, shelters, meals and permanent housing options were the magnet Blake thinks they are, we’d be overrun right now. Four hundred people were relocated out of the riverbed area in Anaheim and their short-term motel vouchers have mostly run out. Yet we are not seeing an increase in homeless people in our town.”

My thoughts: Somehow we just lucked out and the transient criminals from the riverbed were sent to hotels in San Clemente and other towns. Ask those cities what life is like now. 14,000 hypodermic needles were collected when the squalor was finally emptied and the surrounding residents’ quality of life was finally restored. The residents of Laguna Niguel, Irvine and Huntington Beach were the suggested recipients of this population to live in tent cities on county property. A huge backlash stopped it. Fortunately Barbara’s welcome wagon was in the shop at the time.

Barbara states: “The facts are clear that housing ends homelessness and that well-run, housing-focused shelters can hasten housing placement.”

My thoughts: Maybe building housing for the homeless in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country with taxpayer funds makes sense to Barbara and the Friendship Shelter but I’m frankly baffled by their logic. Wouldn’t these funds better serve the vulnerable in areas where costs are substantially lower? Over the years I’ve watched our elders, friends and our younger generation have to move from their beloved town due to their inability to afford a home or apartment. Somehow we’re asked to justify building housing for these transients? Barbara, why won’t you be honest and admit that the Friendship Shelter stopped requiring sobriety and employment as a condition for your assistance? Admit that the taxpayer funds you thrive on come with non-discriminatory conditions. You’re forced to work with the chronically homeless defined by long lengths of homelessness and having addiction and mental problems. Lengthy criminal records are also tolerated. That suits a criminal justice advocate like yourself who doesn’t support the incarceration of the homeless or addicts. It doesn’t fare well with those of us who feel a palpable police presence. Aggressive enforcement of public nuisance laws are the key to returning our town to a level of safety we enjoyed for decades and we are NOT willing to compromise so that people like yourself with misguided compassion can feel better.

Barbara states: “Anyone who seeks office as a public servant needs to have a basic grasp of a problem he purports to be able to solve. Our political environment these days is too often crowded with politicians saying things that ‘feel’ true but don’t have facts to back them up. While Blake’s angry bluster about the 75 or so individuals in our town may make those who are uncomfortable with homelessness feel a little better, it won’t address homelessness in any meaningful way. Haven’t we had enough of that kind of politician?”

My thoughts: Barbara, what I “feel” is based on my experience garnered from working in downtown Laguna Beach since 1990. I have personally seen crime exponentially rise since we began this dangerous social experiment. We have failed miserably and you know it! Why don’t you admit it instead of lying through omission, misrepresenting facts and using skewed statistics to mask your failures? My “angry bluster” towards the transients does not make those who are uncomfortable with the situation “feel better.” They will feel better when we yank the welcome mat and close the coastal country club that you, the Friendship Shelter, the ACLU and uninformed yet well-meaning socialites have helped create in our community.

Barbara, when elected this November, I will close Pandora’s Box.

Peter Blake

Laguna Beach

Recent home invasion raises concerns regarding LB policies

I’m seeing a lot more articles about home invasions by criminals looking for money, drugs and even guns. Maybe it’s time that Laguna Beach re-evaluate its Sanctuary City and long-standing policy of allowing any homeless drifter to camp and panhandle in the area. Those policies allow criminal elements, drug addicts and alcoholics to set up residence in the city bringing harm to the residents, visitors and vacationers. 

I don’t see police blotters with similar home invasions from other larger inland cities, like Mission Viejo and Laguna Niguel, because they don’t have those same policies/laws and they don’t seem to put up with homeless squatters sprawling out in residential areas. 

It might also be helpful to have more guard gated communities like those other cities do, especially with the higher value of homes and supposedly more assets contained within. Since guns were also stolen during this home invasion robbery, I wonder what good use they served since they weren’t used in a proper defense nor were they stored in a safe that could not be stolen from the home.

Gary Zaremba

Mission Viejo

Caltrans project: There are alternatives

Given the sensitivity of Laguna Canyon, we should explore every option that would enable better traffic flow at a reduced impact to the canyon. One of the best options to achieve this is to eliminate the redundant portion of El Toro Rd and return it to wilderness uses. 

El Toro traffic would use the existing 73 feeder system to access Laguna Canyon Rd.  By eliminating intersections, travel time could actually be reduced. 

The advantages of eliminating the redundancies are easy to view on a map (see below).

letter el toro

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted graphic

Southbound El Toro traffic would use the 73 feeder to join the 133 at the junction of the 73 and 133.    

There are three options for Northbound El Toro traffic: 

--Simple Option – Just use the existing ramps from the 133 to the 73 feeder.

--Improved Option – Improvements to the current intersection of the 133 and the 73 feeder should be considered. A dedicated ramp for northbound 133 to southbound 73 feeder would be the most obvious improvement.

--One-way Option – Another variation would be to make El Toro one-way, northbound only, between the current 133 intersection and the 73.

Several other improvements could also be made to further improve traffic flow – all of which would be less than the $39 million budget for the current proposal of just adding more merge lanes to the current intersection.

Any of these three variations would make better use of the 73 feeder while at the same time completely eliminating the bottleneck and congestion at the current 133 and El Toro intersection. The key here is to move the merging and the congestion to the 133 – 73 intersection which already has the infrastructure, width, and throughput to handle the merging much better than further down in the middle of Laguna Canyon.    

While Option 2, the “Improved Option,” would add less than a half-mile of distance, it would actually improve travel time since two traffic lights intersections are eliminated. Gaining traffic throughput this way would allow us to return land to wilderness uses rather than taking more away.  That is the option displayed in the map.

I hope that this idea can get enough traction to be seriously evaluated by Caltrans.

David Raber

Laguna Beach

Taxes and city income


Some analysis [regardless of the worthiness of the Proposal for the Tax] indicate that even with the huge loss of ‘’bed tax’’ from such closings [four years projected] of Hotel Laguna...our City has plenty of cash income reserves to pay the for proposal without ANY NEW TAX!

It appears, for example, police service is cut to the bone...Residents rarely see patrols outside of the downtown homeless zone…and constant new loss of old revenue such as the downtown dual movie theater. And the stagnant Festival revenues, etc.

We can afford many’s just [that] the City is adrift with bureaucratic indecision. Look to the current account in City coffers...NOT...our deep pockets.

Paul Merritt

Laguna Beach

Coastal short-term rental supporters ignore historic nuisance laws

Coastal city Short-Term Rental proponents ignore legally-binding land use concepts, typically using meritless, fatally flawed arguments at hearings.

They’re good for business? Unfortunately, coastal trends since 2000 are “Commerce first, residents second.” By residents I mean those NOT owning potential STR parcels.

Favoring commerce over 40+ percent of the population who rent year-round plus percentages of full-time owners not wishing to acquire permits, that constitute an incontestable majority, the commerce tail is wagging the communal quality of life dog.

Beyond permit fees, there’s no proof that more STR would appreciably increase general municipal revenue via boarders spending significant taxable amounts at businesses. Often tenants are extended families and friends. They’ll be saving money by cooking and drinking at the rental, not out.

They increase or assist public access to our beaches? A classic straw man argument. Yes, a few hundred more people will be ensconced, but the Cal Coastal Commission is dead wrong on this one. Otherwise, why allow more and more parking meters, increasing rates plus climbing violation fees? Aren’t limited time meters a form of infringement, inhibition or visitation disincentive?

Coastals increasingly allow increased intensification of use for restaurants and bars without demanding increased onsite parking. Why doesn’t the CCC object to that, these sites eat up yet more public parking, thus decreasing access, don’t they?

STR homes are their castle, limitations constitute a de facto taking? That ignores the basics of common civility, public and private nuisance laws traced back to King Henry III:

“Private nuisance: An unreasonable, unwarranted invasion, where actions of the defendant cause a substantial interference with another’s use/enjoyment of their property. Public nuisance: The defendant’s actions materially affect the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of the community.”

No one has the inalienable right to use their property to the diminishment of their neighbor(s). Yes, some operators are vigilant and do not abuse the terms and conditions. The nightmares abound, absentee owners are trying to maximize income to offset, mitigate their taxes and maintenance. They bought the parcel without STR rights: Enhancing private revenue models is NOT the community’s problem.

The sales industry knows this, the Real Estate Disclosure Act of 1987 is explicit: Seller MUST disclose any adverse condition that COULD affect the value. Listed housing is theoretically forced to reveal the obtrusive potential if in proximity. STRs actually diminish property values, now THERE’S a fiscal infringement, irregular taking including tort (litigation) exposure.

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

City Council is asking residents to vote for the highest sales tax in OC

City Council [gave] 5/0 approval to place their recommended one percent Sales Tax Increase on the November 2018 Ballot. Despite objection by a clear majority of residents, who spoke to provide arguments against the excessive taxation projected to generate $5.6M that would be used to support a 30-year bond debt to underground utilities.

Compelling concerns, the public deserves a cautionary approach:

--Residents will pay to improve Edison’s aging infrastructure improvement but will not benefit or be provided any shares of privately held company stock.

--Many neighborhoods have already paid their fair share and have elected to underground their own street.

--A city debt liability of a 100 million dollar plus Bond may be the unintended consequence for our ability to borrow for any serious catastrophic emergency, think Bluebird Canyon landslide!

--The 2016 Measure LL raised TOT tax, under the main premise of undergrounding, however, the majority of the funds has been paid to other expenses. 

--It is reckless and irresponsible to expect a vote in favor of a Sales Tax Increase when the scope and total bid cost for undergrounding remains unclear and without any certainty. It is of particular importance to know that the City of Fresno’s recent cost estimate to underground PG&E utility went from 40 million to a [whopping] 396 million, in five short years! In short, residents are being asked to tax themselves, for 25 years, to pay for a project of an undetermined amount. 

--At this time a tax increase is especially concerning since Federal Tax Reform has adversely raised taxes, for the majority of California homeowners who may not fully understand the full tax ramifications, until after they cast [their] vote. It is the unintended consequences of a ballot measure that later causes disappointment, regret and stings the well-intended voter.

--The Affordable Housing Tax Force seeks to maintain economic diversity through balance in our city. We have many seniors on fixed incomes, millennials and a challenged middle class who struggle economically to afford to continue to live in Laguna Beach. Increased taxation by local government is a sure way to move toward gentrification. 

Lorene Laguna

Laguna Beach

Responding to Peter Blake

I read with interest Mr. Blake’s response to my letter on the homeless issue. I was surprised by the tone of his response. In my original letter I made sure to be respectful and recognize Mr. Blake’s expertise as a successful local businessman. Yet, in his response Mr Blake has elected to attack me because of my membership in a local nonprofit civic association! He then goes on ascribe to me views on the homeless issue that I did not state in my original letter nor in any other public venue. 

I do not know nor recall ever meeting Mr. Blake although I have peeked into his gallery a time or two. So, let’s analyse what his response to my respectful letter says about Mr. Blake:

--He is obviously emotionally committed to a purely “palpable” police only response to the homelessness issue. 

--He uses guilt by association to attack those he does not agree with on city issues.

--He uses a crystal ball (or a psychic hotline) to guess what people who do not agree with him are thinking.

--He uses fear of the unknown rather than logic to debate civic issues.

I have been happily involved with a number of civic, environmental and neighbourhood organizations during the 30+ years I have lived in Laguna. The letter I wrote were my own thoughts and not those of any specific organization. To accuse me of such a subterfuge is unfortunate.

So, to earn a seat on the council, one must be fair, honest, open to all residents and respectful of all points of views. Imagine what someone who is none of these things would do on our council. The ideal candidate should be measured for a civic leadership position by the way he treats his fellow citizens and the level of respect he shows different points of views. 

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Peter Blake responds to Armando Baez

Armando, in your most recent Letter to the Editor you state that, “I surprised you with the tone of my response” to your letter dated 8/24. You accused me of “attacking you because of your membership in a local nonprofit civic association.” That “civic association” (Village Laguna) happens to be a political action committee of which you’re a board member. Both of your letters addressed my candidacy therefore it’s only fair that I referenced your affiliation with politically active groups in my responses.

