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Citizen Academy gives residents a chance to observe LBPD in action –  and an adrenaline rush or two

By CAMERON GILLESPIE

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Citizen Academy, a highly-praised 13-week hands-on but no-stress course designed to provide community members with a better understanding of the workings of Laguna Beach police officers, and to help foster communication between police personnel and citizens, begins on Thursday Jan 25 at 6 p.m. 

Past graduates are effusive about the value of the experience – and the fun they had while taking part. 

Gaining a greater perspective on what police work entails is imperative, according to past graduate Mario Visin. 

One of the most impressive moments for Visin was how dangerous a routine traffic stop can be for a police officer. 

“An officer is set at a disadvantage here, so the training that goes in to learning how to approach a vehicle is tremendous,” Visin said. 

First responders face major challenges with every call

Past graduate Garrett Woods agrees that this was a revelation, realizing how little information first responders may have when responding to a call. 

“Someone calling in to 911 might be panicked and might be unable to get the necessary facts out. This leaves officers up against the challenge of not knowing what is happening at a location,” he said. “They don’t know whether it’s a drunk beach-goer, a choking child, or an armed robber. I don’t think I’d be able to handle that well.” 

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LBPD & fire personnel respond to a call

Woods went on to say “I learned skills I never would have known otherwise and gained a completely new perspective on the city I know and love.”

Mario Visin also said that the K9 demonstration using LBPD’s Ranger was “incredible,” one of the highlights of the course. “Ranger is highly trained and is a valuable asset to the force. He can sniff out the drugs and chase down the bad guys on command.”

Expect an adrenaline rush – or two…

Spoiler alert: according to Visin, the event even has an unannounced shooting off of a gun in order to provide a taste of what sort of hyper awareness/readiness a police officer needs to have in order to respond in the case of an emergency.

These heightened adrenaline moments are something that only the best Hollywood movie makers can depict and make it feel real – until, that is, you take part in the Citizen Academy. 

But, better than Hollywood, the Citizen Academy promises to give you the real facts behind some of these glitzy moments. 

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Ranger in one of his more mellow moods, with his handler Corporal Fillers

Sonny Myers, another past graduate (class 22), CERT Board member and Emergency Disaster Preparedness Committee Member, already had an extensive background in understanding what to do in case of an emergency, but going through the Citizen Academy gave him “a real appreciation of the professionalism, commitment to duty and ongoing training that our Police Department undertakes every day to make our city a better place to live,” he said.

“It was a blast!” says Sonny Myers

Myers had been selected to be class president by Captain Darin Lenyi, now Police Chief of the city of Placentia. “Our class was taught gun safety and we did target practice with AR-15 long rifles. I found out that I’m actually a pretty good shot. It was a blast!” 

Stu News Laguna’s own Allison Rael, who has covered the Citizen Academy in the past took part in the classes “during a time when nationwide anti-police sentiment was on the rise. I found the class to be extremely enlightening given the context and it gave me a new perspective.”

The course demystifies what a police officer’s daily routine looks like, and allows residents to see first hand how highly trained professionals operate under a pressurized set of circumstances.

Visin mentioned that the Citizen Academy “has a membership feel to it that could be expanded to have real value for the community and the members.” This inspired him to start “working on a community cause based technology that connects people, place and things.”

Learn about crime scene investigation and more

The academy course, which meets every Thursday from 6 – 9:30 p.m. for 13 consecutiive weeks, beginning Jan 25, includes instruction in the following areas: History of the LBPD, investigations, traffic enforcement, accident investigation, driving under the influence investigation, gangs, narcotics, neighborhood watch, crime prevention, crime scene investigation, police K-9 program, volunteer programs, and other relevant topics. 

There is also a a tour of the LBPD and the OC Jail. Academy members will be given the opportunity to shoot at the police firing range and participate in mock scenarios. 

Applications should be received by Jan 19 and are available at www.lagunabeachcity.net or www.lagunabeachcity.net/cityhall/police/cominfo

For questions regarding this program, contact class coordinator Ross Fallah at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 464-6624.


