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Laguna Beach

A Note from Shaena

Stu is smiling down

I’ve always loved numbers. As a young child, I collected NBA basketball cards – I had thousands and thousands of them – and would study the backs of my cards (where all the players’ stats were) with freakish intensity. I would rattle off said stats like a machine – at family functions, church gatherings, you name it. B.J. Armstrong, Danny Ainge, Manute Bol...these were a few of my favorites in 1992.

Nowadays, I study Google Analytics…readership stats for Stu News. I pull and analyze reports daily, often three or four times daily. Sometimes 10 times a day. Within these reports, I am able to see our precise readership – down to a single unique reader – in a particular time span. 

I can see what our top cities by readership are (Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, and Los Angeles – in that order); the average time readers spend on Stu News; which stories are being shared most on social media; the percentage of readers that are accessing us from computers vs. mobile devices (40 vs. 60 percent). Lots and lots of interesting data, that when unwound, can help us plan for the future.

Stu and I used to revel in these stats together. I would call him mid-day on Tuesdays and Fridays (not before noon though because Stu liked to work late on deadline days and sleep in the day after!) and go over our readership for the day, how things were shaping up that issue. We would talk about the headlines and why we thought certain ones stuck more with readers than others.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Stu is smiling down…

I know Stu was looking down proud when I pulled our stats on Monday. We now have over 26,000 unique readers monthly, with more than 2,000 brand new, regular readers in just the last few months!

What does ‘unique readers’ mean? That’s the number of unique individuals (well, IP addresses, to be more technical) reading us this month – what I would liken to our circulation. If you come back 100 times in a month, you’re only counted once in that stat. We’ve been growing our unique readership by 15-20 percent every year since we started.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is that half of these unique readers come back eight plus times per month, per Google. And actually, 13 percent of our readers come back 100 plus times per month. No joke.

What’s the cause of all this perpetual, ongoing growth? Really great community content, of course!

We have such an amazing editorial team – led by our “one in a billion” Editor Lynette Brasfield – a team that is helping us continue the legacy Stu left… local news with a heart.

We’ve been fortunate to add some great new writers and features that are really resonating with readers too. Our Laguna Life & People features are driving a ton of traffic, and we’ve also had a bunch of new email sign-ups this month that came to us through social media.

Ultimately, we thank YOU – our readers, the community – for reading us and for giving us so much great news to report on in the first place.

We all feel so fortunate to get to wake up every day and do what we do in a community we love so much.

And to get to stay connected to Stu every day through what we do too.

Thank you, Laguna, for believing in and trusting us.

Local Greg Michaels champions the use of Liquefied Natural Gas at top national forum

Ten-year Laguna resident and CEO of Monkey Island LNG, Greg Michaels, was recently featured as a keynote speaker at a Wilson Family Office Energy Summit. 

The exclusive summit focused on current day energy topics ranging from exports of U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to new technological advancements in renewable energy. 

Michaels also spoke about the company’s $6.5 billion CapEx LNG export project being developed in the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monkey Island in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The project has an all-in cost, including financing, of $8.1 billion. 

The project is expected to bring over $110 billion in revenues over its first twenty-five years of operations back to the U.S. economy. 

“Natural gas via LNG is part of a global initiative to transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean burning natural gas,” Michaels explained. “Our low-cost LNG export facility will have a direct and positive impact on the global environment by delivering clean and sustainable energy to nations around the world at a price they can afford.” 

The difference between liquefied natural gas & natural gas explained

Michaels used a simple, inventive analogy to explain the value of natural gas via LNG. Holding up a brightly colored beach ball and a racquetball, he explained, “This is a useful visual to show the volume reduction from natural gas to LNG – Natural gas is 600 times greater in size than in its liquid form, LNG. 

“Stated differently, if you liquefied the amount of natural gas that would fill up a beach ball, it would be condensed down to the size of a racquetball. This allows the U.S. to ship large quantities of natural gas overseas in a condensed form where it can then be reheated into its expanded gaseous state for clean energy use in other countries.” 

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Greg Michaels uses a simple, inventive analogy to emphasize the value of LNG

The response from the Family Office community, including many investors seeking new opportunities, regarding the Monkey Island LNG project and U.S. LNG exports was overwhelmingly positive. 

Richard Wilson, CEO and founder of the Wilson Family Office Energy Summit conference, said, “After hearing 30 energy investors on stage at the Family Office Club’s Energy event last week, it was obvious that everyone who commented on natural gas was bullish on the space, and that the U.S. being a net exporter of natural gas and the opportunity to ship LNG was a dramatic shift that only happens once every decade or two in the energy space.”