In your letter you “analyze” my response and then attempt to discredit my character as a result of my solution regarding solving Laguna’s crime problem. A direct result of our transient community, which I consider a serious and existential problem. You state, “He is obviously emotionally committed to a purely palpable police only response to the homeless issue.” You’re correct! I believe that aggressive policing and strict ordinances are necessary to protect the safety and well being of our residents. A palpable police presence will deter the criminal transients from committing crimes against the residents and visitors of Laguna. Sorry if that triggers your sensitivities for these vagabonds who are roaming the streets of Laguna, breaking into our homes and cars, openly administering dangerous drugs, masturbating, defecating, urinating and vandalizing our property. A scroll down to this or any issue of the Stu News crime blog will confirm an exponential rise in low-level crime since 2009 when we opened the ASL. Armando, for the record, I am compassionate towards homeless people and am eager to provide assistance to anyone who requires and requests it. You and the homeless advocates in town are desperately trying to paint me as uncaring towards homeless people. Your assertions are based on falsehoods and are politically motivated. No resident who knows me or has taken the time to speak with me regarding my solutions to this issue would agree with you. This is a blatant attempt to discredit me in order to further your failed homeless agenda.

You continue: “He uses a crystal ball or psychic hotline to guess what people who do not agree with him are thinking.” Actually, in your case, I didn’t need either. I used Google to find other Letters to the Editor you’d written throughout the years. Your own writings took the guesswork out of my equation. I read through all of your politically charged commentary. Your letters revealed a passive-aggressive approach, luring your opponents into debate and then attacking them when they respond unfavorably to your agenda. 

You state: “He uses fear of the unknown rather than logic to debate civic issues.” Armando, you and Village Laguna have mastered “using fear of the unknown” to discredit any ideas that go against your stance on issues facing Laguna. Now you’re attempting to use it against my candidacy in the hopes that one of your endorsed candidates will prevail. Please stop acting like you’re just a concerned-citizen. You’re not fooling anyone! Especially 100 days before an election.

You end your letter by stating: “So, to earn a seat on the council, one must be fair, honest, open to all residents and respectful of all points of view. Imagine what someone who is none of these things would do on our council. The ideal candidate should be measured for a civic leadership position by the way he treats his fellow citizens and the level of respect he shows different points of view.” Armando, I am fair, honest and open to all residents and respectful of all points of view. I will however not allow political activists like yourself and Village Laguna to bully me and influence my decisions. I will represent the silent majority in town who are sick and tired of being ignored. Once elected, I will see to it that the residents of Laguna will no longer be at the mercy of Village Laguna’s cronies on City Council, Design Review Board, Historical, Planning Commission and behind the counters at City Hall. 

Armando, I love Laguna and will serve its residents passionately. If you’re concerned with the “tone” of my responses then you’d better prepare yourself for even more rigorous discourse in the future. I will continue to defend myself and my constituents without concern for what you consider unstatesmanlike. I’m not swayed by your comments and unlike you, I’m beholden to no political entities!

Peter Blake

Laguna Beach

Trolley service this summer is an insult to visitors and residents alike

This summer’s trolley service is an insult to visitors and residents. It is hard to believe the Transit Department is under the supervision of the Public Works Director & Assistant City Manager.           

There is no trolley service to north Laguna to and from the bus depot. Imagine if you have parked and paid at city lot #16 & 17 in Laguna Canyon & take a trolley to the bus depot & want to go to the northside galleries, antique stores, beaches, parks, restaurants and the art museum etc. To get there, you must walk to Laguna Avenue to catch the “short coastal” trolley north. If you are staying at a northside hotel and want to leave your car behind and travel to the three festivals by trolley, you can take the short trolley south to Main Beach park, cross Coast Hwy, walk South to Laguna Avenue and catch the “long coastal” trolley to the bus dept. or walk to the bus depot and catch a trolley to the festivals. Northside merchants should call city council members and demand trolley service from the depot now.

Trolley and bus departure and arrival areas are constantly changed, leaving visitorsand& residents in the dark.

No “trolley stewards” seem to be on duty, to add to the confusion.

There are people waiting very day on the bench in front of the Hotel Laguna, which has been a trolley, city bus & OCTA stop for decades. A permanent sign needs to be installed telling riders the stop has been moved 300 feet north to Main Beach.

The trolley routes are very confusing for resident and visitors. Speaker systems on many trolleys are broken which means drivers must speak with each person boarding and make certain the trolley is going where they thought it was going.

Trolley drivers are the first who will tell you that this summer’s trolley service is one of the most mismanaged in history.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Nomination of Bill Atkins for Artist in Residence

Every artistic village, community, or city should, by all means, have a representative “Artist in Residence.” An artist thoroughly knowledgeable of the Laguna arts scene and who has represented and enriched Laguna’s artistic vision. The person who best meets these credentials is Bill Atkins. His accolades and honors are too long to list here, but I suggest that the City Council get serious about maintaining. Laguna’s reputation as an artistic sanctuary in the midst of Orange County and select an “Artist in Residence.” 

I furthermore nominate Bill Atkins to serve in that capacity.
Jaci D. Cuddy

Long-time Laguna resident

Laguna is still a great place to live

The new colorful entrance to the Art-A-Fair by artist Okuda San Miguel and other new murals in Laguna Canyon are a welcome sight and hopefully the LBPD will soon find the vandals who sprayed black paint on the Sawdust Festival’s new mural, on their outer wall facing Laguna Canyon Road, created by Charmaine Olivia and Alec Demarco.

Refurbishing the huge, cement “wing” structure for a new restaurant on the Festival of Arts grounds is another wonderful and creative idea.

There’s no going back to the good ol’ days but the upcoming Laguna Beach Open Volleyball competition, Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, the Brooks Street surf contest to be announced for a weekend after June 1 when the surf is good, the Bruce Hopping Memorial at Thalia Street beach with a “paddle out” at 4 p.m., Thursday, June 14, and Laguna’s PRIDE celebration starting with a party at the Main Street bar on Friday, June 1, a brunch at the Royal Hawaiian on Saturday June 2, the Boom Boom party later on the same day and a party at our International “gay” beach, West Street on Sunday, June 3 followed by a tea dance at the Boom, all add up to wonderful ways to enjoy the present and remember the past. 

New art, new ideas and an open mind make our town come alive.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

First anniversary of the Mueller investigation

Last week was the first anniversary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s historic investigation. President Trump claims it is the biggest witch-hunt in American history. I say it is American justice at its finest.

I clearly understand why the president wants to bury what he believes is more than a pebble in his shoe. As of now, the Mueller team has indicted 19 individuals and three business entities. Heading into its second year, there is no sense the investigation is anywhere near finished and, frankly, that is as it should be.  

I like the fact the special counsel continues to quietly go about his business despite all the public distractions Mr. Trump and his advisors throw at him daily. In the end, no matter when that occurs, I have faith the American people will be well served. Too bad the President of the United States does not believe that.  

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Roseanne’s comments were racist

Roseanne Barr’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Obama, were incredibly racist and mean-spirited. They rivaled what the KKK has said for decades about blacks or what our own Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said a week ago about gays buying homes. 

It is especially ironic that ABC cancelled Roseanne’s hit show Tuesday – the same day 8,000 Starbucks closed for anti-bias training. One of the essential threads that holds this nation together is the principle that all men (and women) are created equal. The sooner people like Roseanne, members of the Klan or Rohrabacher honor and celebrate this, the sooner America will become a more perfect Union.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

What Art and Electricity have in Common

The game changer in renewable energy production is finding a way to store it. Today Tesla is testing this in pilot projects located in Santa Ana and San Jose while Reliant Energy of San Francisco is testing this east of Palm Springs. Solar power is growing fastest in California where 17 percent of the state’s energy production comes from solar and wind (California Energy Commission). Utility battery storage is the technology disruptor that will realize the new world solar economy and make nukes and petroleum obsolete in price, externalized costs and hazardous waste. Even Saudi Arabia is spending $200 billion on a solar plant.

Here’s a milestone from Tesla today: Since 2015 Tesla alone installed one gigawatt-hour of battery storage, the amount the world installed last year. In other projects from Australia to Puerto Rico, these batteries are helping stabilize electric grids powered by renewables. 

Renewables are hydro solar wave and geothermal. Laguna has the topography to develop three of the four renewables in the same time needed to bury 19th century underground cables. Laguna is situated as a municipal power company to produce free solar energy and sell it back to utility companies, so where is the political wisdom to do it?

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Drug test employees?

Regarding the article “Saloon owner reaches out to locals after a former employee is arrested for allegedly selling cocaine,” a concrete way for owner Michael Byrne to convince our community “The Saloon is not a drug bar, has never been a drug bar, nor will it ever be a drug bar” would be to drug test all of the employees. My opinion, of course.

Tom Hinmon

Laguna Beach

Overflowing trash: Tourists need to treat our town better – we can’t afford this

I believe in my City Council. They are all good members of our community and my own customers at one point in their lives. [But from these photos] you can see what a typical Sunday has come to look like. This overflowing of tourism is collapsing the town. Each week I have more and more neighbors, friends, and merchants complaining about how our town is being treated by the tourists. 

The lack of concern for the trash is a matter of health. More rats and other vermin will be taking over next. The City has over-promoted the tourism, and has done nothing to limit the amount of people coming into the city, and the trash is overflowing as you can see on the pictures that were sent to me by some good neighbors.

We take pride in our homes, neighborhoods, beaches, and education. We pay for city services for our families. But with 26,000 residents and 6.3 million visitors, the residents are a percentage of .004 percent. We are not even one percent of the total amount of people here, but this less than one percent is expected to pay for most of the services, and clean up after the 99.996 percent. Yes, we do get money from the County, the State, the Federal Government, but apparently it is not enough to buy trashcans for all these “Guests”.

I would like to see a study done on what percentage of the residents’ and town’s income is supported by tourism.

Letter trash two

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Marisol Kellam

Tourists need to treat our town better

I would like to see a candidate say, “Residents first!”

We cannot fault our hard working disposal company and its employees. Our City workers are doing the best that they can, but if we were able to become a Smoke Free City, can’t we become a, “Take Your Trash Home With You City?” or “You Will Be Fined”? At least provide trash receptacles, as ours are over flowing until we can get a plan in action.

Now Caltrans is also going to be paving the way for more tourists to come in? I think it is time to be like Catalina. Limit the amount of cars to residents and merchants, which limits the amount of people, and wear and tear on the city roads and everything else. We now have to become like Huntington Beach and charge for emergency services if the person is a non-resident. We can’t afford all this. My family has been here since the 1920s and each city has to progress, but we are too physically small to handle all of these many people.

Every resident I know picks up trash every weekend and during the week from in front of their homes, in the parking lots of grocery stores, beaches, hiking trails from The Top of the World to the bottom of the canyon.

I honestly think we are all trying as hard as we can, but this many people is a health hazard.

Thank you each for your time as residents and working members of this community to reading this.

Rebecca Apodaca

Laguna Beach

A response to Armando Baez’s Letter to the Editor

Thank you for your concerns regarding this fall’s election Armando! Don’t worry, I’m sure as a Village Laguna board member you will have at least a couple of candidates to toe Village Laguna’s line and make sure that you and all of the homeless advocates in town get their concerns addressed. 

In the meantime you can rest assured that the residents of Laguna who are fed up with the squalor in the canyon and at Main Beach will be tuned in to the “coming debate” regarding solutions. I know what your solution is: build permanent supportive housing for addicts and chronic homeless in the most expensive real estate market in the country and hope more don’t come. Makes sense doesn’t it? It’s clear you’ve decided that my solution of a palpable police presence to deter and prevent the transient criminals from committing crimes will not work for you. You would prefer to continue on our path towards becoming the next Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz or San Francisco. Our sister cities, where residents live in fear and whose streets are littered with trash, feces, and needles. 

You begin your letter by stating that, “Laguna Beach, like many other cities across the country, experienced a dramatic influx of homeless people.” Really? Was that before or after the ACLU sued us? “So to deal with this challenge, city leaders and nonprofit volunteer groups united to develop a solution that would be legal, humane and fair to all.” Fair to all? How is this fair to the 23,000 residents who’ve had to deal with an explosion of low-level crime and a diminished quality of life. Doesn’t sound fair to me! 

You then proceed to credit these failed policies with somehow saving Laguna from the “catastrophic increase in homelessness in Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Ana” and then you exclaim, “Somehow our policies maintained the population at a manageable level”. How was that accomplished? Were there quotas placed on how many transients could come to Laguna or how many could be dropped off by neighboring cities? 

