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Main evacuation routes vs key evacuation routes

The undergrounding project should be scaled back and limited in scope to reduce the enormous cost burden on resident taxpayers and our many seniors on fixed incomes.  

Main Evacuation Routes are readily established as PCH North/South and Laguna Canyon Road because every resident of Laguna Beach would seek to utilize one or more of these main evacuation routes, in case of an emergency. Measure LL funds should be exclusively used to purchase Utility Credits from other cities to be used for Main Evacuation Routes. However, the city has chosen to develop an ill conceived plan of mapping neighborhood «Key evacuation routes” that is entirely unfair to a majority of residents who will not use these routes during an evacuation. The current mapped “key evacuation routes” should be collectively and exclusively funded by Neighborhood Assessment Districts.  

I find it particularly disturbing our City Council would choose to burden the many senior residents of this community to pay the cost to improve the aging infrastructure of publicly held billion dollar company, Edison. The census indicates that 40 percent of residents are renters which means a large majority of voters needed to approve a Bond Measure will not be property owners. However, a General Obligation Bond property tax assessment cost will most certainly be passed along to renters and adversely impact the rental market. This demonstrates a lack of compassion for those residents who struggle economically. It appears our current City Council prefers community gentrification by attrition. 

In addition, $242,000 of your taxpayer dollars is being spent on marketing surveys, promotional mailers, power point and video presentation to manipulate residents using Psychology 101 scare tactics to get residents emotionally invested in the underground concept by selling fear. It would make prudent sense to utilize a share of these funds and approach a potential partnership opportunity with Elon Musk to ask him to develop a Solar City, USA model here in Laguna Beach by forming a sustainable energy development team. Laguna Beach may be able to take the lead to develop a sustainable energy model as the future vision for our community. Perhaps, residents will have potential benefit by a tax credit and derive income by selling our excess power to Edison! We won’t know what current technology will bring until we take the opportunity to explore the possibilities that may be available to our seaside community. 

Lorene Laguna (Auger)

Laguna Beach


Smart people can surely figure out a way to permit ADUs

The City Council will be considering an ordinance regarding the restriction/regulation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) sometimes referred to as “granny units” on May 9. This ordinance pretty much squelches any plan to add living quarters for a multitude of residents. This is just sad.  

It is like a kick in the stomach to residents who may have thought that someday they would be able to build a “granny flat” for their aging Mom or Dad or even a caregiver for themselves someday.   

It dissolves any hope that a resident could build some living quarters for their adult children who are trying to save for a home someday or who have recently graduated and cannot afford to pay the astronomical going rental rates in the OC. 

Instead of embracing a solution to the housing crisis and finding ways to make this work, the City’s proposal does its level best to obstruct or totally restrict an affordable solution. Its basic intent is...let them move somewhere else! 

It puts a damper on any hopes of promoting a student housing option for LCAD who is desperately seeking options for students, many of whom are commuting from the Inland Empire due to lack of affordable student housing.

There are so many legally questionable restrictions in the proposed ordinance. It appears that using and hiding under the guise of “impaired access” is the only road they can take to maximize the restrictions on ADU’s and they have chosen that path. 

There must be some opportunity for compromise on this? Is an on-site parking requirement the answer? Legal shield or waiver of liability? Mitigation agreement?

There has to be a way to figure this out...there are a lot of intelligent people in this city!

Kristine Thalman

President, Laguna Beach Seniors


Rebuttal to Guest Column by Bob Whalen in 10/31/17 issue of Stu News Laguna: 

Why Underground Powerlines?

Why do City Councilmembers think it’s the resident taxpayers’ responsibility to pay for these misguided “Key Evacuation Routes” (“KER”) on state-owned LCR, Glenneyre/Monterey St and Virginia Way at double expense bonds and forever one percent sales tax to finance [the] Proposed Underground Tax and Bond agenda that “our Council” voted 5-0 to pursue? There’s no fire danger on our City owned streets mentioned above. It’s a dinosaur concept…and for these additional reasons: Edison/SDG&E have funded Undergrounding Programs of $125k annually. Caltrans is already planning/responsible to widen and underground Laguna Canyon Road (LCR); controls that State Owned Right of Way; and will pay with power companies like Big Bend area in 2016. I observed when there’s a serious fire like 1993, smart residents and guests did head for the Beach as a quick fourth real escape route, where you’re safe/can see what’s happening, as government officials, and resting firefighters did and they parked on Coast Hwy. You’re not going to head for any “KER” mentioned above…who “thought” those up?