Classes on authentic Indian cooking – customized to your Ayurvedic constitution – are offered this month

Dr. Vidya Reddy, co-owner of the Buy Hand store in Laguna Beach, invites those interested to spend an afternoon learning to cook ayurvedically. Dr. Vidya will take the mystery out of Indian cooking in a fun interactive class.

Vidya was trained in the Ayurvedic sciences at the world renowned Arya Vaidya Sala in Kerala, India and has been a natural health practitioner for 15 years. 

The classes will take place on Sat Jan 26 or Sun Jan 27 from 2 – 3 p.m. on the back patio of the Buy Hand store, 1175 S Coast Hwy. 

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Submitted photo

The secrets of delicious Indian dishes will be revealed during afternoon classes

Participants will learn to prepare yummy and healthy food suited to each person’s ayurvedic constitution. 

Featuring fragrant spices of India that not only add amazing flavor, but also pack great health benefits, the class includes recipes, a great meal, authentic masala chai, and a surprise gift.

The cooking class marks the kick off to a monthly series about enhancing your life and health through the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda. 

Upcoming workshops include: ayurvedic stress busters, introduction to meditation, using ayurvedic essential oils, food combinations, chakra healing and gemstone healing. Dates and times will be announced soon.

The cost of classes is $70 for those who register before Jan 12 and $80 for registration after that date. To register, contact Vidya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Coast Inn: Forgotten history is brought alive in new website with photos – it needs your memories too

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Photos courtesy Carolyn Smith Burris

Whenever the Coast Inn is mentioned in articles these days, the hotel – one of the three oldest in Laguna Beach, along with Hotel Laguna and Camino del Casa – seems almost inevitably paired with the Boom Boom Room, the bar that during the eighties and nineties gained a deep and abiding reputation as a fun, and safe, gathering spot for gay people. 

The scourge of AIDS during those years only intensified the loyalty of its customers, who regarded it as a safe haven, a place to gain solace as well as to forget, for a while, the horrors of the disease and enjoy camaraderie with friends and lovers. 

It’s no wonder the Boom looms large in Laguna’s history.

Which, Carolyn Smith Burris, granddaughter of the Coast Inn’s original builder and long-time owner, “Pappy” Smith, fully understands and appreciates. 

Preserving the history of Coast Inn’s first 50 years

However, Smith Burris is on a mission to ensure that the story of the hotel’s first 50-plus years – from its opening in 1929 – is also recognized, honored and preserved, because, she says, much of that history has been obscured or distorted over time. 

Smith Burris tells Stu News that she wants her family’s role in Laguna’s history – and, by definition, the Coast Inn’s historical role – to become better known and, she hopes, acknowledged in some key way in future iterations of the hotel.

“That will need the City’s support,” she says.

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The first three hotels in Laguna Beach

With that in mind, Smith Burris, working with historians, has just completed a comprehensive website containing a detailed timeline of the Coast Inn’s history and ownership. The timeline in particular, replete with old newspaper clippings and photos, should be of great value to researchers.

She’s also asking locals with memories of the hotel’s past to contribute to her website with their memories – already she has some contributions from people like childhood friend Mayor Kelly Boyd, who as a third-generation Lagunan also has knowledge of those halcyon days. (Boyd recently republished a book that his grandfather, J.S. Thurston, wrote back in 1947, “Laguna Beach of Early Days.”)

“The Coast Inn played such an enormous role in Laguna’s early existence. The population was in the 300s when it first opened. It quickly became a local gathering place known for its community spirit,” Smith Burris says. 

“My grandfather opened up the stairs to the beach to everyone the minute they were built. That community spirit has endured throughout its existence.”

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Coast Inn as it looked from 1933 - 1954

The website also contains some fascinating anecdotes about Laguna’s early social life. A newspaper clipping from 1933 highlights the visit of “world’s champion swimmer Buster Crabb” who, the headline reads (proving that puns are nothing new) “Long Swim for Crabb” who apparently circled the USS Coronado battleship lying two and a half miles offshore.

Clippings also talk about fireworks on the beach, and a “wiener and marshmallow roast” (proving that tastes do change over time).

South Seas Bar becomes internationally famous

“Especially in the forties, the South Seas Bar [which opened in 1936] became famous all over the world as a gathering place for military families,” Smith Burris says. “I was told that ladies would fly out from New York City for a weekend because the hotel was known to attract such a fun-loving beach crowd.

