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Stu News poll on changing the Design Review Board

Council member Peter Blake desires to change the Design Review Board. He believes his changes will make it fairer and more reflective of the real desires of the community. His opposition, primarily composed of members and supporters of Village Laguna, oppose any changes.

In this connection, I recently received an email chain, which started with a supporter of Village Laguna who sent more than 50 other supporters an email, which states, and I quote:

“Happy New Year to all!

The DRB needs your help..... Can you please go on STU News and vote no on Peter Blake’s agenda bill. The survey is located in the right hand Column next to the marine officer article.”

This is how Village Laguna games the system to make it seem like their point of view is the most popular. This is how they do it, time after time: a minority of the population of Laguna Beach wields power because they are organized and work

as a team. Good for them. Bad for Laguna.

Michael Ray

Laguna Beach

A thank you to both the city and to those citizens working with the city on behalf of our green canopy

The recent holidays have come and gone, but the wonderful act by the city to replant 30 of the longstanding empty tree well sites will remain with us for many holiday seasons to come. We commend the city for taking this urgently needed action. We also want to commend the coordinated effort among city officials and passionate citizen arborists and arboreal appreciators who all worked in a consensual manner to move this long overdue action expeditiously forward by working together in selecting the most optimal tree species.

This replanting also reveals a distinctive and endearing feature of our small town regarding the value of citizen and city government engagement cooperation working together for a common good. While it is clear that being in public office always necessitates a sacrifice of personal time, fortunately, there are many citizens also willing to make such a sacrifice of time in contributing their expertise as professional arborists or simply tree appreciators to helping monitor and expand our green canopy. All these parties worked together in creating the wonderful Christmas gift of 30 newly planted, largest possible trees.

Everyone is well aware that plentiful arboreal shade for our charming village streets insures our health, energy savings, water conservation, and mitigation of air pollution among other benefits. However, as City Manager John Pietig was most articulate in explaining recently, “the safety of our citizens, their children and the City’s visitors is paramount.” Those of us who are passionately concerned about the extent of our arboreal cover for the enrichment benefits of our communal lives couldn’t agree more. And this raises an important issue.

Our unique city, surrounded as it is by belts of green and blue, is large enough to attract from 3 to 6 million visitors a year, yet we understand it is too small to have a budget to maintain the health of the trees in order to keep everyone safe. While the Laguna Beach Urban Tree Fund has been created to provide extra funding to both maximize the size of the tree replanted and enhance watering management (which it just did), we are hopeful that in the coming year budgeting can be reallocated by the city to also provide for regular maintenance and appropriate pruning of trees. 

We do joyfully celebrate our City Council, City Manager, and Public Works for both their wisdom in expediting the replanting of 30 of the forlorn empty tree wells and as we approach our Second Arbor Day festivities this coming March, we encourage and look forward to ever more support from the community and our City Management Team in protecting and increasing the providers of the shade we hold so dear in our increasingly hot summers!

Barbara and Greg MacGillivray

Laguna Beach

Music to My Ears: New House of Blues in DC

Now that the 116th Congress has been convened, my hope is Harley Rouda, Mike Levin and the Democrats in charge of the House of Blues can change President Trump’s favorite song from “My Way” to “Our Way.”

Main Street Americans want their representatives to be determined and productive. They also want them to be thoughtful and careful. Simply put, they want their lawmakers to take a more balanced approach to solving problems. 

Assuming they will, then I can’t wait to hear the House of Blues start playing a new tune in Washington. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Crime in Laguna has gone up, not down

If the police don’t make arrests then statistics go down. The Police crime statistics that were published in Friday’s edition are in the eye of the beholder. I was told by more than one of our police officers that they have been instructed not to make arrests or not prosecute unless it is to make a big bust. Three years ago in 2016, criminals or drunks in public were arrested and some prosecuted. Now they are just talked to and if arrested then released. Numbers don’t lie, but anyone can manipulate numbers to come out to what they want. 

The example was Mr. Hemphill who was arrested for public drunkenness then released.

