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City’s Money Tree Is Us! Or “City Reaper”

Here’s one more reason to oppose the City’s proposed 12.9 percent sales tax increase in November. Look at the City Council’s approval last week of the $11.1 Million Village Entrance, at 30 percent over budget. Council members Rob Zur Schmiede and Toni Iseman, both up for re-election this year, approved the over budget expenditure without blinking an eye. Over budget? No big deal, there’s a money tree.

Most telling was Councilmember Toni Iseman’s statements when speaking about where the “over budget” money was going to come from. Toni Iseman was not worried about the Village Entrance cost, stating “We will recapture this money if a couple people in this room sell their houses…get new property taxes…Each time one of those houses sell…anytime there is real estate turn over, we are going to find whatever this number is, this $7.6 million or even $9 million, we find it in a hurry.” 

Voila! Just like that, the City “finds” the money. The money tree is us! That’s their fiscal plan, keep taxing and spending because the money tree will provide. Just need a few of us to sell our homes or die. No big deal.

letter zeiter money

Soooooo, if the money is so easy to find for multi-million dollar projects, why is the city council asking residents to approve a sales tax increase in November to underground soon to be obsolete utility poles we don’t even own, and that won’t keep us safe from fires like the last two big ones in Laguna, both caused by humans, not those sneaky utility poles? Exactly. The City doesn’t need this money, because, whatever the number is, the City can “find it in a hurry.”

Something to think about at elections in November. Vote no on the second tax increase in two years, it’s not necessary. We should “pay as we go.” The City should budget for the undergrounding and use those budget surpluses from the money tree. It should partner with Caltrans and the power companies, and seek more Rule 20A undergrounding credits and more grant money like the $4 million just received. And think about those city council members running for re-election this year, and ask yourself if your money is safe in their hands, and will there ever be enough to fund their incessant spending?

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

CEQA and Historical Preservation – Homeowners Beware! Response to Catherine Jurca

Thank you, Catherine, for again drawing attention to this issue that has the potential to impact every home in Laguna Beach that is 50 years and older. Under your formulation, owners of homes built in 1968 or earlier are fair game for compulsory, involuntary inclusion on the list of historical resources for the City. Designation as an historical resource imposes a variety of burdens on the homeowner, even for the most minor remodel. The restoration rules for historical resources are much more expensive to perform and require far more City scrutiny than regular Design Review. I don’t believe the property owners of Laguna want to enable the City to deem their homes to be an “historical resource” without their consent.

I understand and respect your passion for compulsory historic preservation. As Vice President and Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Glendale Historical Society, where you lead efforts to preserve old houses, and as the owner of an historic home in Glendale, your commitment to preservation is demonstrable, and respectable. But this is a path you have chosen, a path you have elected to embrace. Other homeowners who do not share your passion, or your financial stature, might not be as enthused about the scrutiny they will receive when they try to replace a window, or some siding, or a garage door, or a roof. 

Historic preservation should be encouraged, not compelled. I simply disagree that the City should be able to force a property owner into this kind of involuntary servitude, depriving the property owner of the opportunity to develop his or her property in accordance with his or her tastes and wishes, subject to the property development standards of the City that govern properties generally. 

I don’t know about Glendale, but Laguna’s General Plan suggests that historic preservation is to be voluntary and incentive based. That is how historic preservation was sold to the City in 1981, and that is how it remains. I will continue to advocate for property owners – those who seek a benefit through voluntary preservation and those who do not wish to be compelled to preserve a home that they own. I do not believe the City should be empowered to compel preservation against an owner’s will without paying just compensation.

Thank you again for shining a light on this subject.

Larry Nokes

Laguna Beach


They’ve been playing her music all over LA all week, knowing she would be leaving us soon. I have seen people listening and being moved by her songs. I stopped and talked to a few of them about her impact on our lives. There we were in the aisle at Whole Foods swapping favorites from her unsurpassable song list. I think of her Rock Steady collection with Daydreaming and the virtuoso First Snow In Kokomo, as well as and Young, Gifted & Black.   

Then there was the Lady Soul album with Ain’t No Way and People Get Ready and Chain of Fools, not to mention Carole King’s Natural Woman, also on that record. Then there was her version of Spanish Harlem, and You’ll Never Get To Heaven (If You Break My Heart), and I’m Gonna Knock On You’re Door (composed by Stevie Wonder if I recall) and Knew You Were Waiting (with superb collaboration of G. Michael).

