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Council OKs three new firefighter positions, strategic plan to study other LBFD recommendations


City Council this week unanimously approved a study of the local fire department and several action items, including adding three firefighter positions and developing a strategic plan to further analyze other ideas.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on Tuesday (June 11) to: Receive a presentation on the results of the Laguna Beach Fire Department standards of cover study; add three full-time firefighter positions to the city’s fiscal year 2025 budget; develop a strategic plan to continue evaluation and addressing the SOC study recommendations and reappropriate $25,000 from the remaining FY 2023-24 SOC budget to develop the strategic plan.

There is a strong consensus on the council that public safety is the most important topic they deal with in the city, said Councilmember Bob Whalen. These are good recommendations that should be adopted, he emphasized.

This is long overdue, not just for the fire department but the city as a whole, added Mayor Pro Tem Alex Rounaghi. Until the council subcommittee worked on the wildfire mitigation plan, the city – which has a significant wildfire risk – was “not doing nearly enough” to tackle the issue, he said. He also asked for an update at a future meeting on the implementation of the plan.

These are discussions they need to have for both fire and police departments, said Councilmember Geoge Weiss. However, if all of the recommendations are ultimately embraced, they also need to consider the cost-benefit analysis. Although it’s hard to pin down exactly how much these items would improve public safety, he added.

He’s supportive of some of the recommended actions the council was asked to vote on, Weiss said, but he was unsure about the additional full-time firefighters. He questioned if there would be space for the new employees and asked about the cost of the new three full-time firefighters.

“I’m all for improving public safety,” Weiss said. “We’re raising our budget. I’m just reluctant to add staff because I’m cheap on behalf of the residents.”

According to the staff report, the cost of three full-time firefighter/paramedics with benefits is $413,479.74 annually.

There would be space as the three firefighters would be placed at fire station one, next to city hall, explained Fire Chief Niko King. Adding them to the roster would allow engine one to stay in service more often at the city’s busiest station. The ambulance at the station completes about three or four transports every day, he noted, and on average two of those are advanced life support service. That means they’re out of service for a couple of hours a day because the ambulance and firefighter/paramedic is out of town, King explained.

Considering that a fire engine is currently out of service potentially for a few hours every day, depending on the number of calls for the advanced life support ambulance service, this is going to provide an immediate benefit, Whalen commented.

Weiss asked for a report back on other investments the city has made into public safety to find out how operations and efficiency has improved in the department.

That’s a valid point, Whalen noted. They should get feedback on the effectiveness of all added positions to the city staff roster, he said.

He’s supportive of the items and is satisfied that this is the right thing to do, Weiss reiterated, he just wants to be careful about spending and adding more staff.

Rounaghi agreed that they need to be fiscally responsible, but added that the report does a good job of explaining how these three firefighter positions will improve response time and enhance operations.

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Photo by Josh Tanaka @j.t.films

A standards of cover study was recently completed on the Laguna Beach Fire Department and included several recommendations (pictured: LBFD responding to a car fire in April)

King would like to see the city move forward on the strategic plan within a three-year timeframe, he said, answering a council question. They could go through the recommendations, identify their resources, and with direction from the council and input from the community, prioritize the recommendations and develop objectives and goals.

“A big challenge is going to be to identify funding for implementation because there’s some big items in there,” he noted, including replacing fire stations and apparatus.

Whalen asked if they could do it in phases, in an effort to get some of the recommendations addressed more quickly.

There are some funds left over from the consultant contract, King confirmed, and the company is now familiar with the community and the details in the report. He believes a strategic plan could be created in as little as three months, King said.

“That would be record time,” Whalen responded.

He was encouraged to hear the potential for a fast turnaround on the plan.

“There’s a lot more to be implemented,” Whalen said. “What we’re adopting today is really just an initial baby step and the strategic plan will give us the road map to what else we have to do.”

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Slice Pizza & Beer releases sixth Laguna Beach artist-designed box

“In keeping with the concept of promoting community, we decided when we opened to have artists who have some association with Laguna Beach design our boxes,” said Suzanne Redfearn, co-owner with her husband Cary, of Slice Pizza & Beer.

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Photos courtesy of Suzanne Redfearn

James Strombotne with the original painting

Their sixth pizza box features the work of acclaimed artist James Strombotne and he chose the quote on the inside flap by Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

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Pizza box by Strombotne

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Ella Mostajo shows off the new design

The first year’s design was created by Cynthia Fletcher, second year – Sharon Hardy, third year – Lisa Mansour, fourth year – Lauren Howell and last year, it was created by Larry Stewart.

For more information on James Strombotne, click here.

