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Laguna Beach

Trump calls Pelosi a disgrace

As a former USC water polo player in the 1960s, I heard many cruel things said in locker rooms. Donald Trump may be furious with Nancy Pelosi, but I never thought I’d hear a President of the United States make the kind of personal, degrading comments he made Friday about a Speaker of the House. Sadly, it seems we are well past what Cassandra Clare once wrote, “What I actually want to call you is a hell of a lot more unprintable than your name.”

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Teachers, students, parents achieve while School District leaders scheme, it seems

At its meeting on June 11, School Board President Vickers and Board Clerk Normandin are proposing adoption of a resolution to create a shadow Board excluding Dee Perry. As a civil rights and constitutional lawyer for 40 years, this surrogate committee scheme clearly stands out as political farce to me.

In mine and many others’ opinion, this contrived scenario began with senior staff pretending to discover an infraction by Perry during a public records request search. In reality, we believe this search was instigated by political friends of the Board majority who we believe are out to “get Dee.”

It appears staff was diverted from its education mission until School Board counsel and staff finally found one alleged breach by Perry. Still, no “gotcha” moment.

Instead it seems clear the one document Perry did release was not actually confidential information under state law. Perry’s use of private and official emails was well within practices allowed by the state public records and closed meeting secrecy laws, in our opinion.

If anyone did disclose confidential information, arguably it was the Board counsel. It seems he wrote Perry an email referring to discussions of exaggerated litigation risk in a closed meeting.

That email apparently also primarily discussed Perry’s statements about public information discussed in open Board meetings on the public record, not information disclosed in a closed meeting. That means the email by Board counsel arguably constitutes a public record.

The lawyer’s assertion it was covered by attorney-client privilege seemingly was subterfuge, since CA Gov. Code 54956.9(b) limits attorney-client privilege to information obtained in a closed meeting. It is my understanding that Perry consulted multiple public interest lawyers who confirmed the Board Counsel’s letter was not confidential.

Without even discussing these specific matters with Perry, the Board apparently wants to exclude her from Board meetings based on unproven allegations that she improperly released confidential information.

Our School Board is a five-member body, each member has powers and duties provided by state law. Absent a conflict of interest as defined by state law, a Board member cannot be disqualified from exercising powers and duties of the public office to which he or she was elected.

Disagreement on policy or interpretation of law governing Board procedures is not a basis for denying a member the right to represent those who voted to elect the member. This resolution would impose limitations above and beyond what the law allows on Perry’s right to oppose Board policies with which she and her constituents disagree, in our opinion.

Previously, the Superintendent seemingly tried to impose so-called “protocols” making the goal of “unity” and “consensus” a de facto limitation on Perry’s right to openly oppose Board actions. It is our opinion that Perry outed the Superintendent as the emperor who had no clothes, simply by proving the protocols were legally unenforceable.

Next the Board floated a trial bylaw “censuring” a Board member who dissents too openly. Perry pointed out censure is a political stunt without consequences, and proposed a real censure rule with due process and a standard of proof. That could ensnare any Board member so it was rejected. 

So now the Board President and counsel seemingly have devised a way to silence Perry without proving anything. Based on uncontested conclusions of law interpreting unproven facts, the resolution empowers the Board to be reconstituted as a four-member body, in any closed meeting on personnel or litigation matters.

That gives the Board discretion to lock an elected Board member out of meetings at which Board actions are taken. The effect is to deny a Board member the right to influence or vote on some of the most important legal and staffing actions of the Board.

This ad hoc selective removal of a member nullifies votes cast in an election for a five-member Board. So once again denying representation to voters is being used to silence minority voices on the Board that reflect pluralism and diversity in the community.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Terror on Temple Hills: The Danger of Blind Spots

Locals of Laguna Beach know how dangerous the twisting roads of Temple Hills can be. Although the street has a steep incline and several blind spots, drivers continue to race down the hill at speeds far above the legal limit. Specifically, the left turn onto Temple Hills Drive from Cerritos Drive is obstructed by a large hedge that blocks the view of oncoming traffic. In order to see this traffic, one must drive into the middle of the street to see past the hedge, putting one in a susceptible position be hit from either side.

