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Why spend taxpayer’s money to fix-up a decrepit structure?

Residents of Laguna,

On my daily walk, I pass by this iconic view, and I wonder what changes the “Lady” will see in the next few decades. 

Why will the derelict building that used to collect Laguna’s sewage be “Saved”? Crusaders love a crusade! The vocal minority speaks and the city spends. Where’s the common sense? 

The two main functions of city government are Public Safety and prudent spending of taxpayer dollars. Why spend a dollar of taxpayer’s money to “fix-up” a decrepit structure!

Why spend lady

Click on photo for larger image

Submitted photo

If the lady could speak?

Tear it down and build a skateboard park for the children of Laguna Beach. For over three decades, the city has been searching for the “right location,” here it is right under their nose! 

Youth of Laguna unite! Get vocal, no one hears you unless you speak up! This is the perfect location! Think about it! Motivate now before this opportunity passes by. Let’s move forward. 

Three city council seats will be voted for this November, hopefully, some of the candidates will pick up the “cause” for the skateboarders in Laguna. Perhaps the new city council members will listen to the needs of the residents over the wants of the city bureaucrats and usual crusaders.

Pat Galez

Laguna Beach

High praise for Dianne Russell’s writing and Mary Hurlbut’s photography

I have to give high praise for the writing of Dianne [Russell]. In her article about the babies graduating from the Assistance League’s Early Intervention Program, she captured the essence of this heart-fulfilling program. The dynamic duo of Mary’s photos and Dianne’s discernment as she expertly culled through a massive amount of experiential, emotional and factual information produced this superb article that shines such an accurate light on this profound program that changes a seeming tragedy into a life giving, joyful experience for all of us who are involved. 

Thank you, Dianne for your excellent work! 

Susan McNeal Velasquez

Laguna Beach

Clarifications offered in response to Barbara Diamond’s article on the historic preservation issue

I wanted to thank Barbara Diamond for the article on the historic preservation issue and offer a couple of clarifications.

“Historic resource” is a defined term in CEQA. In a nutshell, lead agencies (like the City) are required to treat properties listed on a state or national historic register as historic resources. Properties listed on a local register, or on a valid local inventory are “presumed” to be historic resources. However, the presumption of historicity may be rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence.

In Laguna, we have a register. There is consensus that houses listed on the register are “presumptive” historic resources. We also have an inventory. However, the inventory is not valid to create a presumption of historicity, because it was not maintained as required by law to make it valid. Therefore, houses listed on the 1981 inventory are not “mandatory” or “presumptive” historic resources.

In Laguna, our General Plan makes it clear that our historic preservation program is voluntary and incentive based. The Mills Act, for example, is a powerful incentive for some owners to voluntarily participate in preservation requirements, in exchange for property tax relief. Other incentives exist as well, such as allowing a non-conforming structure to maintain the benefits of relaxed setbacks or inadequate parking in exchange for an agreement to preserve the old home.

For many owners of older homes, these incentives don’t help. Owners may need more space for their families. A senior citizen may need modifications to make the house more livable. The environmentally conscientious may wish to replace old windows with new, or an old garage door, or new siding, or new roof.

This is where the problem starts. To remodel a home, a homeowner must apply for a property development permit. This application goes to the City’s zoning plan check. If the house is 50 years old, or was listed on the 1981 inventory, the zoning staff requires that the homeowner hire a historic preservation firm to “assess” the house. This can cost $3,500 to $10,000, paid for by the homeowner. If the assessment determines that house does not meet the qualifications of an historic resource, the staff requires the report to be peer reviewed, again at the expense of the homeowner. The issue then goes to the historic preservation committee, which makes a recommendation to the DRB. The DRB makes a decision as to whether the house is an historic resource. That decision may be appealed to the city council. The city then takes a formal action to deem the property an historic resource, even over the objection of the homeowner. These are the so-called “discretionary historic resources” that homeowners are concerned about. 

Laguna has a robust DRB program that considers “neighborhood compatibility,” “neighborhood character,” and the “pattern of development” in remodel applications. A determination that a house is an historic resource subjects the property owner to restoration standards promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior for the “Treatment of Historic Places.” These restorations must also be approved and monitored by – you guessed it - an historic preservation firm at an additional expense to the homeowner.

Historic preservation is laudable, and should be encouraged through the use of incentives, as stated by the General Plan. For those who wish to participate, absolutely go for it. But for owners of homes 50 years old or older, who are not listed on a national, state or valid and voluntary local register, who simply wish to remodel their homes like everybody else, the City should not muscle them into an historic assessment at the homeowner’s expense. They should just go to DRB.

