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Laguna Beach

Teamwork makes the dream work

Laguna Beach is a jewel – an iconic, artistic, welcoming California seaside community. As a jewel, we continue to polish our community as an example of sustainable ecological vision and action. The notion of more progress, prosperity, growth, and pollution is challenged by the reality that the Greenbelt adds as much as 20 percent to home values while the Bluebelt accounts for another 70 percent or more. In other words, Laguna Beach is prosperous when we carefully limit new development to only replacing existing structures and care for the beauty and natural resources of what we already have around us.

More development can only lead to more cars, more visitors, and more pollution. We are already beyond our carrying capacity with an aging Coastal Treatment Plant and millions of “global warming refugee” visitors fleeing ever-increasing inland temperatures beyond 100 degrees during long, hot summer months.

The Laguna Bluebelt is our front yard yet it is where we add 1.5 million gallons each day to the 10 million gallons of secondary sewage just 1.5 miles offshore while inland urban runoff pollutes shoreline waters with fragile tidepools and valuable kelp forests – Laguna’s underwater Redwood Forest. Old sewage pipes on private property leak and restaurants add pollution with toxic effluents and poorly managed grease traps.

Goat grazing denuding Greenbelt hillsides dramatically elevates the urban heat sink and likely increases wildfire risk by creating dry grasses and “ember alleys” threatening homes during hot windy days. Runoff from these over-grazed areas adds erosion during storms sending soil to smother Bluebelt tidepools while feeding Harmful Algae Blooms – likely a potent source of marine mammal illness and death.

Many of us believe that new big development cartels will only tarnish our seaside jewel. If we work together and remain successful, Laguna Beach can continue to shine as a prosperous environmental leader surrounded by cities strangled by zealous, soul-crushing new development and more, not less, pollution.

Going forward, we must team up and demand compliance with Laguna’s Land Use Laws and the City’s carrying capacity limitations…ready to campaign, legislate or litigate when needed.

Laguna Beach is everyone’s dream community and teamwork makes the dream work.

Mike Beanan

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach was built on the bodies of all kinds of people, not just “dead hippies”

Dear Council Member Iseman, I’m confused. At a recent Council meeting to keep the American flag on our police cars, you said that this city was “built on the bodies of dead hippies”.

I’m not offended. There may be some truth to that, after all. But one can equally say that this city was built on the bodies of straight white men, for example. Would that be untrue? 

Straight white men also had a lot to do with the development and construction of Laguna Beach, but if anyone were to have said that, such a person would likely be labeled a “bigot” in the political climate you seem to be contributing to.

And of course you excluded Jews and Muslims and Hare Krishnas and gay people. And what about the Mormons?

The fact is that this city was built on the bodies of all kinds of people, not just one kind of people.

Laguna Beach prides itself in being inclusive. And you, as an elected official, are supposed to represent all of us, not just the folks whom you find acceptable within your own social circles.

Eric Bell

Laguna Beach

Summer short trip trolley should go to depot

In a half page announcement in the Laguna summer community services brochure, the city transit department says, “The short coastal trolley will have a new northbound and southbound stop at Beach Street between Broadway and Ocean. From there it is just a short walk to the bus depot for service to north Laguna along Coast Highway.” This is absurd! Why can’t the short coastal trolley go to the bus depot for the convenience of visitors and local?

Last summer was the worst managed trolley operation in history, in my opinion. Spots at the depot to get on and off OCTA buses going to the freeway parking lots and use trolleys were changed from time to time to the dismay and confusion of visitors and local residents and waiting times on Coast Highway were often 45 minutes or a hour, especially at night. It looks like we are in for another terrible trolley operation this summer.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Questions about status of San Onofre nuclear waster transport and new legislation

We love our families, protect their and our health, cherish the beauty of our land and ocean, and depend on finite resources. We must be educated, activated, and purposeful. This is too important to our lives, families, community, homes, business, and world not to matter.

