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Laguna Beach

Outdoor Display Workshop discusses ways to boost business as six-month trial period begins

The Chamber of Commerce will hold an Outdoor Display Workshop for local business owners to learn how to attract customers and capture more foot traffic. 

The event will take place at the Community & Susi Q Center, 380 Third Street, on Feb 28 from 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Submitted photos

Examples of outdoor signage

This follows the approval by the City of Laguna Beach of a six-month trial period allowing outdoor display of A-frames and/or merchandise for downtown merchants, beginning March 1.

The workshop will provide information about current rules and proposed changes, offer good examples of outdoor displays, reveal how signage can enhance the village character, and explain why this is important to the entire business community beyond the downtown district – including the HIP district, North Laguna, Pearl Street, South Laguna, and the Canyon.

Food and beverages will be provided. 

LB jewelry designer Adam Neeley honored with First Place AGTA Spectrum Award

While gemstone industry professionals and jewelers from around the world gathered for this year’s Tucson Gem Fairs, the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) celebrated Adam Neeley as a winner of the organization’s prestigious Spectrum Award. 

This honor gives Neeley the distinction of holding the most jewelry industry awards of any jeweler by age 33. 

For more than 30 years, AGTA has brought the finest of design and gemstone cutting together annually for their Spectrum Awards, which is considered the world’s premier gemstone and pearl design competition. 

Neeley, a Laguna Beach-based Goldsmith and Jewelry Designer, won his first Spectrum Award in 2012 at the age of 28.

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Submitted photo

AGTA gives first place to Adam Neeley at prestige event

At a Champagne reception and Gala event held Saturday, Feb 3, AGTA recognized Adam Neeley’s pendant “Cosmos” with the honor of First Place in the category of Business/Day Wear. It’s easy to see why; Neeley’s Cosmos pendant is a showstopper with its grand scale and strong visual movement. 

The modern form showcases a 24.06 carat, specialty-cut morganite by renowned lapidary Stephen Avery and is accented by 3.14 carats total weight of diamonds. 

“I wanted to showcase the spectacular cut of this beautiful morganite by echoing the scintillation within into radiating curves,” Neeley said.

Neeley executed the design with extreme precision, using sweeping lines of rose gold spiraling outward into white gold. 

“People have fallen in love with the beauty of rose gold again and I wanted to create a new visual effect with the metal. This design has two different colors of rose gold and white gold to create a color fade from rose to white.” 

The design took months of planning and meticulous work to complete. Neeley enthused, “It’s a huge honor to be recognized by this important competition and top level industry judges.”

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Submitted photo

“People have fallen in love with the beauty of rose gold”

While happy to celebrate, Neeley spent most of the week treasure-hunting. The annual Gem Shows at Tucson serve as the primary gem-buying occasion in Neeley’s year. 

“At Tucson, I’m focused on inspiration and discovering the most exceptional gemstones to use in my designs. This year I came away with some breathtaking jewels.” Those gemstone finds, combined with Neeley’s ambitious vision for his newest jewelry collection, promise dazzling things in the year ahead.

From his studio on Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, Neeley has been designing and creating unique jewelry since 2006. 

Neeley’s work has been recognized by industry authority the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA) at their annual Vision Awards on nine separate occasions, most recently in June of 2017. 

As a member of the prestigious American Jewelry Design Council, Neeley is shaping his artistic medium and the evolution of the jewelry industry. He’s also making history; his pendant “South Sea Glow” is a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection.

Those interested in discovering Neeley’s creations are invited to visit Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry at 352 North Coast Highway in Laguna Beach year round, or at the upcoming La Quinta Arts Festival, Booth #945. During this busy season, visitors are encouraged to make an appointment to meet with Neeley personally. 

For further information or questions, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Barbara’s Column

Council retreats to review ongoing projects plus 2017 accomplishments and plans for 2018



The City Council and City Manager John Pietig believe that the city needs to cut back on the number of policy revisions and major projects in any given year. 

Too many projects underway at the same time overburden staff and city advisory bodies and drag on – and on – the council and Pietig opined at its annual retreat on Saturday at the South Coast Water District offices. 

“Choose one or two and get them done,” said Mayor Kelly Boyd

To that end, the council voted to delay action on a second swimming pool for a year while the council tries to clear some key projects off its overloaded plate.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

One pool will have to be enough for 2018

Councilman Steve Dicterow will break the news to the Recreation Committee.  

