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Founder of STOP concerned about LBPD’s apparent lack of independence

Last Friday No on P signs were taken in broad daylight by a local resident driving a Bentley not registered to him. Thanks to an alert resident and Sgt. Schmidt, the man was stopped before leaving city limits. Eight No on P signs were in the back seat, but despite clear evidence and demand for a citizen’s arrest, the suspect was neither arrested nor cited, and the trunk was not searched. But this letter is not about the theft of the signs. It’s about what happened over the next 72 hours. And it’s concerning. 

Immediately on STOP’s behalf we went to file a formal complaint with LBPD and get information. But LBPD would not give us the [alleged] thief’s name or any details, telling us instead that we’d get the police report in 3-5 days. Over the next 72 hours all requests to get details on the [alleged] thief, the Bentley’s registered owner, and other details such as on whose behalf he may have been stealing the signs, were refused. On Sunday we were told the report had been sent to the DA for investigation, had been sealed, and we would have no access to the report for 3-4 weeks, after the election. Yet the LBPD gave the name of the [alleged] thief and details of the report to at least four separate media sources within hours. Why?

On Monday morning LBPD again refused this information. We asked to see Chief Farinella, and were denied. It was only when told that councilman Dicterow was present that the Chief agreed to meet. Upon entering the room City Manager Pietig was there, inserting himself into an LBPD investigation. This was a police matter, not a city matter. Does the City Manager insert himself into other such police matters? From the beginning it was clear Pietig was calling the shots, subverting and subordinating the Chief’s authority and independence, and telling everyone how the meeting was going to be conducted.  It was a very sad display of the lack of independence of our LBPD, who is obviously engaged in politics at the behest of the City Manager. 

I objected to Pietig being present. He is the one pushing Measure P (the sales tax increase) on residents, fueling the “fire and fear” campaign and spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars advocating for the unnecessary tax increase to feed the city’s coffers for things the City should be budgeting and paying for overtime. Pietig refused to leave, and said the meeting would stop if we did not play by his rules. 

Bottom line, our police chief should be able to do her job independently. But its clearly apparent the LBPD is not independent – it does the bidding as directed for our overbearing, over-controlling City Manager and his agenda. As a resident, that concerns me greatly. If we cannot count on our local PD to be independent, there to protect and serve our local community, and not play politics, something needs to change. Is it time to replace the LBPD and contract with the OC Sherriff’s office instead?

Note: We finally received the police report (which had NOT been sent to the DA until after our meeting on Monday), woefully missing of important facts that would encourage prosecution. Why? We’ll take that up with the DA.

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach


Time to connect your mailbox to your trash can

Get ready. Coming soon to a mailbox near you – the barrage of negative political hit mail aimed at candidates that can’t be controlled and sugar-coated claims about the candidates they hope you will vote for in hopes their interests will be served on the City Council, Planning Commission, and Design Review Board to “Liberate” (more like Obliterate) Laguna, the new Citizens United enabled PAC funded with over $90,000 mostly from just four real estate developers and commercial property owners.

They want you to believe they are your new best friend. Their high-priced political PR consulting firm has come up with the clever strategy of glomming onto a couple of hot buttons like the historicity hysteria. Make no mistake, these people are capitalists who hope to capitalize on our community. 

This is not a win-win strategy. This is the “I win – you lose” approach to real estate development. To quote from the website of the largest contributor to this PAC: “As a private investment firm, (the contributor’s company) places the needs of our investors above all else.” Do you seriously believe these folks have forked over $90,000 to help you with your historicity concerns? Wake up Laguna. Think before you vote.

John Thomas

Laguna Beach


Incumbents are like used motor oil

Laguna, like a fine motor car, is running rich lately: congested, sluggish, the speed-O is optimistic but maybe there’s a blockage. An election is looming where both present and former incumbents promise a tune-up, I’m thinking more like an oil change at Sears. We had a roadmap once called the Vision 2030 Strategic Plan. Published in 2001, it was organized to give residents a front row seat to a strategic planning process for Laguna Beach. A thousand people participated, experts were called, consultants were paid. We got seven Strategic Planing Sections in a foldout glossy with 34 goals and 52 actions. The tourist trolleys are a credit to that strategic vision, so are the empty blue and white muni buses. 