“This fame grew during the years of the Second World War and Coast Inn became even more well-known internationally as military guys, stationed at El Toro, traveled to Korea and back during the fifties,” she adds.

The South Seas countertop bar was glass over a fish tank with live fish. Mogens Abel, patriarch of the Abel family, still well-known artists in town, painted a mural that graced the South Seas room, with its Polynesian/tiki themes. 

In the fifties, an annual May 1 beach party was initiated, to the delight of the community, who clearly knew how to party, based on the photos on the website.

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Partying during one of the Coast Inn’s famous beach parties

Smith Burris notes, “Coast Inn is a key part of our history as a community – I think of the first three hotels as the tripod on which our town was built. I want the city to support and acknowledge that early history as we approach the centennial of our town’s founding.  I don’t want that lost.”

Smith Burris agrees that it is personal for her, given her family connections. She has strong memories of the place and recalls many wonderful anecdotes told to her by her beloved grandmother Caroline. 

“Yes, it’s personal,” she says. “But it’s also vital to the town that we don’t forget the past of these three hotels, that we honor their role in our community, and make the effort to embrace their entire history, not just parts of it.”

Carolyn Smith Burris’s website can be found at www.coastinnhistory.com.


Local newspapers are now digitized from 1920 – 1989 and available online at LB Library: researchers rejoice

Laguna Beach Library’s collection of local newspapers has been digitized and is available online from any OC Public Libraries branch.  While the collection is not available from home over the Internet, library users can access the collection from a library computer or from a personal laptop or other eDevice on site at any branch of OC Public Libraries.

The collection currently contains a large selection of Laguna Beach newspapers spanning late 1919 through 1989:  Laguna Beach Life, South Coast News, Laguna Beach Post, and Laguna News Post as well as shorter runs of Beach Cities News, Dana Point News, Capistrano Valley News and Laguna Leisure World.

The collection is available from www.ocpl.org under the website’s eLibrary section. Back issues can be keyword searched, browsed, printed, and downloaded.

The collection was previously available on microfilm at Laguna Beach Library where it received heavy use from local and national researchers.  The collection was digitized in hopes of reducing wear and tear on the original microfilm reels and in the interests of making the information more easily available to more people.


Trio of ebony kittens looking for love in all the right places – adopt one (or two or three) for luck 

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL    

G man, Harvey, and Princess Irma hit the mother lode when infamous “kitty rescuer” Thais Askenasy took them from the Downey Animal Shelter where they were a mere two hours away from being euthanized. The shelter couldn’t find fosters to bottle feed the babies, every two to three hours around the clock, which granted, is a huge commitment. 

But now that the hand-raised kittens are ready to be adopted, the challenge is finding permanent homes for them. These black beauties (two boys and a girl, as evidenced by their names) are described by Thais as “absolute loves” and “extremely affectionate.”

They’re waiting for your call…

For murky reasons, black cats are less likely to be adopted. Do people think them unlucky or frightening? But the opposite is true. There are many “pawsitively” fascinating reasons why one should adopt a black cat. 

According to catchat.com, our perception of black cats depends not only on how we think, but also where we live. Superstitions in different cultures and countries vary as to whether black cats are considered good luck or bad. But the old idea of black cats being ‘witches’ cats’ may still influence some people. 

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Photo by Thais Askenasy

A tangle of kittens, G man, Harvey, and Princess Irma

However, in Britain, Scotland and Japan, a black cat crossing your path, or even if you dream of a black cat, is said to bring you good luck. A black cat’s presence has been credited with bringing about show-stopping performances in theatres. And, in Scotland, finding black kittens sitting in your porch is a sign of riches, and happiness to come.

Aside from bringing luck, black cats can be very good companions as well. They tend to be talkative, which could be a welcome characteristic to those living alone, but (as claimed by some black cat owners), they can also be good listeners (another welcome characteristic). Who doesn’t like a good listener? Especially one who doesn’t interrupt.

And black cats may be healthier than the lighter hued varieties. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health discovered that the genetic mutations that cause cats to have black coats may offer them some protection from diseases. 

