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Solution to spending too much time in traffic jams on Laguna Canyon Road

Spending too much time in traffic jams on Laguna Canyon Rd makes you think that there must be a better way to manage the traffic flow to/from Laguna Beach, using Laguna Canyon Rd.

This is my solution:

1. Build a (four-lane) tunnel connecting Phillips St. (or just north of Phillips St) to the Junction of El Toro and the SR 73 (#1 in picture below)

2. Widen Philips St. (or just north of Phillips St) and connect it to Laguna Canyon Rd (#2 in picture below) on one end, and to the new tunnel on the other end

3. All traffic out of Laguna Beach (travelling on Laguna Canyon Rd north) will be diverted through the new tunnel and back to Laguna Canyon Rd through the current on/off ramps of SR 73/El Toro and Laguna Canyon Rd. And in reverse for traffic travelling south into Laguna Beach.

4. Close the following roads to all traffic – in both directions:

a. From the junction of El Toro and SR 73, to the Junction of El Toro and Laguna Canyon Rd (#3 in the picture below)

b. From The junction of Laguna Canyon Rd and SR 73, to the junction of Laguna Canyon Rd and El Toro (#4 in the picture below)

5. Remove the traffic lights, and place a turnabout at the current location of the junction of Laguna Canyon Rd and El Toro (#5 in the picture below). The only traffic travelling north on Laguna Canyon Rd beyond Phillips St will be to go either to Anneliese’s Schools Inc, or Willow Staging Area

6. Create a parking area for Park and Ride in the junction of Laguna Canyon Rd and SR 73 (#6 in the picture below)

7. During heavy(er) traffic, limit the pedestrian road crossing by Laguna College of Art and Design to every 3 to 5 minutes

8. Free the Toll Roads (73, 241, 261 and 91)

Neumark map

Submitted photo

Click on photo for a larger image

Benefits of this approach:

1. Streamlining the traffic in and out of Laguna Beach using Laguna Canyon Rd with minimal environmental impact:

1. No need to widen Laguna Canyon Rd from Phillips St north – to the junction of SR 73

2. No need to chop off any trees along Laguna Canyon Rd

3. Reclaim the area between the twos closed roads (#4 above) and return it to wilderness/open space

2. Minimal impact of local traffic during construction

3. Easy access to/from both Anneliese’s Schools Inc, and Willow Staging Area

Yori Neumark
Laguna Woods

A town ready to hide?

I understand that at Tuesday’s City Council meeting Ms Christoph asked the City to halt action on the Digester building so another consultant could be hired to look at it closer. She also stated that she was not in favor of the undergrounding of the canyon. Is she trying to undermine Mr. Blake’s platform? Is she making plans based on her perception of what our little “Coastal Town” needs rather than reality? After years of promoting Laguna as a World Class City, we are now a town ready to hide. 

Undergrounding/Village Entrance – After 20 years the city goes ahead and is trying to make our city safer sooner than later and improve the looks of our entrance and she wants to stop that? I understand that she designed the current entrance and in my opinion what a mess. All I can say is that I believe legally homeowners and the City could be held liable if no measures are taken to minimize potential hazards such as deliberate planting [of] more eucalyptus trees given their global history and scientific fact of their propensity to burn. If we don’t underground, I suspect many insurance companies could point the finger about this negligence and not pay out to rebuild the town. Of course they don’t pay out for loss of other things like pets, wild life, and human life – how much does that cost?    

Also of great concern to me is their continued push to buy the lot in South Laguna that the city has listed as a park in its latest issue of Laguna Beach Community News – the description states a barbeque is available. Does this make the city liable if someone vandalizes the area, or a fire is started with the barbeque, if someone dies or is injured; who foots the bill? Does this group have a signed contract with the owner for use of that property? My understanding is that no one at this point has made contact with the owner/s. If there is no written understanding on the use of this land, does this mean that these folks are squatting on this property and assume that it is OK to do that? The city is trying to get an appraisal – why are we spending this money when no one is sure if it is even for sale.  A little premature isn’t it? But then that is how these folks work – assume, take over, and quietly proceed on the next item on their list. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Approval of emergency resolution opens Laguna to influx of homeless

Our City Council approved an ‘’emergency resolution’’ [on the homeless issue]. This was done to obtain $500,000 in free grant money from State taxpayers.   