We’re still waiting for the pedestrian (car-free) downtown, mixed use zoning, affordable housing, artist live-work, attractive transit, state-of-the-art wastewater system, commercial parking, traffic analysis, bicycle plan, and Ocean Laguna to protect our ocean and beaches. But where are the artists, designers, architects, engineers, and constructors to build our strategic vision? Not on the council dais. Instead we have a retired educator, a professional politician, lawyers, more lawyers, an administrator and one LB Homie. You know what lawyers do all day? They argue among each other until somebody’s client “settles”, then you get the bill. Laguna needs another dais; artists, designers, engineers, and contractors execute actions, they solve problems, they build stuff.

We will pay $12 million for Village Entrance asphalt but it’s missing a public restroom and 120 parking spaces. We will pay $1 million for a sewer digester facade, yet South Laguna still waits for another out-house. Have you ever swam beyond the South Laguna breakwater and watched a turd float by? I have! Aliso Beach has a two-holer so where else can 6.3 million visitors go?

This election the incumbents (including current Council, Planning Commission, and past Council) are lined up generations deep for another run on the city hall hamster wheel. The lineup includes WE CAN’T Dicterow, We know BETTER Iseman, Bob The BOND Whalen, It’s a GARDEN Christoph, I’m Just a CPA Kinsman, Ask the STAFF Kempf, and I’m NOT Running Zur Schmiede. The underdog candidates are smart, have fresh ideas, energy and determination; help them execute Laguna’s strategic vision! In this election Laguna has an opportunity to move beyond the incumbents’ “WE CAN’T”.  Laguna Beach, this is your opportunity.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Respecting the past while allowing for new

The current political campaigns in Laguna Beach are tearing us apart. It saddens me to see adults I look up to acting outside their true nature, spreading rumors and lies to push their own agendas. No one is going to build 10 story high rises on the beach in Laguna, nor would anyone want to do so. No one is going to bulldoze the downtown and turn Laguna Canyon into rows of 10 story buildings. Why must we resort to such low levels of discourse in order to control votes by tapping into everyone’s fears?

It is normal to disagree on certain things, that is what makes our country so special. Who you vote for is your business, but please let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are a small community of kind natured people, and after this election we still need to be able to see and respect each other around town. Do your research but don’t believe everything you read. Go directly to the people you question and get the truth.

I beg my generation of Laguna Beach residents to please do your part. Get informed, speak up, and vote. This is our town as well and we deserve to be heard. It hurts me to see so many of my peers move away because the town we grew up in has lost so much of what made us fall in love with it to begin with. Earth rotates forward, if we do not adapt and make positive changes, we are in fact going backwards. I hate seeing our downtown slowly decay. Our local businesses are suffering. Our town is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have room for improvement.

Each new decade brings with it a new list of necessary modifications in order for our town to be able to keep up with the times. Our town’s infrastructure is falling apart before our eyes. Some of our buildings are starting to look like they should be on the sets of post-apocalyptic films and shows. There is a way to preserve what we love about Laguna while still allowing for some adjustments so our community can be loved by all generations. Just because a lot of locals go to bed before 9 p.m. does not mean everyone in town does. Some of us would like to be able to get food at 11 p.m., or see a cool movie or unique show at 10 p.m. on a Friday Night. In order to attract the next generation of Laguna locals we need to be open to some things that may be outside the norm for us.

Decades ago we had a boardwalk, then a group of locals got together and made our Main Beach what it is today. That was change, and while I am sure many people were opposed to it, so many more were supportive. Ultimately everyone got over it and look what we have now, a beautiful unobstructed view of the Pacific. Unfortunately if you turn around and look at the downtown, you see a boarded up historic theater and hotel, as well as dozens of vacant storefronts. Not to mention interesting businesses are less willing to come into our downtown since it takes so long to get anything approved to open. We need to allow organic change; it’s time to let people get creative and think outside the box. If I am not mistaken, that is exactly what made Laguna so unique years ago, it was open-minded and different.

