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Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Winds save the day for Laguna Beach, but not for Laguna Niguel

TOM MARCHWednesday, Laguna Beach got lucky! Plain and simple.

When the fire broke out between 2-3 p.m. in the canyon above The Ranch, there was tremendous cause for concern. It was first reported as a “three-acre vegetation fire in Aliso Canyon,” and The Ranch was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The same report announced that “all Laguna Beach emergency resources were on scene.”

Later, at 4:25 p.m., voluntary evacuations were then issued for residents of the Balboa Nyes (Portafina) neighborhood.

At 8:25 p.m., the City would issue an update saying the Evacuation Warning has been lifted and there is no immediate threat to the City of Laguna Beach.

What would turn out to be a favorable onshore wind for Laguna Beach would turn into disaster for Laguna Niguel.

By late Wednesday evening, the wind and an abundance of dry fuel in the canyons would result in 20+ homes being completely destroyed as the fire raced up the canyon to engulf the homes.

As many of us watched the devastation occurring in Laguna Niguel on television, we were left to ask, once again, what if? 

It’s a reminder that there is constant upkeep and vigilance necessary to reduce the risk, but as Laguna Niguel found out, preparation isn’t the only thing required. Luck also needs to come into play, and on this particular night, Laguna Beach had it on their side.

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Speaking of the fires, thanks to our own Scott Brashier for his wonderful photography. His shots were gripping in their own right and told a story with no words needed.

Also, thank you to the many other photographers out there who reached out with their own contributions. We loved what you captured and thank you.

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I get it that a 3-2 vote resulted to further explore a potential parking facility at Laguna Presbyterian Church

My two cents, which are probably worth exactly that, two cents, is that a facility like this should be fully explored. Now, don’t crucify me, I didn’t say approved, I said explored.

Everyone knows Laguna Beach has a parking problem. Like it or not, people outside of town love to come here. That means they have to park somewhere when they arrive. Obviously, there are the neighborhood streets, but that’s certainly not the residents’ first choice.

A parking structure at the church may or may not be the right next move, but we won’t fully know without exploring it. Either way, at the end, we will find valuable information that can help us find parking solutions.

And, that problem, I remind you, isn’t going away anytime soon.

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Good news out of the City Manager’s office with the release of information tied to the 2022 Point in Time Count of the Homeless report. The info released Wednesday shows a significant reduction in the number of homeless individuals living within the City of Laguna Beach since 2019, showing the number of unsheltered homeless has dropped by 60% from 2019 to 2022. That translates from 71 to 28 people and is quite favorable when compared to Orange County as a whole that saw a 16.65% reduction. 

“Reducing homelessness in our community is a priority and these numbers demonstrate that hard work and collaborative efforts of our Police Department and our homeless shelter operator, Friendship Shelter, have made a difference,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Sue Kempf. “While we still have significant work to be done, this data is encouraging that we are making strides in the right direction.”

Every two years, jurisdictions across the nation are federally mandated to participate in the Point in Time Count of the Homeless (PIT Count). 

“I’d like to thank our Police Department for working hard over the last two years to get homeless off the streets by connecting them to services and make our City safer,” said City Councilmember Peter Blake. “No single public entity can solve the issues associated with homelessness, especially at the local level. It will be a collective effort between both the County of Orange and all Orange County cities that will end homelessness in our communities.”

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This Sunday is a fundraiser beginning at 10 a.m. being hosted by the Aliso Beach Animal Clinic. Notable pet photographer Jim Dratfield will be at the clinic in support of MobilityDog.

Jim is coming in from New York City and will be “signing books and sharing details about the chance to immortalize your pet in limited, special photo sessions.”

How good is Jim? He’s photographed the pets of Jennifer Aniston, Cherize Theron, Billy Joel and many others.

The goal for the day is to raise awareness and support for MobilityDog, a nonprofit, dedicated to advancing FUNctional independence for people with disabilities by providing service dogs, education and empowerment.

RSVP preferred but not required at 949.499.4190.

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Don’t forget, May is Heritage Month in Laguna Beach. Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, 74th District, recently presented an Assembly Proclamation to Heritage Committee Chair Scott Sumner (RE/MAX One) recognizing the committee’s “dedication and hard work for the city of Laguna Beach. You have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to the historical preservation and heritage of your community. We wish you continued success!”

Fair Game 4 people

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the Office of Cottie Petrie-Norris

(L-R) Linda Morgenlander, Heritage Committee member; Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris; Scott Sumner, Heritage Committee chair and Clark Collins, Heritage Committee vice chair

Next week is the popular Laguna Artists’ Studio Trolley Tour, where you’ll learn about Laguna’s founding artists and their studios. On Saturday, May 21, the Trolley loads at Loma Place at 10 a.m. (in front of the Police Department) and departs at 10:30 a.m. Space is limited; to RSVP email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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I wasn’t going to mention this, but I believe City Councilmember Toni Iseman talked about it Tuesday night. I received a YouTube video from her with a subject line saying, “Hitler finds out Laguna Beach Third Street hill is still not finished.”

The video highlights Adolph Hitler talking with his minions in German, while subtitles run over the lower half of the screen in English talking about everything related to Third Street.

Is it supposed to be funny? Something with Hitler just doesn’t seem like the best punchline.

I contacted Toni and she said, “I suspect you weren’t in town when we were frantic about the Third Street hill problem. This was done years ago (after) weeks of a traffic disaster. Many shared Hitler’s rage/sadness. Sometimes laughter helps. We don’t know who created this. Some inside jokes.” 

Still, for me, there are better ways to create comment and discussion rather than using any Hitler reference.

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Lastly, don’t forget, Coffee with a Cop tomorrow from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. at the Farmers’ Market.