Light at the end of the tunnel, the Village Entrance, that is

The Council reviewed and hopefully would approved a final design for the Village Entrance at the Feb 14 meeting. The goal is to break ground this fall. 

It’s only taken 30 years to get to this point and no one will be happier to actually get this project done than Pietig, who put together the agenda for the retreat. He was assisted with the presentation by Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson and Public Works Director Shohreh Dupuis.

Key projects update

Utility Undergrounding: One public survey showed community support for undergrounding utilities along major evacuation routes. A second survey will be conducted after a period of public education on ways to finance the project. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Canyon could become a bottleneck during disasters

Staff will bring its evaluation of the Park Plaza experiment to the council on March 27. 

A traffic engineer has been hired to conduct a study of intersections along South Coast Highway from Broadway to Legion Street to determine how traffic flow can be improved. 

Removal of the Cork Pine in front of City Hall and planting of a replacement tree is art of a landscape plan to be presented to the council in March.

Laguna Canyon Foundation and Laguna Greenbelt will review the Caltrans environmental documents for the widening of the 133 from El Toro Road to the toll road. Estimated cost of the project is between $30 million and $39 million.  

Downtown Specific Plan amendments are being scrutinized by the Planning Commission, with a report to the council hoped for this summer.

Laguna Canyon zoning issues

The proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance and modifications to the Laguna Canyon Planning Study still need a lot of work, according to Pietig. An update is expected at the March 6 council meeting on canyon zoning and development issues.

“I was surprised to learn that we have eight options to implement the Laguna Canyon Road Task Force recommendations,” said former City Councilwoman Vern Rollinger, one of the three residents in the audience at the retreat.

Dupuis said three of the options have been recommended for council consideration.

Projects mulled to increase capacity of Channel - and parking

City staff is meeting with Caltrans for the coordinated development of a project to increase the capacity of the Laguna Canyon Channel and rehabilitation of deteriorated sections of the channel.

Another analysis and evaluation of parking structure investment options lots is underway, with a staff report expected at the July 25 council meeting. 

A new Landscape and Scenic Highways Element is being developed. The Planning Commission recommended the council not include the Landscape and Scenic Highways Resource Document.

South Laguna parking demand and ways to reduce are being assessed by staff.

Done is done

Pietig’s agenda for the retreat also included a list of 2017 accomplishments, starting with improvements to public safety funded by Measure LL.

The funding allowed the city to hire two additional beach patrol officers, another community outreach officer, more paramedics, Fire Marshal Jim Brown and two more Marine Safety officers; and to set aside $1 million annually for utility undergrounding.

Councilman Bob Whalen suggested a smaller paramedic truck would be better suited to Laguna’s narrow streets instead of rolling a full-size fire engine for medical calls. 

Facility and Capital Improvements

Notable improvements in 2017 included rehabilitation of the Laguna South Orange County Wastewater Authority lift station, cleaner sidewalks, funded by Measure LL, a pedestrian and bicycle trail accessing the Fire Road, and Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park, completion of the Milligan Drive Bridge, a joint effort of the city and Sarah Thurston Park residents, and the Oak Street and Mountain Road Beach Accesses – “A huge success,” said Pietig.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

New stairway at Mountain Road improves beach access

More than 30 streets were repaired and re-sealed, the sidewalk on Cress Street was extended from Bluebird Park to Temple Terrace, and renovations to the former Recreation Building and the Police Department Lobby.

“They may not be sexy, but they are important,” said Pietig.

Community Development

The Community Development Department served a record number of people in 2017 in addition to workshops, plan check reviews and building inspections.

Public Transportation was augmented in 2017 with the launch of weekend service to Top of the World, Bluebird Canyon and Arch Beach Heights. Comments from riders have been positive. 

The Trolley Tracker has been improved and 552,119 riders boarded the trolleys during the 10-week summer season. However the off-season local transit service remains in jeopardy. Dupuis has developed a comprehensive public awareness campaign due to hit the media in a couple of weeks. 

If ridership does not increase, the transit system could be drastically changed or even discontinued.


The City was recognized by the Orange County Tobacco Coalition for adopting a smoke-free public places ordinance and gained a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. 

The Bay Beach Report Card identified eight Orange County Beaches as California’s Cleanest Beaches. Seven of the eight are in Laguna Beach.  