I estimate the actual undergrounded portion of Laguna is closer to 80 percent (not the 40 percent Whalen purports), when you exclude CalTrans/State-owned LCR Right of Way, and no fire issue streets/North Laguna alleys. The City shouldn’t ask residents to pay for state-owned LCR undergrounding! Existing annual Edison/SDG&E Funding, credits purchased can take care of the few real powerline/traffic conflict locations left in the City for safety without bonds and one percent added sales tax that hurts local business and taxpayers. (Link to Bob Whalen’s Guest Column: http://stunewslaguna.com/archives/front-page-archive/26953-guest-column-bob-whalen-103117

Councilmember Whalen no longer mentions the topic of residents: 1-who paid for undergrounding in previously completed private districts, 2-are currently paying these Underground Tax Assessments (CFD’s), and 3-who [will] soon pay the $40 to $80k cost (Coast Royale, SoLag). Where’s this “Second Ballot measure” to exempt them now Bob, vs your current proposal for previously paid residents to pay a second time, to favor 20 percent plus of residents who haven’t paid, including four of five Councilmembers, ready CFD residents put on hold? I can comment both sides of the argument of the City’s Bond/Tax Measure – have one residence with, one without underground/views. I chose to pay off, instead of double cost/30 year bond.

The City has managed 40 plus years of these Undergrounding Assessment Districts since the 1970s, and it now proposes to dupe past participating owners to pay it twice? Those seven active City’s Districts that were almost finalized are now on hold (to chase this obsolete idea of undergrounding taxation) with another bond measure against our properties, and a one percent forever sales tax that isn’t directed at specified items! Could this big $$$ actually go to pay unfunded Pension Plans or free undergrounding for those who haven’t paid for it – which might be the real reason, not fire safety and ”KER”? Informed residents say yes, absolutely – look at other City slush funds misdirected from other purposes (i.e. Parking Fund for decades, $4 million from Measure LL – Bed Tax allocated on 10/24/17). 

The City Proposal to underground with 24,000 residents voting on a ballot is deceptive. Actually, 14,400 resident owners/taxpayers would bear this expense. It’s manipulative to propose a measure for a vote when 40 percent of residents are renters; and additionally 17 percent are absentee owners who can’t vote on what financially affects them. It’s also a disservice and betrayal of trust to owners who paid to underground for uncluttered ocean views. Forcing owners to pay twice constitutes fraud in my view, and could start a class action lawsuit for past payment damages by 40 plus years of previously paid owners as plaintiffs. Ask the Coast Royale owners after they pay their assessment to pay it twice, not!

I think all Laguna Locals should view this YouTube Video: “Tony Seba: Clean Disruption – Energy & Transportation” www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b3ttqYDwF0, to see the future of Energy/Transportation, that will shock you to see changes, future and overhead utilities are ancient technology, obsolete in 10-20 years. This Illustrates questionable leadership and lost $$$ spent to date by City to underground, and if understood, no need for undergrounding ballot vote.

To share a joint idea with another like-minded Lagunan – we suggest inviting Elon Musk to town as our guest. He’s a forward thinker, would be a great neighbor, and ask him to partner up to make Laguna Beach the first Solar City with his roof tiles, battery back up/Peaker Units, and his Tesla cars and trucks. If we added farming upper Laguna and Aliso Canyon valley floors after planner Sir Ebenezer Howard’s 1898 model for a Garden City, linking our work/jobs, farmlands, residential neighborhoods and recreational parks with pedestrian/bikeways it would be the live/work Utopian City of sustainability, surrounded by Greenbelts & Pacific Ocean. After all, Elon just works up the road in Hawthorne @ SpaceX, and he might need a second getaway beach home he can rocket to.  

Bryan T.S. Menne

54 year Laguna Resident, Former OCFD Paid Call Firefighter South Laguna-Station 6, Land Planner & CA Registered Landscape A

Letter sent to Mayor Boyd about Poet Laureate program

We would like to congratulate you on the success of the first Poet Laureate program in Laguna Beach and also give credit to the hard work and imagination of Kate Buckley, who proved to be an outstanding choice.

In her capacity, she held multiple public presentations, offered educational outreach and created the city’s first literary festival. She was democratic in her approach, extending a platform to distinguished local writers as well as those who may have been writing their first poem or story. She also taught workshops to children and disabled adults, facilitated public readings, wrote a commemorative poem and organized an innovative bus trip through town entitled “Poetry Moves You.”

It should also be noted that creating a program like this from scratch is exceptionally difficult and time-consuming. Each element needs to be imagined and invented, then the scaffolding designed and put in place out of nothing. The things Kate accomplished should be lauded both privately and publicly.