Here are some very current and highly “explosive” particles of information for Laguna and communities within 60+ miles of San Onofre to consider (on a still day). Read and watch for yourselves, facts matter!

Here are my questions and here are the answers that were provided to me when I asked official representatives. If Edison or others tells you otherwise, ask for evidence. If anyone has other facts and evidence, it is welcome. We all want to learn, need to know.

1. Is there any real plan to remove all canisters within 5 years to another safer location?

No. Not technically feasible for many reasons. In addition, no communities want the waste.

2. Does each canister and/or silo have its own monitor to measure radiation, seepage of any toxic substances, and are there sea, land, and air monitor reports read on a daily basis?

No. Instead, the NRC now allows Edison and others to stop measuring and reporting radiation levels from the outlet air vents of the concrete storage overpacks. This is where radiation levels will be highest from leaking canisters. Even after multiple requests from me and others, the NRC has refused to provide radiation levels from the aging canisters’ air vents (located on the roof of the older NUHOMS thin-wall canisters).

3. Do the thin wall (5/8”) (Holtec) canisters assist in more easily transporting them away from San Onofre?

No. The opposite is true. They need to be repackaged into thick-wall casks and the fuel assemblies inspected for damage before they meet transport safety requirements. 

4. Would thicker canisters (casks) mean leaving them on site and in place longer? 

No. The opposite is true from a technical standpoint. See Item 3 and Item 5 answer.

5. Are they now projected to be stored at San Onofre for 20+ years?

Yes. At least 33 years for technical reasons. Possibly indefinitely. They will likely fail prior to that if not repackaged into thick-wall casks (due to the cracking issue and/or the unmonitored hydrogen gas buildup inside the canisters).

6. Where are “we” in terms of removal and alternative storage site negotiations?


7. What deal has SCE worked out to release them from liability?

They have limited liability right now. SCE’s real plan, it seems, is to have Congress pass a bill that transfers ownership to the Department of Energy at the existing San Onofre site. There was a Senate hearing last week on a proposed bill that would allow this. It’s similar to the 2018 Shimkus (HR3053) bill (for Yucca Mountain and Consolidated Interim Storage) that passed the House last year, but did not pass the Senate. No one in the hearing mentioned the current unsafe, uninspectable cracking storage canisters at San Onofre and elsewhere. No one mentioned the proposed New Mexico Holtec plan and the Texas plan is to return leaking canisters back to sender. No one mentioned current sites and the proposed New Mexico and Texas sites have no plan to prevent or stop leaking or exploding canisters. The assumption in this hearing and this bill is that the NRC is doing its job to protect our safety. You can watch the hearing here:

8. How does (if at all) the UK’s declaration of a global climate emergency impact storage and removal of nuclear facilities, materials, and waste?

One or more of these “Chernobyl” disaster canisters will likely explode somewhere before that happens, based on how the NRC is handling climate risks for operating reactors. NRC whistleblowers warned that numerous operating reactors are at risk of flooding from climate change. Instead of addressing this, the NRC and Congress are supporting extending licenses of reactors, regardless of this risk. NRC management tried to cover up the flooding report from the NRC engineers, it has been reported, so those engineers became whistleblowers, but nothing has changed. The focus now in some states is to give financial bailouts (with taxpayer or ratepayer money) to keep aging uninspectable reactors operating. Most of Congress and the public are in denial or trusting the wrong experts. Most of Congress and the public trust the private corporations and/or the NRC to protect our safety. The Senate bill mentioned above relies on the NRC, DOE and private corporations to protect our safety. 

Until the waste is repackaged into proven thick-wall transportable maintainable storage casks, nothing else will matter. Unfortunately, the NRC and nuclear industry have left us no other options. 

What can I do – what can we do? 

Sign and share an online petition to raise awareness about this issue and to learn more. Share it with your elected officials. Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details and the petition link.