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Artwork wrap on lifeguard tower at Moss Point Beach completed

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Courtesy of Nolan Miura

On May 17, the city celebrated the opening of the new beach access stairs at Moss Street with a ribbon cutting. Part of the renovation project was to install a permanent lifeguard tower. Funded by Laguna resident Nolan Miura, a wrap, “Smooth Roll Blues,” created by artist Breck Rothage was just installed on the tower.

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Artist James Hayward walk-through at Peter Blake Gallery tomorrow, June 15

Tomorrow, (Saturday, June 15) from 1-2:30 p.m., visitors to the Peter Blake Gallery at 435 Ocean Ave. will have the opportunity to view the exhibition Monochromes by artist James Hayward.

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Photos courtesy of Peter Blake Gallery

Artist James Hayward

Hayward’s (b. 1943, San Francisco, Calif.) focus on the monochrome easily positions his interpretation within the lineage of abstract painting, from Malevich and Mondrian to Reinhardt and Ryman. They exist as immediate visual experiences apart from any representational reference, where the reception of the work is reflected within the work itself.

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Hayward’s exhibition “Monochromes”

Beginning in the 1970s with the “automatic” or flat paintings devoid of the artist’s mark to the thicker, impasto “monochrome abstractions” that have defined his more recent work, both techniques explore color – extending from pure hues to complex combinations – through different effects, varying grades of opacity, thickness and texture. Every subsequent marking, built up from the surface to the point where they form sculptural peaks and fissures, is pivotal to the structural physicality of the work. This process creates an irreproducible distinct identity that dually epitomizes and affirms the physical act of painting. The end results are seductive studies of color effortlessly intertwining with the materiality of paint.

Offsite exhibitions:

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From the exhibition by artist Joe Goode, Laguna Beach, 1993

Artist Reception, Joe Goode, June 15, 4-6 p.m. at Honarkar Foundation for Arts and Culture, 298 Broadway St., Laguna Beach.

Exhibition: June 4-July 20

Curated by Genevieve Williams at the Honarkar Foundation.

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From exhibition “On the Edge”

Laguna Art Museum

On the Edge Exhibition: Los Angeles Art from The Joan and Jack Quinn Family Collection at the Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

Exhibition: March 24-September 22

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The Plant Man: Appreciating the beauty of yellow flowers

By Steve Kawaratani

“Yellow is my favorite, but what is yellow? – sunlike, golden as a crown, buttercups in a field, marsh marigolds, a finch’s wing, a plastic flute.” –Richard Grossinger

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

Steve Kawaratani

My father, Pete, loved flowers; from daffodils to sunflowers, yellow seemed to catch his eye. I believe he felt that yellow blossoms symbolized sunshine and happiness, and I remember him this Father’s Day weekend as a man who was a friend to all he met.

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

My father, Pete, who loved yellow blooms, in his beloved Laguna garden

The beauty of yellow flowers rises above their visual appeal; golden blooms attract pollinators and signal an abundance of nourishment. They are the gift of millions of years of co-evolution and inspired survival strategies.

Plants have evolved over the eons, and those with yellow flowers attract their preferred pollinators. Bees, butterflies and other insects are often drawn to the brilliance of yellow, which stands out against a backdrop of greenery.

Yellow petals act as a visual invitation, beckoning pollinators towards their nectar-rich sustenance and facilitates successful cross-pollination – the survival of both flora and their fauna is dependent on this exquisite act.

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Courtesy of Steve Kawaratani

The Narcissus blooms during the spring, and is commonly known as the daffodil

For some plants, yellow flowers signify ripening. The blooms communicate to animals, birds and even us that the plant’s fruits, seeds or edibles are ready for consumption. It’s nature’s way of saying, “it’s time for a tasty and bountiful meal.”

Yellow flowers also contribute to a plant’s survival in various ecosystems. In some instances, the yellow hue may assist in repelling predators, by indicating the presence of a defensive chemical. Evolution has equipped plants with remarkable adaptations, allowing them to thrive and flourish in a wide range of locales.

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Photo by Catharine Cooper

Tecoma stans (yellow bells), is found from Laguna to Palm Desert to Loreto, Baja California Sur

When you next visit a garden bed bursting with yellow flowers in Laguna, pause and appreciate the wonderful workings of nature. The vibrant yellow blooms will inspire you, brighten your day and remind you that it is a great day to be alive. See you next time and Happy Father’s Day to you all!

Steve Kawaratani, a regular columnist with Stu News Laguna, has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula with Catharine and Loki. He can be reached at or 949.494.5141.

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Laguna Beach Police Department holding DUI Checkpoint tonight

Tonight (Friday, June 14), the Laguna Beach Police Department (LBPD) will conduct a driving under the influence (DUI) Checkpoint from 8 p.m.-2 a.m. at an undisclosed location.