Scientists, however, think such camouflage may have benefitted their survival. Eleven of the 17 species of cat that exist have evolved to have black coats, proving that sable fur is most definitely advantageous for a feline. 

Photo by Thais Askenasy

A sleeping beauty

Researchers also say that, “The mutated gene that gives them black fur is more resistant to diseases than others. The research hasn’t been done yet, but it is suspected that black cats cannot get FIV, an AIDS-like syndrome for cats.” 

Choose a black cat and you won’t only be sharing your home with a gothic glamour puss, but an amazing mutant creature too. And some have intriguing “fangs,” or upper canine teeth that protrude saber-tooth tiger style and lend some cats an intimidating (or Dracula-like) smile. And although I’ve only seen them on black cats, cat experts claim that it’s not a trait specific to the dark color. 

Thais presents her trio as, “Exquisite hand raised Sable Kittens. Ready for their forever home with you. They are as friendly, playful and loving as any kittens ever. I guarantee it. They have had all their shots, been microchipped and fixed. Please consider bringing two home with you, unless you already have a house kitty. You won’t be sorry. Am asking a small adoption fee to cover their/my costs. Please call Thais @ 949-494-0312.”

I’ve known only two black cats in my life, Shadow and Boris, (both Brasfields), and found them to be beautiful, mysterious, one very talkative (Shadow), one very fangy (Boris), and the pair of them, undeniably perplexing and magical creatures.

So, if you’re looking for a mysterious, beautiful, talkative, disease resistant cat, and if you also want riches and happiness (even though this is Laguna, not Scotland), consider adopting one of these gorgeous kittens (G Man, Harvey or Princess Irma). 

It will be lucky for you and for them!


Three Laguna Beach men hoping to unseat Rep Rohrabacher will take part in candidate forums

Three Laguna Beach men will take part in a Democratic candidate forum on Wed Jan 10 at the Newport Dunes Resort, 1131 Back Bay Drive, Newport Beach. There will be an opportunity to meet all the candidates at 6 p.m. and the forum will take place between 7 – 9 p.m. Laguna Beach’s Harley Rouda, Hans Keirstead and Boyd Roberts will participate. 

Tickets for the event are available on Eventbrite for $10.

Huntington Beach Huddle will also present a candidate forum of the Democrat opponents to Dana Rohrabacher in California’s upcoming 48th Congressional District seat. The debate will take on Saturday, Jan. 13 from 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Harbour View Elementary School, 4343 Pickwick Circle, Huntington Beach.

Candidates expected to be on hand include Laguna Beach’s Harley Rouda and Hans Keirstead along with Laura Oatman and Omar Siddiqui. Moderators for the event include Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Josh Lowenthal, candidate for 72nd Assembly District.

  You can find more information and advanced reserve seating at www.HBHuddle.com. The California Primary Election is scheduled for Tuesday, June 5.


Real Talk Workshop is set to take place on Jan 10

On Wed, Jan 10, the next in a series of Real Talk workshop events will occur at the Susi Q Center from 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. 

The subject will be mental illness and how faith organizations should respond to this debilitating crisis. NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) & Choc Hospital representatives will be present for this candid discussion.

Paul Lu will moderate. Paul is a volunteer Coordinator with FaithNet, a part of NAMI Orange County.  Paul is also on the Board of Directors.

Paul has a daughter with a mental health diagnosis of schizophrenia.  He and his family experienced first-hand how difficult it is to care for a loved one with a severe

mental illness while living in Hong Kong.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Susi Q Community Center

 Approximately one in five adults experience some form of mental illness in a given year. Join this free workshop for an evening of information exchange, open dialogue, and candid discussions about faith and mental illness. 

The event is sponsored by Laguna Beach Interfaith Council and Baha’is of Laguna Beach.

For more information or to RSVP to the event, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Susi Q Community Center is located at 380 Third Street.


Pet of the Week

Jilly is on the hunt for a loving owner to adopt her from the Animal Shelter 

Jilly is a one-year-old terrier mix female on the look out for a new home to take her in. She is very small and timid, and would do best with older children only. She is filled with love and is excited for the new adventures that lie ahead. Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, hopes Jilly will be taken in as soon as can be.

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Jilly looking for a new owner to play with

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 five percent as compared to the national return rate of fifty percent.