As residents of the area, we decided to see if there was any way the city could help to improve the safety of the intersection. After meeting with public works, the building department, and the police department, we found that there was very little the city could do or would be willing to do to help. One of the options the city presented to us was a Hedge Height Claim, which would cost $690 to submit; however, being high schoolers, we did not have the means to submit this application. If this request were approved, the hedge would be cut down to four feet tall. Instead, we chose to go the private route and appeal to the residents where the hedge presides. In a letter, we outlined our concerns over the visibility issues and asked if they would be willing to either trim the hedge back or down. We are waiting to hear back. 

Members of the neighborhood have voiced their concerns of the dangers of this intersection. Some have even gotten into minor accidents while trying to clear this turn safely. One resident stated, “The cars come flying down Temple Hills so fast, you have to take your chances and just go.” 

In the near future, there are plans to build a sidewalk on Temple Hills as well as put up more safety street signs. This addition could significantly help the speeding issue on this hill, creating a safer environment for residents of the presiding area. To pave the sidewalk, the hedges on this property must be cut back, yet the amount is unknown. The hedges stand so high; however, there’s uncertainty if this renovation will completely remove the blind spot and make this intersection safer. 

As citizens, it’s our responsibility to take action and voice our concerns for the safety of our city. There is a Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee meeting on June 21 that we strongly encourage the community to attend in order to voice this safety concern on Temple Hills Drive and Cerritos Drive. Although the city seems unwilling to help directly, we urge citizens of Laguna Beach to exercise caution when driving on Temple Hills and this specific intersection. 

Claire Knill and Hannah Abrahamson

Laguna Beach

Short-term lodging ban: too extreme?

Short-term lodging has been an issue debated for the past two years and will soon reach a final decision at the California Coastal Committee. After having attended the Laguna Beach City Council meeting on June 4, we solidified our opinions on the issue. Simply, people should have protected rights concerning their properties. 

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution explicitly states that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” These types of amendments have been added to the Constitution, which acts as the basis of our country, in order to limit the power the government holds over the people. Furthermore, the Fifth Amendment adds on to this idea by declaring that the government may notdeny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This ban placed on short-term lodging enables only people within certain commercial mixed-use zones to rent out their properties via services such as Airbnb and Vrbo. This leaves too many homeowners outside of these zoning districts losing out on the opportunity to rent out their homes. Coastal Commission staffers anticipated that this ban would exclude 5,400 residences from becoming short-term rentals to be exact. This would not promote the equality our city promises by giving only some the option to rent out their homes and not others.

Properties in Laguna Beach are very expensive and people should be able to rent out their homes for a profit, to lower their financial burdens. Short-term rentals can provide a source of income and by hindering many from this opportunity, incomes can be affected negatively. However, we do agree with many of the proposed proponents of the ordinance, such as the grandfathered permits for the 38 homeowners who are already licensed to market their homes on Airbnb and Vrbo and the regulation on noise disturbances in private neighborhoods.

By regulating short-term rentals instead of banning them entirely, we can provide safety and equality in our community. There will be people who will still choose to oppose and ignore this ban, which would lead exactly to safety issues the Council is trying to avoid. However, efficient regulation in place of an extreme ban could be the solution the city needs. 

Kiyara Tehrani and Yuika Yoshida 

Laguna Beach

Win-Win – Undergrounding at PG&E Expense

Last Wednesday, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) announced it would underground electric lines in areas damaged by the Paradise Camp Fire, at its own expense. This is great news, and praise should be given to PG&E for their leadership. Let’s hope its example and continued political pressure will encourage SoCal Edison and SDG&E to follow suit in Southern California high fire threat areas. Praise also goes to Republican State Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) who is working on Senate Bill 584 to promote undergrounding of utilities by expediting unused Rule 20A credits to assist in undergrounding in high fire threat areas, including Laguna Canyon Road. Rule 20A credits are a form of financial assistance in the form of credits to local governments to facilitate undergrounding projects. Currently Laguna is allocated only limited Rule 20A credits, and has to purchase additional credits from other cities that don’t need or use them. SB 584 would direct electrical corporations to reallocate Rule 20A credits to cities like Laguna, and would require SDG&E and SCE to develop and administer programs to provide matching funds to local jurisdictions for undergrounding projects. This would give Laguna new tools to use more Rule 20A credits and get some matching funds for undergrounding. 

Other tools in our toolbox include that our city should be actively encouraging local neighborhoods to form an assessment district to underground their own neighborhoods, like Bluebird Canyon, for both safety and their own aesthetics/view improvement, seeking matching funds from Caltrans and the County, federal and state grants, and setting aside funds from our $100 million budget, to get the undergrounding job done, paying as we go. 