DUI checkpoint locations are determined based on data showing incidents of impaired driving-related crashes. The primary purpose of DUI checkpoints is to promote public safety by taking suspected impaired drivers off the road.

Impaired drivers put others on the road at significant risk, any prevention measures that reduce the number of impaired drivers on our roads significantly improve traffic safety.

The LBPD reminds the public that impaired driving is not just from alcohol. Some prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs may interfere with driving. While medicinal and recreational marijuana are legal, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal.

Drivers charged with a first-time DUI face an average of $13,500 in fines and penalties, as well as a suspended license.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For more information, go to

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My Hero World Oceans Day celebration at Rivian South Coast Theater

The Rivian South Coast Theater was packed on Saturday evening (June 8), to celebrate World Oceans Day. The MY HERO Project hosted the event, which featured short ocean-themed films, music and speakers.

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Courtesy of Doug Miller

Mike Beanan on stage

The program began with a selection of short films from the Laguna Eco Heroes documentary, funded by the Massen Greene Foundation. The films highlight the work of Laguna Bluebelt, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, One World One Ocean, the Kelp Lady – Nancy Caruso, Eco Warrior James Pribram and Wyland.

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Courtesy of MY HERO

Amazing shot of a whale

Speakers from local organizations gave updates on their efforts to protect our coastline. Mike Beanan, of Laguna Bluebelt, spoke of their efforts to expand Laguna’s Marine Protected Areas. Nancy Caruso, founder of Get Inspired Inc, acknowledged the collective efforts that had helped bring a healthy environment for fish to thrive off of Laguna’s ocean waters. Ed Alonzo, of Laguna Ocean Foundation, spoke about the organization’s work protecting tidepools and efforts needed to clean up water from polluted creeks that feed into our oceans.

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Courtesy of Doug Miller

Nancy Caruso, founder of Get Inspired Inc.

Paddleboard photographer Rich German, founder of Project O, received a local hero award for his efforts to use photography and his love of the ocean to inspire future environmental activists by bringing inner city youth to Laguna to experience the magic of the ocean.

A highlight of the program was a live performance by Laguna local Whitney Winefordner of her original song “My Blue Heart,” a beautiful musical tribute to Dr. Sylvia Earle. With her brother Ian on keyboards, Winefordner sang in front of a stunning backdrop of ocean footage, courtesy of MacGillivray Freeman Films.

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Courtesy of Doug Miller

(L-R) Wendy Milette and Barbara MacGillivray

Wendy Milette, director of The MY HERO International Film Festival, announced the winners of the 2024 Sylvia Earle Ocean Conservation Award. The annual award is named for renowned oceanographer and marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle and is sponsored by MacGillivray Freeman Education Foundation’s One World One Ocean campaign. Barbara and Greg MacGillivray were on hand to share in the festivities and Barbara spoke about their desire to highlight, through this award, the work of individuals who are making a positive difference.

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Courtesy of MY HERO

From Max Romey’s winning short documentary “If You Give a Beach a Bottle”

The two winning films were screened. Artist Max Romey’s short documentary If You Give a Beach a Bottle, shows the efforts of a group in Alaska, working to clean up tons of ocean debris in the water near a remote shoreline.

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Courtesy of MY HERO

Shot from the winning student film “Spear. Spatula. Submarine,” by Shannon Morrall

The student winner was Spear. Spatula. Submarine directed by USC student Shannon Morrall. Her documentary focuses on the efforts of passionate Florida residents who are battling the predatory lionfish, an invasive species that is destroying sea life in their local waters.

Previous winner Dana Frankel flew in from San Francisco to participate in the screening of her film Voice Over Water, which features an 80-year-old Indonesian man who uses his kayak to retrieve plastic from the ocean. All winning films can be viewed on The MY HERO Project website at

Jeanne Meyers, cofounder and director of MY HERO, acknowledged Wendy Milette for her outstanding work producing The MY HERO International Festival for the last 20 years. “MY HERO began as an idea for a TV series, 30 years ago, from my home in Laguna Beach. To see the accomplishments of our local and global heroes on the beautiful screen at the Rivian as part of MY HERO World Ocean Day Celebration was a dream come true,” said Meyers. “We hope to have an opportunity to continue to program here and invite everyone to explore the library of short films we host online on MY HERO.”

Submissions are now being accepted for other Special Awards and Best of Fest, for The MY HERO International Film Festival. The final deadline is September 1.

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Summer Reading Kick-Off Ice Cream Social at the LB Library on June 17

Members of the Laguna Beach Police Department will be at the Laguna Beach Library to scoop ice cream and help with toppings at the Library’s Annual Summer Reading Kick-Off Ice Cream Social on Monday, June 17 at 3 p.m.