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading 

In our own backyard: Vintage Surfboard Collector Club presents First Hobie Vintage Surfboard Festival, Feb 25

On Sun, Feb 25, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., The Vintage Surfboard Collector Club presents The First Annual Hobie Vintage Surfboard Festival at La Plaza Park, between Hennessye’s and the Hobie Surf Shop in Dana Point. All are invited to attend this edition of The Vintage Surfboard Collectors Club Swap. 

Participants can view, buy, sell or trade surfboards with member collectors from up and down the coast. There will be surfboards and memorabilia, such as skateboards, contest tees, books, and posters from the dawn of surfing through the 1980’s. 

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Photo by Brad Holden of VSCC

Drone shot of Vintage Surfboard Collectors Club Swap

Admission is free to swap or buy. However, attendee must be a member of VSCC to sell. Along with all flavors of surf and skate history represented, awards will be given for “Best of Show Hobie Surfboard” & “Best of Show Hobie Memorabilia.” Participants should bring their best vintage Hobie surfboard or item to the swap and enter it to win major prizes. To enter the Best in Show categories, being a VSCC member is not required. Several legendary Hobie Surfers will serve as show judges. 

A morning coffee bar with locals Crank and Grind will start brewing at 8 a.m., and they will serve up tasty Sambazon bowls throughout the day. At this meet, fellow collectors club, Surfboards & Coffee, will collaborate with VSCC for the first time. Music from The West Coast Cookers starts at 10 a.m., and they will play sets all afternoon. 

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Photo by VSCC

Vintage Hobie surfboards

Gary Larson, master shaper at Hobie Surfboards, will be shaping a classic Hobie model live at noon. Representatives from community organizations such as; The Surfing Heritage & Culture Center, Surfers Healing, Surfrider, and The Ocean Institute will have information tents set up, spreading the word about who they are and how to get more engaged with what they do. 

Primary Sponsors: Hobie Surf Shop, The City of Dana Point, Reyn Spooner, Crank and Grind, Surfboards and Coffee. Secondary Sponsors: Surfing Heritage, Surfers Healing, Ocean Institute, Surfrider.

This event will happen rain or shine, all ages are welcome, and it is open to the public. 

Hobie Dana Point is located at 34174 Pacific Coast Hwy, 949-496-2366. 

For more information, go

Life in Laguna

Photos by Tom Berndt

Bring your living room to the beach on peaceful days…

Roiling beauty in the rain-heavy clouds: we need more of these


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South OC Vietnam Veterans group looking for veterans to march in Patriots Day Parade on March 3

Local Vietnam Veterans have again reserved a position in this year’s Patriots Day Parade, scheduled for Sat, March 3. This group, calling themselves the South Orange County Vietnam Veterans, has participated in this parade every year since 1985. The organizers are seeking area veterans interested in forming a group to walk in the parade.

All branches of the service are welcome, and the group is encouraging all US service veterans – World War II, Korea, Cold War, Iraq, Afghanistan – to participate and be recognized for their service.  

Submitted photo

Veterans march in Patriots Day Parade

Veterans are encouraged to wear old uniforms (or parts thereof). The group will form near Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), located at 625 Park Ave between 9 and 10 a.m. 

Participants are asked to check in at the booth on the corner of Park and Short streets to find out where the group is forming. The location will most likely be in the school district parking lot across from LBHS. 

The parade will cover about six blocks (all downhill or level) and will begin promptly at 11 a.m. A convertible vehicle will accompany the group, and vets needing to ride, rather than march, may do so in the convertible. The traditional annual get together at Hennessey’s Tavern at 213 Ocean Ave will follow immediately after the parade. 

Interested veterans should contact Patrick Freeman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 949-497-7473.

Dennis’ Tidbits


February 16, 2018

We’ve had more Santana wind events this season than the total for the last three – expect red flag conditions this weekend

Wow! A real gullywasher! 0.03 inches of rain on Tuesday morning bringing our scant season total to 2.22 inches, the lowest total on record for so far into the season. By this time our normal season total is 8.89 inches. For the month up to today we should be at 1.64.

Yet another Santana wind event is on tap for this weekend with all of the typical symptoms; much warmer than normal temps at the beach, super low dew points, and gusty northeast winds prompting red flag conditions in all wilderness regions.