The LB Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, (949) 497-3552, or go to the website for information on adoption procedures: www.puplagunabeach.org/our-pets.php.


Penguin Café announces fundraiser for Glennwood House on Jan 20 – plus “Pies with a Purpose”

On Jan 20, the Penguin Café will hold a special fundraiser for Glennwood House from 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. 

Owners of the Café, Sabrina and Michael McMurray, will hold this event as part of their café’s monthly “Penguin Gives Back” series during which 30 percent of all sales on a designated day are donated to a local nonprofit. 

The Penguin Gives Back promotion also inlcudes Pies with a Purpose: twenty percent of the salesof all pie orders for the month of Jan will also be donated to Glennwood House. 

As the many fans of Penguin Café know, pies are made fresh, so orders are encouraged 24 hours in advance. As always, individual donations from guests are welcomed too.

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Submitted photo

Glennwood residents with Sabrina McMurray – and delicious pies

Glennwood House provides 47 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities with supportive services including housing, daily meals designed in an organic and holistic program, and a wide range of activities and creative programs increasing self confidence and providing encouragement to Residents in achieving their individual goals.

Glennwood’s residents are often seen throughout town. Whether they are walking to Wahoo’s for dinner, or Active Culture for a healthy treat, riding the trolley to the Sawdust, or working at the local Ralphs or Gelsons, Glennwood residents are a vital part of the Laguna Beach community. 

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Submitted photo

Pies, wonderful pies

Glennwood has recently formalized its community outreach program, G-Force: Glennwood, a Force for Good. Residents are excited and passionate about giving back to their community in a variety of ways from volunteering for local nonprofits to raising funds and awareness for community projects.

Support for Glennwood through Penguin Café’s promotion will help to ensure Glennwood’s continued success and sustainability for 2018 and beyond. 

Over 86 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to program services for our residents. Donations to Glennwood Housing Foundation are fully tax deductible.


Dr. Willie Parker’s book makes the Christian case for reproductive rights: he visits LB Books on Jan 18

On Thurs, Jan 18 at 6 p.m., Laguna Beach Books (LBB) welcomes Dr. Willie Parker, who will be discussing his new book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. Dr. Parker, an outspoken OB/GYN, Christian reproductive justice advocate, and abortion provider (one of the few doctors to provide such services to women in Mississippi and Alabama) pulls from his personal and professional journeys to reveal how he came to believe, unequivocally, that helping women in need, without judgment, is the Christian thing to do. 

Dr. Parker grew up in the Deep South, lived in a Christian household, and converted to an even more fundamentalist form of Christianity as a young man. But upon reading an interpretation of the Good Samaritan in a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he realized that to be a true Christian, he must show compassion for all women regardless of their needs. 

Photo by Chad Griffith

Dr. Willie Parker appears at LBB on Thurs, Jan 18

In 2009, he stopped practicing obstetrics to focus entirely on providing safe abortions for the women who need help the most, often women in poverty and women of color, and in the hot bed of the pro-choice debate: the South. 

In Life’s Work, Dr. Parker reveals a thought-provoking narrative that illuminates the complex societal, political, religious, and personal realities of abortion in the US from his unique perspective. He also looks at how a new wave of anti-abortion activism, aimed at making incremental changes in laws and regulations state by state, are slowly chipping away at the rights of women to control their own lives. 

A unique and thought-provoking narrative on abortion in the US

In revealing his daily battle against mandatory waiting periods and bogus rules governing the width of hallways, Dr. Parker uncovers the growing number of strings attached to the right to choose and makes a powerful Christian case for championing reproductive rights. 

Dr. Willie Parker sits on the board of institutions at the forefront of the fight for reproductive justice, including as the chair-elect of the board of Physicians for Reproductive Health. He is the recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award, an honor also bestowed upon Hillary Clinton and Jane Fonda, and appeared on Ebony’s Power 100 list. 

A fascinating profile on Dr. Parker in Esquire sparked national interest in 2014, and he is now the subject of Trapped (Trilogy Films), a documentary about the legal battle to keep abortion clinics in the South open.

LBB is located at 1200 S Coast Hwy, Ste 105, 949-494-4779. For more information, go to www.lagunabeachbooks.com.

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