Both the City manager and I agreed...Laguna has done ‘’more for homeless’’ than any other city in OC.

 I opposed the Emergency Program...because for our Laguna the crisis is not a valid emergency. And, tax money is never free.

 Second, the majority of Laguna residents are weary of our village being a worldwide magnet for indigents. Living in Laguna is not a free right. 

 Third, some hidden provisions coupled with this resolution may include waiving of health and safety ordinances during this so-called declared Crisis. Also the program speaks to opening all public property to homeless use and occupation.

Lastly, in order to be approved to be part of this so-called emergency, Laguna drafted a letter of intent to the program named permanent homeless housing...

 As a council candidate I requested the citizens be told what location in Laguna will be considered for such housing. I recoiled at the thought that our treasured Laguna Canyon or your neighborhood could be selected for such a degrading site to give homeless condos or apartments.

Paul Merritt

Laguna Beach

Sales Tax increase Measure P is a poor ROI

Let’s say I offered you a deal. In exchange for $5 million dollars per year for 25 years, I’ll agree to reduce a possible risk to you which occurs less than two percent of the time. You would probably say, that’s no deal, that’s a rip off! And you’d be right. Well that is what the City and this City Council is offering residents, an agreement to raise our sales taxes, now formally called Measure P, that give us a poor return on our investment. How so you ask? In its fear campaign the City states that over the past 10 years there have been six fires caused by utilities. Under a Public Records Act request, our new Fire Chief Mike Garcia replied that over the past 10 years there have been 394 fires, from all causes, with the average number of fires per year at just under 40. Doing the math, this results in just 1.52 percent of all fires over a 10-year period being “caused” by utilities in Laguna. Yup, just 1.52 percent. 

letter zeiter

Submitted photo

So at $5 million estimated revenues per year if Measure P is approved by voters, over the 25 year duration, that’s $125 million dollars to reduce a less than two percent historical risk of utility fires by randomly undergrounding some, but not all, utility poles. And the possible risk is only being reduced, not eliminated, because only some of utilities will be undergrounded. That’s a horrible return on investment. Remember, there has never been a major fire in Laguna caused by utilities. Spending hundreds of millions of dollars and putting our city in debt to underground utilities will not keep us safe from a single careless match or cigarette.

Vote no on Measure P. It’s a pickpocket. There is no plan and no protection, and there certainly is no guarantee any of us will be any safer. It’s a poor return on our tax dollars. And vote out incumbent council members Rob Zur Schmiede and Toni Iseman, who voted to pick your pockets and approve this sales tax increase. Sometimes the sharks live on land, not the sea.

Stop the sales tax increase. 

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

Walter Viszolay’s Sawdust Festival mural evokes history

The fine mural which Walter Viszolay is completing on the fence at The Sawdust Festival facing the frontage road is straightforward narrative graphic in style that is surely not motivated by the wish to tell History, but it inadvertently does so anyway. At the far right end of the mural, Walter has included the iconic faux Medieval tower rising up the cliff from the rocks at Victoria Beach. Just to the left of the image of the tower, rendered as in the far distance, Walter has put in the two-story Mediterranean-style mansion which hangs from the cliff at #1 Rockledge. This building is a relic of the highest intellectual culture ever to grace Laguna Beach.

In 1937 an odd quartet of ex-patriot Brit pacifists trying to avoid the rise of Hitler arrived in America. They were the novelist Aldous Huxley, the poet Christopher Isherwood, the savant Gerald Heard, and Chris Wood, the rich Englishman who was footing the bills. They arrived in Hollywood to be lionized by swamis and moguls. Chris Wood decided that he liked Laguna Beach, and built the house at #1 Rockledge. His traveling companions, plus other literati and illuminati of the Southern California Scene, became his regular guests.

letter wright pic

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New mural by Walter Viszolay provides historical backdrop

Aldous Huxley, being who he was, soon developed a friendship with Swami Prabhavananda, the guru of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Temple in Hollywood. Swami Prabhavananda wanted to build a monastic retreat in Southern California. It came to pass that Chris Wood bought a property in Trabuco* Canyon on the Pacific side of Saddleback Mountain, and then financed the buildings there of the Ramakrishna Monastery, the first abbot of which was Gerald Heard. Christopher Isherwood formally became a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda, while Aldous Huxley, as usual, retained his independence, and just tried to understand everything. Huxley’s closest intellectual friends at the time were Edwin Hubble and J. Krishnamurti.

