Laguna Beach

Thank you Pageant of the Masters

Our big thanks go to Sharbie Higuchi and the Board of the Festival of Arts for providing a wonderful evening at the world-famous Pageant of the Masters for a hundred veterans and their support staff on Monday, July 8th. This year the Laguna Beach American Legion Post invited military veterans from the Long Beach, Loma Linda, and San Diego Veterans’ Hospitals and from the Barstow Veterans’ Home to attend the famous Pageant of the Masters. Our fellow veterans never fail to be amazed and appreciative of this special Laguna Beach hospitality. Thanks so much.

Richard Moore, Vice Commander American Legion Post 222

Laguna Beach

Who is Steve Dicterow?

Meeting after meeting, Steve Dicterow has spoken of kindness and has spoken out against bullies. He shows up for photo-ops featuring sad stories about children who have been bullied.

Now he seems to be the sidekick for the worst bully Laguna has ever seen, in my opinion.

At the last council meeting Peter Blake called the Temple Hill neighbors “liars.” Steve’s response appeared to be just to cozy up to Peter, whispering during public testimony.

What happened to “Mr. Kindness”? It seems he’s running for re-election next year. Will he do anything to get Peter’s personal endorsement? 

What about a developer-led PAC endorsement, and the money that comes with that? What will he do for that?

Who is Steve Dicterow?

Lorna Shaw

Laguna Beach

City Council transparency issues

I attended the City Council (CC) meeting that lasted until 1:10 a.m. on July 9. While I’m certain it was tiring for the CC members, who had been meeting since 5 p.m., imagine what it is like for those local residents who have out of town corporate jobs that start at 8 a.m.? Or, how about for residents who have children? Are CC meetings meant only for those who work in town at late starting jobs or are retired and can sleep in the next day?

There is a troubling pattern with City Council meeting agendas in which the topics of the most interest to residents are scheduled for the last two or three slots on the agenda. It makes one suspicious that the CC or City Manager want to discourage public comment. Why else would topics like the new design review board (DRB) rules, Temple Terrace public pathways, and Laguna Beach Company’s six new hotel and housing developments be regulated to items #16, #18, and #19 after such “high interest” topics as a temporary public art installment, weed abatement, recycling, and the replacement of a beach patrol vehicle? 

The scheduling shenanigans have been happening for years. I recall a CC meeting about skateboarding a few years ago when the school kids who were planning to speak had to wait until 10:30 p.m. before this agenda item was scheduled. It didn’t seem as if the City staff or CC cared much about the children’s school schedules.

There is a remedy to this scheduling issue – alternate high interest resident topics with the city housekeeping ones, and schedule them earlier on the agenda. Otherwise, it will continue to look as if the City Manager and CC are more interested in excluding resident participation, and keeping decisions that impact the local voters opaque, rather than transparent. Transparency and inclusiveness should be the objective of all city government.

Deborah Weiss

Laguna Beach

Design Review decisions are discretionary, not arbitrary

Let it be clear to all concerned that Design Review decisions are discretionary, not arbitrary. There is a difference. State law does not allow the DRB to make arbitrary or subjective decisions based on “whatever the Board wants to do.”

The public should be educated about the Design Review Board training manual, which should be made easily available for the public to read. DRB members read and are trained on the manual too.

I have one suggestion for improving the Design Review process. All applicants and their representatives should be required to sign a statement that they have reviewed the DRB criteria for approval and the (award-winning) Design Guidelines before beginning the design of their project. Architects should be required to go over both with their clients.

In my six years on the Board I found that a huge number of applicants were approved quickly and did not have to have numerous expensive redesigns and hearings when they designed to the criteria from the beginning.

Robin Zur Schmiede

Laguna Beach

Of Pride and Patriotism

It was so heartening to see the patriotic displays and pride in America on 4th of July! We were out of town up in Lake Arrowhead spending time with family. The lake was overflowing with American flags and decorations adorning nearly every boat, dock and house, BBQs, military plane fly-overs, patriotic songs, and amazing horn honking fireworks at night. It felt good to be an American, proud, thankful, and appreciative.