I can respect everything Village Laguna has done for all these years. I applaud them for coming together to preserve their vision of Laguna. I thank them for showing that locals can make a difference, but it is time for those of us that disagree on certain things to speak openly and start a positive dialogue of what we want to see in our town. This needs to be like a marriage, where both sides come together and compromise.

There is nothing better than locals working side by side to help improve their town. Those that argue that there is “nothing wrong with Laguna and if you don’t like it leave” are the real problem. It is ok that you like how things are, but it is not ok that you don’t think anyone else can have an opinion. The younger generation can definitely learn a thing or two from our older residents, however the older generations of Laguna Beach must also be willing to listen to us. We are the future of Laguna Beach and deserve to have our say in how our town will look in the next 10, 20, 30 years.

Change can be hard; many of us fear it. We must realize that change has also brought us some of the best things in our lives. Let’s work together as a community to create the Laguna that we all deserve to have. One that respects the past while allowing for the new.

No matter who you vote for, do your part and vote. Show that you are committed to Laguna Beach. If you don’t speak up, you can’t complain that you weren’t heard.

Hasty Honarkar

Laguna Beach


Prop P isn’t perfect but it’s in the best interest of our community

The issue of Prop P affecting only those living in Laguna Beach has certainly moved civility aside. I only offer the following points for those who are undecided on how to vote for this issue.

(1) Yes, there is some validity to saying that power poles are not the only way fires are started. Fire can be due to the carelessness of people or sometimes intentional actions. But power poles can set fires quite readily. 

(2) More importantly power poles are used to bring power to municipalities, of which Laguna is one. If a power pole comes down due to wind, traffic accident (sometimes fatal), etc. a city’s power can be interrupted. Laguna Beach has its own hospital, police/fire departments as well as businesses including hotels and restaurants all needing electricity. We have at least 21,000 people living here as well.

(3) So if the power is cut off, we will have serious consequences, especially if many poles come down and the utility companies have to deal with a widespread power outage.

(4) If it is a county/state wide power outage I would suspect that we would not be the first to be served. Look at reports about the Florida Panhandle and beyond with the destructive hurricanes that hit the Southeast recently. Many people are still without power. Do you have a generator?

(5) The notion of kicking the can down the road – well we have seen that this does not solve the problem nor make it less expensive when the problem emerges again. If we tried again to “borrow money” can we get as much, with as many options in it? 

(6) Maybe this is the not best finance plan the city council could have approved, however, it does have provisions to upgrade some streets in Laguna proper from power poles to underground.

Environmentally:

Each telephone pole represents a tree. How many trees can we keep cutting down nationwide? Not only are trees cut but they must be “treated” before they can be used as a power pole. That takes years and would Laguna be in first in line or 50th in line? 

The chemicals used to preserve/prepare the trees for their role as a power pole are toxic. Thus, the toxins seep into our soil. Not a good idea.

What we need to pay attention to is the wholesale cutting down of trees in the Amazon and other areas – the deforestation of the Amazon can affect our weather in the Northern Hemisphere. Look it up if you don’t believe me. That is part of the story on Climate Change in case you haven’t read the same report provided to our esteemed leader in Washington. 

Hopefully there are more folks with vision and we vote for P. Nothing is perfect but this is a start to making our city safer and more impervious to whims of fate.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach


Response to negative letters about Village Laguna

I have been reading all of the negative letters about Village Laguna that started this summer and then those that appeared in your last edition. I also heard a few candidates bad mouth this civic organization during the recent forums. You have read or heard the lies and I won’t repeat them here. 

Over the past few months I wondered why such vitriol was being disseminated now. Then, the Liberate Laguna PAC joined in on this campaign and endorsed Peter Blake and Sue Kempf. When I saw that many making these accusations were Blake and Kempf supporters my suspicions were verified. Allow me to share my personal thinking with you:

1. Liberate Laguna is composed of a small group of commercial developers, investors and brokers frustrated with the long established regulatory process required to approve changes to our historic structures.