Oh, and I guess there was another song, something about RESPECT! Yeah, who she was as a person, her faith and her honesty. I can honestly say not only did I respect her, I loved her. And it makes me happy that she was among the people who got ready, and she surely did get to heaven on this summer day in the year of our Lord 2018...

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Mindful flushing

This November will decide the next few years for Laguna Beach as we vote on three of the five City Council seats. My vote will go to the candidate speaking the most about one word. This one word defines Laguna and the health of our Greenbelt and Bluebelt. It is the source of the air we breathe, the rainwater and distant snowmelt we depend upon to quench our thirst, water our crops and feed our community. The word also determines our economy, the high cost of rent and mortgages, the driving theme in local art and culture. The word I will be listening for is the “ocean”.

Pretty much everyone loves the ocean. It is beautiful while freely giving us cool coastal breezes as the rest of the country sizzles in record-breaking temperatures. It is both inspirational and meditative, a source of pleasure and restoration. Unfortunately, the ocean is also where we ultimately dump our wastewater after we flush the toilet, wash our clothes or do the dishes.

letter beanan cartoon

Environmental awareness and social consciousness guide us to consider our impacts to our surroundings. Mindfulness can direct our attention to the health of the ocean we love and move us to take sustainable action to protect what is so essential to our community, our health and our wealth – the ocean.

City Council Candidates will have the next few months before the November elections to express their awareness of the ocean’s importance to Laguna Beach voters. They can tell us why all of the city’s 1.6 million gallons of sewage conveyed to the Coastal Treatment Plant just inland of the Aliso Creek Golf Course is never recycled but sent as secondary sewage to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall. The city’s water district is the only South County agency without recycled water claiming “we are an old city”…like Dana Point and Newport Beach, both of which have added extensive recycled water programs funded by generous State grants and “new water” revenues.

Since South Laguna is served by South Coast Water District, much of our wastewater is recycled to irrigate the Montage Resort, Village Green Park and, recently, Mission Hospital. More is sent south to Dana Point for citywide use. Every gallon of wastewater “upcycled” as recycled water is one less gallon discharged to the Aliso Creek Ocean Outfall just 1.2 miles offshore. Inland cities and our cousins north of Nyes Place in Laguna Beach, however, add 10 million gallons each day to the underwater “Laguna Poobelt” plume. 

Some City Council Candidates will plead “there is nothing we can do” and get elected to do nothing about local ocean pollution. Others may take the next few months to add meetings to their campaigns with inland water districts and design new solutions to ocean pollution by bringing recycled water to all of Laguna Beach. A few leaders may even present a plan for Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) with smart companies to design, build and operate improvements to the Coastal Treatment Plant and finally bring a perimeter recycled water system to prevent and suppress annual wildfires threatening our community.

Of course, not every City Council Candidate is skillful enough to regularly monitor the ocean’s health but they can have a designated swimmer or diver report to them the ever-changing conditions in local ocean waters. Candidates may come to realize the central role the ocean plays in Laguna Beach and promote an Ocean Commission to attract the world’s top scientists to study and improve the Laguna Bluebelt and recognize the value of a healthy ocean to sequester carbon and mitigate global warming while insuring a thriving and well hydrated Laguna Greenbelt and thriving community.

In this contested election, every City Council Candidate will want your vote so right now, your voice matters. If you care about the health of the ocean, let them know it.

Mike Beanan

South Laguna

Village Entrance is a huge step forward

Thanks to the City Council for proceeding with the Village Entrance construction project. This is a huge step forward. I and many others are pleased that we will be seeing improvements very soon. Thanks also for rejecting the two fence proposals and asking for additional options. 

It is very disappointing that the Council was unable to go ahead with restoring the Digester Building, but neither of the options that were presented to them were reasonable.

The Council was correct to reject the paint, patch, window repair and stair construction option for $433,174. Despite this high cost the improvements would not have made the building appreciably better and they would not have met the historic restoration standard.

The base bid of $100,723 for painting and patching is an extremely high cost for minimal improvements and no long-term benefit. 

I suggest that the Council remove the $100,723 from the contract and use these funds for the next steps to restore the Digester building:

--Commission a historical report by an architectural historian.

--Hire an architect to prepare complete restoration plans

--Have those plans reviewed by the Heritage Committee and Planning Commission.

--After approval of the plans solicit bids/separate prices on parts of the restoration (for example, exterior restoration, plumbing and electrical, interior restoration and sludge removal.)

These tasks could all be completed by next year and at that time the Council could review the bids and decide which of these items should be accomplished during phase 2 of the Village Entrance project.