Armando, why don’t you focus on Village Laguna’s other political goals? Acknowledge the control you and your political action committee have exercised for decades over our city. The property rights so many of us residents feel you’ve eroded while under the guise of “protecting” our city. Face it, you and Village Laguna are running scared because you can feel the end of decades of control that you have administered over us residents. Your endorsed candidates are going to be defeated this November. The residents of Laguna have had enough!

I am looking forward to debating all of these and many other issues I feel strongly about in the coming months, and yes, I will reduce homelessness in Laguna Beach and return our town to the safety and quality of life we’re accustomed to and deserve. A clean and safe Laguna is our right!

Peter Blake

Laguna Beach

Why spend taxpayer’s money to fix-up a decrepit structure?

Residents of Laguna,

On my daily walk, I pass by this iconic view, and I wonder what changes the “Lady” will see in the next few decades. 

Why will the derelict building that used to collect Laguna’s sewage be “Saved”? Crusaders love a crusade! The vocal minority speaks and the city spends. Where’s the common sense? 

The two main functions of city government are Public Safety and prudent spending of taxpayer dollars. Why spend a dollar of taxpayer’s money to “fix-up” a decrepit structure!

Why spend lady

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

If the lady could speak?

Tear it down and build a skateboard park for the children of Laguna Beach. For over three decades, the city has been searching for the “right location,” here it is right under their nose! 

Youth of Laguna unite! Get vocal, no one hears you unless you speak up! This is the perfect location! Think about it! Motivate now before this opportunity passes by. Let’s move forward. 

Three city council seats will be voted for this November, hopefully, some of the candidates will pick up the “cause” for the skateboarders in Laguna. Perhaps the new city council members will listen to the needs of the residents over the wants of the city bureaucrats and usual crusaders.

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach

Opportunity for Laguna to lead the way and ban plastic straws

As we are all aware, single use straws (plastic) are the one of our biggest environmental offenders. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found them to be consistently in the top five discarded items found on our shores. More than 500 million are used and discarded daily in the US. Cities across the country are jumping on the “ban bandwagon” with Seattle and Malibu enacting bans. New York City introduced a bill on May 23 to do the same.

I happen to prefer drinking cold beverages with a straw. I made the switch and started carrying a glass straw in my purse. They’re readily available online, as are steel straws. 

I also took the opportunity to talk to Patrick, the genial owner of Kitchen in the Canyon, and asked if he would consider paper straws. He couldn’t say “yes!” fast enough. I urge all local restaurateurs to do the same thing. Personally, I’d be surprised if customers even have a preference for plastic. 

Sadly, just the other day, McDonalds’ shareholders rejected a proposal to ban plastic straws in the US (used at 37,000 outlets serving 68 million people daily), but other companies such as Alaska Airlines are making the switch.

We’ve banned plastic bags and Styrofoam containers. It’s time to say goodbye to the plastic straw. If you’re not convinced, do a Google search and take a look at some of the sea creatures that have been affected.

Leslie Cunningham

Laguna Beach

Democrats need to unite behind Harley Rouda for the 48th District

In a time when small district congressional elections are making news on the national scene, we here in the 48thdistrict (which encompasses Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach as well as a small part of Laguna Niguel) had better pay attention to what’s going on in our own backyard. In this  “jungle primary,” which has 16 candidates listed on the ballot for United States Representative 48th District, only the two top vote getters will proceed to the November election. But did you know that three of the names listed on the ballot have withdrawn from the race? That’s right. For example, if you had planned to vote for a female Democrat, the two women who fit this description on the ballot have since withdrawn from the race, so think again.

Ballots are confusing enough with so many seemingly obscure roles to fill. But this congressional seat is major. If we elect the right person for this office, great strides can be made. While the candidates’ websites can be helpful, offering information regarding key issues and endorsements (as well as indicating their level of sophistication and engagement), personal recommendation from friends, neighbors, local business leaders and grassroots organizations can speak volumes. 

I don’t know about most of you, but I do not trust the California Democratic Party endorsement for this position – I’ve read that the guy they picked wined and dined each and every one of the delegates, however he did not win a single debate.  

We all need to take an interest in this. Our future, and our children’s future hinges on it. The current political climate is a disaster exacerbated by Trump’s ineptitude and his dismantling of many key programs that benefit all individuals, our state, our country and our planet. We absolutely need, each and every one of us, to take an active role and unite behind one good candidate. I believe that candidate is Harley Rouda. 

Harley Rouda jumped in early – he declared his candidacy shortly after Trump was elected, compelled to put himself in the ring as a positive and active driver for better outcomes in our nation. That means clean energy, equal rights for all, an end to gun violence, fair immigration policies, healthcare for all and more.

Harley is articulate, committed, and engaged. He is a well-educated people person who has already made frequent trips to Washington and is cultivating relationships so that when he arrives, he’ll spring right into action. Harley is the one who can really win it in November and also do a great job once in office. 

Don’t wait until you’re in the voting booth to decide. This decision is too important. Make your decision now. Vote Harley Rouda. Harley Rouda for United States Representative, 48th District.

Melissa Cavanaugh

Laguna Beach

Vote today!

Once again, I am pinching myself. While our process of electing leaders is far from perfect, it is way ahead of what’s in second place. Voting is, at its core, the acting out of one of America’s deepest ideals. The way I look at it, Harry Truman said it best: “The most valuable real estate is the voting booth.”

You may not back a winner in every race, but your participation in the process is a winning investment. Regardless of your political leanings, I hope you and your friends vote today.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

CERT training proves itself of great value

Last fall, I completed the Laguna Beach CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) six-week training and have recommended numerous times to friends over the last few months, but you never really know how effective training is until you’re thrown into a real-life situation. That happened this weekend when the Aliso Fire broke out behind my house in Top of the World. I was busy in Huntington Beach at the time and hadn’t checked my cell phone in a few hours. By the time I picked it up, I saw dozens of text messages, emails and phone calls about the fire and evacuations. I immediately hopped in my car and started heading back home giving instructions to my husband about what personal items to load in his car in case he and our son had to leave before I got home. This is where preparation and organization made all the difference. I was able to easily guide my husband over the phone to all my personal necessities that he might not think of. I was grateful for his fast action. 

When I was going through the CERT classes, I gave my 13-year-old son an assignment. Make his own 5-15-5 list. It contains what you would take if you had 5 minutes to evacuate, what you would pack if you had 15 minutes and what you would bring if you had 5 hours. His biological mom passed away when he was nine, so you can imagine how important his sentimental and irreplaceable items are. By the time I got home, he had all his significant belongings ready to go, along with a few days’ worth of clothes, his toiletries, his school bag and his prized skateboard to keep him entertained and relaxed during this stressful time. It didn’t stop there. He had everything for our dog packed, he remained calm and he jumped right in to help me douse our back fence and foliage with water. I was and am extremely proud of him. 

As far as most people go, I feel like I’m pretty well prepared, but what I didn’t plan for was me not being close to home when an evacuation was ordered. I also realized that our family needs to share our 5-15-5 lists, so we can seamlessly help each other if someone isn’t home. When conditions took a turn, my husband, our son and our dog headed down the hill overnight continuously getting cell phone updates from AlertOC specific to our actual neighborhood, even down to the side of the street we live on. Of course, we always hope and pray for the best, but it’s imperative that we prepare for the worst. 

Lynda Halligan Olsen

Laguna Beach Resident/Certified CERT Member/AlertOC Registrant

Bombs and boats

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve heard about abandoned boats with suspected human traffickers and illegal immigrants allowed to escape into the town and who knows where after that. Now, [last] week, the Laguna Beach police blotter states that a military bomb was found on the beach. I think that Laguna needs to work with the DHS and ICE to ensure that our beaches, residents and citizens are safe.

Gary Zaremba

High praise for Dianne Russell’s writing and Mary Hurlbut’s photography

I have to give high praise for the writing of Dianne [Russell]. In her article about the babies graduating from the Assistance League’s Early Intervention Program, she captured the essence of this heart-fulfilling program. The dynamic duo of Mary’s photos and Dianne’s discernment as she expertly culled through a massive amount of experiential, emotional and factual information produced this superb article that shines such an accurate light on this profound program that changes a seeming tragedy into a life giving, joyful experience for all of us who are involved. 

Thank you, Dianne for your excellent work! 

Susan McNeal Velasquez

Laguna Beach

Enhanced accountability would strengthen SchoolPower

SchoolPower President Kristin Winter recently assured public she’s “keeping overhead costs below industry standard.” Problem is there’s no relevant standard for a small town nonprofit that limits transparency to posting tax forms and selective financial disclosures.

For example, it’s clever to a fault for SchoolPower to claim “Yearly entertainment expenses from $100 to $500.” Expenses for events including entertainment average $75,000 annually, or $400,000 over the last five years under the current Executive Director. With some events netting out 25 percent or more less than gross, SchoolPower owes public user-friendly, informative reporting.

SchoolPower now confirms the Executive Director’s $75,000 base salary range, approximately $375,000 over last five years. But tax filings show salaries in the $150,000 range, around $750,000 over five years. If an additional $375,000 went to salaries or bonuses, including “three part-time employees” or other compensated services, the public deserves details.

SchoolPower claims “$752,695 to our schools last year.” With or without add-ons from (the) SchoolPower Endowment “rainy day” reserve, linkages between SchoolPower annual private grants and public school educational or budgetary policy demand far greater transparency.

For example, SchoolPower recently touted a 2017 grant to “ensure our kids have a safety net through a social-emotional program,” following race/gender incidents at LBHS. Even though over-staffing and declining enrollment already led to reductions of staff and programs, SchoolPower “teamed” with Superintendent to propose hiring a new senior staff director of “social learning” and two assistants.

Even with four psychologists – one for each campus – and eight school counselors already on staff, without validating need our School Board decided SchoolPower’s gift for “social learning” was an offer it could not refuse. So the School Board collaborated with SchoolPower to counter bad publicity on race and gender diversity by politically leveraging a one-time SchoolPower grant of $159,000 to expand central office senior staff for a social learning experiment now costing taxpayers $400,000 annually. 

SchoolPower’s website quotes our Superintendent committing to continue a still unproven social learning program costing at least $2 million if continued for five years. This adds to perception SchoolPower enjoys more access and influence than average parents, citizens and taxpayers. Yet, SchoolPower current year contributions consistently remain less than one percent of $55 million the public pays for schools.

Instead of gala “parent proms” where a small donor base lavishes the bulk of SchoolPower money, community wide fundraising would enable School Power to serve all families without undue influence or perception of purchased privilege. Finally, a two-year volunteer co-directors model, with a competitively retained and compensated CPA under fiduciary duty to ensure accountability, is a management strategy SchoolPower’s current President too readily dismissed.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach


Penny Susan Steris

Click on photo for a larger image

Penny Susan Steris, known to many as “Coach Penny,” passed away on May 5, 2018, at the age of 67 years. A California native, she lived in South Laguna for 50 years and had a positive impact on the community.

 As an avid seamstress during the seventies and eighties, she made custom bikinis under the Perfect Casuals label. She also worked at El Morro Elementary School in Laguna Beach from 1988-1996 and Our Lady of Fatima in San Clemente from 1996-2001. She played a major role developing the Laguna Beach Unified School District Disaster Preparedness Program following the 1993 fires. After retiring from the school districts she returned to her creative passion and started making children’s products under the Pineapple Kid label. These products were retailed at the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, which was a fulfilling time in her life. Penny was a creative, kind soul and she loved working with children. 

Her greatest joy in life was family and she was always present. The Steris family home was open to all and she was a second mother to many generations of kids.

Undoubtedly she dedicated her entire adult life to her children and was a caring and loving mother. Whether it was coaching little league for her son or LBHS softball for her daughter, she was hands-on and very active. One of her favorite times of the year was during the Brooks St. Contest. She was a pillar volunteer for morning sign-ups and loved watching the kid’s rip, a Surf Mom at heart who loved the ocean and warm sunshine.

The motto she valued and lived by was “Live by the Sun and love by the Moon”.

Her physical presence will be greatly missed but Penny’s Aloha spirit will always be with us.  

She is survived by her Husband of 50 years, Daryl Steris, children Jason and Malena, and grandchildren, Ava, Ollie, Colter and Cannon. 

A Hui Ho Penny (until we meet again).

A memorial followed by a paddle out to celebrate Penny’s life will be held Sunday, June 3 at 10 a.m. at Treasure Island Point in Laguna Beach.

Selective outrage?

