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I have recently heard accounts, from two separate people, that two female employees who work at the ASL were instructed to lie about speaking to me for about a half hour the second night I spent at the ASL. I was told they denied speaking to me but to ask me to leave. I asked Dawn Price of the Friendship Shelter to please let me speak to them. I have notes I took at the time. I told her I knew one of them was a psychology major and we discussed she had the same name as my grandmother. I told them a trick that if someone is hysterical, “you bear hug them and lift their feet off the ground.” It’s an old psychologist trick. It calms them immediately. 

However, this is all much to do about nothing. Dawn refuses to tell me who at the Friendship Shelter wrote the article. She just said “we” wrote it. Big deal. I can handle the BS. This is not why I’m so terribly sad. 

Three women living at the ASL came to me and told me that they were raped and sexually assaulted in the shelter by known sex offenders. They told me they have told the people at the shelter. The ASL is set up as one room. Women on one side and men on the other separated only by folding tables. After everyone is asleep, the predators go to work telling the women to be quiet. There are some good men who have stepped in, but the violations have continued. 

I looked up these men on These are registered, dangerous sex offenders. The women don’t think they will be believed because they know they are hated in town. I have even heard of sex trafficking happening, but haven’t dived into that topic yet. I’m trying to give confidence to these women to come forward, but naturally, the odds are against them. Why aren’t these men being checked before coming to the shelter? It takes a minute. I’ve been thinking a lot about the expression, “deer hunters go where the deer are.” These women are vulnerable and they often won’t be believed, despite the fact that the names they gave me of the violators checked out on the sex offenders’ list. 

We have people running around stealing signs. We have people gossiping about others and saying terrible things. People have said horrible things about me. We are worried about the inconvenience of traffic as businesses that have been here for years are loosing their stores because their rent has just increased. 

We are worried about traffic when the middle class, artists, seniors, students and the young professionals can’t get housing and are scared for their futures. A lot of people spend their time smiling at one another while turning around and trashing that person once their back is turned. 

There isn’t one millionaire in this town who didn’t get to where they are without help from someone. But that fact is easily forgotten. They are so scared their little worlds will be threatened. They are fueled by fear and are totally irrational. Or, maybe, they are worried the “wrong people” will be given the same opportunity in the High School that their children were blessed to have. God help their children if this is what is being taught to them. 

I’m an ordained minister and certified celebrant. I haven’t brought this up before because I believe in the separation of Church and State. I’m not a preacher. I consider myself a pastor who goes to where help is needed the most. On the subject of addiction, a crisis that claims lives daily, I can confidently say the Friendship Shelter is merely a revolving door. I took an oath. I don’t lie nor do I repeat the words of those who confide in me. I am not used to people calling themselves “Christians”. Where I come from, you are an Episcopalian or Methodist, and so on. But those who call themselves “Christians”, I challenge you to look at your actions when you bring people down. I challenge you to look in the mirror when you are only concerned with your own self-interest. 

If being new means I want to save this town from dying, and I want to breath new life into the village with vitality and young professionals and people who will love the little given to them, then so be it. Maybe I’m not right for this town – I don’t know. In the last few months, I’ve seen adults act worse than children, pointing fingers at everyone but themselves. They are scared and cowardly. They hide behind fake smiles and turn around, stabbing people in the back. I haven’t seen anything like this in all my life. The lack of humility and gratefulness, by some, is astonishing. 

I wanted to make a difference. I went to the ASL to find out if the homeless were being bussed here, and I fell down a rabbit hole. If you don’t want accessible housing, if you want corruption and you want an incredibly elite few holding all the power, don’t vote for me. I’ll disappoint you. I want a future for this town, not a bunch of middle-aged inheritors who will be left with homes and property they won’t be able to afford. 

I couldn’t care less if you are rich or poor. Don’t worry. I’m not trying to steal your bag of gold at night. Live behind your gates and walls. I’m a bridge builder. I hate exclusivity. You should know that before you cast your ballot. I want criminals in jail if they break the law, rich or poor. I want clean coastlines and to protect our incredibly beautiful land. But enough is enough. I’m angry at the lack of integrity and the blind eyes to the cruelty. 

To all my opponents – I have only the greatest respect for all of you. What you are doing is hard and thankless. You have all shown great courage. 