The Energy Summit took place at the Houston Club, Houston’s premier business and social club, whose members comprise of influential business and cultural leaders, including former President George Bush and former First Lady, Barbara Bush. 

The event consisted of panel discussions, networking sessions, and keynote speakers to provide focused information to its members on the lucrative investment opportunities emerging in the energy industry and what’s in store for investors in 2017 and beyond. 

Michaels said that once operational, the Monkey Island LNG facility would support over twenty-four thousand jobs across the U.S. and will create hundreds of well-paying and well-needed permanent jobs to the community of Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

Rooted in Laguna Beach

Greg is a 10-year resident of Laguna Beach. All three of his children, Jake, Lauren, and Brooke Michaels, are graduates of Laguna Beach High School. His family office is run out of the Village Faire Shops of Laguna where he and his wife, Kristine, run their property management company and satellite offices for their telecom utility and LNG business. 

In addition to business, Greg is a two-times national tennis champion and often plays tennis at LBHS. He’s a USC alumni and Marshall Partner, and loves to paddle board, surf and fish. 

He has been married to his high school sweetheart, Kristine Michaels, for 26 years and enjoys taking his family, friends, and employees out to his favorite local restaurants, which include Nick’s and Taco Tuesdays at Avila’s El Ranchito.

Author talk with Kathleen Murray Moran on Nov 21 

Laguna Beach Library will present Author Talk with Kathleen Murray Moran on Tue, Nov 21 from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Her book is entitled, Life Detonated: The True Story of a Widow and a Hijacker. Join and listen as Kathleen talks about her book. 

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Kathleen Murray Moran

Drawing on letters and newspaper articles, former writing instructor and political advocate Moran re-creates her personal history and the events leading up to Sept. 11, 1976, when Croatian freedom fighters launched a terrorist attack in New York City that killed her husband.

Kirkus Review describes the book as “A raw, somber emotional journey that concludes with hope and a measure of forgiveness.” 

Kathleen Murray Moran holds a BA in journalism and an MA in English from SUNY Stony Brook. She taught writing and literature at Suffolk Community College for twenty-five years. She is cofounder of Survivors of the Shield (SOS).

Cultural Arts Plan highlighted by Sian Poeschl at next Village Laguna General Meeting on Nov 27

On Mon, Nov 27, at 7 p.m., Sian Poeschl, the City’s Cultural Art Manager, gives an overview of the Cultural Arts Plan adopted by the City Council. The plan involves an artist live/work project and mixed-use facility, as well as the implementation plan for the first two years.

All residents are invited to attend Village Laguna’s Membership Meeting at Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, 429 Cypress Dr to hear about the plan.

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Meeting at Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship on Mon, Nov 27

 This non-profit mutual-benefit community organization began when concerned citizens opposed the construction of high-rise buildings along the legendary LB coastline and helped create Main Beach Park. 

Since then, Village Laguna’s goals have expanded to encompass our mission statement to preserve, enhance, and celebrate the unique village character and cultural heritage of LB; to foster community spirit and address social needs; and to work toward restoring and protecting our ocean and coastal habitats.

For further questions, go to

Hospitality Night will take place on Friday Dec 1

This year’s Hospitality Night event is scheduled for Friday, Dec 1, from 5 to 10 p.m.

Instead of beginning in front of City Hall this year, the festivities start in the Peppertree Parking Lot (located between Ocean and Forest, across from Second Street) where Santa Claus will arrive to greet holiday revelers before the tree lighting ceremony at 6:10 p.m. – this year on a different pepper tree than in the past.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Holiday decorations will take a bough (well, lots of boughs) on a different pepper tree this year

The City will be hosting arts and crafts and holiday card writing to U.S. military personnel overseas in the lot until 8 p.m. 

Street closures in the downtown area will begin at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Portions of Forest Avenue, Ocean Avenue, Beach Street, and the Pepper Tree Parking Lot will be closed to vehicular traffic prior to and during the event. 

For more information, contact Adam Gufarotti, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0304.

Jazz Wednesdays are back for the winter season

Tickets are now on sale for the popular Jazz Wednesday’s Winter season presented by Laguna Beach Live! Ticket sales are open for members and will be on sale to the public starting Nov 20. The series includes seven concerts, Jan 17-April 11, at the distinctive event facility [seven-degrees] at 891 Laguna Canyon Rd.

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Jazz Wednesday’s Winter season presented by Laguna Beach Live!