In 1960 I had the opportunity to visit at #1 Rockledge, which I could see was a beautiful house, but the history of which was unknown to me. I was there to see my friend, David Renacker, who was just then painting a mural in Newport Beach on the wall of a coffee house, that last expression of so-called Beat culture. The coffee house was called “The Prison of Socrates”, and David Renacker’s mural featured Socrates about to drink the hemlock, surrounded by his distraught disciples. In my opinion, David Renacker’s mural was a bit less draftsmanly than the painting on the same theme by Jacques Louis David, but more dramatic. In Laguna Beach at that time there was a smaller coffee house called “The Cafe Frankenstein”, where Bette Davis and Gary Merrill failed to be impressed by the jazz comic, Lord Buckley.

(“Trabuco’ is the Spanish word for blunderbuss. A luckless Spanish soldier with the Ortega party lost his trabuco someplace in the canyon the now bears the name. We can only imagine what the consequences of losing his gun may have been for the wretched soldier. In the first half of the 20th Century the lost blunderbuss was found, and you can go see it in the Santa Ana Bowers Museum…after you have checked out the mural by Walter Viszolay at the Sawdust Festival.)

Dion Wright

Laguna Beach


John Christian Watson

February 28, 1972 – July 29, 2018

Obituary John

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The world dimmed, and the stars became much brighter as John Christian Watson passed away in Laguna Beach, California, on July 29, 2018.

Born outside of Rochester, New York, John called many places home throughout his 46 years – raised in Southern California, he moved to Austin, Texas after graduating from Irvine High School, and then all the way to Costa Rica where he embraced the “pura vida,” a way of life that he naturally embodied. His next adventure was Vail, Colorado where he became a true mountain man and turned his love of surfing and the ocean into snowboarding and conquering the peaks. John eventually settled in Laguna Beach and quickly became everyone’s favorite bartender, capturing the hearts of all who met him with his infectious smile and ocean blue eyes.

His little beach cottage on Cress Street was a familiar place to all in Laguna Beach, locals and visitors alike. John’s home was a place of joy where strangers became friends, and gathered to laugh, dance, sing, and indulge in spontaneous drum circles where he proved that you do not need to be a professionally trained percussionist to shred on the bongos. A gathering at “Club Watson” wasn’t complete without having cocktails and a wonderful culinary creation he would whip up on the spur of the moment, while sharing legendary tales of his many adventures around the world.  His passions included surfing, swimming in the ocean, snowboarding, soccer, Angels baseball, exploring backroads in one of his many VW camper buses and following the Grateful Dead across the country.

Witty, spirited, kind, playful, unapologetically direct and devastatingly handsome (fact, not opinion), John was impossible not to love. Fiercely loyal, he relished every opportunity to help a friend, setting a new gold standard for “ride or die”. His soul radiated love and compassion, he was happiest when those he cared for were blissfully living in the moment – something we all learned from watching him. He lived like he surfed, riding every wave with abandoned passion. 

John is survived by his father, brothers, sister-in-law, nephew, niece and extended family, as well as countless loved ones whose lives are richer for having known him. As he often said, there was nothing a bad day of surfing wouldn’t cure. The ocean was his remedy for everything, in celebration of his life a paddle-out is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 at Brooks Street Beach in Laguna Beach (please see further information updated on his Facebook page).


Martha Jean Clark

February 13, 1932 – July 20, 2018

Obit Clark

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Martha Jean Clark, known to her friends as Jean or Jeannie, passed away at the age of 86 on July 20, 2018 in Torrance, California. Jean lived most of her adult life in Laguna Beach, California and vicinity, although her last few years were spent in Torrance.

Jean was born on February 13, 1932 in Antioch, California to Harry and Lucille Bender. She was graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1958 from UC Berkeley. After graduation, she married Dr. Elbert Warren Clark IV, DDS, MS in August of 1958. She worked as a nurse before her children were born, and again after they had left the home.