To the Establishment who are feeding off the taxpayers’ money and making backroom deals, I will stop you. I will call you out. I will no longer put up with any façades of kindness while I see you stab someone in the back. The problem with “going low” is that there is no bottom. When you “go high”, you occasionally get a Lincoln, a King...or an Obama. I will never be in that category, obviously. But, I can least try to walk in their footsteps. You get the Village you vote for; God bless Laguna Beach if this direction doesn’t change.

Allison Mathews

Laguna Beach

How desperate is Village Laguna?

Many feel Village Laguna has had a stranglehold on Laguna City Council for many, many years. Three current members were supported and financed by them to get elected. Three is the magic number to get anything passed or denied in City Council. Myself and many others believe Village Laguna is responsible for the mess that the city is in right now and the number of outsiders seeking election is a direct result of their mismanagement. 

So I find it hilarious that Toni Iseman, the only one of the current three up for election, has all of a sudden decided to do something about the issues that the new candidates have put forth, including the problem with homelessness. In her 20 years on the council she could have stepped up anytime with these issues. But it wasn’t Village Laguna’s agenda so no thought was given, it seems. Peter Blake was the first one to speak about the homeless and how we have a serious problem here. The current city council has done absolutely nothing to enforce our laws and get rid of the problem. They have kowtowed to the ACLU and not allowed our police to do their jobs. Now all of a sudden Toni is calling for steps to deal with the homeless, including keeping the ASL open more hours during the day. Wait – wasn’t that another candidate’s idea? Oh right – it was. Peter is also calling for cleaning up the permit process to make it resident friendly and to reform the design review process to actually allow people to build the homes they want. And magically Toni is now calling for the same thing. Ann Christoph, the other Village Laguna candidate, is saying essentially the same thing. Hmmmmn – wasn’t she also on the City Council and could have done something?

Vote for Peter Blake – the man who actually had the ideas and will make sure they are followed through on.

Jeanette Huber

Laguna Beach

Cleo Street resident strongly opposed to “Cleo Project”

Please everyone watch out for the Cleo Project.

A massive new hotel is being planned to replace the Holiday Inn and the adjacent 14 WEST Boutique Hotel. Both properties are owned by the developer.

The schedule for review and approval of the concept is coming fast! 

Staking of the Cleo Project is on October 25. 

The City Staff report to Planning Commission is on November 2, according to the City’s website.

Public review and comment at the Planning Commission meeting is on November 7.

So we, the public, will have but 14 days to analyze staking and 5 days to review the City Staff report.

Here are the major issues based on the documents now in city hall.

Most notable is the planning request for a major variance of allowable rooms.

Code dictates a max of 80 rooms.

They want 112 rooms.

That’s a non-trivial 42 percent over code.

Note: The current Holiday Inn has 54 rooms (in a two-level structure) and 14 WEST Boutique has 14 rooms. Total now of 58 rooms.

If they get that variance, look for more massive hotels in Laguna Beach.

To achieve 112 or even 80 rooms will require multiple stories (they want four) and massive buildable lot coverage...over 90 percent. Thus, compromising Open Space requirements.

This is four stories plus roof equipment and will likely block residential ocean views that have existed for 70 years. Staking will define view obstruction.

Height variance? Still not defined.

Additional issues are: A rooftop pool, entertainment area, and rooftop bar and restaurant...meaning noise and light/illumination pollution.

Three-level underground parking for 200 plus cars entrance on Cleo...where Ralph’ driveway and truck delivery offloading is already an issue.

They have described this hotel as an “innovation “...yes, to maximize developer profits…bed tax...and tourist flow through.

No regard for residents, neighborhoods and the traditional old Laguna Beach feel and ethos.

It gives a new and negative definition to “commercial mansionization”, and negative impact of intensification.

Please inspect the site after it is staked (October 25), review the City Staff report to the Planning Commission (November 2) and attend the November 7 Planning Commission public meeting. 

And please, if you find any of this Cleo Project objectionable, speak up!

Or forever live with this travesty and more to come with this as being legally precedent setting.