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Courtesy of LBPD

Scoop up a sweet treat and start on your summer reading

This summer, OC Public Libraries is offering a reading challenge, in-branch programming and exciting events.

Laguna Beach Library is located at 363 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach.

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Be Well OC announces Healthcare Executive Blair Contratto as New Chief Strategy Officer

Be Well OC announced that Blair Contratto has joined the organization as Chief Strategy Officer. A well-respected industry executive, she has acquired extensive knowledge and diverse experience over her career leading prominent organizations across Southern California through times of growth and evolution.

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Courtesy of Be Well

Blair Contratto named Chief Strategy Officer of Be Well OC

“Blair joins our leadership team at a pivotal moment for Be Well OC as we continue to expand our vital programs and partnerships, coupled with the planning for our Irvine Campus set to open in 2025,” said Phillip Franks, chief executive officer, Be Well OC. “Her strategic expertise will be instrumental in developing and extending our partnerships, amplifying our philanthropic endeavors, and driving our mission forward to expand access to critical mental health and wellness care for the Orange County community.”

Contratto most recently served as president and CEO of Mount Carmel Health Ministries in Duarte, where she oversaw the development and implementation of the strategic plan for the company’s three post-acute campuses and a retreat center. She also served for seven years as CEO of Providence Health System’s Little Company of Mary in Torrance, where she led a $500 million net revenue region with 25 integrated healthcare entities. During her tenure, she achieved significant milestones such as implementing a comprehensive medical record system, increasing market share to 25%, leading a successful $50 million fundraising campaign and driving performance improvements recognized by multiple awards.

Contratto has more than three decades of governance experience and currently serves on the board of directors for both CalOptima Health and Mount Carmel Health Ministries. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from University of California Los Angeles and a Master of Public Health from University of Tennessee.

“I am thrilled to join Be Well during this exciting time of expansion for the organization,” Contratto said. “I look forward to collaborating with the talented team at Be Well OC and our community partners to create impactful, strategic initiatives that will increase access to mental health and substance use disorder services for all Orange County residents, and ultimately improve the well-being of our community.”

Be Well OC is a transformative initiative bringing together public, private, academic and faith-based organizations, as well as others, to create a coordinated system of mental health care and support for all Orange County residents. The Be Well OC mental health system, which also includes substance use services, features a first-of-its-kind mental health and wellness facility in Orange and a robust mobile response program currently serving seven cities. Be Well OC’s movement spans across all cities of Orange County including Laguna Beach with a range of needs, from prevention and early intervention to crisis aversion, crisis management, acute care and recovery.

For more information about Be Well OC, visit

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A picture-perfect ceremony

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Photo by Scott Brashier

As the sun sets on Laguna Beach on Thursday, the Class of 2024 says goodbye to high school…and hello to new adventures

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Local Wildlife Care Center to release rehabilitated pelicans at Aliso Beach

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center (WWCC) is gearing up for a heartwarming event set to take place at Aliso Beach on June 17 at 11 a.m. Approximately 10 brown pelicans, fully recovered from a recent mass-stranding event, will take flight back into the wild, marking a significant milestone in their journey to recovery.

Since April 2024, the WWCC has been on the front lines of a rescue operation, admitting a staggering 217 brown pelicans suffering from starvation. The exact cause of this mass stranding is still under investigation, but what’s clear is that these birds were found in dire conditions – severely emaciated, dehydrated and infested with parasites. Thanks to the diligent efforts of volunteers and staff, coupled with generous donations from the public, most of these pelicans have been nursed back to health.

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Courtesy of City of Laguna Beach

Ten brown pelicans will be released on June 17

“Many of the pelicans we’ve cared for came in with secondary issues, ranging from fishing gear injuries to skeletal abnormalities,” said Debbie McGuire, MBA, executive director of the WWCC. “While some are still undergoing treatment, we’re thrilled that at least 10 of them are now ready to be released back into their natural habitat.”

The pelicans scheduled for release have been federally banded with aluminum USGS bands for tracking purposes, contributing valuable data to conservation efforts. However, McGuire emphasizes that their work is far from over. With 76 pelican patients still under their care, ongoing support from the community is vital to sustaining their mission.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received,” said McGuire. “Every donation, no matter the size, helps provide food and care for these magnificent birds. Together, we can ensure a brighter future for brown pelicans and other wildlife.”