Wow, your frequent letter writer comes out just before Election Day to tie Roseanne Barr’s tweet to racism, along with the KKK and a Republican candidate. Pretty clever...No word about the unemployment rate being at 3.8 percent, or the Singapore summit will happen.

How about black comedian calling POTUS a “cheap cracker” or Ms Judge calling Ben Carson a “porch monkey”, or Harvard University having a black only graduation ceremony? Or Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump unprintable names on Mother’s Day? If all are equal, where’s the condemnation and show-cancelling of the above?

William Kail

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach Pride is more than just a party

The month of June is officially LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Month in Laguna Beach, as proclaimed by Mayor Toni Iseman and City Council over a year ago. It is the time of year when our wonderful city celebrates and honors the rich contributions of the gay community to Laguna Beach.

Part of this month-long celebration is Laguna Beach Pride, which takes place this year over the weekend of June 1 - 3. A true partnership between the City of Laguna Beach, Visit Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee, Laguna Beach Pride welcomes both visitors and residents alike to participate in the annual festivities, from dancing the night away at Main Street Bar & Cabaret and the legendary Boom Boom Room to Aloha Drag Bingo Brunch at Royal Hawaiian to soaking up the sun at the West Street Beach Party. 

It is important to say that Pride is more than just a party. Pride creates a sense of belonging for people who may not feel it. Pride opens its arms to everyone who finds it comforting, uplifting and empowering. Pride gives hope to those who feel that life may never get better. Pride provides the freedom to be who you are. Pride is about the possibility of love.

Everyone is invited. The West Street Beach Party is open to all ages and families. The Pride Pavilion at Mountain Street is also open to everyone, although guests under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Laguna Beach Pride strives to ensure that our young LGBTQ residents and visitors also have the experience of finding themselves reflected and honored in our community.

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce encourages our local business community to participate as well. Showing your Pride is simply good for business. Ways to participate include optimizing your merchandising and window displays, running an ad or promotion such as a specialty cocktail or hotel room package, becoming a Laguna Beach Pride advertising sponsor, flying a rainbow flag and hanging the official Laguna Beach Pride poster in your window.  

As previously stated by Toni Iseman: Laguna Beach does not merely tolerate the gay community. Laguna Beach embraces the gay community.

For more information, visit

Chris Tebbutt

Co-Founder, Laguna Beach LGBTQ Heritage & Culture Committee

“Prepare Laguna Beach” campaign needs residents to sign up

Local issues like traffic, crowded beaches, parking and parties at summer rentals often are the focus of resident complaints as summer gets under way. But another issue lurks behind the scenes year-round: resident readiness for emergencies. Some of us ignore the issue; some might fall into the ‘doomsday-prepper’ category. But there’s no question that every single resident of this city should make sure they are ready to hit the road if a fire, earthquake, landslide, high tide flooding, gas leak or other emergency occurs in Laguna Beach.

This October 27 will be the 25th anniversary of the devastating 1993 fire that destroyed hundreds of homes and briefly threatened downtown and beyond. Those who lived here in 1993 will never forget – and many of us have had go-bags and family emergency plans ever since. But there are always procrastinators who never quite get to that item on their to-do lists. And newer residents may be unaware of what happened a generation ago, much less the dangers we face in a coastal town with just two roads in and out. 

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Devastating reminder of the 1993 fires

With that in mind, Laguna Beach CERT (coordinating through the Emergency Operations Coordinator/Police Department) launched a “Prepare Laguna Beach” effort last month to raise awareness by asking residents to sign a pledge to be more prepared for emergencies. The City Council also supported the effort and it was officially launched May 1. The goal is to be the Most Prepared City in Orange County. And it only takes about a minute to pledge online at

No one will call you or ask for donations or keep your name in a database. You only are required to enter your street name (not house number) and closest cross street, then click on two buttons that say you agree to have a family/household plan and to create or buy a 72-hour emergency kit. Click ‘ok’ and you are done! (There is a field for your last name only if you don’t mind adding it.) 

Your pledge to be more prepared will be counted only for the purpose of counting the total number of signers. Our goal is to get 2,800 households to ‘sign the pledge’. We hope you will embrace this effort so that we can be the Most Prepared City in Orange County with residents in every age group ready to ‘get outta Dodge’ when the situation arises. 

There is no political agenda – just a big motivation to make sure our residents know how to stay safe and know when it’s time to go. Please be among them. You’ll find CERT members at ‘pop-up’ booths around town throughout the summer who will help you sign up on the spot, give you a preparedness item for your kit and send you off with thanks and good wishes! 

Sandi Cain

Laguna Beach CERT Outreach Chief

Harley Rouda shares appreciation of his supporters

Since we started this campaign together almost a year and a half ago, we have accomplished so much. From the tremendous grassroots support we have had since the beginning, our campaign has received endorsements from every facet of the Democratic Party – from local elected officials such as Toni Iseman, Katrina Foley, and Gina Clayton-Tarvin, to national leaders such as the entire Democratic Congressional Delegation from Orange County as well as many other members of Congress; from environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club to progressive organizations such as the California Nurses Association and the Progressive Democrats of America; from organizations fighting gun violence like Moms Demand Action and Pride Fund Against Gun Violence to LGBTQ organizations like Equality California. 

And most recently the DCCC has put us on Red to Blue – just one of three campaigns in all of California.

It’s our time to move Orange County forward. I’ll fight for common sense change in Washington. Together we are the only campaign that can beat Dana Rohrabacher. I hope I can earn your vote on June 5th and together we will Flip the 48th.

Harley Rouda

Laguna Beach

This “granny flat” poem should set the tone

Important tone for the present controversy – here’s a “granny flat” poem by Marcy Wingard – see below.

Walker Reed



Planted in sunshine paradise

came forty years ago and more

California’s Gold Coast suited

then and does today


Older now, finished with work

choice is mine  escape to other climes

leave this idyllic home

costly to care for  hard to maintain


Resources dwindling   fewer needs

downsizing has its subtle charms

but   leave my garden

good friends  fellowship


Sunshine pouring in, I watch the day

outside the kitchen door, my garden

past wrought iron fence

that borders my domain


Here, I am home  I know my way

my habits long entrenched

the world an ordered place

so hard to start anew


Precious brown hills

fresh green after springtime rain

ocean close enough to see

from top of winding grade


Feast of fruit and other fare

a wondrous mix grown here

so many things to lose

if I choose flight to smaller space


Besides   my partner of many years

sleeps peacefully below the hill

could I desert him   leave him alone

with no one left to bring him flowers


So here I am and here I’ll stay

until the choice no longer mine

then leave these hills but they’ll remain

in memory ‘til mine have fled.

Trump’s view of NFL players taking a knee

What is happening to our beloved country?  Donald Trump’s comment yesterday about NFL players taking a knee is wrong on so many levels I really don’t know where to begin.  

I graduated from USC in 1970, so I lived through the tumultuous days of “love it or leave it” during the Vietnam War. Since when is it a crime to peacefully protest at Main Beach or at a football game? Suffice it to say that if the president believes players “shouldn’t be in the country if they can’t stand proudly for the anthem” then maybe he shouldn’t be in the White House.  

Clearly, Mr. Trump doesn’t understand the first thing about what the Constitution truly stands for (including allowing me the right to take a knee and pen this letter).

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Reasons for concerns about proposed trees on Ocean Ave

Stu News reported on the discussion that took place at the Council meeting of May 8 regarding the choice of trees to be planted at four vacant tree wells on Ocean Avenue. The article reflected the comments from Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis that we (Ruben Flores, horticulturist, Bob Borthwick and Ann Christoph, landscape architects), had had four weeks to make our recommendations known to staff in advance of the public meeting. This left the impression that either we were negligent in not responding sooner, that we were trying to delay the process or that our comments were ill-considered and should be discounted. None of these impressions is correct.

In reality we had no knowledge of the types of trees being proposed until the agenda bill was out at the end of the previous week. Because of this short time frame the public forum was the only venue available to bring our recommendations forward regarding the most appropriate trees to be planted.  

We are concerned that the Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ trees being proposed will be too small and shrubby to provide canopies under which the public can walk.  We are recommending a larger growing Magnolia with a canopy, ‘Samuel Sommer’.

We are also concerned about the proposed Chinese Pistache tree, which is a deciduous tree that grows “30-60’ tall with nearly equal spread” according to Sunset. Adding a large deciduous tree to the evergreen tree palette of the downtown will be a change to the area’s visual character, and so we recommend continuing with the present mix of trees which includes the Magnolia and the staff-proposed Metrosideros, New Zealand Christmas tree.

We are grateful to Barbara and Greg MacGillivray for donating the additional amounts needed to augment the City’s tree budget, and to councilmember Bob Whalen who has been facilitating a tree decision-making process for the downtown trees. 

As professionals who have been contributing to landscape decisions for our town for many years, we are happy to continue working with these and other dedicated citizens to beautify our environment.

Ann Christoph

Bob Borthwick

Ruben Flores

Laguna Beach

Ballot Measure and key vs main evacuation routes

City Council voted 5/0 to push forward to underground Edison Utility lines on “Key Evacuation Routes” by a Ballot Measure, without remotely addressing nor giving due consideration to the overwhelming “resident concerns” that were aptly delivered by a deluge of residents during two minute Public Comment! The opposition was well represented by a factual reasonable presentation delivered by the newly formed resident advocacy group STOP. My deepest gratitude to Mike Morris for presenting the professional Power Point presentation on behalf of Jennifer Zeiter’s organized resident STOP advocacy group and to the many well spoken concerned residents who should not go ignored by elected officials. Many concerned speakers brought forth substantive facts and valid concerns that should be considered and addressed by elected officials, with due consideration, prior to putting this measure to vote.  

Why our city has spent nearly half a million dollars and counting to advocate support of undergrounding initiative but has refused to spend a dollar to consult with technological advancements by qualified energy professionals to deliver a comprehensive renewable sustainable energy plan for Laguna Beach? I find this known fact to be most disagreeable and offensive to the sensibility and sustainable values of this environmental community. 

The city has been utilizing taxpayers’ money to advertise their personal agenda to pass [the] Undergrounding initiative using a cleverly designed emotional response delivered by a fire and fear Safety Campaign to corral sheep citizens to agree to a Sales Tax initiative to pay for Bonding the construction cost. If you think the Third Street construction debacle created a nuisance, wait until Edison begins to trench our “key routes”.  Edison will cleverly with assistance of the City have the taxpayers pay 100 percent of construction improvement costs for the aging infrastructure of Edison, a Multi Billion Dollar privately owned company. Keep in mind, above ground utility poles have a shelf life and I find it obscene that the cost of a depreciating asset is not being factored into replacing Edison’s archaic infrastructure. Recall, a few years ago, Edison replaced a large portion of above ground utility poles on LCR? Why no “Fire & Fear Campaign” back then and work to underground the newly replaced poles?  

Voter ignorance may win 2/3 votes, without STOP advancing an adequate educational campaign regarding the financial risk of overspending that a debt liability of this magnitude will create for our village and the many other potential follies of cost overruns that are not being adequately addressed! I have personally addressed City Council, numerous times [via] public speaking, suggesting the city scale back the scope of the project to a more reasonable level and include only the main Evacuation Routes of LCR and PCH. In this manner we could pay as we go, using Measure LL Tax and Rule 20A credits to get the main evacuation routes completed.  

I have made the repeated suggestion that neighborhoods continue to use current method of Neighborhood Assessment Districts to underground their own key neighborhood routes by cooperation of majority of residents. I believe the intention of creating ‘Key ER’ is to curry voter favor, to in-debt those who have already “paid their fair share” to underground their own neighborhood, to now pay to underground other neighborhood specific routes! I feel this is a misguided approach and effort to place the burden, on all taxpayers, to pay the share of specific neighborhoods. Yes, this will benefit some, even specific City Councilmember Toni Iseman, [who] had to recuse herself after the specific benefit was brought to attention of the City by another resident. 

One matter of huge concern is that the City must STOP (pun intended) spending the generous unlimited taxpayer war chest to continue to advocate and promote by advertising to support the personal objective of the current City Council. California Government Code §54964(a) prohibits local governmental agencies from expending public funds to advocate for or against a ballot measure or other voting initiative, with some exceptions for educational/informative materials. The city may have already crossed the line into the grey area with their initial advertising campaign to promote undergrounding by driving forward the false narrative undergrounding utility lines will somehow make us fire safe.