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach

Honors course grade weighting should be reinstated

The below statement was submitted to the School Board at its April 23, 2019 meeting along with similar statements made by concerned parents and students regarding the new School Board policy which removes honors course grade weighting for honors classes taken by Laguna Beach High School juniors and all students graduating from Laguna Beach High School thereafter. As a result of parent and student disagreement with the new policy, the School Board indicated that it will further review the removal of honors course grade weighting at the next School Board meetings on May 14th and May 28th.

Please attend the meetings and voice your concerns so that honors course grade weighting is reinstated, ensuring that Laguna Beach High School juniors and all students moving forward are treated consistently with honors students in surrounding school districts and with current seniors and past graduates of Laguna Beach High School. GPAs matter and so too do the opinions of Laguna Beach School District parents and students.

April 23, 2019 statement submitted to School Board:

First, I would like to state that I respect the work that the School Board does, even when I do not agree with every one of its decisions. This is the first time I am compelled to voice my disagreement with a School Board policy.

The current policy which eliminates honors course grade weighting is unfair to our honors students, puts them at a disadvantage when competing for limited spots at universities across the country, discourages students from challenging themselves with honors classes, and adds stress to students taking honors courses for fear those classes may result in lower grades and thereby lower GPAs than students taking less demanding classes.

I have two students who attend Laguna Beach schools. Both are negatively affected by the current policy.

My 11th grade daughter has taken many honors courses at the high school, worked hard to get As in all of them, and yet her GPA is lower than her peers taking honors classes at schools in surrounding school districts. It is these students that she is competing with for limited spots at colleges across the country.

GPAs should not by themselves define students. But they are used by colleges and college coaches as a shorthand way to decide whether to further consider a potential student for a spot at a college or on a team. GPAs do matter. The whole point of grade weighting is to fairly compensate honors students for the advanced material and quantity of work demanded by honors courses. The current policy unfairly lowers LBUSD honors students’ GPAs and hampers their ability to compete against students in other districts who are receiving the weighted grades.

I also have a son finishing up eighth grade at Thurston and considering which classes to take at the high school next year. The current policy discourages him and other hard working students from taking the more challenging honors classes, for fear of getting a lower grade in the more challenging class.

On behalf of my two children and all the other students challenging themselves and putting in the work demanded by the honors courses, I respectfully request that you reinstate grade weighting for honors courses in our district. Level the playing field with other school districts so that LBUSD honors students can fairly compete.

In closing, I would like to remind the Board that we live in an environment where parents are allegedly unlawfully paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure spots for their children in universities across the country. We are requesting that LBUSD students be able to fairly compete for those spots based on their hard work and accomplishments.

The current policy should be changed and honors course grade weighting should be retroactively reinstated so as to not harm any of our students.

Emilie Judd

Laguna Beach

Liberate Laguna seeks transparency but provides very little itself, in my opinion

Oh my goodness! What a surprise! I just went on Liberate Laguna’s website and the Political Action Committee (PAC) has also become a nonprofit corporation. It says you can donate to either the nonprofit or the PAC.

After all the complaints they filed against another organization for its operating structure, they seem to be copying it! 

The PAC will still be required to disclose contributions of more than $100 as it did in the last election cycle: Cindy Shopoff, Shopoff Realty Enterprises, $68,500; Michael and Leslie Ray, Sanderson J. Ray Development, $27,000; Mohammad Honaker, 4G Wireless, $20,000; Samuel Goldstein, Radford Ventures, $20,000; and Chris Dornin, Dornin Investment Group, $10,000 as their major donors. Donations to the nonprofit may not be disclosed to the public.

The source of funding for what many feel are deceptive and often untrue mailers and full-page ads may remain in the dark. Is this the “dark money” they write about? Where is the transparency they seek from others?