2. Some Liberate Laguna backers have made significant investments in town and want to develop these. There are at least three in the planning stages. Other backers may be looking at buying properties for future development or to provide services to these developers. 

3. Village Laguna’s citizen volunteers are the primary advocate for historic preservation and are considered by many the most effective defender of Laguna Values. 

4. If Liberate Laguna were to be successful in pushing their two endorsed candidates to the council (Blake and Kempf), they figure they will be able to damage Village Laguna’s efforts.

5. If Liberate Laguna succeeds in smearing Village Laguna and if Liberate Laguna’s candidates win, they stand to try to influence our government so their many pending commercial projects are easily approved. 

What puzzles me is that everyone knows that Village Laguna is funded entirely by its many resident members through small annual membership dues. None of its members or officers are paid a salary or any per diems or even expense reimbursements. All members volunteer their time to assure Laguna remains a small scale, beautiful, friendly town. The policies advocated by Village Laguna (clean air, neighborhood integrity, clean ocean waters, historic preservation, open spaces) do not provide its members any profit. Yet, it is accused of doing terrible things to Laguna Beach.

Both Blake and Kempf say they did not solicit the Liberate Laguna endorsement. Yet, they apparently filled out Liberate Laguna’s questionnaire to their satisfaction and are now backed by thousands of dollars in campaign ads and mailers sent out to support them.

I believe Liberate Laguna is an effort at a hostile takeover of our Village Council. Let’s reject this apparent maneuver and vote for Toni Iseman and Ann Christoph for City Council.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach


Obituary

David French 

November 25, 1942 - October 5, 2018

David French closeup

Click on photo for a larger image

David French, designer craftsman specializing in exotic hardwoods and 27-year veteran of the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach, passed away peacefully at his home in Mission Viejo, CA on Friday, October 5, 2018. David is survived by his wife of 38 years, Denise French, and 34-year-old son, Drew French, along with Drew’s wife, Kelly, and his 3-month-old granddaughter, Brooke.

David was lot of things to a lot of people, but to all who knew him, he was hilariously funny, lacking any and all filters, oftentimes offensive and blunt, but always honest and unabashedly himself. He was the lifelong soulmate of his wife, whom he loved more than any human being could possibly love another. To his son, he was the most dedicated, engaged, and proud father for which any child could hope. To all, he was the one person that could manage to offend every single individual at a party throughout the course of an evening, but walk away more loved because of it.

David French woodworking

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Early in his career

David was born on November 25, 1942 in Bell, CA, where he was raised by his loving parents, Dudley Lynn French and Edith French, as the eldest son of four children – Dan French (brother), Don French (brother), and Dorrene French (sister). After his service in the United States Army, David moved from Bell to San Clemente, CA in the late ‘60s, where he began his 30+ year career as an artist.

David first entered the Festival of Arts of Laguna Beach as an exhibitor in 1979 at the age of 36. David’s self-stated approach to his work was straightforward:

“Does form follow function, or function follow form? Ninety percent of the time in my work, there is a function that must be fulfilled. The challenge is to put a new form on it. My life/design philosophy equates to simplicity – clean lines, simple shapes, beautiful materials.”

David French cabinet

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Cabinet

Underpinning this philosophy, however, was David’s iconoclastic impulse to shed light on the absurdity of what he saw as pretension in the art world, and to turn one’s eye from the self-celebrating to the self-deprecating. His approach to his art was the same as his approach to his personal life: keep things honest, simple, and irreverent.

Local artists – such as Dan Skaggs, David’s friend since kindergarten and long-time exhibitor in the Festival of Arts – would be the first to tell you that while his stated artistic focus was on exotic hardwood, irreverence was his true medium.

For example, For My Lady was one of David’s iconic pieces that he would display annually at the Festival of Arts. Masterfully cut from several different exotic hardwoods, his sculpture was designed to capture the beauty of femininity in the most minimalistic and pure form of the Madonna. Clean. Simple. Beautiful.

At least on the surface.