The WWCC invites the public to join them at Aliso Beach for this special event, celebrating the resilience of these pelicans and the collective efforts that have brought them back from the brink of demise. For those unable to attend, donations can be made through the WWCC’s website at

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17th Annual Fête de la Musique returns to Laguna with a spectacular line-up of music and festivities on June 15

Get ready to immerse yourself in the joyous sounds of the 17th Annual Fête de la Musique, presented by Laguna Beach Sister Cities. Mark your calendars for Saturday, June 15 from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., as the picturesque streets of Laguna Beach come alive with a celebration of music and unity. This international event, observed in more than 1,000 cities worldwide, promises to be an unforgettable experience for music enthusiasts of all ages.

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Photos courtesy of LBSC

A band playing at a previous Fête de la Musique

The Fête de la Musique will once again take center stage on the Main Beach Cobblestones. The festivities will kick off at 11 a.m. when the Main Beach Cobblestones come alive with the 16-piece Laguna Beach Community JaZz Band, which will set the tone for an incredible day of music, dancing and celebration. At 1 p.m., all attention will switch to the large, elevated stage for the Opening Ceremony, which will begin with words from Laguna Beach Mayor Pro Tem Alex Rounaghi and Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley. They will introduce the performance of the U.S. National Anthem followed by the singing of the French National Anthem, both by the French-Canadian singing duo Perfect Blend.

Following the Opening Ceremony, the stage will host an array of remarkable performances throughout the afternoon, starting with the four-piece band Perfect Blend performing their amazing harmonies. Following Perfect Blend will be Laguna Beach belly dancers JJ and the Habibis. Finally, the Ken Garcia Band will perform until 5:30 p.m. or later. By this time, lots of people will be dancing on the Cobblestones.

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More great entertainment Downtown at Fête de la Musique

Simultaneously, from 1:30-4 p.m., the Downtown area will be transformed into a musical paradise, with performers delighting audiences across 32 different locations. Forest Avenue will have 14 performance venues, while Pacific Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue will have 10 and eight venues, respectively. Prepare to be enchanted by the incredible talents of these artists as they bring their diverse styles and creative expressions to the streets of Laguna Beach. If you want to see all of them, you will only have about five minutes at each venue!

Be sure to walk all the way up to the end of Forest Avenue to the Water District Garden on 3rd Street, where the energetic Argentinian Folk Music band Los de Alla will be attracting a crowd.

Adding to the charm of the festival, the iconic Retro Roll Citroen van will be on the Main Beach Cobblestones, offering a nostalgic touch and a unique photo opportunity. Laguna Beach Sister Cities volunteers will be inside the van to answer questions throughout the day.

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Win a two-night stay at The Ranch in Laguna Beach

In addition to the musical festivities, Laguna Beach Sister Cities is offering an exclusive opportunity to win a two-night stay in a Cottage Two-Bedroom Suite at The Ranch in Laguna Beach, including room, tax and resort fee. With only 60 tickets available, priced at $60 each, your chances of winning are high. The winning ticket will be drawn at the Pre-Fete VIP party on Friday, June 14. Proceeds will aid in the production of the annual Fête de la Musique. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.

As the Fête de la Musique is a celebration that unites people through the power of music, this year’s event promises to be an unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the joyous melodies and rhythms that will fill the air, creating a sense of unity and harmony among attendees.

Make sure to save the date for the Fête de la Musique on Saturday, June 15. Let the melodies transport you and let the power of music bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

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Meet Pet of the Week Ruby

This smart red Dachshund Chihuahua mix wants only some loving – and she’ll give plenty in return! Ruby is a shy dog initially who came from an abusive situation. However, she is more than ready to find her forever home. It would be best, if there are other dogs in the house that they be friendly, as she can get a bit overwhelmed. Ruby is spayed, 4 years old, and ready to fill up your heart with love.

Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, is hoping to have Ruby adopted as soon as possible.

Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter

Ruby is a Dachshund Chihuahua mix, who is ready to move into a loving forever home

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, their return rate is 5% as compared to the national return rate of 50%.

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road. Call 949.497.3552, or go to the website for information on adoption procedures,

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Catmosphere Laguna Foundation and Laguna Beach Animal Shelter Feline Adoption Event on June 15

On Saturday, June 15 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Catmosphere Laguna cats and kittens will be featured for adoption at the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, 20612 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

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Photos courtesy of Catmosphere

Janet and family with lucky kittens Lars and Millie

Catmosphere Laguna Foundation introduced Orange County’s first Cat Café & Lounge. Catmosphere Laguna Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit feline rescue which serves Laguna Beach and the surrounding communities every day of the week dedicated to finding forever homes for homeless, relinquished, abandoned and special-needs cats and kittens.

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Kathy and Catmosphere Laguna Foster Director Adrian Robertson

Laguna Beach has long been known and loved for its artistic community and embrace of nature in all its forms. Catmosphere Laguna Foundation enhances and strengthens that reputation in its mission to prevent cruelty to animals by rescuing, fostering, and assisting in public adoptions and awareness of the plight of homeless felines. Their adoption events are fun for the whole family with snacks and giveaways for all – volunteer opportunities available.