Bob Brannon

Laguna Beach

Mayor Boyd responds to recent claims by Iseman

Candidate Toni Iseman is making outlandish claims that five local developers want to change the rules in Laguna, including raising the current building height limit above thirty-six feet. This is totally false! These developers are residents of Laguna Beach, just like you and me. Most of them only develop projects in other cities that would never be approved in Laguna Beach. Those that have redeveloped in Laguna are: Sam with the beautiful and iconic Heisler Building and Mo who has revitalized the Bartlett Center, now known as The Hive along with the re-opening of Tivoli Terrace on Festival grounds.

Toni is making false and misleading statements about developers supporting the “other candidates.” Joe, Greg, and Walky are big developers, all of whom are supporting and contributing to Toni’s campaign! Why the double standard? Joe and Greg, longtime residents and local philanthropists, are working on plans to restore Hotel Laguna as the centerpiece of our town. You may know Joe’s work in town; he reimagined the old Pottery Shack, now The Old Pottery Place which includes Sapphire restaurant, Laguna Books and other popular shops and properties! 

Neither group of developers has any intention of changing Laguna’s rules, or as Toni puts it, “Line their pockets and strip us of the rules that keep Laguna, Laguna!” These kinds of statements are simply fear mongering and irresponsible.

Take it for what it is – an untrue and unfair hit piece by Toni and her supporters, and a bad practice.

I support Sue Kempf, Peter Blake, and Cheryl Kinsman for City Council, to move Laguna forward with positive outcomes.

Kelly Boyd

Mayor of Laguna Beach

Friendship Shelter should be commended for its Housing First approach

Each of us has experience working as advisors to Friendship Shelter. We are dismayed at the way its Housing First approach has been mischaracterized in City Council candidate debates. We want to set the record straight.

Housing First was developed by a clinical psychologist and has been rigorously studied. It holds that housing is the best first step – and that sustained stability depends upon in-home support. The bottom line of Housing First is that housing is offered with few barriers. That’s because problems are more successfully addressed after people are safely housed.

The approach understands that addiction and mental illness are complex challenges, and protects our community from the risks associated with untreated drug, alcohol and mental health conditions among the homeless population. The bottom line is that communities are safer if people struggling with substance abuse are not left to wander our streets.

We understand and once shared the inclination to favor “zero tolerance” instead. But in working alongside staff to adopt these new methods, we’ve seen it work. We recognize that, as an organization focused on ending homelessness, Friendship Shelter’s role differs from that of a drug rehabilitation program or mental health institution. 

There’s no debating the results. The shelters are now open to vulnerable people who previously were not welcome. More are being housed. 94 percent of the people who live in Friendship Shelter’s housing program stay housed. Whereas before clients could be dismissed over a failed drug test, today they benefit from support as they work toward housing. 

No illegal activity of any kind is permitted. On-site use of drugs and alcohol at the shelters is prohibited. Behaviors that are symptomatic of drug or alcohol issues have consequences. Clients who express a desire to become or remain sober have on-site access to an addiction counselor and psychiatric services. 

Most anyone knows a person who abuses alcohol or drugs, and yet lives in their own home. Nationally, the overwhelming percentage of addicts live in their own homes.  To expect that homeless people must do the challenging and complex work of addressing an addiction before they are eligible for shelter or housing is to require something of them that we do not require of ourselves. 

We are dismayed that by adopting these nationally recognized best practices, Friendship Shelter has attracted unfair and unenlightened criticism from office seekers.  We are proud these proven solutions are being used in our community.

Ed Kaufman, M.D.

Kay Ostensen, M.F.T., Ph.D.

Karen Redding, L.C.S.W., Ph.D

Laguna Beach

Just who is Liberate Laguna? One resident’s viewpoint

Every decade or so, a group of developers and investment bankers come to Laguna to try to find a way to monetize our village. Liberate Laguna’s political action committee is the latest effort.

If you research who the primary 12 backers of this group are you may be shocked to find out what their individual development track record has been. Together, these 12 have contributed close to $100,000 to our election as of the last report. They are, for the most part, very wealthy individuals and corporations with a stated agenda of “liberating” our city council through major reform ( How will they achieve this? By packing it with candidates they believe will facilitate their commercial interests (see Blake and Kempf endorsements), and trying to push out at all costs a City Councilmember who has helped keep important checks and balances in place for this very reason, Toni Iseman.