David French My Lady

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For My Lady sculpture

Housed inside of For My Lady was a sex toy – a vibrator that David would leave constantly running in veritable silence – expressly designed to cause people to jump back in surprise when they touched his artwork…a pet peeve of his.

This was his version of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. To him, celebrating an idealistic form of perfection was idolatry, and his way of challenging this modality was to recreate it in its most honest, pure form…then, quite literally, insert something primal to break it down to its unglorified, undeified – yet still beautiful – human form. Frankly, he wanted it to piss you off. Then he wanted you to think about why.

“People are too damned serious,” he would say. 

Irreverence was indeed his true medium.

David French permanent display

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Permanent cabinet on display at Festival of Arts

While he designed several enduring pieces for Road & Track magazine, custom items for San Juan Hills Golf Course, and has a cabinet on display in the permanent collection of the Festival of Arts, his most important contribution to the artist community of Laguna Beach was not his work, but rather his approach to the artistic process, his infectious humor, and his raw honesty. This is what made him such a strong presence at the Festival of Arts, and what made him so loved amongst his peers, friends, and family.

His was a love for life and a passion for laughter that will be sorely missed in the art community here in Laguna Beach. No one will ever be able to replace him, but his spirit will live on in the memories of those who loved him.

Author…Drew French


The facts about Liberate Laguna

Here is the origin of Liberate Laguna: we got tired of being bullied.

The “we” is Cindy Shopoff, Sam Goldstein and me. We are the founders of Liberate Laguna.

We all were bullied by the City of Laguna Beach, its Design Review Board, Heritage Committee, Planning Commission and City Council – all out of control and dedicated toward making us and everyone like us miserable, we feel.

So we organized and created Liberate Laguna (LL), a nonprofit corporation dedicated to educating the public about our positions; separately, it has an associated legal Political Action Committee (PAC) spending money to elect the candidates and public initiatives of our choice.

There are five big things we support: 

1. One’s home should be placed on a Historic List if and only if one desires it.  (This mirrors the position of Let Laguna Live, a nonprofit dedicated to this one subject and not associated with LL.)

2. Right now, the Design Review Board (DRB), which must approve all new building projects, has unlimited and arbitrary power. Even the City’s website states the DRB can take into consideration anything it wants and it can deny your project for any reason at all. This is maddening. Instead, we believe the DRB should have fixed rules, which if followed, will allow one to skip the DRB in its entirety. No more arbitrary power. If one wants variances, then fine, go through DRB, but it still must have fixed rules, and its Members must treat each applicant with respect and dignity.

3. Laguna’s retail business community is dying. It is not because of the Internet. It is because the City has so over-regulated the approval process, retail businesses by-pass Laguna entirely. Instead, they go to CdM, Dana Point, Irvine, or just about anywhere else in light of Laguna’s extreme hostility. So, LL believes a small Laguna retailer should only have to pull a business license, get building plans approved over-the-counter, and get started. Get it moving.

4. We believe there should be term limits for City Council Members and all committees and commissions. This will ensure that new blood and new ideas continually would rejuvenate this town.

5. We cannot stop the massive influx of tourists, but we can build parking structures to get their cars off the streets. Such structures can and should be built near downtown businesses and in other places where there are park & ride opportunities.   Fun fact: for the last twenty years, no new parking lots or structures have been built, and now the new “City Entrance” will eliminate over 100 parking places.

So there you have it, our five basic positions. We have endorsed two candidates, Peter Blake and Sue Kempf, because we believe they best reflect our thinking. Neither sought our endorsement, nor, I think, particularly even wants it. 

If anyone does not like our positions, fine, bring on your arguments. However, please do not lie about us.

And that brings me to the crux. Village Laguna (VL) helped the city obtain a green belt surrounding Laguna. This was in the 1980s and ‘90s and was a great accomplishment; VL rightly should be proud of it. After that, something probably predictable happened, it seems.

VL had tasted success, and its offspring, power, and wanted more. So, it organized, got more power and, voila, has in the opinion of many including myself, controlled this town for most of the last three decades. 