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Siren and her new Human Mama Lena

Future Adoption Event dates continue monthly throughout 2024:

Laguna Beach Animal Shelter and Catmosphere Laguna Adoption Event Dates 2024: Saturday, June 15 and Saturday, August 17, October 26 (Halloween Event) and year-end holiday events.

New: Gelson’s Rancho Mission Viejo, 30731 Gateway Plaza, Rancho Mission Viejo and Catmosphere Laguna Adoption Event Dates 2024: Saturday, July 20, Saturday, Sept. 21 and Saturday, Nov. 16 and year-end holiday events.

New: First Saturday of every month at PetSmart Lake Forest, 23602 El Toro Road, Lake Forest.

For details, contact Catmosphere Laguna Foundation at 949.619.MEOW (6369), or

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Laguna Canyon Foundation to hold annual “Ales and Trails” fundraiser on June 15

Laguna Canyon Foundation (LCF) will be holding their annual “Ales and Trails” fundraiser at Troy Lee Designs in Downtown Laguna Beach on Saturday, June 15 from 6-10 p.m. Admission is free, and free tacos will be served. The event includes live music, limited-edition mugs for purchase, local beer on tap and a silent auction benefiting Laguna Canyon Foundation’s Trails Program. Auction items include a one-of-a-kind GT Sensor ST Pro Trail Bike, which was built out with top-of-the-line parts from Shimano, Crank Brothers, The Fox Factory and more.

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Photos courtesy of LCF

A Laguna Canyon trail

Laguna Canyon Foundation’s 2023/2024 trail season, which began in October, will be wrapping up on June 29. Over the past nine months, LCF held 39 volunteer trail stewardship days that resulted in noticeable trail improvements in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. In total, staff and volunteers improved 3,470 linear feet of trail tread, brushed 15,480 linear feet of trail and installed or improved 258 drains to better control the impact of water on the trail during the rainy season. These improvements create a better user experience for all trail users while also ensuring that critical trail-adjacent habitat is protected.

A project that many mountain bikers and hikers have been excited about is the recent improvements to Cholla Trail in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Thanks to funding by an anonymous private donor, Cholla Trail has been significantly improved over the last six months. LCF staff and volunteers smoothed out rough tread and narrowed the trail, which in some places had eroded the surrounding landscape and become as wide as a road.

The improvements to Cholla Trail are just one example of the trail work Laguna Canyon Foundation does around the parks every day to maintain Laguna Beach’s world-class trail system while protecting the surrounding wilderness. To get involved and help improve your favorite trails and better protect wildlife habitat, visit Upcoming trail volunteer days will be held on June 22 and 29.

Laguna Canyon Foundation is dedicated to preserving, protecting, enhancing and promoting the 22,000-acre South Coast Wilderness. They are the stewards of Laguna Canyon, advocating for our open space as the leading organization for education, public outreach, habitat restoration and trailwork in the canyons. They are the bridge between the open space and the surrounding world.

For more information, visit

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French chanson/Shanghai jazz at Sunset Serenades on June 14

The Jessica Fichot Quartet will perform on Friday, June 14 at Sunset Serenades at Heisler Park from 6:30 p.m. through sunset.

The Heisler Park Amphitheater is located at Cliff Drive and Jasmine Street, Laguna Beach.

This is a free concert.

The quartet is comprised of Chloe Feoranzo (clarinet, sax), Alexis Soto Jr. (upright bass), Tom Moose (guitar) and Jessica Fichot (vocals, accordion, toy piano).

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Photo by Diego Ruvalcabras

The Jessica Fichot Quartet

Los Angeles-based chanteuse/songwriter Fichot is a lot like her hometown of Paris: French at heart, but with a truly international soul. Drawing from her multi-ethnic French/Chinese/American upbringing, her music takes the listener on a twisting journey out of the French chanson tradition, into the land of 1940s Shanghai jazz, gypsy swing, international folk and into the wilderness of her imagination.

With three acclaimed albums under her belt, Fichot has charmed audiences around the world – performing her lively songs at concert halls, festivals and clubs in China, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and across the U.S. and western Europe. Featuring scorching performances from her bandmates on clarinet/sax, upright bass and guitar, as well as her own beautiful, clear vocals in French, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English, Fichot’s music is truly a dazzling trans-world journey.

Fichot is also an active composer, who has written hundreds of children’s songs for various educational programs, as well as music for many independent video games. She is currently working on her fourth album.