You can do your own search. Here are some of the principal registered Liberate Laguna corporate supporters: 

--Shopoff Realty Investments

--Sanderson J Ray Development

--Radford Ventures, LLC


The amount of money being spent to support their endorsed candidates is not the issue. It’s a free country! But the ultimate objective to monetize public policy is. If Liberate Laguna’s endorsed candidates, Peter Blake and Sue Kempf, get elected and use their offices to change city rules and regulations that facilitate the destruction of our Village environment and historic heritage, Laguna Beach will never be the same. 

Imagine a “revitalized” downtown with three or four story buildings and designer stores. Imagine your nextdoor neighbor selling their house to a developer who builds a huge steel and glass mansion. Imagine a board that forces you to cut down your mature trees and decorative vegetation that provides beauty, privacy and shade. Or our streets full of hotels, bars and restaurants as traffic proliferates throughout our town. Imagine a city council that discourages resident participation in civic affairs. All this is possible if we are “Liberated”. 

This city council election could change Laguna Beach forever. Let’s protect what we love. Let’s vote for Toni Iseman and Ann Christoph and reject the monetization of our history.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Be careful who you vote for

Many of us in town received the latest mailer from Ann Christoph, who is supported by Village Laguna. The slogan reads “We Know Our Town Best”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but I did have a chance to look up some information on the city’s website at  On this site one can find legal financial documents required to be filed by candidates who are running for public office. These documents must list the names of donors to the various candidates. What surprised me the most or maybe it didn’t were the names of folks who coincidentally have given to Ann Christoph and/or Toni Iseman. Many of the names I recognized from various community committees, including Heritage Committee – by the way there were no new members placed in this committee this go around in the Spring. Is that how one gets on these committees – donate? 

Earlier this year I watched the process in city hall as “new” members were added to vacant seats. Toni Iseman, Rob Zur Schmiede and I believe one other council member were in charge – however, Toni pretty much ran the meeting. There was little exchange done between many of the candidates especially those who were not selected and many walked away disappointed. I was disappointed as I had written several letters to encourage new folks to try to get on these committees and try to add new life to them. It seems as though some folks have made a career out of being on these committees, especially Village Laguna members.

No wonder there is such a division in this town – many of us are fed up with the “same players playing the same tune” in this town. 

Some of these donors are writing letters to the editors and you can see now why: they are backing Christoph/Iseman. I sincerely hope that those who tried to crack the code to get into some of these committees will try again. I hope that voters will see through this veil of “We Know Our Town Best” which Christoph states.

I suspect some of the things on the agenda if they get into office – change ordinances about views, trees (notice nobody is saying the word eucalyptus in this campaign), and the word heritage, which is a totally subjective term.

Be careful who you vote for – don’t go down that slippery slope to la la land. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Response to recent press release in Stu News

A recent press release posted in Stu News is misleading:

Titled “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work water quality experts met to reduce runoff in critical Laguna areas,” as a professional water quality analyst having over 20 years of experience regarding the creek mouth, this type of false “mission accomplished” information is disconcerting.

In fact, the berm traps’ already highly contaminated water is rife with not only high concentrations of pathogenic, fecal indicator bacteria (FIBs – fecal coliform, e. coliform and enterococcus) but also a gamut of carcinogenic toxic soup substances as well.
By trapping the FIBs, which breed/reproduce at alarming rates, failing to restrain families with children, they’ve created a public and attractive nuisance. The water heats up not only from solar gain but from these bacteria. Simple biology 101: staph, strep, parasites like cryptosporidium and giardia may be present.

Aliso has been monitored and HEP A markers found.

In fact, lifeguards and County beach employees have been inoculated for immunity.

As they breed and die off like crazy these FIBs increase the turbidity (cloudiness), which also increases FIB populations exponentially as they’re no longer subject to UV when it was shallower (which kills them off well, UV being a treatment train element in many purification systems). 

Unwary beachgoers and children are drawn to the warmer water of this mini-lagoon in cooler months, defining it as a nuisance subject to litigation when illnesses can be ascribed to it. Ambulance chasers will tell litigated parties how much their clients’ health (or worse, deaths) are worth.