Laguna Beach celebrated in style too, with events like the annual Brooks Street neighborhood 4th of July event organized by Veteran Eric Jensen and his wife, Jo, complete with flag raising, pledge of allegiance, singing of the national anthem patriotic speeches and parade, and of course the fireworks over Heisler Park.

What a great opportunity to celebrate what a great country we have, with the freedoms we enjoy, and also remember the sacrifices made to pay the price for those freedoms.

How very unfortunate that those blessings and freedoms are taken for granted and trashed, in my opinion, by the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Megan Rapinoe, and the businesses like Nike that sponsor them, Rapinoe seemingly scowling in her stone-faced muteness while the national anthem was sung and later standing on the American flag while she danced. In my opinion, she does not deserve to wear the red, white, and blue or represent our national team in the Women’s World Cup.

Seems like it is all about them, like unruly spoiled children, the kind no one wants to be around, embarrassed by their actions. What a sad role model for our younger children, ugly anti-American actions dwarfing any talent. Rapinoe seems to have a huge chip on her shoulder, a “look at me” need. A vocal leader in the gay community, she is not being a good leader or reflecting well on the gay community, in my opinion, with what feels like her anti-American and selfish actions. She is also setting gay progress backwards and creating potential animosity towards the community, I believe. Many of my gay friends share this opinion with me.

Same with Kaepernick, most recently disrespecting both our nation’s first American flag of the 13 colonies and one of the courageous women, Betsy Ross, who made that first flag. Why is it these individuals spit on America, the land of their birth that provided them the opportunity to excel?

Most recently a city council in Minnesota voted to eliminate the Pledge Of Allegiance. Is nothing sacred anymore? Our flag, national anthem, pledge of allegiance? What’s next? If you ever attended a naturalization ceremony, and witnessed the pride and emotion of our newest citizens and what that flag represents, you would understand. Maybe we all need to be born again. 

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

Wait a second…MOU?

Having lived in Laguna Beach for 48 years and seeing/listening/hearing all of the screams, teeth gnashing, and recriminations of developers/home builders/remodelers/business applicants/chain stores and restaurants/homeowners/tree huggers/view protection advocates/anti-green space/fire protection logicians/fishermen/divers/surfers/boogiers/kelp lovers/goats defecators – come up with everything and all things – for all these years and we are now being told that all of these scenarios and arguments are going to end for one person/group/investor’s benefit (nothing personal at all)? You must be kidding!

All the battles that have been waged, even those of late, relating to Coast Inn, the Artist’s Caves in the Canyon, homes on bluffs, incursions into green space, parking lot redesign, Village Entrance fiascos, property reuse efforts, etc. that have taken years of battling, reviewing, compromising, re-election-impeachment-recall battles, and now we are being told that one election’s Council is going to change all of this time and effort on impactful review considerations for what can only be described as the most significant set of projects proposed to occur in our City of all time (comparable to the Coastal Act and the El Toro Airport conversion efforts, while probably bigger than both of these combined) by a proposed MOU to “smooth the way” without advance notice and time reviews? What? This is simply beyond comprehension.

No time to review political donations, sides, possible undertable deals, electioneering, scratch my back, lets make a deal, and offers to donate money to off-set/differentiate everyone else’s problems/time expenditure proposals?

Lets make a deal: I will not demand to build a 20-story structure at the Hotel Laguna site and will withdraw my proposed bluff top Disneyland from the Hotel Laguna parking lot to the bottom of Legion Street if you waive other long-standing restrictions on these other planned redesigns that have been in place for all these 50 years and applied to everyone else who were equally imaginative but without the foresight to buy up what feels like the entire town and without the threat to create havoc!

Let’s all submit together and forget the what and why we have fought over for so long. Oh please!