Accolades include:

“Brings an art-song sensibility to delightfully catchy tunes.” – LA Times

“Enchantingly original.” – LA Weekly

“A delicious blend of acoustic styles” – San Francisco Chronicle

This program is funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

For more information, go to

For more detailed information on Sunset Serenades, go here.

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Laguna Art Museum gets wild with Fred Tomaselli: Second Nature

Laguna Art Museum (LAM) will present Fred Tomaselli: Second Nature, set to showcase the influential work of Southern California native artist, Fred Tomaselli. The exhibition, exploring the intersections of art, nature and contemporary culture, will be on view from October 6 through February 2, 2025.

Tomaselli, who grew up and formed his early artistic sensibilities in Southern California, attended California State University, Fullerton, where he graduated with a BA in Painting and Drawing in 1982. His work is deeply influenced by the fantasy culture and natural beauty of the coastal environment, themes that are prominently reflected in his artworks.

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Photo by Dan Bradica Studio

Fred Tomaselli, “Irwin’s Garden,” 2023, acrylic, photo collage, leaves and resin on wood panel, 48” x 48”, courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York, ©2024

“Fred Tomaselli’s work offers a vital narrative emphasizing the beauty and turmoil of our times. His uncanny ability to incorporate contemporary issues within his unique and eye-catching artistic approach allows for important conversations and deeper enjoyment of his stunning work,” said Julie Perlin Lee, executive director of Laguna Art Museum.

The exhibition, guest-curated by Laguna Art Museum Curatorial Fellow Rochelle Steiner, will feature approximately 50 of Tomaselli’s new and recent works. The works highlight his unique approach to collage-based resin paintings and his engagement with topics such as global warming, the impact of the pandemic and today’s most pressing social issues.

“Tomaselli’s work is a powerful exploration of the world at large through ideas of individual perception, shared reality and the altered states between,” said Steiner, guest curator for the exhibition. “This exhibition promises to provide an insightful look at today’s most pressing issues by considering collisions of nature and culture, humans and animals, science and art and our need to process the fever pitch noise that surrounds modern life.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Laguna Art Museum will publish a fully illustrated catalog authored by Steiner; it will also feature a conversation between Tomaselli and writer Dan Nadel and include images of all the works in the exhibition. Specially designed by Barbara Glauber/Heavy Meta, the catalog provides insights into Tomaselli’s West Coast inspirations and deeper understanding and appreciation of his recent practice. The publication will be available in late 2024.

The exhibition aligns with the museum’s annual Art + Nature initiative and will include public programs such as a talk by Tomaselli on October 6. Further details about the series of talks, and lectures elaborating on the exhibition themes, as well as the launch of the new publication, will be announced.

Fred Tomaselli: Second Nature is organized by Laguna Art Museum and guest curated by Rochelle Steiner. Generous support for the exhibition provided by Elie Weaver and Hilton Weinberg. Generous support for the publication provided by James Cohan, New York.

For more information about Fred Tomaselli: Second Nature, visit

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

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Rescue Files

Laguna Beach Police and Fire rescue pup from cliffside

On Thursday, June 6 at 9:35 p.m., Laguna Beach Police and Fire personnel responded to Three Arch Bay in reference to a dog that was stuck on the side of a bluff.

Laguna Beach Police initiated a drone operation with night vision capabilities, locating the Goldendoodle.

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Courtesy of LBFD

Laguna Beach Fire and Police worked together to bring this Goldendoodle up the bluff and back to its family

Then, Laguna Beach Fire deployed a remote rope rescue operation and successfully brought the pup up the bluff.

The dog was uninjured and reunited with its family.

Helicopter lands at Table Rock Beach for medical rescue

On Saturday, June 8 at 7:51 p.m., Laguna Beach Fire responded to Table Rock Beach for a medical emergency. Due to the patient’s condition, it was determined that the most appropriate transport would be by helicopter to a local hospital.

Mercy Air Medical Transport responded and transported the patient to a local area hospital.

No additional patient information is available at this time.

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LBHS’ Ava Knepper named Sunset Conference Female Athlete of the Year

Ava Knepper, a senior at Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), was honored on June 3 at the Orange County Athletic Directors’ Association (OCADA) Athlete of the Year dinner held at Servite High School. Knepper was named the Sunset Conference Female Athlete of the Year, recognizing her outstanding athletic achievements and dedication to her sport.

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Courtesy of LBUSD

Ava Knepper receiving the award from CIF Commissioner Mike West

A standout athlete, she has achieved success in both water polo and swimming throughout her high school career. Knepper has been recognized with numerous accolades, including second-team All-Sunset League, second-team All-County, and second-team All-CIF Open Division during her sophomore and junior years. In her senior year, she earned first-team All-Sunset League, co-MVP of the Sunset League, first-team All-County and first-team All-CIF Open Division honors.