A property that does not fit the definition of “historical resource” as set forth is CEQA does not become an historical resource until the government takes an action to deem it so. If the government wants to force a property down that path, all of the expense and the burden of proof should be borne by the government, or by the party asserting historicity of someone else’s home.

Larry Nokes

Laguna Beach

Show photo IDs at grocery stores?

President Trump’s assertion that people today need to show photo IDs in order to buy groceries is so 1980s. That’s when most people paid with a check. The usual response from the grocery clerk was to call the store manager before accepting said check. More often than not, that’s when the shopper had to show a driver’s license or some other photo ID. 

Today, the vast majority of customers use a credit or debit card when buying groceries in town at Pavilions, Whole Foods or Ralphs for example. About the only time someone needs to show a photo ID is when he or she is 20-something (OK, maybe 30-something, too) and wants buy alcohol or tobacco. So while the president is hyper-technically correct about one group of shoppers, I don’t believe anyone 40 or older ever has to show a photo ID at the grocery store. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Trolley service this summer is an insult to visitors and residents alike

This summer’s trolley service is an insult to visitors and residents. It is hard to believe the Transit Department is under the supervision of the Public Works Director & Assistant City Manager.           

There is no trolley service to north Laguna to and from the bus depot. Imagine if you have parked and paid at city lot #16 & 17 in Laguna Canyon & take a trolley to the bus depot & want to go to the northside galleries, antique stores, beaches, parks, restaurants and the art museum etc. To get there, you must walk to Laguna Avenue to catch the “short coastal” trolley north. If you are staying at a northside hotel and want to leave your car behind and travel to the three festivals by trolley, you can take the short trolley south to Main Beach park, cross Coast Hwy, walk South to Laguna Avenue and catch the “long coastal” trolley to the bus dept. or walk to the bus depot and catch a trolley to the festivals. Northside merchants should call city council members and demand trolley service from the depot now.

Trolley and bus departure and arrival areas are constantly changed, leaving visitorsand& residents in the dark.

No “trolley stewards” seem to be on duty, to add to the confusion.

There are people waiting very day on the bench in front of the Hotel Laguna, which has been a trolley, city bus & OCTA stop for decades. A permanent sign needs to be installed telling riders the stop has been moved 300 feet north to Main Beach.

The trolley routes are very confusing for resident and visitors. Speaker systems on many trolleys are broken which means drivers must speak with each person boarding and make certain the trolley is going where they thought it was going.

Trolley drivers are the first who will tell you that this summer’s trolley service is one of the most mismanaged in history.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Peter Blake responds to Armando Baez

Armando, in your most recent Letter to the Editor you state that, “I surprised you with the tone of my response” to your letter dated 8/24. You accused me of “attacking you because of your membership in a local nonprofit civic association.” That “civic association” (Village Laguna) happens to be a political action committee of which you’re a board member. Both of your letters addressed my candidacy therefore it’s only fair that I referenced your affiliation with politically active groups in my responses.

In your letter you “analyze” my response and then attempt to discredit my character as a result of my solution regarding solving Laguna’s crime problem. A direct result of our transient community, which I consider a serious and existential problem. You state, “He is obviously emotionally committed to a purely palpable police only response to the homeless issue.” You’re correct! I believe that aggressive policing and strict ordinances are necessary to protect the safety and well being of our residents. A palpable police presence will deter the criminal transients from committing crimes against the residents and visitors of Laguna. Sorry if that triggers your sensitivities for these vagabonds who are roaming the streets of Laguna, breaking into our homes and cars, openly administering dangerous drugs, masturbating, defecating, urinating and vandalizing our property. A scroll down to this or any issue of the Stu News crime blog will confirm an exponential rise in low-level crime since 2009 when we opened the ASL. Armando, for the record, I am compassionate towards homeless people and am eager to provide assistance to anyone who requires and requests it. You and the homeless advocates in town are desperately trying to paint me as uncaring towards homeless people. Your assertions are based on falsehoods and are politically motivated. No resident who knows me or has taken the time to speak with me regarding my solutions to this issue would agree with you. This is a blatant attempt to discredit me in order to further your failed homeless agenda.

You continue: “He uses a crystal ball or psychic hotline to guess what people who do not agree with him are thinking.” Actually, in your case, I didn’t need either. I used Google to find other Letters to the Editor you’d written throughout the years. Your own writings took the guesswork out of my equation. I read through all of your politically charged commentary. Your letters revealed a passive-aggressive approach, luring your opponents into debate and then attacking them when they respond unfavorably to your agenda. 