City Council is simply not adequately addressing resident concerns and are failing their constituents to reasonably explore other advanced technological alternative energy sources and to avoid scaling back the project to avoid assuming gross debt liability of cost over budget construction costs! We all know the government rarely comes in on budget for cost of construction.  

Caution-beware: City of Fresno, in few years time, went from 25M to 400M for bullet train underground of utility lines!

Lorene Laguna (Auger)

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding is not worth the cost

Cosmetically pleasing as undergrounding may be, it is not worth the cost. Recently the City emerged from a bond issue that tapped permanent residents for the past 20 years on exactly the same issue: undergrounding.

An issue de jour promoting undergrounding, power lines cause fires, should be applied to a real problem here in Laguna: trees! Hiding under such excuses as ‘takings’ and aesthetics, trees are the source of genuine harm with exfoliation and view blocking. The trees most flagrantly errant are palms and eucalyptuses, neither of which being indigenous to Laguna Beach yet a gutless City Council refuses to undertake remedial programs such as that in Palos Verdes to mitigate their tree problem.

Insofar as undergrounding is concerned you need look no further than the experience of other Southern California cities in which vault fires, flooding and the effects of landslides and earthquakes have caused significant power disruptions. Undergrounding shall result in significant power disruption is simply a matter of time.

Finally, it is apparent that any such measure will probably pass since most voters are renters or ‘home owners’ for a nominal seven years with little or no vested interest in the community and to whom the cosmetic and superficial appeal. But the permanent residents get stuck with another couple of hundred dollars tacked onto their property taxes for the next 20 years.

John Kountz

Laguna Beach


Buckner Coe

December 11, 1924 – May 111, 2018

Obit buckner coe

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Reverend Buckner Coe of Lake Forest and Laguna Beach passed away peacefully May 11, 2018, surrounded by his beloved wife, Judy, and members of his family. He was 93.

Buckner (Buck) Coe was a sixth generation minister. A graduate of Yale University and the Yale Divinity School, he served as a pastor for churches in Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, Claremont, California, and Ohio. He served as an interim minister in Scarsdale, New York. In retirement he was a guest preacher at the Neighborhood Congregational Church of Laguna Beach. He first moved to Laguna Beach in 1985.

As a pastor he was outspoken on peace and social justice, believing the Church had a leadership responsibility on these issues to the communities they served and to society-at-large. He marched with Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965, led a fair housing campaign in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs in the 1960’s, and anti-Vietnam War campaigns in both the Chicago area and Claremont, California. His last job before retirement was working for the National Farm Worker Ministry in Los Angeles on behalf of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union’s efforts to improve wages and working conditions for farm workers. He continued his active engagement in politics and social issues in his retirement.

Throughout his life Reverend Coe engaged in a scholarly pursuit of the work of H. Richard Niebuhr, a Protestant theologian and Christian ethicist.

Buck ‘re-charged’ by spending summers on Martha’s Vineyard, creating lifetime memories for his family. He was an ardent sports fan – always ready to cheer on his Dodgers and Lakers. He loved movies, the Kingston Trio, and comedians Bob and Ray. Games of Scrabble with Judy were a daily occurrence. He loved to read, and was always up for a good discussion. And, he loved his grandchildren. While he touched many lives, it is his family – and those closest to him – who were, perhaps, inspired the most by his strong moral compass and his willingness to remain true to what was most important.

Buckner Coe is survived by his wife of 23 years, Judith Polich Coe, whose love and care for him had no bounds. He is also survived by his sister, the Reverend Ansley Coe Throckmorton, his children Andy (Liz), the Reverend Karen Chalmers Coe, Jonathan (Julie), Sara and two grandsons, Ryan Coe and Jackson Buckner Coe. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Kathryn Dowley Coe, and his brother, the Reverend Chalmers Coe.

A service to celebrate Buckner Coe’s life will be held on Saturday, June 16 at 11 a.m. at Neighborhood Congregational Church (NCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, Laguna Beach. A reception will take place after the service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to JOY!, the social justice outreach work of NCC. Contributions can be made out to Neighborhood Congregational Church referencing “JOY! Outreach-Coe” and sent to the address above. For further information call the church at (949) 494-8061.

Park Plaza is tacky

No to the tacky looking Park Plaza. I have been a regular user of the Library for the last 60 years and now it is difficult to get to and find a place to park. In summer when traffic backs up from upper Park Avenue trying to get to Coast Highway, there is no way to turn into the library as cars are backed up beyond Glenneyre. On Coast Highway turning left onto Forest, or turning right onto Forest backs up, even when the lower Park section was open for traffic. Just what we do not need is losing parking spaces.

I agree with the sentiments expressed by Roger Butow.

Robert Leedom

Laguna Beach


Virginia Anne Wood

June 8, 1932 - May 26, 2018

Obituary Anne with flowers

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Virginia Anne Wood passed away Saturday, May 26, with loved ones by her side. Anne, a Laguna Beach resident since 1965, was recently in the care of the amazing staff at Arbor View 2 in Mission Viejo due to Alzheimer’s.

Anne was born to Burris and Margaret Wood on June 8, 1932, in Sacramento. She was preceded in death by both her parents and her only sibling, James “Woody” Burris Wood.

Anne graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School in 1950 and then received her Bachelor of Arts from Chapman College (now Chapman University) in 1954. She later returned to Chapman and received her master’s degree in 1972. In 1954 she commenced a 39-year love affair with teaching beginning with Bret Harte Elementary in Sacramento, and then Santa Fe Elementary in Oakland.  Thereafter she spent six years teaching with the Army Overseas Schools first in Metz, France, and then in Berlin, Germany. She arrived in Europe shortly after the Berlin Wall was erected, was held hostage by Russians on board a duty train, and joined the Berlin International Theater Group.

Obituary Anne on gazebo

Anne loved the overseas experience and built many life-long friendships. She never missed an opportunity to travel, be it simply to her beloved cabin at the Russian River, or to see close friends throughout the world. Anne returned to California in 1965 and began teaching for the Anaheim Elementary School District before being transferred to Brookhurst Jr. High School where she taught reading and drama along with “other duties as assigned” until her retirement in 1993.

She also enjoyed working with the Laguna Playhouse theater in Laguna Beach doing some acting but preferred being behind the scenes as stage manager, pushing sets, calling cues, etc. After retirement, Anne added the title “volunteer” to her cap with numerous groups in Laguna Beach, including The Woman’s Club (2012’s “Woman of the Year”), Chamber of Commerce, Laguna Club for Kids, Friendship Shelter, Laguna Beach Resource and Relief, Patriot’s Day Parade Committee, to name a few.

Obituary Anne and signs

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In 2005, the Laguna Beach Exchange Club honored her with inclusion in their “Book of Golden Deeds.” She had maintained her membership with Primrose Chapter No. 385, of the Order of the Eastern Star (of Sacramento) since the early 1950s. Anne was a long time member of Chapman University’s Town & Gown. She was very proud of their fundraising mission and dearly loved their social events. Anne cherished all these friendships. The Neighborhood Congregational Church (NCC) was also very dear to her. She tirelessly volunteered for a variety of duties and committees since joining the congregation in 1972.

A celebration of life, and what a full life it was, will be held at NCC on Saturday, June 23 at 340 St. Ann’s Dr., Laguna Beach, at 1:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Chapman University for the Town & Gown Endowed Scholarship at to a charity dear to you.

Park Plaza not a good plan

I vote no. It messes up traffic circulation. If you come from the north and try to get to the parking structure your only choice is Forest Ave, which is always congested, or to drive up to Legion and try to make a left turn. The light at Legion backs up traffic on Coast Hwy.  

Not a good plan. The park only seems to benefit one restaurant. I would rather see more benches if the city wants places for people to sit.

Larry Lewis

Laguna Beach

Park Plaza a great idea but needs fixing

I love the Plaza idea, but the execution caught most folks off guard. It looks nothing like the renderings, which had plants and more substantial/elegant furniture. Fix those things and I think most folks will come around. The temporary road block makes it look like a construction zone, and that wasn’t in the renderings as well. 

Kirk Morgan

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding: Do the math

Do the math...estimated cost $250,000,000...Utility electric meters 15,000...equals about $17,000 per meter.

The effective cost of a $17,000 20 year bond will be about $100/month at current interest rates. Who wants to be forced to pay an additional $100/month for electricity?

So here is what should happen. Each meter gets a vote. Votes are counted. Take the number of votes in favor and divide them into $250,000,000.  Inform the in favor voters what their new share of the cost would be and take another vote. Continue this process until the new vote is the same as the last vote and issue a bond to the remaining in favor voters for their share.

J T Price

Laguna Beach


Robert Tyler, FAIA

Obituary robert tyler

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Robert Tyler passed away suddenly on Saturday, June 23, 2018 in Laguna Beach at the age of 92. Bob served in the Navy during World War II. He was married to Eleanore Catherine “Kay” Hines from 1952 until her death 1997. Bob and Kay raised their three children in the home Bob designed in Tarzana. Bob married Beverly Duke in 2004 and they moved to Laguna Beach in 2008. 

He graduated from USC and was Director of Design for the Los Angeles architectural firm Welton Beckett and Associates where he was responsible for the design of such notable buildings as The Contemporary Resort Hotel at Disney World and the Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA. 

He was dearly loved and will always be in our hearts. Bob is survived by his three children, Linda Pfeifer of Camarillo, Karen Arroyo of North Hills and Bob Tyler of Laguna Beach, in addition to five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. A private burial will be held at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills. 

A celebration of Bob’s life will be held in Laguna Beach on Saturday July 28. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.

Let’s get the utilities underground

I ran the undergrounding of utilities in the El Mirador neighborhood. It made a huge difference for everyone and increased our property values. 

I noticed that Goff and Park Ave intersection had a lot of utility work on Tuesday. Lots of equipment, trucks and workers snoozing in their trucks. It was a repair and reinforcement of existing poles.

Let’s get all Laguna utilities underground and in the Canyon too.

Walker Reed

Laguna Beach

In favor of Park Plaza with reservations

Personally, I’d like Forest closed to traffic. All the walking streets I’ve ever seen increase foot traffic, which I feel would be an asset to all the shops on the street. So I was pleased to see a closure at Park Plaza but although I say I’m in favor of it I am disappointed in what it actually is. I would never sit down on a metal chair on an asphalt street. There is no beauty or character here. Why would anyone sit there with the beach beckoning?

Perry Stampfel

Laguna Beach

Park Plaza is not attractive

Is it true it cost $24,000 to stage the Park Plaza in Laguna?  If so, the company/person who designed and staged it, made quite a profit!

It is not attractive at all and the tables and chairs look cheap and do not adhere to the beauty and charm of Laguna Beach.

We would not vote for the Park Plaza, as it is an eye sore at its current stage.

As Laguna Beach residents for 28 years, it is just our humble opinion.

Debbie and Mike Thornton

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding makes sense

While I am sure people are going to be up in arms about this I feel it is a good investment in the city to under ground the lines. I would be willing to pay more in taxes to have a safer (and visually cleaner city). Overhead poles/lines are a danger, inconvenience (whenever the canyon is closed due to an accident), and an eye sore. Hopefully we can come up with some answers to this problem. 

Kristen Weaver

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding access routes versus neighborhoods’ utilities

I live on Top of the World and our utilities have always been underground so I feel, as a low income resident, that I shouldn’t have to pay to underground another neighborhood’s utilities.  

As to undergrounding local access routes, that would be a different story.

Sandi Werthe

Laguna Beach


Roger DeTorres

Obit DeTorres

Roger DeTorres, 36, of Aliso Viejo, died in a motorcycle accident June 6 in Laguna Hills.

He is survived by his wife Robyn DeTorres of 13 years and two beautiful children: Rowan, age 14, and Rayne, age 3.

Roger was working at Young Company, Laguna Beach at the time of the accident and before that at Avila’s El Ranchito as a manager in Laguna Beach.

Roger was full of energy, passion and promise as he was transitioning his career into digital marketing. A celebration of life will be held at Aliso Beach Park on June 16 at 5 p.m. at 31131 S Pacific Coast Hwy.


David J McDonald Jr.

David J McDonald, Jr., died peacefully of natural causes in his Laguna Beach home on 10/29/17. McDonald was a Professor of Drama at UCI until 2004. He earned his PhD from Stanford, his MFA from the Yale School of Drama and his BA from the University of Notre Dame.