She is survived by her husband Elbert (aka Bert, or Doc), her daughter Heather (Clark) Baker, her son Elbert Warren Clark V (Cinco), two granddaughters, Jasmine and Ginger Baker, and her sister Harriet Mattheis. She will be remembered for her beauty, her kindness, and her perseverance in the face of adversity.

Her memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, September 8, at 11 a.m. at Little Church by the Sea. The church is located at 468 Legion Street.

The family may be reached at 1216 Date Avenue, Torrance, CA 90503-6104 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: Christian Stewardship Ministry, P.O. Box 636, Laguna Beach, CA 92652.

Laguna Beach’s character has been preserved because of Village Laguna

It occurred to me that many of the recent arrivals in Laguna and many local millennials are unaware of the past citizen-led efforts to preserve Laguna for future generations. Let me share one example I received after my last letter appeared in your Stu News. From a millennial:

“My boyfriend works at a local business. He hears negative things about Village Laguna from one of the Managers, who falls into the “more development” camp when it comes to local politics. He asked my Dad (a long-term resident) why a few people complain so loudly about Village Laguna.”

My dad said: “Find someone who’s been around this area for 30 years and ask them if they remember what Corona del Mar used to look like back then. It had a really cool, old cottagey-small town village charm. That’s gone now. Every third house now is a soul-less rectangular box that is the maximum possible size that the lot will allow, going right up to the setbacks. Corona del Mar has lost its soul. The reason that Laguna doesn’t look like Corona del Mar is because of Village Laguna and residents that think the same way about preserving village character.”

And think about what Dana Point is doing to look just like Laguna: Planting lots of trees, offering free trolleys, developing quaint shops and pedestrian areas…yet some here want us to let uncontrolled growth proceed, cut more trees, bring in more hotels and restaurants, get rid of our charm houses by turning them into rectangular living spaces, etc. Think about this next time you drive outside our city limits.   

Residents First! A good way to describe and remember what the effort of the past 47 years by Village Laguna has meant to our town. 

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Locals’ needs aren’t being met

I keep hearing this same complaint over and over from neighbors and residents here – this City is catering to everyone but the locals who pay the taxes. There’s dozens of homeless people gathering and setting up camp on the grassy areas of Main Beach every single day, there’s trash and cigarette butts littering the gutters, sidewalks and landscaping along Coast Highway, there’s dog urine streaming down the walls, posts, sidewalks and streets everywhere you look, and there’s chronically the stench of sewage at Calliope at Bluebird, McAulay at PCH, Crescent Bay and The Montage. There’s not a single Porta Potty to be found at Sleepy Hollow, Thalia, Brook Street, Moss Point, Victoria Beach, etc. (OMH, where do all these beachgoers go to the bathroom?) 

The traffic has grown massively due to the relentless urban sprawl up the 133, and there’s rarely anywhere to park to do business in town. Since few can afford the rent to run a business here, our downtown looks blighted with so many empty buildings, and if a tree grows through your million dollar view you’re pretty much out of luck unless you’re willing to shell out a large sum of money to prove you lost your view to some obstinate, tree-hugging neighbor who probably has a beautiful, unobstructed view of their own. 

But…we are building a multimillion-dollar Village Entrance so all these issues can continue to be swept under the rug, while even more people flood into our town. We need a city council that actually works for the residents paying their salaries. I think we need to flood a City Council meeting some night and make them take notice instead of ignoring us.

Marsha Bianchi

Laguna Beach

Pin-tailed Whydah…so that’s what kind of bird it is…

I want to thank Dianne Russell and Maggi Henrikson for clearing up the mystery of the bird we saw in the afternoon of June 23 this year in our backyard in upper Bluebird Canyon. After we saw the bird we looked at all of our bird identification books to no avail – they only dealt with North American birds. Little did I think we were looking at a bird originally from sub-Saharan Africa. 

I am attaching copies of two photos I took – not as good as Maggie’s though – for your information. We have only seen that bird once and has not returned to our yard to our knowledge. 

letter coffin profile

letter coffin another

Click on photos for larger images

Thanks for the paper as well, we enjoy it.

Hugh Coffin

Laguna Beach

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