You state: “He uses fear of the unknown rather than logic to debate civic issues.” Armando, you and Village Laguna have mastered “using fear of the unknown” to discredit any ideas that go against your stance on issues facing Laguna. Now you’re attempting to use it against my candidacy in the hopes that one of your endorsed candidates will prevail. Please stop acting like you’re just a concerned-citizen. You’re not fooling anyone! Especially 100 days before an election.

You end your letter by stating: “So, to earn a seat on the council, one must be fair, honest, open to all residents and respectful of all points of view. Imagine what someone who is none of these things would do on our council. The ideal candidate should be measured for a civic leadership position by the way he treats his fellow citizens and the level of respect he shows different points of view.” Armando, I am fair, honest and open to all residents and respectful of all points of view. I will however not allow political activists like yourself and Village Laguna to bully me and influence my decisions. I will represent the silent majority in town who are sick and tired of being ignored. Once elected, I will see to it that the residents of Laguna will no longer be at the mercy of Village Laguna’s cronies on City Council, Design Review Board, Historical, Planning Commission and behind the counters at City Hall. 

Armando, I love Laguna and will serve its residents passionately. If you’re concerned with the “tone” of my responses then you’d better prepare yourself for even more rigorous discourse in the future. I will continue to defend myself and my constituents without concern for what you consider unstatesmanlike. I’m not swayed by your comments and unlike you, I’m beholden to no political entities!

Peter Blake

Laguna Beach

Million Dollar Quartet was worth every penny

My wife and I took our adult son out for dinner and a show last night hoping that Million Dollar Quartet would prove worthwhile. We saw the show in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and were hoping the local version would live up to what we saw in Tinseltown. As it turns out the local production was far better then what we saw in Vegas in every regard. 

The cozy Laguna Playhouse provided the perfect setting and the performance was off the charts spectacular. We felt all the performers were great but the standout was Billy Rude who played the part of Jerry Lee Lewis. His enthusiasm combined with his athleticism was worth the price of admission alone.

Ron Marshall

Laguna Beach

Next tree to topple over: Where’s the common sense?

Photo by Pat Galez

letter pat tree

Click on photo for a larger image

“Safety should be the City’s first priority,” says Pat Galez. “What are we waiting for? This tree on Coast Highway is about to topple over.”

There is an alternative to undergrounding

I was very disappointed at last Tuesday’s Council meeting when for the second meeting in a row, the Council declined to react to my suggestion that there may be an existing alternate to undergrounding, and a $30 million City debt.

My understanding is that the Council never asked for investigations of alternatives, but focused from the beginning several years ago on undergrounding as the only solution to removing transmission poles along Laguna Canyon Road.

The alternative I asked to have investigated already has an overhead transmission line from the NW into the city transformer station on Laguna Canyon Road opposite the Sawdust Festival. Could this be upgraded at a fraction of the cost of undergrounding? Let’s at least have a utility consultant investigate.

Robert Reed

Laguna Beach

Undergrounding is for Warlocks

The City’s urgency in undergrounding utilities is the mitigation of risk from wildfire caused by SCE utility poles, yet nothing in the schedule or execution of this project actually mitigates fire risk until project completion. That’s because the project duration is so long the town remains under threat from fire while you are busy replacing poles – for 51 years. It’s like a moon-shot project, first you subsidize a spaceship for twelve years and $25.4 billion, but you land a man on the moon at project end.

The undergrounding project plan calls for removing Laguna’s threatening utility poles. City Undergrounding Supporting Documents show four wildfires occurred in 2007, 2011, 2012 and 2015 associated with SC Edison utility poles. One pole was located along a main evacuation route (LCR), one fire started by a fallen tree, one by a car impact, two caused by SCE equipment failures.

Taken in sequence the projects LCR, Evacuation Routes, and Residential Assessment Districts would take 51 years to complete (6+15+30) for $200 million ($90M+$45M+$65M). Fifteen years into the project our traffic will increase by 167 percent and the threat from wayward drivers will also increase. Fifty-one years in, the project will finish and the Warlocks below ground rejoice (H.G. Wells: The Time Machine). Above ground the power delivery technology has changed, the buried utility is now obsolete and the Eloi are screwed. Apollo 11 doesn’t go to the moon anymore because the purpose for going and technology are both obsolete.

The supporting documents show one encouraging slide titled City Acquisition of Electrical System, the last bullet reads “Costs and Debt Unknown” but sadly the project has not investigated this option. Another slide titled Harden Existing Utilities System explains how the existing overhead utilities could be upgraded and “hardened” from fire danger in 2-4 years. If we want to mitigate Laguna’s risk from wildfire we should do something effective like turn the power off, or better perform inspections upgrades and install impact barriers around poles while we study replacement utility technologies. 

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

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