Three days later drunk in public again, he wanders into traffic and gets hit. Look how much more damage it caused by not prosecuting him. How is this going to affect the innocent sober driver who hit him? Mr. Hemphill is now hospitalized. The traffic was backed up for blocks. How much did that cost the town in all the emergency vehicles and personnel? 

Making policies and laws are only part of the job, without these lawbreakers paying a heavy fine, it costs the taxpayers of this town thousands. 

Let these criminals pay for their messes and keep them locked up and sent to Santa Ana for prosecution. 

Good behavior should be encouraged by our “guests” and they should not be allowed back if they can’t adhere to the laws. But don’t think we don’t all know crime has gone up just because you show us a slanted chart of statistics.

Rebecca Apodaca

Laguna Beach

Are there any scientific benefits of eucalyptus trees in Laguna Beach?

Trees seem to be a favorite topic and sometimes a very divisive one with some folks. I would like to hear from those “arborists and landscape architects” what the positive aspects of eucalyptus trees are other than that they grow tall at a rapid rate, and for some reason our early settlers picked them to grow in Laguna (perhaps that they grow and burn quickly as this would provide fuel for their home fires). From all that I read in books/brochures/and speaking to arborists not living in Laguna Beach, I see no impetus that we should even be growing these trees here in town. We have read and I have recited many of the reasons why they are not a natural fit for our town. It seems that these trees are at the crux of some of the divisiveness – so perhaps if we had some real, scientific, logical reason why we should spend so much money on certifying if some of these trees are dying/dead/worthy of being deemed historical and then spending money to clean up after them/trim them continually, it would help. I am waiting to hear that someone was injured while trying to trim some of the especially tall ones or that they were injured as a result of one not being maintained – and I truly hope it does not happen. In some areas of town the leaves, etc. becomes part of the runoff to the ocean – many years ago we spent a lot of money to place these “cute” little ceramic reminders near drains indicating that the debris goes to the ocean – and a lot of good that does us. 

Many things our ancestors have done over the ages have turned out not to be a good idea – others have become wonderful productive traditions, which we carry out with pride. So please someone from Laguna Beautification Council, many of whom are also members of Village Laguna, take the time to address the positive scientific aspects of eucalyptus trees as they relate to today’s issues in our town (fire safety, cost of maintenance of our streets and vegetation, safety of our visitors and residents, to name a few). There are many issues that people in town do not agree with how either of your organizations address them. I am glad to see a little more transparency from Village Laguna, especially with a total of $5,000 being donated to groups in town. Hopefully with your wonderful fundraiser, Charm House Tour, you will have more to contribute to these causes in 2019 as it is not an election year.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Mark Cuban is a welcome addition to our community

Mark Cuban purchased all the hats and shirts for Vietnam Veterans at the reunion of the 40th anniversary of the 24th Evac MASH Unit, Long Binh Vietnam. Mr. Cuban is a welcome addition to our Laguna Beach community!

Tom Joliet

Laguna Beach

Defense Secretary James Mattis suddenly resigns

President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria wasn’t exactly the Christmas message Defense Secretary James Mattis or key GOP lawmakers were expecting to hear. According to numerous sources, it caught virtually everyone in Washington off guard.

Back in late July 2016, I wrote a commentary for The Hill newspaper entitled, “Clinton and Trump should start naming their foreign policy picks.” Here is what former Defense Secretary William Perry, who served under President Clinton in the 1990s, told me about the characteristics needed of a Defense Secretary:

“Some knowledge and experience in the national security field; prior military service would be useful, but not necessary; some real experience in management (he or she will be running a company with a $500 billion annual budget and more than 3 million people); an unflappable personality, and, most all, the character to stand up for what he or she believes, even if it means stepping down from the job.”

With these thoughts in mind, I asked Mr. Perry, who wrote My Journey at the Nuclear Brink in 2015, if he had any specific recommendations in mind for his old job: 

“I’ve worked with [Defense Secretary] Ash Carter and [Under Secretary of Defense for Policy] Michèle Flournoy for many years. I think either one would be a good fit for Hillary. As for Trump, I don’t know what to say. His statements on national security to this point have been so off the wall, I think the primary characteristic needed of his Defense Secretary is the guts to stand his ground and tell the new president when he is wrong. I don’t have a name to suggest. In fact several names would be needed because if the new Secretary follows my advice, he or she may have a short tenure.”