We’ve had more Santana wind events this season than the total for the last three. Historically only two months out of the year have not had a Santana event and that would be July and August. October – December normally sees the peak season but the event has occurred as early as September 5 and as late as June 12.

Since 2000 there have been only five out of 18 seasons with above normal rain totals, 2000-01 with 16.77, 2004-05 with 34.14, 2009-10 with 16.94, 2010-11 with 20.20, and 2016-17 with 16.35.

Back in the day when we used to get winter swells, February of 1986 was one of the most consistent months on record. The first day of February 1986 saw one of the heaviest NW ground swells Laguna and surrounding areas have ever seen. Surf photog longtime Laguna local Spyder Wills took a photo that morning from the Laguna Lifeguard HQ at the north end of Main Beach of a giant 12-15 foot wall exploding from Main Beach all the way to Oak Street totally blocking out the horizon. I think that enlarged photo is still hanging somewhere inside the new HQ. That swell raged on for a whole week, slacked off a bit for a couple of days then ramped right back up for another whole week. The rest of the month was at least head-high to a couple of feet overhead with generally great surface conditions throughout the entire month! 

Now we can’t buy a three foot day! Enjoy yet another beautiful weekend here at the beach. 

That’s why we live here, ALOHA!

A dreamy night for Laguna Beach schools, courtesy of School Power

SchoolPower held its 33rd Annual Dinner Dance Catching Dreams on Feb 10 at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. The magical event grossed over $320,000 for Laguna Beach schools. $185,000 of this money raised will go directly toward the annual Fund-A-Need. Remaining funds will assist SchoolPower’s year-round efforts supporting academics, music and the arts.

SchoolPower President Kristin Winter welcomed the spirited crowd, setting the stage for the real purpose of the night’s festivities by saying, “Your presence here tonight is shows that you understand that community support is the way we set Laguna Beach public schools apart.”

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Photo by Blue Sky’s Studio

Dinner dance chairs: Gorjana Reidel, Carol Moss, and Sarah Durand

The crowd warmly applauded Dinner Dance Chairs Sarah Durand, Carol Moss and Gorjana Reidel for their work creating an incredible evening of dining, dancing and bidding on amazing silent and live auction items. Event auctioneer Zack Krone kept the paddles going - and the money coming in - with his witty banter. The Cover-Ups Band kept the crowd fired up and dancing with their 80’s-themed music.

The biggest dream that came true that night was the enthusiasm for the 2018 Fund-a-Need Navigating the Information Age, which inspired the 300 guests to raise more than $185,000 in a matter of minutes. LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria presented the initiative, saying, “In our schools we are focused on educating the whole child in an environment where they feel challenged, engaged, safe, and supported. To be a successful modern learner, we must provide our students with the skills and understanding of the power and responsibility that comes with living in the digital age.

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Photo by Blue Sky’s Studio

LBUSD School Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria and wife Holly

Event guests clearly embraced his message.

Money raised will go towards the hiring of a district-wide Digital Library Specialist, as well as part-time teacher coaches. This team will lead a K-12 effort to improve students’ digital literacy skills. SchoolPower Endowment committed $25,000 to this effort, in addition to the investment by LBUSD.

Agate Street Beach Afterglow

Photo by Scott Brashier

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Scott captures an awesome afterglow

Blue Bell Cat Sanctuary’s Champagne fundraiser adds plenty of dollars to the kitty for the kitties


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Photos by Lynette Brasfield

Pamela Knudsen at the podium; centerpiece featuring Blue Bell resident Tiger

More than 150 people arrived to toast the Blue Bell Cat Retirement Sanctuary at its annual Champagne fundraiser last Sunday. 

Blue Bell Cat Retirement Sanctuary, run by the nonprofit Foundation, takes loving care of cats whose owners can no longer care for them or have passed away – and who want to be sure that their beloved pets are properly taken care of for the rest of their feline lives.

Event organizer and master of ceremonies Pamela Knudsen did, well, a masterful job along with an incredible team of volunteers, including Terri Karman who put together centerpieces featuring the cats of Blue Bell and the “basket babes” who prepared more than 50 Silent Auction items.

In our Friday edition, Stu News will publish a longer article about this event along (we hope, if all goes according to plan) with exciting news that will warm the hearts of cat-lovers all over Laguna. 

Stay tuned – much meow to share soon!

For more information about the Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, visit

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