This approach would provide for every expenditure going toward making progress on restoring the building, rather than on expensive patch and paint that would have to be redone in the future.

Ann Christoph

Laguna Beach

CEQA and historical preservation: response to Larry Nokes

I write in response to Larry Nokes’ letter that seeks to outline the City’s obligations regarding the protection of historic resources under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In his letter, Mr. Nokes argued that unless a property is listed on a national, state or “valid and voluntary” local Register, the City is under no obligation to treat it as a historic resource. The thrust of the letter is that Laguna Beach has, and can continue to have, a voluntary local preservation program that requires owner consent. This argument has been made frequently during discussions about the City’s proposed updates to the historic preservation ordinance, but it is incorrect. The City Attorney refutes it in a recent Memo (May 8, 2018), addressed to the Historic Preservation Task Force, which clarifies state laws and regulations regarding historic preservation. While it is true that owners must consent to have their properties listed on the Laguna Register, “properties that are eligible for the City’s Register are identified as historic resources” for purposes of CEQA (my emphasis). Moreover, if the City has reason to believe that a property over fifty years old may be a historic resource, it must be proactive in making that determination. The City Attorney also makes it clear that “the Historic Resource Element [of the City’s General Plan] does not suggest that the process is always voluntary.”

Historic resource evaluations cost money, and Mr. Nokes finds it unfair that owners must pay for them and be subject to possible delays, even if they do not want to put the property on the Register. I agree that it would be advantageous to address these issues, as do staff; among the changes proposed to our historic preservation program, the cost of the evaluation would shift to the City and the approval process would be streamlined. I hope that City Council will acknowledge the validity of the City Attorney’s legal arguments and allow the process of revising the historic preservation ordinance to move forward.

Catherine Jurca

Laguna Beach

Less emphasis on tree removal/replacement and more on important city issues

I read with interest the letter submitted by a long time member of Village Laguna in which its “accomplishments” were enumerated. I noticed the words Helped With, Supported, etc. used. But 99 percent of these activities were years ago. For many years, the organization ran as a 501(c)3 while using monies raised through its Charm House Tour to support their political favorites. Shortly after I made this public, they became a PAC, but this might have created a negative image so now they are a Mutual Benefit Corporation (nonprofit), which is typically used with condominiums or townhouses and is a good cover for various activities. They will not let go of their notion that our town should be inundated by eucalyptus trees just because early settlers planted a few of them. Good time to note that these were artists not arborists. These are the wrong trees to plant here; we all know that. There have been a lot of backroom deals made over the years because many of their members are on various committees and their “friends” in city hall have held important positions.

This leads me to the city council meeting of August 7, 2018. While discussing Agenda Item 10 – removing/replacing trees located on certain streets – one of their members came to the podium and suggested that the city needed tall and elegant vegetation to create an inviting entrance to our City – she said “we should plant something like Cypress trees and we could look like Tuscany.” I thought it was a brilliant idea – Cypress require almost no trimming, they grow straight up, don’t shed, don’t have the reputation of being torches, we wouldn’t have lollipop heads on them. Not sure about looking like Tuscany – why do some folks here want to look like some town in Europe? What is wrong with Laguna? We are world famous as a tourist destination but like Tuscany and other areas on the Mediterranean coastline (I have to been to many countries in the world with dramatic coastal towns) people do not come to see the trees. Most of these cute towns have narrow streets; there is no room for trees. Normally people do not want to mitigate their views. But here Village Laguna folks don’t care or understand the beauty of our ocean and hillside views.

Given their recent past history of delaying important projects such as making our city safer from fire and other disasters, solving the parking/traffic issues, solving our homeless problem, instead they want to spend money as if there is no tomorrow on more frivolous items. I suggest the reader think very carefully about who from the ten folks running (so far) for city council, they vote for. We may bring back more nepotism and be ruled by a few and in the end destroy our small unique and beautiful city.

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach


Michael Morris Seitz

September 29, 1948 – August 1, 2018

Michael Morris Seitz

Click on photo for a larger image

Michael Morris Seitz, born September 29, 1948 in Karlsruhe, Germany, to the late Hildegard Seitz Gleason and the late Morris Frazier, died at age 69, at his home in Laguna Niguel, California from ALS.