Village Laguna is adamantly opposed to all of Liberate Laguna’s five positions. Further, it appears to feel threatened. We certainly get this. VL has been the dominant political and ideological player for years, and now Liberate Laguna comes out of nowhere? Why are they here? What do they want? 

Those are legitimate questions and our five positions should answer them. We believe VL’s influence has been too great and as a result, the city, and its residents, have suffered.

We at LL happily will debate our five positions and argue their merits with VL or any other group.

But please, Village Laguna, do not lie about us. Do not lie that LL wants to pave over Laguna. Do not lie that LL wants to destroy our special culture with Miami-style high-rises.

Argue your positions and we will argue ours, but do not lie.

Michael Ray

Laguna Beach


Liberate all of Laguna from special interest big money political action committees

Both Liberate Laguna (LL) and Village Laguna (VL) share the same traits...only pick two candidates in order to ‘’take over’’ our City Council. We have in fact three seats open. Voters hopefully are distrustful of both groups’ antics. I am an independent candidate for Council 2018. Only Democrats got interviewed (anointed) by one special interest group and the other just cut off interviews...a farce. 

The current campaign finance city law 1.14 was written for and of the now creepy Village Laguna. This law is most likely unconstitutional as it restricts individual contribution[s] to a council candidate. Any PAC has unlimited campaign fundraising. Presently, the so-called “new kid”, Liberate salivates to embrace this campaign finance law. They admit using big money political action committees with unlimited amounts by big money donors. Wow!

Just an interesting footnote about this possibly illegal finance law. 1. It prevents individual unlimited contributions to make a recall vote. 2. The law does not allow a spouse [or domestic partner] to make unlimited separate property money contributions to their significant other. Laguna made a law against Love! Ha. 

Yes, our Laguna is damaged inside and out by the big money that seeks to subvert the real majority of our Laguna voters’ choice. I urge Laguna to pick on the ballot a third choice and screw up the diabolical forces of local politics.

Paul Merritt

Laguna Beach


The Right Candidates…Choose wisely

This election is quite unique. Never before…our local City Council elections have two empty seats open and a third seat with an incumbent who many feel “didn’t quit gracefully” after 20 years of questionable decisions on property rights, how to address homelessness, City spending and hiring, voting on the Village Entrance and the resulting loss of parking…and so much more.

I’ve lived here 50+ years growing up through all our schools and only leaving for three years at Cal Poly SLO and two years at Canada Landscaping & Yukon Gold Mining. But, I always come back to my hometown and never before felt it’s more threatening our City viability and vibe than right now.

I just can’t stop looking over my shoulder for the next “foolish” and seemingly self-serving scheme City Councilwoman Iseman and candidate Christoph dream up spending our hard earned dollars on – like the Village Entrance, which candidate Kempf approved as a Planning Commissioner. 

Continuing schemes to bury our families financially…a bond debt for the next 25 years…their “Fire & Fear campaign” threatens homes our families should inherit. The undergrounding proposal is really about views and those who won’t pay their fair share versus the 80 percent who’ve already paid! There’s no logical evidence basis to put my hometown at risk with bonds (50 cents for $1 bonded). That’s bad financial advice by “Bondsman” Bob Whalen, who should exit next election too. This “deal” feels exploitative and shameful, in my opinion.

We’ve already mitigated potential fires since the 1993 October Fire – two new reservoirs, goat eating and man-made fuel modification zones that did their job, burned out before they reach us. We’ve got the finest Fire Department, new OC Choppers and Bombers as was evidenced during the Woods Canyon Preserve arson fire…a show of strength and confident firemen’s abilities…beautiful. We’re all safe – applaud as former OC Fireman watching! 

We’re already ready and have confidence. Vote with logic, facts and evidence of latest fire. Vote not with “fear & debt incurred for free views for others”. This isn’t just about safety. I suspect that many have “I Want it Now, Views for Free” selfish motives that would leave our future families paying for undergrounding technology almost obsolete.

No need to underground the Canyon, Caltrans is already doing their own work. Only foolish councilmembers would propose spending our tax dollars on this project.

Bryan Menne

Laguna Beach

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