Let us also offer commendation to the government of Laguna Beach for the vision behind this continuing program. Yours is a city known internationally not just for its physical beauty but for the pioneering artistic spirit that its residents uphold. We see the written word as a vital part of this enviable civic identity and we will keep coming back to Orange County’s premier artistic city to read and write.

Tom Zoellner, Associate Professor of English, Chapman University

Also signing for: Victoria Patterson, Grant Hier, Francesca Bell, Eric Morago


Loss of visionary leaders, celebration of Mark Chamberlain’s life

In the past year we’ve lost in succession, three longtime community members – Stu Staffer (May 20, 2017), John Abbott Gardiner (October 24, 2017), and now, Mark Chamberlain (April 23, 2018) – who each contributed mightily to Laguna’s legacy in their own significant ways. Their lives are reminders of how great communities are built on visionary leaders. Mark, John and Stu (as well as their predecessors) will be cheering on Laguna’s next torchbearers.

A celebration of Mark’s life is scheduled for June 3, 2018 at 2 p.m. at the Neighborhood Congregational Church.

Ellen and Roger Kempler

Laguna Beach


Laguna’s got to get off the grid – go solar, not underground

Laguna supposedly prides itself on being “progressive” and “forward thinking”, yet the city wants us to invest in old 20th century technology by undergrounding utilities.  The city has fast and furiously been spending our taxpayer dollars to blitz residents with ads on TV, Facebook, newspapers, etc. (just under $30,000 in April alone) on its “fear and fire” undergrounding campaign to scare voters into agreeing to tax ourselves hundreds of millions of dollars to underground a soon to be obsolete method of delivering power.  

Why are we not planning for the very near future, and instead encourage every property owner to invest in solar technology and become individual self-generating power sources? The technology is here now, and the recent breakthroughs in lithium-ion battery storage capacity and cost makes spending millions on “old school” utility power technology a very poor return on investment. 

Another bonus is that lithium-ion solar batteries are virtually maintenance free.  Likewise, the price of installing solar has dropped dramatically, and solar panels are now incorporated into roof tiles that are unobtrusive and aesthetic as well.

California just passed legislation requiring all newly built homes to have solar panels beginning in 2020. That’s less than two years away, and more than likely before the City would even begin to break ground on undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road.

Why should residents be expected to cover the cost to improve SCEdison’s aging, archaic infrastructure on Laguna Canyon Road? We certainly aren’t being given “stock” in exchange for this misguided taxpayer “investment”.

The new state mandate is a quantum leap toward the future, embracing solar technology so readily available in our coastal state and encouraging power self-sufficiency.  Let’s get off the grid, and not send hundreds of millions of dollars under ground.  

Think about it – Laguna has no major industrial business within its six square miles, so it has no need for major power production. Our residences can generate more than sufficient power for home residential use and charge our vehicles. Laguna could become one of the first self-sufficient “solar cities” in the state, and the nation. That’s progressive action we can all get behind (or ahead of!).  

Many small islands are already 100% solar self-sufficient.  If they can do it, so can we. Stop taxing our property to pay for old technology.  Let’s lead and sembrace the future. It’s a much better return on our investment and our tax dollars.

Jennifer Welsh Zeiter

Laguna Beach


LBGT Laguna’s Pride will be celebrated May 25 - 28 and June 1 - 3

Lesbians, bisexuals, gays and trans people from around the world will converge on Laguna’s friendly LBGT international beach, West Street, on May 25th - 28th, if the weather is warm.

The following weekend, June 1 - 3, Laguna Pride will start off on Friday with dancing, DJs and other excitement at the Main St. Bar and Cabaret, followed by a party at the Boom on Saturday at 4 p.m. and a beach party at West Street beach on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Weekend trolleys will run from 4 - 11 p.m. on Friday, from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. on Sunday, and will stop at West Street. 

West Street beach is a short walk north of the West Street stairway but there are three other access ways through Camels Point Drive, and two trails between Camels Point and West Street volleyball courts. Portable restrooms, a summer lifeguard, and one of Laguna’s largest expanses of sand make it a beautiful place to take pride in your LBGT lifestyle. 

Nearby, one block south of West Street, is the verdant, intimate village park with picnic tables and barbecues, and within walking distance are seven restaurants including the newly remodeled The Ranch at Laguna Beach, heralded as Laguna’s little Yosemite which not only has a wonderful restaurant and bar but also features 90 plus rooms and suites, a 9-hole golf course and one of Laguna’s largest pools. The Ranch is also served by one trolley route, and don’t forget you can cross Coast Hwy safely by using the tunnel at the north end of the Aliso beach parking lot.

Laguna’s the place to be on Memorial Day weekend and June 1 - 3, our Pride weekend!

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

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