Darrylin Girvin

Laguna Beach

Let’s invite Village Laguna to use is creativity and passion about town for steps forward

I am not surprised at the proliferation of letters (mostly board members or closely tied folks to Village Laguna) trying to convince us that they truly are a wonderful organization. Originally perhaps. But I personally can share many stories where their “connections” in city hall – not only as council members but strong relationships with key city hall staff members (many of whom are no longer on staff fortunately) – helped their members. Many of us were so grateful that when they began to retire. When the various committees were mostly staffed by VL members, applying for plan approvals, getting easements, changing parking allocations on the street – as an example that I witnessed – that was done easily for their members through “backdoor meetings,” it seems. I had one member tell me as well as neighbors that I did not deserve a view – they had a forest of eucalyptus trees to ensure blocking not only my view but other people’s as well. Those are just a few instances.

When I mention Village Laguna, it is amazing to me how many people have similar tales to share. Some people eventually moved out of Laguna because they could not take the frustration, rudeness, and even interference in our heritage. Lest we forget, one prominent Village Laguna member even went along with the “kidnapping” of some of our local artwork during the proposed (and thankfully failed) Laguna/Newport Art Museum merger in the late 90s.

I heard so many stories from so many different people – I don’t want to repeat them all and there is no point. Those with first-hand experience are taken aback at what is being written by current supporters to try to change the rightful perception people have of this group.

Again they are inferring how the “new City Council” is going to destroy our city – How about waiting 21 years of needless expense waiting for approval of a new entrance – no parking structure and lots of walking space? Believe me people will have a lot of walking to do to get to their cars or wait for buses to take them out into the canyon. Speaking of the canyon – another telephone pole down and traffic stopped for many hours. 

What is it going to take for Village Laguna supporters to stop trying to reinvent their history and join the rest of the city that is trying to improve fire safety, spending money on much needed repairs to our infrastructure, and many other critical issues that have been ignored while they spent money on so many, well, not as critical things while they effectively held the city in a chokehold. Sort of reminds me of Nero playing the violin while Rome burnt. 

Please stop trying to rewrite your history, covering up some issues that you have created, and start bringing in some your creativity and passion (but not bullying) about our town and start working on important issues. Charm House is cute – but I have been asking the last five years “where is the money going” and the recent “answers” are too late, in my opinion.

Ganka Brown
Laguna Beach

Firebomb waiting to happen?

Clearly we have a beautiful town and especially so with the “colorfication” and greening from this year’s rains. But, although I never have been there, I am quite confident that Paradise, Calif. was similarly spectacular until 2018. Then there was the destruction to friends in Malibu. Of course, Laguna Beach had a very similar horrific occasion in 1993 and we were extremely lucky that the wind died in that afternoon or we could have experienced a more extreme catastrophe (not downplaying Laguna’s in any event), as horrendous as ours was. In all instances, fire driven miles in a short time: here, from almost the 405 to Emerald Bay in hours.

Some similarities are the congestion/choke points in escape routes, especially from the hillsides, and generally, we only have three ways out of town for full evacuation. The entire town is covered in arboreal splendor, each of which are potential fire lanterns. The greenery this year, while beautiful now, is set to rapidly become totally combustible in mere weeks. While it seems the dangers are known by virtue of the crews cutting back brush from the roadsides in Laguna Canyon (Caltrans?) and Park Ave/Arroyo, these crews have not made the smallest dent beyond a few feet back from the road edges and the brush is higher than a basketball rim just beyond this limited cutting/trimming! (Read the recent news articles on the invasive, non-native mustard seed plants.) And, although crews have been consistently at their work, for example, look at the size and density of the brush on the other side of the fences in Laguna Canyon’s greenspace/parkland. And, I do not believe fire respects barbed wire boundaries!

Just recall what had to be done to put down the “small” fires apparently caused by utility lines in Laguna Canyon twice in the last few years with firebomb planes and the rapid growth/spread of the flames in Aliso Creek/below Soka University less than one year ago and the near catastrophe then with the rapid response and assistance from all neighboring communities! And, there were no Santa Ana winds and we had experienced substantial drought with limited brush growth present for years in these instances.