Byron Nelson

Laguna Beach

Hate has no home here

I was born and raised in Laguna, and my husband and I are now raising our young son in town. The Laguna I love and respect is not only the town known for its beaches and art festivals, but also a town that is considerate, respectful, understanding, and kindhearted. The city council meeting on July 9, 2019 did not uphold those values to me. It felt hostile, mean-hearted, and unpredictable – lacking respect for those sharing their viewpoints, no matter the side they were on.

You shouldn’t have to suit up in armor to share your thoughts at a city council meeting. You shouldn’t feel bullied at a city council meeting. And I want to be clear that my feelings aren’t caused by the outcome of certain decisions – it is the overall tone of the meetings particularly from one council member. Peter Blake’s behaviors were shocking as he accused attendees of lying and turned a passionate and polite discussion into an aggressive and heated argument. Peter Blake was allowed to lash out, speak unkindly, and interrupt. Mr. Blake’s behavior, unacceptable in my opinion, was also extended to his fellow council members.

The Laguna Beach School District has a zero tolerance for bullying and I can only hope the city council has the same policy. Mayor Whalen, I am asking you to re-evaluate the current accepted behaviors of council members, particularly Peter Blake.

The solution is seemingly straightforward – all council members treat each other and the citizens of Laguna Beach with respect and kindness. Mr. Blake, I am still waiting for my apology for being called a liar. The residents of Laguna are awaiting their apology.

Hate has no home here. 

Meredith McMahon

Laguna Beach

Local politics should focus on local issues

When I was serving as a Navy JAG treaty negotiator in the White House, Kirk O’Donnell was chief counsel to Tip O’Neill, one of the most masterful politicians to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Getting treaties ratified was rough and tumble politics, but I later got to know Kirk as a tough big-hearted Boston Irish political fixer who became a colleague and friend.

We collaborated working both sides of the aisle together for years on Puerto Rico political status issues, but discovered as much as we loved constitutional law and politics we were dads first. No father ever loved a child more than Kirk did his severely challenged special needs son. Kirk often told me about his cherished day-long outings to dig clams along blustery shorelines of Massachusetts.

When Kirk died of a heart attack after jogging in his old Irish neighborhood, his son overcame disability and gave a eulogy none of us will ever forget. Kirk would have been sobbing even louder than his family and friends if he had seen it, and of course we all believed he did.

Trading stories over drinks I recalled stopping a drug dealer beating up a prostitute in Columbus, Ohio on a hot summer night in 1985. Like Chevy Chase in Vacation, I took a wrong turn looking for hotel, in a big family station wagon full of sleeping kids, and ended up in wrong place at wrong time.

After sleeping through a 100-year thunderstorm and loud Beatles music to keep me awake until we got to Columbus, suddenly all my sleepy kids were waking up to an altercation I did not want them to see. Looking out at the mean streets of an urban war zone all around us, the kids took turns asking, “Daddy. are we...there yet?” “Daddy...where’s our hotel?” “Daddy why is that lady and man fighting?”

My first impulse was to flee, but something made stop, put my window half way down and yell, “Called cops on my car phone, gonna blind you for an hour if you hit her again.” I had no car phone, and was pretending the disposable cigarette lighter in my trembling hand was a pepper spray dispenser. He must’ve left his handgun at home, he just fired a few unrepeatable vituperative epithets at me then her, and stumbled down the street.

At that point Kirk was laughing so hard he had tears on those big Irish cheeks, looked over the top of his glasses and said, “Howard, you were a civil rights lawyer in Appalachia, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia, and you saved a down and almost out lady at midnight on the bad side of town…How could such a good guy be a damn Republican?”

I remember telling him, “Democrats get it right and get it wrong about as often as Republicans, usually just at different times, which is why the two-party system has made American federalism a success story.” It was a special moment for me when a man whose political acumen far exceeded my own replied, “Howard, this is one of the best political aphorisms I ever heard.”

That meant a lot coming from Kirk, who coined some of Tip O’Neill’s most famous gems of political wisdom. O’Neil gave Kirk credit for the one-line zinger that stopped Reagan in his tracks when Democrats thought he was going too far too fast on entitlement reform, declaring Social Security the “third rail of American politics, touch and you’re dead.”