During his career, he was the Founding Director of the Humanities Research Institute for the UC system, collaborated with Murray Krieger of the School of Criticism and Theory, directed plays, served as editor of Theatre Journal, and was instrumental in brining prominent international scholars, such as Jerzy Grotowski and Robert Weiman to campus.

He was also very instrumental in establishing the UCI Department of Drama and UC San Diego Department of Theatre’s Joint Doctoral Program in Drama and Theatre.

McDonald was born in Pittsburgh, PA to David J McDonald, former president of the Steel Workers Union (1960s) and Emily Price McDonald.

McDonald leaves behind his wife, Maura, and two sons: Sean, a book publisher in New York, and Charlie, a middle school math teacher and coach in Santa Ana, and three grandchildren. 

The family will hold a private memorial service in which his ashes will be spread in the Pacific Ocean, per his wishes.

A win-win solution to utilities, trees, and Park Plaza issues

Here is a win -win for everybody.

Let’s underground the trees and all currently above ground utility wiring.

We can leave all the homeless pigeons to roost in Park Plaza or they can all get the flock out of here.

John Walker

Laguna Beach

Make Park Plaza More Appealing and Permanent

We thank the City for extending temporary use of the Park Plaza space, but the City needs to do more: a) expedite the process to install a long overdue left-hand turn signal at Laguna Avenue; b) allow food/coffee carts from neighboring restaurants to be placed on the sidewalk opposite the Adonis restaurant; c) make the space more visually appealing (instead of multiple cement blockades and flashing “ROAD CLOSURE” signs, create a more aesthetically pleasing and inviting entrance); and d) cover the asphalt, install a small fountain or add other enhancements.  

Ellen and Roger Kempler

Laguna Beach


Bruce Stewart Hopping

August 5, 1921 – May 17, 2018

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Bruce Hopping (a.k.a. “Brucey”, “Mr. B”, et al) passed away peacefully just after midnight on Thursday, May 17. He is survived by his nephew and niece, Rick and Melissa Hopping of New Jersey. 

Bruce was a local legend. He could be seen every day walking down Thalia Street to the beach where he was a regular for the last six decades. His life story reads more like a novel than reality. He was born in 1921 to W. Frank and Edith Hopping in Saigon, then a part of French Indo-China. His father had lumber interests in the region, and the family was on their way to Borneo. Bruce spent his early years on the islands of the Pacific, where he developed a lifelong connection with the ocean. At 13, he was sent away to Culver Military Academy in Indiana. At 18, he enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas. Afterwards, he transferred to Shepphard Airfield Base in Texas, Westover Air Base in Massachusetts, El Toro in California, Kaneohe Naval Air Station in Hawaii, and Clark Air Base in the Philippines. 

In World War II, Bruce was a med-evacuation pilot who retrieved the wounded bodies of soldiers from various Pacific theaters and returned them to the base hospital for treatment. One day, he was sent up with a spotter in typhoon conditions to locate a downed C-47. Their Stinson plane was blown several miles off course, they ran out of gas, and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. For the next several weeks, they floated on a one-man raft in the ocean, enduring violent storms, tumultuous waves, and shark-infested waters, before eventually washing up on the Polillo Islands in the eastern Philippines. After a series of difficult setbacks, and with the help of locals in canoes, they eventually made it back safely to Manila, despite the presence of Japanese soldiers in the area. 

After World War II, Bruce taught at Bainbridge Air Base in Maryland. When the Korean War broke out a few years later, he was transferred to Barbers Point in Hawaii, and then put on a minesweeper ship bound for the Korean peninsula. After the subsequent deaths of his parents, Bruce took his inheritance and created the New Jersey Foundation in 1953. Over the next decade and a half, the New Jersey Foundation sponsored numerous important aqua-athletic events and commissioned multiple notable works of art. Inspired by visits he had made to Laguna Beach in 1942 while stationed at nearby El Toro, Bruce relocated to Laguna in 1960. 

In 1966, he met Dr. Ted Brunner, another Laguna Beach resident, and founder of the Classics Department at UC Irvine. Dr. Brunner introduced Bruce to the ancient Greek educational concept of Kalos Kagathos, which emphasizes physical distinction and nobility of mind. Inspired by the concept, Bruce renamed his foundation the Kalos Kagathos Foundation in 1968. 

For fifty years, Bruce and his foundation have been recognized internationally, nationally, at the state, county, and city levels for numerous contributions to water sports, arts, and the environment. His cultural exchanges for swim, surf, and water polo teams have included multiple events on every continent except Antarctica. He was an Emeritus patron of theISHOF, patron of the AAU, FINA, ISA, CIF, OCC Rowing, and a two-time Olympic swimming judge. He has been formally acknowledged by various officials, governors, ambassadors, diplomats, provincial administrators, tribal chiefs, warrior clans, and others. Since 1968, Bruce also worked tirelessly through the Kalos Kagathos foundation to ensure that Laguna Beach retains its historical legacy as an international destination promoting water sports, arts, and the environment. 

His local contributions are too numerous to mention, but include multiple proclamations by the city council and schoolboard. Very few Laguna Beach residents have left such a lasting indelible impression on this city, and nobody as much on Thalia Street Beach as Bruce Hopping. 

Please join us for a celebration of his life on Thursday, June 14 at 4 p.m. at Thalia Street Beach for a paddle-out and swim. Learn more about this legendary man and the Kalos Kagathos Foundation through the words of those who knew him best. And, in his own words, “Keep the faith!” 

To learn more about the Kalos Kagathos Foundation, or to help out with future projects, contact: Kalos Kagathos Foundation, PO Box 416, Laguna Beach, CA 92652 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A familiar figure on the beach and in the ocean


More tributes for Bruce Hopping

“He told me that story about getting shot down in greater detail. He swam for a considerable distance, miles, to get to that island. The other guy was injured and Bruce carried him along on his back. They landed on a barrier reef offshore, and had to walk across it, which shredded their feet. Then cross a lagoon which would be inhabited by hammerhead, among others, with those bloody feet. The locals took him in, and went to amazing lengths to help him. Might not all be accurate, but that’s how I recall it. That experience was a lifechanger for him; he fell in love with their culture and was affected by it for life. He shared this with me, and inspired me to go to Samoa for a year, which was similarly beneficial he helped arrange for it. And I have always been grateful for that. I was not the best citizen at the time, and he knew it would change me for the better. A true friend. 

“He blew [inherited wealth] off for a low key life in Laguna, mostly spent helping others live well. I am sure there are hundreds such stories.”

--Brad Petway


“Thalia Street was my beach and therefore [I knew] Bruce Hopping – what a great man, us kids would gather around on the beach and just listen to his stories, great information, and wisdom. RIP Bruce.”

      --Karl Weber


Kim Harley

June 2, 2018

Obit Harley

Kim Harley passed away peacefully on June 2, 2018 in his Laguna Beach home. A 42-year-long resident of Laguna Beach, Kim was known for his love of the outdoors, but even more so for his love of fishing. Being out on the water was his favorite place to be, however, it did not stop there. Kim’s passions included cooking, and sharing his catch with his neighbors and many friends. Kim’s salty sense of humor never hid the love he had for his community. Playing in John Ditto’s pool tournament, deer hunting in Virginia, dove hunting in Yuma, and the annual Labor Day Pig party on Catalina Street are among the many memories that Kim often shared with those he loved. 

Kim leaves behind his “LOML” of 20 years, Diana Long, and his two sisters, Jill Watkins of Laguna Beach and Jan Vierra of Costa Mesa.  Kim loved his community very much, and as a neighbor quoted, “Mountain Road will never be the same again.”

Kim’s celebration of life will be held on August 4 from 1 p.m. - dusk at Bluebird Park, with details to follow.

Title IX under attack

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announced that her department will be revisiting the Title IX guidelines on campus sexual assault. The effect of any changes will tilt the balance of federal guidance to make it harder to discipline the thousands of students, almost all of them men, who are accused of sexual violence against women each year and return us to the era during which young women were stigmatized for speaking up

According to Brett Sokolow, Executive Director of the Association of Title IX Administrators, 10,000 to 12,000 cases of campus rape reach the disciplinary phase every year.  Add to that the many cases of reported and unreported sexual harassment, stalking and relationship violence and it becomes clear that on-campus violence is a critical problem deserving weighty consequences.

But how these cases should be handled is a challenge for any administration.  How do schools show support for the survivors while insuring fairness to both parties? 

In 1972, the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit discrimination in education was passed.  Title IX covers women and men, girls and boys, and staff and students in any educational institution or program that receives federal funds. In regard to complaints of sexual misconduct, it requires that school policies must provide for prompt and equitable investigation and resolution. It prohibits retaliation against those who file complaints.  School policies must specifically indicate that sexual assault, even a single incident, is covered under Title IX.  Students have the right to file a complaint with the school if their rights under Title IX are violated, and victims may also file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights if a school’s policies or handling of complaints are not compliant with Title IX.  In addition, each federally funded institution (school district) must designate a Title IX Coordinator to oversee compliance and grievance procedures.  

The most controversial part of implementation of this law mandates that, in determining a verdict, officials must use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, which makes it easier to find offenders responsible than a “clear and convincing” evidence standard that some schools had been using.  Accusers are able to appeal a not guilty verdict, and efforts must be made to spare the accuser from direct cross examination by the accused. 

Colleges and universities are in a delicate position, reluctant to dismantle the current system for addressing sexual assault, while anticipating the possible loss of federal funds for not conceding to new guidelines. 

Make no mistake; Title IX remains the law of the land and this announcement does not alter in any way schools’ responsibilities. DeVos’ speech noted many situations in which schools have failed to adhere to the law. The response to this challenge is to enforce Title IX more vigorously, not to undermine it. 

Now is the time for our local colleges and universities to step up and demonstrate that they will do the right thing for their students even in the midst of potential rollbacks from the Department of Education.  

The American Association of University Women stands with survivors of campus sexual assault and remains committed to protecting and defending Title IX.  We must ensure our nation’s dedication to full and equal proper responses to sexual harassment and violence.  After all, students’ access to an education in a safe and secure environment free from the threat of assault is on the line.  Schools, and the Department of Education, owe it to all students to uphold their civil rights, a promise Mrs. DeVos’ announcement would most certainly deny. 

Lee Winocur Field, Ph.D

Lee Winocur Field is a 32 year resident of Laguna Beach, retired public school teacher, Administrator and Professor of Education. She is a former President of the Laguna Beach Branch of the American Association of University Women, and currently co-President of the San Clemente-Capistrano Bay Branch.

Letters from readers about undergrounding utilities – and other issues – are getting quite lively

Utility poles or eucalyptus trees, which are the greatest fire dangers? Our readers have strong opinions – see our Letters page. 

(“Let’s underground [all] the trees and all currently above ground utility wiring,” reader John Walker offers, with more than a touch of sarcasm.)

But seriously, and appropriately, most of the controversy swirls around cost, exactly who will pay and how costs will be calculated, as well as the relative risks of maintaining the status quo.

Click on photo for a larger image

Is the tree or the utility pole the greater danger?

Robert Elster, vice chair of the Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council, makes the point that, fire issues aside, “downing of poles and electrical lines due to traffic accidents can block streets and impede first responder access to accidents, as well as disrupting commercial and residential traffic; this can happen, and has, on both major arteries/evacuation routes and on feeder streets in Laguna Beach neighborhoods.”

Tom Gibbs agrees. On the cost issue, he notes: “The whole community will only pay for undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road and the other critical ingress and egress routes which benefit us all.”

But J T Price has a question: “Who pays the cost of any such bond, the voters or property owners? It is not right for voters who may not be property owners to force a cost onto property owners who may not even vote in Laguna.”

Focus on local access routes

However important undergrounding might seem to some, low-income residents including Sandi Werthe are understandably concerned about increased property taxes.

“I live on Top of the World and our utilities have always been underground so I feel, as a low income resident, that I shouldn’t have to pay to underground another neighborhood’s utilities.  

“As to undergrounding local access routes, that would be a different story,” she says.

Keep those letters coming to editor Lynette at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We want to know what you think about the pros and cons of the City Council’s approach to undergrounding; the Historic Preservation Ordinance; Park Plaza; and other issues of interest to Lagunans.

 (The City Council last Tuesday voted to pay consultants almost $250,000 to determine community support for undergrounding overhead utility lines and prepare ballot measures to support funding.