The series kicks off on Jan 17 with Mark Towns Latin Jazz featuring Diana Purim, followed on Jan 31 by Straight Ahead Jazz featuring the Rickey Woodard Quintet. Feb 14 features Valentine’s Day Piano Jazz, with Grammy-Award winning Bill Cunliffe Trio with special guest vocalist, and February 28 presents Iconic Jazz, an All-Star Tribute to Dizzy & Ella featuring vocalist Maiya Sykes & Trumpeter Bijon Watson. March 14 features New West Group, March 28 Project Popular, and the series ends on April 11 with Modern Jazz Josh Nelson presenting: “And The Sky Remains” a love ballad to LA

Concerts are from 6 p.m.- 8 p.m, and doors open at 5 p.m. A full bar and buffet dinner menu is available for purchase starting at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Seating is assigned. Reservations are accepted until noon on day of concert or until sold out. 

For more information visit or call 949-715-9713.

Staff will forge ahead with amendments to Accessory Dwelling ordinance


The Planning Commission waded through a 100-page staff report on proposed amendments to the city’s Accessory Dwelling Ordinance on Wednesday and approved 15 recommendations.

Recommended amendments to the ordinance are based on compliance with a state law that went into effect in January to promote affordable housing. Local issues of public safety and neighborhood compatibility were addressed.

“What we are trying to get tonight is approval of the staff recommendations,” said Greg Pfost, community development director.

Left in limbo was state-mandated requirement in the city’s amended ordinance, including changing the Second Unit designation to Accessory Dwelling Unit, more often called ADUs, and a parking requirement exemption if the unit is located one-half mile from public transit.

“We have no choice on these,” said Pfost. 

As expected, and approved by the commission, was the increase in the size of the units from 640 to 750 square feet. The commission also accepted the staff recommendation to reduce the required lot size for ADUs from 6,000- to 4,000 square feet when deed-restricted to low or moderate income renters.

Restricted access for emergency vehicles concerns Fire Department

The reduction concerns Laguna Beach Fire Department Interim Chief Kirk Summers and Fire Marshal James Brown. 

“Our major concern is access,” said Summers. 

Under the best of circumstances, the department must contend with sub-standard width streets, and standard-width streets dangerously narrowed by parked cars.

The recommended reduction could add an estimated 900 second units to the inventory, according to estimates, and eliminates the on-site parking requirement.

“We need 20 feet (street width) to get in and use our equipment,” said Brown. “We also have to consider the sizes of mutual aid equipment.” 

The department is recommending that properties proposed for an ADU should provide a 20-foot clear travel lane width for the length of the property’s streetfront to meet critical needs for traffic flow and public safety related to emergency access and evacuation. Any property that does not provide the clear lane should not be exempt from the parking requirements. 

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Example of ADU

“I believe ADU development should be restricted as much as possible to neighborhoods having critical development patterns with respect to fire,” said Matt Lawson, chair of the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee and a Diamond Crestview property owner.

He cited the Diamond Crestview Specific Plan which describes the entire neighborhood as an extreme fire hazard area where fire protection is hindered by roadway conditions.

“That is why the specific plan has prohibited second residential uses for 25 years and why the city council acted on the fire department’s recommendation to make Diamond Crestview the only area in Orange County with Red Flag ticket and tow parking restrictions,” he said.

“ADUs may be fine in safer parts of the city, but it is not a good idea to house our most vulnerable residents----including the elderly and those without vehicles--- in a city 90 percent of which has been designated within the highest wildfire risk category.”

The 16th staff recommendation, which was added by Pfost at the meeting, directed staff to implement the Fire Department recommendations. 

The commission also approved staff recommendations to add Junior Accessory Building Units, ones inside an existing single-family residence, to the municipal code section dealing with low density zoning, and a provision that the homeowner must occupy one of the units.

All ADUs should be owner-occupied, says Laguna Beach Seniors

Laguna Beach Seniors believe all ADUs should be owner occupied, said Kris Thalman, on behalf of the organization. 

“Our goal is to have seniors age in place,” said Seniors’ representative Cody Engle.

Court Shannon urged the commission to get the show on the road.  

“Laguna Beach is late, really late in getting a new, fully compliant ADU ordinance drafted, approved, ratified and then certified by the California Coastal Commission,” said Shannon.

“This should have all been done before Jan 1, 2017 (when the new state law went into effect). Now we are looking at late 2018 before this will happen, so essentially, we are two years late.”

Shannon said most of the heavy lifting has been done by the state; setting maximum unit and lot sizes and providing cities with a broader definition of public transit that would allow Laguna to include trolleys, Blue Buses and shuttles.

Pfost said the public will have plenty of opportunities to comment on the amended ordinance: when the first draft is presented to the commission on Dec 13, when the commission ships it off to the council and at the required California Coastal Commission hearing.

The full report presented Wednesday to the commission is available for review on the city website.