What now? We have the extreme brush, anticipated inevitable dry hot months, extreme weather doubled by climate change, more Santa Ana wind events probable, more people in backcountry, no one set to reduce the brush in the greenspace/parklands, unknown use/increase in goatherds with apparently limiting depth protocols to protect the overly abundant brush (most of which is non-native), more congestion on our escape routes with more residents, traffic backed up on Laguna Canyon and PCH at all hours of all days all year, more and larger trees throughout town than in ‘93, same size local roads with more residents throughout town, a few more water tanks of what additional value, Caltrans and utility companies doing absolutely nothing to reduce the danger and their exposure to the increased fire dangers in the Canyon (to hell with us Lagunatics who seemingly don’t have representatives that squeak enough), the same size fire department, same assisting neighbors, more wildfires throughout state, more pressure on limited assisting agencies/resources – the sky is the limit on “et cetera” negativism. 

A perfect negative storm brewing? Yelling in a crowded theater? Clearly, we don’t want another Paradise and we cannot depend on the lucky turn of nature when the winds died as in ‘93! A cloud of doom! Pessimistic? Think about it and what “we” are/can/will do about it. Oh, please do!

Byron Nelson

Laguna Beach

Honors course grade weighting should be added back

This letter was read to the school board at the April 23, 2019 meeting.

LBHS tried to be forward thinking, they made a decision to unweight honors courses, based on limited data in an evolving storm. Were trends indicating this may be the way to go? Maybe, but for every trend in this direction there was an opposite trend. In fact, other early adopters (Capistrano Valley and Palo Alto High Schools) thought this was also a good idea. But they have since recognized the dynamics have changed, they owned the shortcomings and made it right by redacting the unweighting of honors courses.

The purpose of honors courses is to increase rigor for the student and to prepare them for the next level AP and college coursework. It also allows students to explore areas of interest. The weighting of honors grades reduces stress and actually encourages students to explore.

LBHS is aligning with the University of California (UC) for standards even though 87 percent of students go to non-UC schools.

LBHS removed honors designation from geometry, which means universities will never look at it as an honors course and recalculate this course with a weighted grade.

LBHS took their rigorous honors courses in core subjects and unweighted them (Honors English, Honors Spanish, Honors Geometry, Honors Algebra II).

Why would LBHS send the message to the universities, even UCs, that our honors courses we have offered for years are not rigorous enough? This is the message we are now sending by removing the grade weight.

Highly selective UCs – Berkeley and UCLA – include uncapped weighted GPAs and they weight freshman year in their admissions process. Private schools do this all the time!

LBHS now limits freshman to a maximum 4.0 GPA even with taking Honors English, Accelerated Geometry, and Honors Spanish II. How does this present our kids in the best light for private universities and out of state public schools? Yes, even UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Cal Poly SLO.

Neighboring districts’ high schools still offer weighted grades and a plethora of UC-approved and non-approved honors courses in core subjects (English, math, science, and language). They recognized the value of allowing a student to present themselves in the best possible light to colleges. This allows students to make the initial cut in the admission review process based on GPA and get to the holistic round of application reviews. 

Weighting honors courses presents students in the best possible light for merit scholarships, most only look at transcripts. Even LBHS scholarships only look at self-reported weighted GPAs.

I urge the staff and school board to let the students out of the dark and allow them to shine in the light before this policy does irreversible damage with the Class of 2020 and beyond.

Add this item to the May 28th agenda as an actionable item and vote to reinstate Honors Geometry and all honors grade weighting retroactively and continue to add weighted honors classes as staff deems necessary.

Terri Meisberger

Laguna Beach


For the past months, distortions appear quite frequently in your LTEs, focusing on Village Laguna, and the endearingly lovely Charm House Tour.

Anger and resentment often fill your letters section, and lies, printed under the guise of free speech, in my opinion, abound.

But the problem with a lie is not the lie itself.

The problem is whether or not people are swayed to believe the lie.

Focus on the integrity of Village Laguna, an organization that has a long history of protecting our unique heritage, our green spaces, the loveliness of our ocean, and our environment. 

We know who we are and what we cherish.

Their lies will continue…relentless.

But truth needs no defense.

Jahn Levitt

Laguna Beach

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