Council members unanimously approved the expenditure to test public acceptance of either of two measures proposed for the 2018 ballot: one to fund undergrounding along evacuation routes by a general obligation bond, and the second to form a special district to pay for undergrounding all neighborhoods still served by overhead utilities.)

--Lynette Brasfield


Michael Morris Seitz

September 29, 1948 – August 1, 2018

Michael Morris Seitz

Click on photo for a larger image

Michael Morris Seitz, born September 29, 1948 in Karlsruhe, Germany, to the late Hildegard Seitz Gleason and the late Morris Frazier, died at age 69, at his home in Laguna Niguel, California from ALS.

Mike graduated from Fountain Valley High school in 1967. He married the love of his life Debra “Debbie” Pankhard in 1970. Mike graduated from Cal State University at Fullerton. He enlisted in the Army as a social worker/psychologist in 1974. A long-time resident of Laguna Beach, Mike was a devoted family man and enthusiastic entrepreneur. Mike opened and was the chef at Ludwig’s Gasthaus in Laguna Beach and Ludwig’s Black Forrest Café in Mission Viejo. When he moved his family to Lake Oswego, Oregon in 1986, he opened Healthy Pet in Lake Grove that is still owned by his family. It was one of 13 pet stores he had through the years. He was an astute real estate investor, and he also had a great interest in cars, owning 52 throughout his life.  A talented photographer and soccer player, Mike also had a soft spot for people in need. One of his many generous gestures was the gift of a car to a family whose son was gravely ill. In 2003, he moved with his family back to Laguna Beach. Always a student, Mike earned his master’s degree from Argosy University in 2008. But Mike’s true joy was his immediate family.

Mike is survived by his wife, Debbie Seitz; children, Candice Reavis (Dmitri), Michael Seitz (Sommer), Hayley Seitz, Matthew Seitz, Hayden Seitz, and Madeline Seitz; sister, Andrea Maddock. He had six grandchildren.

A private service will be held.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Orange County ALS Association.

Meter/property owners should be exclusive focus of the Council survey

Your paper reports that: “Councilman Bob Whalen, an early advocate of a bond to rid the city of overhead utility poles along major evacuation routes, reiterated his position. 

“I feel strongly that we have to go to the voters and ask for support for a city-wide measure to fund evacuation routes,” said Whalen.

Who pays the cost of any such bond, the voters or property owners? It is not right for voters who may not be property owners to force a cost onto property owners who may not even vote in Laguna. This issue is just “spin” if meter/property owners are not the exclusive focus of the Council survey, if the bond is to go on the property tax and not paid for by “the voters”!

RT Price

Laguna Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Gibbs

Laguna Beach

Don’t forget Sandy Hook

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

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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

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

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

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

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

Robert E. Elster

Vice-Chair, Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council

Laguna Beach

Historical Preservation Ordinance: CEQA’s role is misunderstood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doug Cortez

Laguna Beach

Is it just me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Bridy

Laguna Beach

Keep Park Plaza; underground utilities

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

On the topic of undergrounding...

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

Kathleen Jepson-Bernier

Laguna Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common sense has worked. May it continue.

David E. Kelly

Laguna Beach


Joseph M. Petrovich

February 4, 1926 – December 3, 2017

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

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

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

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

Donate here:

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

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

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

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

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach

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

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

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

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

Kirsten Rogers

Laguna Beach


Catalina Raine Kollock

November 14, 2017 – December 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign numbing

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

Ann Marie McKay

Laguna Beach

There are solutions to the short term lodging challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Thomas

Laguna Beach


Steven P. Duncan

April 4, 1954 – December 15, 2017

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

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

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

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


Ben Rogers

January 27, 1994 – December 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No soul in concrete stairs at Thalia

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

Robert Story

Laguna Beach

Hotel Laguna is in desperate need of renovation

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

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

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

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

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

Leslie Cunningham

30-year resident of Laguna Beach

Historic Preservation Task Force: Necessary?

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

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

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach

Time to impeach Trump

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

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

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

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

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

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Hotel Laguna should be kept as pristine as possible

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

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

Gary Zaremba

Laguna Beach

Tempest in a teapot over Agate: Response to James Pribram’s column on 1/16

As a retired builder, overlapping into my current profession as an enviro-consultant specializing in land use and regulatory compliance, this confrontation is a result of a poorly understood process.

Beachgoers have complained for years about this “Stairway To Nowhere,” as the previous one during certain periods ended well short of the sand: Hence people were stranded, either took a literal “leap of faith,” at risk of physical harm due to that gap distance, or were forced to use either Center or Bluebird.

[The current strategy] was signed off on, as the column notes.

First you must demolish, then create/secure a safe, resilient construction zone...Note these blocks are temporary, not permanent structures, too heavy to roll around willy-nilly, pell-mell.

We used a metaphor during construction activities, especially with demolition elements: Like an omelette, eggs must be broken, moreover at times adjustments are made during removal/installation.

Pribram’s parents live close nearby [and] were probably notified of hearings per CEQA et al, as the Project was also posted at the top of the stairs landing per local/state regulations. I saw and read it, went to the City’s website, and I was satisfied that it was basically a reasonable solution to a long-standing unsafe and unacceptable Coastal Access issue.

As critical as myself & my NGO, Clean Water Now, has been over our 20 year history, in this instance where the City finally responded (albeit we feel slowly, we have frustrated friends and family that demanded a remedy), the installation (after two site visits recently) is acceptable to industry and obviously CCC standards.

Personally, the Project’s not as invasive nor housekeeping as slovenly as alleged: Take photos, document complaints/violations using a GPS stamp that secures time/date/exact location of said evidence.

I think one important lesson is to read posted notifications.

Go online or downtown to the Community Development counter, educate yourself as to the Project, its purpose, its duration, the Best Management Practices proposed, etc.

The Marine environment is important, fragile, so yes, be more vigilant: But educate yourself.

The answers, the reasons for certain logistics that seem unacceptable/irregular might already be there.

Land Use is a boring topic, but it’s where the rubber meets the road regarding planning, where your City is going.

Roger E. Bütow

Founder & Executive Director, CLEAN WATER NOW

Laguna Beach

Questions for Coast Inn development supporters

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Meurer

Laguna Beach

What happened to being good stewards of the beach?

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

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

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

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by James Pribram

Agate Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if someone is seriously injured or worse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Pribram

Founder, ECO-Warriors

Laguna Beach

Agate Street stairs are similar to the Woods Cove disaster – but worse

Thank you, thank you to James Pribram for pointing out the total disaster at Agate Street steps.

This is similar to the Woods Cove stairs disaster but worse.  Does the City even interview the construction company on their experience with the ocean or just take the lowest bid, not considering what the consequences will be?

Obviously this company did not consider tides, surf and sand movement and without experience building on the ocean should not have been hired to do this job. The giant blocks and metal runway are a hazard and liability to the public.

My husband and I have been picking large metal rods out of the ocean there that have been left by the company when they first put up a ridiculous green cloth construction fence that lasted about two days.

The City should have learned its lesson from the Woods Cove steps, which had a similar problem – the company hired had no clue how to build on the oceanfront.

Julie Ross

Laguna Beach

50 years ago today – a watershed year

If you are at the older end of the baby boomer generation like I am, then you probably remember 1968 as a watershed year in American history. It was the pivotal year in which the public’s overall attitude quickly shifted from optimism to confusion. After struggling to make sense of the battle for Hue in Vietnam early in the year and listening to the Beatles’ “White Album” months later, the gap between my parents’ WWII generation and my own was widening by the day. Despite the fact that half a century has elapsed, we still seem to be struggling with many of the same issues today. For example:

Fifty years ago today, North Korea captured the Navy intelligence ship USS Pueblo. The ship was monitoring North Korea from the Tsushima Strait, an ocean channel dividing Korea and Japan. The Navy insisted its ship was operating in international waters, but North Korea said the Pueblo had entered its territory, and dispatched warships and aircraft to intercept it. 

Accounts differ on both sides as to what really happened. Eventually, there was an exchange of gunfire and one American was killed. The North Korean military boarded the Pueblo, captured its crew and brought the ship to port. The Pueblo’s 82 surviving crewmembers reported they were routinely tortured and starved while in captivity. It took 11 months to resolve the incident but set the stage for continued tensions between the two nations. Today, as it continues to develop its nuclear capabilities, the U.S. considers North Korea one of its most challenging problems.

Time marches on is a constant in our lives. Every so often, it pays to look back. I think the Pueblo incident is one of those times.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Supporters’ party is outrageous ploy

I just received a copy email of what the Dornins are planning at the Coast Inn to get letters of approval for the project. Party at the Boom Boom Room. Let us know you’re coming, sign up have some food, drinks? and music to put you in the mood for us to tell you what our plans are and support us.

This is an outrageous ploy by an applicant for a project coming before you this month. They should be held accountable at the CC meeting. I hope you look at this as subterfuge and that the support letters they say they’re hoping to get are from people that actually live in Laguna Beach. If they don’t they should be discounted entirely.

I am not against preserving the Coast Inn and bringing back its historic character, it needs some loving care. But, the plans as they exist now, will leave nothing but a shell of what the Coast Inn was and the neighborhoods surrounding it will be the sacrifice.

Darrylin and Tom Girvin

Laguna Beach

The Coast Inn should be a local gem, and it can be

As a small business owner and resident in the neighborhood of the Coast Inn, I am deeply frustrated by the opposition that this project has faced since it was announced.

I have carefully reviewed the documentation related to the project, and it is clear that the developer has longstanding entitlements to renovate the property as has been proposed.

The opposition that the project is facing is coming from a small but vocal group of people who are concerned about the impact the project will have on the surrounding neighborhood.  

The fact that the hotel and liquor store existed long before most people lived in the neighborhood doesn’t seem to register with the critics.

The argument that there’s not enough parking doesn’t hold up when one considers that ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft have forever changed parking requirements.

And finally, one only has to take a walk from Bluebird to downtown on Coast Highway to see the number of vacant storefronts to understand that our town is facing tremendous challenges as the economy is going through transformational change.

The Coast Inn should be a local gem, and we have a group willing and able to make it happen.

To be clear, a revitalized Coast Inn will be good for our business—more visitors, more foot traffic, more vibrancy in our neighborhood.

But the issue goes far beyond what it means for one business.

At the heart of this is whether or not the City of Laguna Beach will adopt a progressive and business friendly position, encourage sensible development, and acknowledge and embrace a rapidly changing marketplace in order to ensure the health and unique character of our special town.

If it is going to be business as usual, I fear that we will simply become a nice place to live for those who can afford it, and the Laguna Beach most of us know and love will be gone forever 

Don Meek

Co-Founder, The Soul Project

Laguna Beach

Coast Inn developer opposes rooftop decks

The owner/developer of the Coast Inn has been dismissive of the concerns of the many neighbors surrounding his development, yet he is well aware of the issues they face, should his project be approved.  

In September 2012 and January 2013, Chris Dornin addressed Planning Commission and City Council with statements in opposition to the rooftop deck at Mozambique. The issues that he presented five years ago are the exact issues that the neighbors around his proposed Coast Inn rooftop deck will be presenting to City Council at Tuesday’s hearing: parking in front of homes, traffic, noise, view, trash, privacy, etc.  

What follows are exact excerpts from his statements which demonstrate that he is well aware that his project will negatively impact the surrounding neighborhoods.  (Video of the full statements is available on the Laguna Beach City website.)

Chris Dornin Statement Sept 12, 2012, Planning Commission Meeting:

“…There’s literally no parking in front of our house during the evenings...”

“…They may have their noise studies but you need to remember this is well above where Coast Highway is and it flows right up hill and it flows right into our bedrooms...”

“…The idea that it’s not going to intensify the traffic is completely silly.  Why spend all this money if you are not going to increase business and increase traffic flow...” 

“…This is going to add significant money to the restaurant in revenue if they are able to do this and it’s going to have detrimental impact to the values in our neighborhood and views like myself.  It is a nightclub.  They charge.  We hear it.  It’s loud.  It’s a privacy, noise and view issue.”

Chris Dornin Statement Jan 15, 2013, Appeal to City Council: “Wear hats”

“…Umbrellas do not provide an ocean view, they are a convenience for the customers. The customers can wear hats. If it’s too sunny, wear hats. They don’t need umbrellas...” 

“…We shouldn’t all sacrifice and the owner make no compromises for any of us and all to the detriment of our home values.  It’s going to have a massive detrimental impact to our home...” 