Unique garden décor offered by Friends of Hortense Miller Garden at LB Farmer’s Market on Nov 18

On Sat, Nov 18, from 8 a.m. until noon, The Friends of Hortense Miller Garden present a special event, offering unique garden decor at the Laguna Beach Farmer’s Market to support this spectacular Laguna garden gem. Don’t miss the opportunity to select some beautiful planters or pick PaperWhite bulbs for the holidays. The LB Farmer’s Market is located at the Lumberyard parking lot at Broadway and Third.

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A festive Thanksgiving centerpiece 

The sale is in celebration of the completion of The Hortense Miller Garden’s Aviary Restoration Project and to promote membership with Friends of the Hortense Miller Garden, a 501(c)(3). In addition, the Friends want to raise more friends and funds to maintain the two-and-a-half-acre garden. 

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Sample of garden décor available at Farmer’s Market on Nov 18

Hortense Miller donated her home to the City of Laguna Beach in 1976. Tours can be reserved every Sat as well as the second and fourth Thurs of the month to explore the Mid-century Modern home and hillside garden overlooking Boat Canyon, with spectacular views of Catalina and the Pacific. 

Book tours at

World AIDS Day 2017 takes place on December 1

World AIDS Day is Friday Dec 1, and for the HIV affected community especially, this is a big day. The HIV Advisory Committee of the City of Laguna Beach is commissioned to educate about HIV issues and to reduce the stigma associated with the infection.   

City funds allocated with advice from this committee fund free HIV testing at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic on Third Street – results in 20 minutes, one drop of blood, and no appointment needed.

To remember and memorialize those who have died of AIDS, committee members will enlist the help of high school students and others to place red ribbons around trees in the downtown area. These will bear the names of people who have died of AIDS.  These names have been submitted by people whose loved ones are to be remembered.

Just like last year, at the Cobblestones area of Main Beach, there will be a “memorial tree” to which anyone may attach a heart on which they have written the first name of someone they would like to memorialize.

At 5 p.m., an emotional non-denominational ceremony is planned to honor people who have died of HIV complications. Names of people who have passed away will be read aloud in this brief but moving ceremony.  

Join the locals at Main Beach early enough to enjoy the sunset; stay to honor someone from your own life.

Cookie Princesses reign at Baking Contest


Three young bakers captivated the judges and the audience at the first-ever Cookie Contest final, held Monday at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center.

Recipes from Abby Roedersheimer, 12; Hadley Hunt, 10; and Katie Bakers were voted the finalists from 12 entries.

Abby’s pecan pie, date, nut tartlets won first prize. She was presented with a basket of baking goods. Her photograph and winning recipe will be featured in the city’s Winter Brochure.

Second place was tie between Hadley’s chocolate-frosted toffee bars and Katie’s ginger-flavored Lebkuchen. They each received tickets to the Winter Fantasy.

“It’s not fair to have to choose between these cookies,” said Sande St. John, one of the three judges.

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Cookie contest winners, L-R Hadley Hunt, Abby Roedersheimer, Katie Baker

She was joined by Laguna Beach Seniors Executive Director Nadia Babayi and city Recreation Committee member Chris Costley.

“The staff would have been hard pressed to find anyone who has eaten more cookies I have,” said Costley, justifying his selection to judge the contest.

St John declared herself a cookie expert due to her close association with Santa Claus, especially on Hospitality Night. Babayi declared herself a rookie judge.

“I have never baked a cookie in my life,” she said. 

However, it wasn’t just the cookies that took the prizes.

Each recipe came with a story.

Abby’s pecan goody came down from her great great grandmother to her grandmother, who bakes them every year and passed the recipe on to her granddaughter.

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Eating cookies makes people happy

Hadley also tapped her great grandmother’s recipe, which was always typed in brown ink when given to others.

Katie’s entry came from Germany, via her grandmother. 

“The tradition started when my dad was five years old,” said Katie. “When his mom baked cookies, he knew the holidays were coming.”  

Judging was based on the family histories, the appearance and of course the taste of the cookies.

“I have just tasted Christmas,” said Costley, munching on a ginger-spiced Lebkuchen.

The idea for the contest originated at a quarterly meeting of the city’s Community Service Department staff and Laguna Beach Seniors staff, according to Recreation Supervisor Adam Gufarotti. 

“We review new programs and we wanted something that we could partner with them,” said Gufarotti.

The contest was so well received that Gufarotti plans to start earlier next year.

“We had to hold the final Monday to make it into the winter brochure,” said Adam.

Be sure to look for Abby’s recipe when the brochure hits your mailbox. You won’t be sorry.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

Scott Brashier is our photographer.

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