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing one of the reasons Secretary Mattis suddenly resigned last Thursday was the fact he no longer could look in the mirror without wondering what kind of a man he had become. Either that, or he didn’t want the president slipping coal into his Christmas stocking. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Sawdust fire insurance policy canceled?

Our Laguna Sawdust zone and many other ‘’natural’’ settings are subject to

total insurance cancelation. 

Was this business property debacle [alleged fire insurance cancelation] caused by the City of Laguna Beach’s constant drumbeat during the Election, the Measure P public relations campaign, preaching “the town will burn” etc.?

Now the insurance matter will cause more pain to our artists, locals, and property owners.

I pray other homeowners in Laguna don’t experience this, the result of what I believe is our local politics, as well.

Paul Merritt

Laguna Beach

Letter to the Editor:

John Pietig

Laguna Beach City Manager

The City takes great pride in maintaining its urban forest and appreciates the benefits of trees (there are over 500 in the downtown area alone) in our community. A recent decision to replace two trees downtown and to remove two others due to safety concerns was not taken lightly. However, the safety of our citizens, their children and the City’s visitors is paramount. When the location permits, our City is determined to replace any tree that must be removed for safety reasons. 

Letter to Glenneyre

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Tree at 370 Glenneyre

The trees identified for removal ranged in height from 50 to 80 feet and have an estimated weight of three to six tons depending on the size of the individual tree. More than $18,000 was spent on studies and peer reviews involving three different professional arborists who are all certified by the International Society of Arborists (ISA). During the studies, scientific techniques were employed to gather information about the internal health of the trees, including resistograph and sonic tomograph testing to measure internal decay. This process resulted in a clear consensus to replace two trees (one on Broadway and one on Glenneyre). 

Letter to Mermaid

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Tree located at 357 Mermaid St

Two trees located on Mermaid Street had one arborist documenting that the risk to the public was “high” and not appropriate given the proximity and frequency of people, vehicles and structures around the areas where the trees could fall. The other arborist thought that trimming the crown and removing limbs on the trees could reduce, but not eliminate, the danger levels to “moderate” or “low.” Given the stakes involved, the decision was made to protect the public and remove the trees. 

The results of all tests were made available to the public and discussed at the December 11, 2018, City Council meeting. 

On July 16, 2018, a 35-foot eucalyptus tree in front of 580 Broadway suddenly fell on the road, smashed a parked car and also hit a traveling car. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but it serves as a reminder that decaying trees can be a threat to public safety and that is something the City of Laguna Beach takes very seriously. 

Letter to Broadway

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Tree at 580 Broadway that fell in July

 City staff is pleased to be planting 30 new trees in vacant tree wells in the downtown area. The City is evaluating different tree well treatments (brick, grates, or permeable bark) and will consider the appropriate tree well treatments along with other possible improvements to lighting, streets, trash enclosures, parking, etc. It makes sense that time is taken to coordinate future improvements to ensure that they complement each other, and that construction-related disruptions are minimized. 

Removing trees that have been a part of our community’s canopy for years is not something any of us like to do. However, when faced with expert recommendations and scientific information that the trees are not safe, the City must always act to protect the public.

John Pietig, Laguna Beach City Manager

City Council seems to be bullying the homeless

The definition of a bully is someone who picks on those weaker than the bully, and City Council seems bent on playing that role. The “problem” of the homeless reminds me of the “invasion” of migrants at the border politicians see. It’s all in your perspective, isn’t it? Those of us who interact with the homeless on a regular basis find a population that is friendly, funny – and often flawed with one or another disability, as every population is. Instead of using precious resources to increase police patrols, better to spend more effort on finding solutions, as Friendship Shelter has been doing: permanent supportive housing, and a day program with more social workers.

It’s the holiday season. Let’s try to help one another, and not beat up on those who need our help. Merry Christmas.

David Peck

Laguna Beach

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