Collectively, a great common sense solution without raising taxing on residents. Let’s hope more common sense and fiscally responsible solutions like this are thoroughly explored before raising the fear flag and hitting the “must raise taxes” button. If passed, SB 584 would go into effect immediately. Let’s hope the powers that be in Sacramento get this bill passed ASAP. It’s a win-win, and should be a no brainer.

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

Making Laguna Safer

Imagine having to walk the same route along a dangerous highway every day just to reach the nearest bus station. There are no sidewalks, just a white line separating you from the rest of the road; one misstep could end in disaster. And, further down this perilous road, bus station accommodations are meager and unsafe, leaving you exposed to the unbridled rays of California sun or to pelting winter rains. These are the conditions that some Emerald Bay workers face every day.

Between Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove, there are no sidewalks. Workers without a vehicle of their own must make the dangerous trek up the road in order to catch a bus out of town, squeezing into the bike lane to avoid a run-in with one of the many cars speeding by only feet away. The lack of appropriate sidewalks, along with the local tendency to ignore speed limitations, contributes to a daily threat to commuter safety. An ever-evolving city, Laguna Beach proves it has the means to carry out construction projects with the clamorous sounds of hammers and bulldozers that can be heard on almost every other corner. Adding a sidewalk to this road is a simple solution to a long-standing problem. 

The same bike lane that these workers share with cyclists has proven fatal in past years, yet no change has occurred since. In 2014, a 55-year-old cyclist was rear-ended along Coast Highway near Emerald Bay and passed away from the collision later in a local hospital. Despite a show of sympathy provided by the community, the road was left untouched by possible improvements to travelers’ accommodations. Incidents of this nature have become common ailments to the local California region, which had seen 45 other roadside accidents before this one within the same year.

In addition to the issue of inadequate sidewalks, many Laguna Beach bus stops are lacking. The station on the northbound side of Coast Highway near Irvine Cove fails to offer such routine furnishings as a bench. As of today, the “bus station” is merely a sign stuck into a small piece of sidewalk. Workers in the area have to stand while they wait for the bus when a bench could be easily added for their benefit. While building a bench is not a necessity, it would be a simple addition to make many hard workers’ lives more comfortable each day. Why shouldn’t we help the people who come into our community to work and to make it a better place?

In addition, these bus stops offer no shelter, so the commuters have no protection from the elements. Adding an overhang would be relatively inexpensive compared to other projects the city takes on, and it would not impede upon any views. Like many other functional aspects of the city already, the overhangs could be designed to contribute to the artistic charm of Laguna Beach and to add an element of beauty to the highway. 

With all things considered, adding sidewalks and improving bus stations would make Laguna Beach the best it can be in terms of protecting those who make it a beautiful place. 

Gretchen Webb & Emily Thomas

Laguna Beach

Blame Coast Highway

It’s not Coast Highway’s fault that temporary lane restrictions slow traffic. It was built to be a continuous four-lane highway for traffic between Los Angeles and San Diego. We all know that’s an idea long gone. Instead, now we have 40,000 commuters per day using it as express lanes to work. Few are stopping to purchase something in Laguna Beach – well maybe some stop for a quick cup of coffee to go (of course they can match the Indy 500 pit stops)!

Why not get a better solution instead of a bandage? Everyone in town screams for peace and quiet that embraces our artistic values and local business owners.

Laguna Beach could and should own Coast Highway, and for that matter county-owned Aliso Creek parking. With that accomplished you could drop one lane, have two directional lanes (one each way) and a center lane for left turns and trolleys. You might want to expand the center lane to accept limos delivering paying customers to our many hotels. What lane footage remaining should allow angle parking not parallel parking. That would get wild acceptance from all the youngsters that never learned how to park parallel next to a curb!

What about the mighty 40,000 non-Laguna Beach citizens? Don’t worry. When they lose one lane, they will seek other ways to get to work – like the toll road or other four lanes that accommodate the need for speed.

Dennis Myers

Laguna Beach

Koala bears, eucalyptus trees, and the bike rack at the city entrance

I recently heard that scientists have discovered that koala bear milk/blood has natural peptides which enables them to ingest eucalyptus leaves, which are toxic to humans and most animals but not to koalas. They are pursuing this fact to find out if they can use the milk to help cure some human diseases. These scientists have developed a special tweezers to “milk” koalas. One scientist said that milking a koala is like trying to shave a bear with a pencil sharpener. They can milk about a thimble full at a time.