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Courtesy of Dawn Knepper

Knepper excelled at swimming and water polo and holds many records at LBHS

“Ava Knepper is a truly unique and special talent,” said LBUSD Athletic Administrator Denise Selbe, Ed.D. “Being named the Sunset Conference Female Athlete of the Year is a testament to her dedication and hard work. We are incredibly proud of her accomplishments and excited to see her continue her athletic journey at USC.”

Knepper’s athletic stats include 101 goals, 37 assists and 39 exclusions drawn in her senior year alone, culminating in a total of 337 career goals and 243 career assists in water polo. Additionally, Knepper excelled in swimming, holding LBHS records in the 200- medley relay, 50 free and 100 free, and qualified for CIF competitions for three consecutive years. Knepper’s achievements have earned her a scholarship to USC, where she will continue her water polo career.

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Courtesy of Dawn Knepper

Knepper will continue her water polo career at USC

OCADA honors athletes of the year from across Orange County at its annual Athlete of the Year dinner in the spring. To view the 2024 Athlete of the Year slideshow and learn more, click here.

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Blue Bell Cat Foundation celebrates 35 years with renovations and resolve to become sustainable


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Over the past 35 years, the Laguna Canyon property that housed Bertha Yergat and her beloved felines, has evolved into a legendary sanctuary for senior cats. Blue Bell Cat Foundation, home to senior cats whose owners can no longer care for them, nurtures their residents and enriches the special people who care for them.

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Bertha Yergat Cottage

Started by Bertha Yergat, and sustained by Susan and John Hamil, there are endless stories to be told about their evolution, resident cats, dedicated staff and volunteers, and their historical ties to Laguna Beach. However, their current story involves celebrating the foundation’s 35th anniversary with much-needed renovations – and planning a future that makes the foundation sustainable in our high-cost economy.

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Director of Blue Bell Cat Foundation, Jenna Mikula

Jenna Mikula, who was appointed director in 2023, is now at the helm, and the foundation is moving forward with some exciting plans. “I started out as a volunteer, and I very quickly moved into a caregiving role because they had a position available just a few weeks after I joined the team. I was interested in learning more about the cats and helping this organization – they had such an incredible mission, story and history.” Over time her role evolved, and she started taking on more and more responsibilities and that was recognized with a promotion to assistant director in 2021.

“Late last year, Susan Hamill and the board of directors promoted me to director,” Mikula said. “It’s a very hands-on director role.” As one might imagine, it’s not one of those cushy corporate director jobs. “I’m still really involved in the cat care. I’m here a minimum of five days a week – usually six – and they are normally 10- to 12-hour days, because there’s just so much going on with the cats and then also managing the property.”

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Blue Bell’s Garden, which is cared for by Sue Brown

Mikula described all the changes that are coming up and how the foundation is working toward sustainability.

“As with any aging structure, it is in need of renovations,” she said. Just last year, they replaced the roof and recently put in new countertops.

Coming up next month, they will replace the flooring in each house as a result of a fundraising campaign for their 35th anniversary. “It was tremendously successful,” Mikula said. “Our goal was $50,000 and we raised almost $85,000. We had some incredibly generous donors. It became a reality for us pretty quickly, so we are moving forward with the plans for the flooring.”

To facilitate maintenance, the flooring will be coved. “That’s going to be a huge benefit from a cleaning perspective,” she said. “Besides the floors, the lower building needs some modifications to the walls to complete the plan that we have for the floors, which is like the ones you see in medical facilities.”

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Molly, resident of Bertha cottage

However, the residents need to be completely out of each building (upper and lower houses) while the upgrades are taking place.

“The plans for the cats are challenging,” said Mikula. “Right now, we have 33 cats in residence. We typically house around 50 cats, but we’ve had several residents passed away and we haven’t had a whole lot of incoming new residents right now, although we do have quite a few in our pipeline. But we’re putting a hold on any new cat intakes until after we kick off the flooring project and get a significant portion of that done because it’ll be a huge upheaval for the cats.”

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Andrew Wentzel House

There are 15 cats in the Andrew Wentzel house, which is the first cottage to undergo renovations. “The lower house kitties tend to be either our newer kitties because we have the individual suites that we use for adjusting new cats to the community or they’re either newer kitties or cats that have health issues and they need to be isolated,” Mikula said. “But we do have other kitties that live there. We’re expecting the renovations to last about two months just because of the timing for each project. We need to move everybody out of the lower house, have that house all done, move those guys back, then move the cats out of the main house and have that house done. There are several logistical pieces that make the time frame a little longer than we would like it to be, but we’re just glad that we’re able to get it done and that we had the funding to do it.”

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