But the white-haired legislative sage O’Neill was best known for the folksy maxim “All politics is local.” And that’s what this letter is about.

You can just feel it coming like an early change of season. It’s in the very air we breathe. Local political gadflies are all abuzz about the possibility of a Trump and Biden race. Or, are there real prospects for new political stars to rise?

I published a legal article about Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard being a fully qualified candidate even though she was born in Samoa. Readers from all over started writing me about her and other candidates, immigration, impeachment, FBI spying, trade wars, diplomacy for peace and strategic readiness if diplomacy fails.

If we let them, right here in Laguna Beach small town purveyors of boringly predictable national political drivel will suck up all the public affairs oxygen debating statewide, nationwide, and worldwide political party platform narratives. 2020 will be worse than ever before in our lifetimes.

So a special intentionality is called for to focus on preserving the integrity of local nonpartisan elections in which nonpartisan candidates take stands on nonpartisan issues. It is fine for nonpartisan candidates to have national political party affiliations, but I have seen up close and personal how party-driven national identity politics can obscure rather than clarify choices in local elections. 

2020 will be a year when I will think about what Kirk would say, and try to remember O’Neill’s words “All politics is local.” In addition to being true in every political arena, those rods remind us that no matter what happens nationally, we can get it right locally.

If we do, neighbors who disagree on national issues will be able to stay civil and work together on local issues, when we can find common ground for the good of our town. 

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Public Input at the July 13 City Council meeting

I know a bully when I see and hear one in action. Peter Blake is a bully, plain and simple, in my opinion. From his bullying pulpit, Peter Blake called members in the audience “liars,” “Temple Hills liars” and “unprofessional” when they disagreed with his version of some of the agenda items at the July 13th Council meeting.

This is unacceptable. 

The City erred by putting the issue of massive development projects at the end of the agenda. Because of the late hour (after 12:30 a.m.), the public was allowed only one minute to speak on this vital issue. 

The scene at 1 a.m. at the Council was disgraceful, and I was embarrassed by the City Council itself. Allowing name calling by a City Council member should never be an acceptable part of the public hearing process. Speakers who disagreed with Councilman Blake were loudly referred to as “unprofessional” by him. As a resident, I can take just so much disrespect. I disgustedly left the City Council meeting at 1 a.m. 

Here are some solutions to improving the conduct at City Council meetings:

1. Have the Mayor, as leader of the meeting, say to Councilman Blake during his name calling outbursts, “Stop. That is not appropriate.”

2. Ask that the Mayor contact the police chief for a sergeant at arms to attend the meetings if he cannot get Councilman Blake to be respectful. A sergeant at arms keeps order during a meeting, and if other board members or meeting attendees are disruptive, a sergeant may warn them and, in extreme cases, eject them from the meeting. 

3. Schedule contentious issues early on the agenda. On issues of major interest, 12:30 a.m. is never a good time to begin a public hearing. Don’t limit speaking on a major issue to one minute, ever. Allow three minutes for public comments because of the importance of the issues to residents. There should be more not less time.

4. Prioritize issues, such as massive development projects or increasing the density in Laguna Canyon, that will be contentious. Limit the total time on a topic and schedule another time for a continued discussion when needed.

5. Advise Councilman Blake to resign if he can’t control his outbursts. The City Council is not an appropriate venue for bullying tactics.

Bullying at City Council meetings is not acceptable. 

Karen Dennis

Laguna Beach


Amber Alan

February 21, 2004 – June 24, 2019 

Amber Alan closeup

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

It is with a heavy heart that I announce the end of my employment with Amber Alan. She lived the fullest of her last nine years and 20 days in and around Laguna. Every day, rain or shine, she could be found, rocking a pink mani, weekends a dress or skirt, strutting her stuff up and down Forest Avenue and the boardwalk. 

She was a wonderful travel partner as she traveled to many ARTCAR events around the country. Her last adventure would be to Seattle this past June.

Rest in peace, dear grrrrl.

Scott & Amber

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