While reading this I thought about the many reports about the large number of sea mammals, especially seals and whales, recently found on our shores. I wonder if the eucalyptus trees in our town – many shedding leaves onto streets and then down drains to the ocean where the toxicity is mixing in with the ocean waters – are contributing to this? Even those eucalyptus trees that are not close to ocean – their leaves pile up on yards, etc. and with all the rain we have had, the toxins have seeped into our soil and eventually the rain further washed the toxins into the soil onto our streets and to the ocean. We certainly have an overabundance of these trees and few people can keep up with the many leaves that they shed, also bark. Perhaps we should rethink the role that eucalyptus plays in our ecosystem in Laguna – just the fact that these trees are highly flammable, have shallow roots, drink so much of the ground water, are prone to falling, and many people are allergic to the oils  – is reason enough.  If they do contribute to put toxins into the ocean and these lovely sea creatures are getting sick from it – is it worth it? Not in my book.

Also, regarding the bike rack at the new walking area by the city entrance. Over the years I have only seen people driving into town and parking in this area, download their bikes from their vehicles and bike around. Then they come back, reload their bikes and leave or go get something to eat or a cup of coffee. Hopefully people will use these bike racks – the last two Saturdays I noticed that people were continuing to park, unload, and reload. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Support STLs for locals

Attention locals. On Tuesday, June 4th, the City is proposing another ordinance banning short-term lodging (“STLs”) in all residential zones. The ordinance approved three years ago banning residential zone STLs was rejected by the Coastal Commission. Now the City wants to horse trade banning STLs in residential zones by allowing residential units in all “commercial mixed zones” to convert to STLs, heavily concentrating STLs in those areas, instead of diffusing STLs throughout 10 square miles and 24,000 population. 

Unless your home is there, sounds ok right? Look deeper. The City says by opening this zone, 734 “existing residential units” could be converted to STLs. Look deeper – a huge potential loss of affordable housing. Laguna’s affordable housing –

apartments – are primarily located in these zones. We walked the 734 units. We know. By concentrating permissible STLs, the City is green-lighting conversion of hundreds of lower income/affordable housing apartments to STLs, sacrificing them in the name of “saving” the occasional residential neighborhood STL from exaggerated fears of a few. By also waiving parking or density requirements, the City is piling on in already heavily congested areas, like Glennerye, where only street parking is available. That’s a cluster fiasco.

Think. Since September of 2017 has there been an “explosion” of neighborhood STLs? No, less than 15 permits approved in three years, and anyone could have applied for a permit. The fears were greatly exaggerated then, as now. But the naysayer NIMBYists will be back Tuesday to “roar their terrible roars, gnash their terrible teeth, and roll their terrible eyes,” to demonize all residential STLs, even if it sacrifices affordable housing in this town.

Solution? (1) Don’t hyper concentrate STLs and reduce our limited affordable housing; and (2) craft an ordinance permitting homeowners who live here to home-host STLs in any zone, owner on premises, with strong rules and hefty violation fines. This won’t sacrifice affordable housing, and will permit Laguna locals to home-host visitors and families seeking a more affordable home setting. It can be done. Permits could limit the number of days and duration, require on-site parking, no-noise hours, etc., and be renewed annually to eliminate serial offenders. Enforcement would be more than offset by the lodging tax collected, and locals would benefit from increased tax revenues and a little extra spending money. It’s a win-win.

Show up June 4th. Ask the Council to reject the proposed ordinance, protect affordable housing, and be reasonable.

Jennifer Zeiter

Laguna Beach

We believe board member Carol Normandin-Parker committed character assassination of honors students at the May 28th meeting

Board member Carol Normandin-Parker calls the cost of giving students in honors classes extra weight for their more rigorous class the cost of entitlement. 

We have a sitting board member who has insulted every former and current honor student by labeling them entitled. Students who would like the credit they deserve for taking the much more advanced class. These students who are at the most formidable years of their young lives have taken a blow from a school board member who has pledged to act in their best interest. My child, a former student of LBHS, was sincerely hurt to hear Carol’s statement that deemed her past coursework inadequate and labeled her entitled.

At the very least, Carol Normandin-Parker owes students past and present and the parents who support them an apology for her callous remarks.

Anne Morreale

Laguna Beach

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