Ingestion and full immersion are taking place right under the noses of County personnel, and arguably, with their blessing.

There’s nothing to cheer about, and the reporter seems to know little about basic biology. Neither do the purported NGOs.

Go to the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition website as I just did: They have no FBN/DBA on file with the County, can’t accept donations as they’re not a state nonprofit. 

The donations link takes you to some obscure nonprofit named…whose staff and Board seem to have little connection to the environment.

A feel good endeavor that ignores public health and safety. 

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

They raised their fists 50 years ago

Fifty years ago today (Tuesday, Oct 16), Tommie Smith and John Carlos staged a silent demonstration against racial discrimination during the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Their protest shocked many people who felt it unnecessarily inserted politics into the Games. 

As Smith and Carlos were awarded the gold and bronze medals for their 200-meter race, they bowed their heads and each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Their protest didn’t stop with their fists. They also wore black socks and no shoes. On their clothes were badges of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a group dedicated to ending racism in sports. 

Spectators booed the athletes as they walked away from the ceremony. If any of this sounds familiar, look no further than the ridicule and public shaming quarterback Colin Kaepernick and many NFL players have endured for taking a knee prior to the playing of the National Anthem. I guess you could say the old adage still is true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Denny Freidenrich
Laguna Beach

A response to Peter Blake’s “Letter to Our Community”

In his recent “Letter to Our Community,” Peter Blake’s characterization of Friendship Shelter and the homeless people it serves is way off the mark in substance and spirit. In his letter, Peter says he will “keep an eye” on Friendship Shelter. As a supporter and board member of Friendship Shelter I have kept an eye on Friendship Shelter for more than a decade. 

What I have seen in that time is the organization’s effectiveness in responding to the needs of our community. When the City agreed to open the ASL, I was at the Friendship Shelter board meeting as we considered whether to agree to operate the new shelter. I remember listening to a long debate with good points on all sides, and I remember raising my own voice at the end of the discussion to remind everyone that while we did not ask for this task, our community needed us, and we had a responsibility to the homeless people and to our City to be sure that the shelter was successful. I was an enthusiastic “yes” vote when we chose to accept the contract. And today, that shelter has helped more than 100 homeless people move out of homelessness. The original group of about 40 local homeless has been reduced to fewer than 15.

Friendship Shelter hasn’t done this by housing people in Laguna Beach. I was part of the effort to establish permanent supportive housing in Laguna Canyon, but when we lost that fight I saw our staff push on and find another way. Today, Friendship Shelter has 87 formerly homeless people in housing it operates, including dedicated sites in San Clemente and Dana Point as well as individual units throughout southern Orange County. 94 percent of the people Friendship Shelter has housed have stayed in their housing. Providing housing for these people costs half of what it costs to leave them on the streets. 

Peter’s characterization of our supporters as “progressive elites and misguided socialites” is mean-spirited and inaccurate. I am an example of the typical Friendship Shelter supporter: I’ve lived in Laguna Beach since the ‘70s. I own and operate a local business. I’ve raised my family in our schools and I’m active in our community. I am neither a socialite nor an elite. There were homeless people in our downtown when I moved here 45 years ago; there are homeless people here today. The criminal who recently tried to break into my wife’s care was not homeless – he was a well-dressed, healthy, athletic man. My response to that experience is not to expect that our town will ban all well-dressed, healthy, athletic men.

I agree with Peter Blake on just one thing regarding homelessness: I don’t want any homeless people in Laguna Beach either. That’s why I support Friendship Shelter. They’re working hard to understand each homeless person’s situation and to find the housing that will work for them. I have watched Friendship Shelter research, consider, and implement new approaches to address homelessness and I have watched their success rates rise as a direct result of this diligence and perseverance. In the fight to end homelessness, I’ll put my faith in an organization with 30 years of experience and an ongoing willingness to learn, change, and improve. 

Friendship Shelter’s three decades of work in our community will survive these unfounded criticisms. I believe most people understand that taking homeless people off our streets and helping to house them reduces homelessness. Which is equally smart and compassionate. Friendship Shelter is a known regional leader in addressing homelessness, and their work speaks for itself. I simply could not sit by and let that record of success be misrepresented. 

Marshall Ininns

Laguna Beach

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