Terry Meurer

Laguna Beach

Impact of the homeless on home values needs to be addressed by panel

Decades ago I was fortunate enough to be present at a City Council meeting in which representatives of the American Association of University Women made an impassioned presentation advocating the city become a sanctuary city.  The City Council succumbed and voila: Laguna Beach became a sanctuary city.

Thereupon a thin stream of indigents trickled in and took root. They became prominent fixtures at the entrance of the Library on Glenneyre. They leisurely occupied nooks along Ocean Avenue and promenaded along the beach.

Wanting to support these folks and their illegal brethren a hiring center was constructed and manned in the Canyon. Assorted shelters were made available.  The City gave out free bus passes (a continuing program) and constructed a shelter for these unfortunates. Food was made available.

I recall an evening in a Mexican restaurant in which a curiously dressed young lady was shown a table whereupon she ordered and consumed a full meal, stood up and left without paying. The owner simply shrugged his shoulders and smiled; they need help. The Mexican restaurant went out of business.

Now, with the removal of those now occupying the banks of the Santa Ana River, I suspect our village will rise to the task and welcome these poor, misunderstood minions.

Thus, drawn to the natural beauty of the Canyon, one might imagine a quaint hobo jungle developing from lack of space in our Friendship Shelter.

Being an intellectual community, we welcome discussions, and find ourselves invited to spend an enlightened moment with experts on homelessness (for $20). I wonder if the topics these folks cover include the impact on home values as grocery carts stacked high with dross and over stuffed back packs line our back alleys and signs suggesting ‘Work for Food’ become commonplace.

Just a thought, mind you.

John Kountz

Laguna Beach

Where’s Jason?

We miss Jason Feddy’s banter on his ‘Morning Scramble’ show on KX93.5. What he brings musically both with his talent and knowledge are unique and an asset to our local station. We especially enjoyed his quizzes and police blotter songs. We would like to urge Tyler Russell and the station’s board of directors to please bring him back, even if only on a limited basis! KX93.5 is not the same without him!

Ellen and Roger Kempler

Laguna Beach


Paul Barnard

August 12, 1938 – November 27, 2017

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Paul inserts himself into the void at Le Corbusier’s Notre Dam du Haut in Ronchamp, France

Gentleman, surfer, brilliant architect, master of color – Paul Barnard was all of these, and now he’s gone, slipping away to Mexico and beyond. 

Born in Bailieboro, Ontario, Canada on August 12, 1938, Paul was creative from a young age, preferring the arts to labor on the family farm in Ontario. Attracted to the energy of Toronto, Paul attended the University of Toronto where he received a Bachelor of Architecture. After working and traveling throughout Europe, Paul moved to Boston and received his Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard University in 1967. He married Susan Gleave in 1966 in England and settled in Toronto where their daughter Josey was born in 1968. At the ripe age (for an architect) of 30, Paul designed his parent’s cottage at Batchewana Bay, Ontario. After becoming a partner at WZMH Architects in the 1974, he oversaw the design of projects across the US and Asia. 

To escape the cold winters of the east coast, Paul moved from Canada to Laguna in 1980 to practice architecture in California. Here he married Susan Whitin and had his second child, Seth, in 1987. After a career working on large scale hotels and office buildings, Paul opened up his own studio in Laguna to focus on other building typologies. The Laguna Art Museum is one of his several creative renovations in town. 

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, he and family frequented wild locales across the globe to camp, hike and learn. He always believed one learned more traveling than in school. Fascinated by the ancient cities of South and Central America, he travelled to and studied the urban design practices of Incan, Mayan and Aztecan cultures. Paul’s passion for color drove him to scour Europe in search of obscure natural pigments unavailable in the US. Using color as a design tool, he adorned his designs with these unique pigments. He had an insatiable curiosity.

While growing up on the family farm in Ontario, Paul loved to ride horses. In Laguna, he fulfilled that passion with “Streetwise”, his retired racing horse stabled at Irvine Coast Stables -- on land that is now Crystal Cove. Around town, you could catch Paul on his way to surf San O with his buddies, in a heated conversation at Zinc cafe, or at the dog park with his trusty dogs. 

After living in Laguna for almost 40 years, Paul expatriated to his house in Sayulita, Mexico for a change of scenery and vibes. Shortly after moving to Sayulita, he fulfilled a lifelong dream to live in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende. 

On November 27, 2017, Paul died peacefully in the cacti-peppered highlands of Central Mexico amongst a loving community of friends and caregivers. His creative, friendly and quirky spirit lives on through the family and friends that love him.

Paul's memorial will be held on Saturday, February 3 at the Laguna Art Museum from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.

Jon Madison will be missed

The news that Jon Madison has sold his business and moved out of Laguna was not a shock, but the swiftness came as a surprise.  Jon will be missed.  While I wish the new owners nothing but the best, it’s hard to imagine Madison Square without Jon, a little like Oz without the wizard. Jon’s café was a place where every person and every dog felt welcome and special.  To borrow from Fanny Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes, “It was never more than just a knock about place, but now that I look back on it, when that café closed the heart of the town just stopped beating. It’s funny how a little place like this brought so many people together.”

Jon Stordahl

Laguna Beach

Laguna is lightning in a bottle

I’m grateful! 

I was raised in Orange California. Money was tight, so during the summer, while other families went to theme parks, the movies or vacations, my family was on the beach in Laguna...a lot. During the 70’s the drive to Laguna started on a two-lane highway lined with eucalyptus trees. My mom packed sandwiches, and let my sisters and I explore Laguna unsupervised for hours. All she asked is we stay away from the hippies and come back before sundown. We explored every cave, cove, giggle crack and tide pool possible. I never dreamed I would live in Laguna 40 years later. 

In 2010 my husband Steve and I bought a house on Catalina Street by Oak. We are still pinching did we get so lucky to live in this paradise?

The drive through Laguna Canyon is like a portal to another dimension, unlike anywhere else in OC. 

Today [Sunday] was stunning, dazzling. The sun glistened on the water like diamonds, the warm breeze blew. Is this January?!  It›s insane.

Submitted photo

The sun glistened on the water like diamonds…

And I love Stu News. It keeps me up to date on dining, entertainment and community events.  Thank you. And my condolences on Stu. I’m sad I never met him, but I understand he was the coolest guy ever. You’ve done a good job maintaining his legacy (Stu News). 

I’m so grateful to live here! And grateful for all the wonderful friends I’ve made in this unique, fabulous community. 

Thank you thank you thank you.

Laura Lee

Laguna Beach

Editor’s Note: Thank you so much, Laura, for brightening our day with this affirmation of how fortunate we all are to live in Laguna Beach, and for your kind words about Stu News. We do feel that we have a remarkable team and we do love what we do! And we LOVE Laguna too!

U.S. Aircraft Carrier to Visit Vietnam

The irony of the following announcement hasn’t been lost on this long time Laguna resident and father of three. Last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that a U.S. aircraft carrier will visit Vietnam soon. It will be first time since the war in Vietnam ended more than 40 years ago, that a ship of this size and magnitude will port in Danang. Many speculate that the presence of the aircraft carrier will be welcomed by several countries nervously eyeing China’s island-building activities in the South China Sea.

Because I was an undergrad at USC from 1966 to 1970, I remember that today marks the 50th anniversary of the bloody Tet Offensive in Vietnam. In many ways, Tet was the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement in the war. The coordinated attack by 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese targeted dozens of major cities and towns in South Vietnam. To say that it caught US-led forces by surprise is an understatement.  

Named after the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, Tet was a holiday the North and South had previously observed together. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces eventually regained control of the areas they lost during Tet; still, it became a wake-up call for Americans back home who, by now, were watching the horrific news about the war unfold before them daily on TV. After hearing famed CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite declare the war unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson told his aides, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, then I’ve lost Middle America.”  

More than 58,000 U.S. troops died in the Vietnam War. No telling how many North and South Vietnamese were killed during the war. I often have wondered what life would have been like for the tens of thousands of young Americans who died there had they lived. Two who came home, John McCain and John Kerry, ended up running for president. My hope is, in an odd way, this impending visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier will help heal the many wounds of that terrible war.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Is no smoking law killing business?

With numerous stores closing and retail spaces for rent all over town, I heard one manager say they had the slowest day in history last week. Five dollars. Is the new no smoking rule partially killing business in Laguna?

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Disenchanted with quotes from Harley Rouda campaign about the pre-endorsement delegate meeting – I was one of the “83”

I was disenchanted and surprised to read the quotes by Michael McLaughlin, who released statements about the pre-endorsement delegates [in Tuesday’s edition of Stu News Laguna].

Yes, there is still a race to determine who will be the Democratic Congressman for the 48th. But Mr McLaughlin’s assessment is not accurate, since it is slanted, and intentionally tries to undermine the integrity and gravitas of the pre endorsement vote. Hans Keirstead won this vote by a margin of 67 percent. I am quite certain his views differ from Mr McLaughlin’s.

A “pre-endorsement meeting of about 83 people meeting in a gymnasium...”

This vote “has nothing to do with anything that happens at the convention...”

I was one of the pre-endorsement delegates. The language used by Mr McLaughlin demeans the significance of my role, and is dismissive at best, to other citizens who take on political responsibilities.

I was selected to be a pre-endorsement delegate by the LBDC. All general members were asked to participate.

I attended many forums to hear the candidates debate and sat through many presentations.

I know for a fact that every candidate running for the 48th was determined to win this pre-endorsement made by “about 83 people meeting in a gymnasium.” I personally received many emails, and phone calls, by many candidates, soliciting my vote. If my vote were of no consequence...why? Why was I asked to participate in something meaningless?

If in fact this vote “has nothing to do with anything that happens at the convention,” as articulated by Michael McLaughlin, why would Mr Rouda and other candidates be so anxious to win the pre-endorsement delegates’ votes?

“Falsely claiming Democratic Party recommendation,” as written by Mr. Rouda’s campaign, is equally circuitous.

What Mr Keirstead did win, undeniably, and truthfully...was 67 percent of the pre-endorsement votes. Democrats. Who DID recommend that Dr Keirstead be recommended by the Democratic Party.

Dr Keirstead won by two-thirds of the pre-endorsement votes...a clear majority. Mr McLaughlin’s attempt to demean and undermine Dr Keirstead’s character and campaign seem to be an early example of what all Democrats fear...splitting the vote and opening the door to the Republican party.

Jahn M. Levitt

Laguna Beach

Trees and charm in Laguna: We have to do something 

I grew up in Corona del Mar, but I began working at age seven for my Dad who was building single houses in Laguna Beach. Our family loved the artistic community—the old, European-style historic buildings that had been carefully protected over the years. We also loved the trees that had been planted by an artistic group led by Harry Lawrence, a man interested in preserving Laguna’s history as a place characterized by groves of trees—eucalyptus and others. 

Ten years later, in 1963, my family and I moved to the village we loved. And we’ve continued to love it just as much ever since.

Thankfully, about 25 years ago, a group of Planners, Architects, and Artists gathered together to create Laguna’s Downtown Specific Plan. They worked hard to describe the desired look, feel, and function of our Downtown area, a place where we locals wanted to protect forever Laguna’s charm. That plan called out for “an abundance of well-cared for flowers, trees, and shrubs.” It says, “In Laguna’s Downtown, large Eucalyptus, Date Palms, Pepper, and Sycamore trees combine artistically to make a pleasant pedestrian environment.” In fact, Peppertree Lane is singled out in that plan as “the example of Laguna Beach’s village character.”

The City Council has approved this plan ten times over the years—and it is a plan that shows trees placed every 30 to 40 feet on both sides of the downtown streets to provide a canopy of shade for all us locals to enjoy. I’m sad to say that about 25 percent of those trees are yet to be planted! None of these trees would block views of the ocean from hillside homes or downtown residences.

This approved plan has been our town’s guideline of beauty and charm. And now, a committee is updating the plan—but something has changed in Laguna in the past 25 years. Today, there is a war on trees and, to some degree, a war on charm. Part of this is driven by the fact that a lot of our artists have moved away, so there are fewer artistic types to say, “Hey, that looks ugly!” 

So, is there a way to save Laguna’s charm? Can we hire a “Commissioner of Charm” to work with John Pietig and his staff? What if our active group pays half the salary for ten years? Whatever the solution, we have to do something, as our town’s trees and charm are the reasons that my family and many others have settled here. 

Greg MacGillivray

Laguna Beach

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