Mike graduated from Fountain Valley High school in 1967. He married the love of his life Debra “Debbie” Pankhard in 1970. Mike graduated from Cal State University at Fullerton. He enlisted in the Army as a social worker/psychologist in 1974. A long-time resident of Laguna Beach, Mike was a devoted family man and enthusiastic entrepreneur. Mike opened and was the chef at Ludwig’s Gasthaus in Laguna Beach and Ludwig’s Black Forrest Café in Mission Viejo. When he moved his family to Lake Oswego, Oregon in 1986, he opened Healthy Pet in Lake Grove that is still owned by his family. It was one of 13 pet stores he had through the years. He was an astute real estate investor, and he also had a great interest in cars, owning 52 throughout his life.  A talented photographer and soccer player, Mike also had a soft spot for people in need. One of his many generous gestures was the gift of a car to a family whose son was gravely ill. In 2003, he moved with his family back to Laguna Beach. Always a student, Mike earned his master’s degree from Argosy University in 2008. But Mike’s true joy was his immediate family.

Mike is survived by his wife, Debbie Seitz; children, Candice Reavis (Dmitri), Michael Seitz (Sommer), Hayley Seitz, Matthew Seitz, Hayden Seitz, and Madeline Seitz; sister, Andrea Maddock. He had six grandchildren.

A private service will be held.

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Orange County ALS Association.

Defending Village Laguna

Village Laguna, a 47-year-old, local and purely volunteer membership organization, is now being targeted by a few potential city council candidates and called a “danger” to our Village. 

I have been a member of Village Laguna since the days they were fighting to have the Treasure Island Park and beaches preserved for residents. At that time, the developers of the Montage wanted to close the beach for the exclusive use of their “Hotel Guests”. Since I lived nearby, I wanted to preserve resident access to Treasure Island’s beautiful coves. Village Laguna was one of many groups who banded together to fight this land grab by out-of-town financial interests looking to maximize their profits by taking our beaches. 

I stayed a member of Village Laguna when I saw that they had a proud history of fighting to preserve, protect and improve those features of our town that makes us so unique. Let’s count the ways Village Laguna has been at the forefront of so many good initiatives:

1. Preventing the building of multi-story hotel towers along our bluff tops and beachfronts through the passage of the heights ordinance.

2. Saving Aliso Creek and Canyon from being channeled and helping restore it to as natural state as possible.

3. Helping to buy the open space that surrounds Laguna and preventing it from development.

4. Helping to create the Laguna Canyon Foundation to manage our open space and to continue to add to it while preserving our amazing green footprint throughout the Village.

5. Helping to preserve the historic character of our village through education and advocacy for proper restoration and reasonable expansion.

6. Preserving the “Resident Serving” business focus in our downtown. (It’s why there are no box stores here or designer boutiques like are found in so many malls and tourist traps across the world.)

7. Supporting the Marine Preserve that is making our beaches safer and healthier.

8. Advocating against the commercialization of our beaches and preventing food stands and beach rentals from establishing a foothold.

9. Supporting quality education in our local schools so they remain vibrant and magnets for our best students.

10. Working to reduce vehicle traffic in our downtown through support for trolleys and peripheral parking during the summer months. 

I hope the reader gets my point. There are so many other critically important initiatives supported by Village Laguna members over the years that this letter could run into multiple pages. 

When I hear false criticisms of Village Laguna, they sound like projection from financially focused groups that want to monetize our infrastructure, degrade our environment, eliminate any opposition to the destruction of our neighborhoods, and wish to have true control over our city government for their financial benefit. 

The reason why so many residents have supported Village Laguna over the years is that they know that Village Laguna members are committed to the task of preserving what Laguna means to all of us. As a membership organization comprised primarily of local citizens who freely donate their time to its work and expect and receive no financial benefits, many Laguna residents consider Village Laguna our “Citizen watchdog” making sure that our civic leaders do what they promise and help pass laws and regulations that protect our wonderful town. 

Laguna would not be the jewel that attracts millions of visitors if our many volunteer civic organizations did not work every day to preserve its best qualities. I am so proud to be a resident of Laguna Beach and a volunteer member of Village Laguna. You are invited to participate in this important work. 

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Nomination of Bill Atkins for Artist in Residence

Every artistic village, community, or city should, by all means, have a representative “Artist in Residence.” An artist thoroughly knowledgeable of the Laguna arts scene and who has represented and enriched Laguna’s artistic vision. The person who best meets these credentials is Bill Atkins. His accolades and honors are too long to list here, but I suggest that the City Council get serious about maintaining. Laguna’s reputation as an artistic sanctuary in the midst of Orange County and select an “Artist in Residence.” 

I furthermore nominate Bill Atkins to serve in that capacity.
Jaci D. Cuddy

Long-time Laguna resident

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