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Laguna Beach


The court ruling: from my point of view

Stu New Laguna’s coverage on dismissal of my lawsuit (“Fair Game” Oct. 22) channels the narrative of the School Board majority. Along with many in our community, I see the ruling very differently. 

My case arose after a closed meeting on March 26, 2019, when the School Board went into closed secret session due to alleged litigation threat. Instead, we heard a seemingly absurd report by Board counsel that the superintendent might sue the District! Supposedly for damage to his reputation, because I had expressed concern that parents, teachers and even students reported fear of retaliation if they questioned School Board policies.

Mark Breese, the lawyer hired by the board, admitted that no one had actually threatened suing the district but it was possible someone might. I suggested that we focus on an open dialogue on how to make it safe for public questioning of board policies without fear. 

I also requested that we work on this issue together and enable our fellow citizens to express their opinions without fear. 

The Board lawyer then sent me a letter threatening personal legal consequences if I continued to speak out. I had a right and a duty to seek advice on my legal rights from experts, including a lawyer in the District Attorney’s office and head counsel for CAL AWARE in Sacramento. I was advised by both that the lawyer’s letter was not privileged and that I did not violate the Brown Act or give the superintendent plausible grounds to sue me or LBUSD.

If the Board truly believed I violated the law, Brown Act remedies include referral to the DA or seeking an injunction, but then the unlawful meeting and intimidation letter would have been scrutinized. To avoid that, the Board adopted a politicized special resolution to give itself the power to exclude me from meetings.   

I refused to be silenced, and my lawsuit was to nullify the anti-democratic Board resolution threatening to exclude me from meetings. My legal action held the Board accountable, and on advice of its lawyers the Board allowed its unconstitutional resolution to expire as a litigation tactic to “moot” my case, and claim “no harm, no foul,” because the Board only threatened to violate my constitutional rights.

But adoption of the resolution to exclude me was retaliation and intimidation violating my rights. So, my lawyers chose federal not state court to challenge our School Board’s infringement on my constitutional right to represent voters who twice democratically elected me. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear School Board abuse of power case demonstrates federal courts can be the right venue. And my lawyers have been successful in public interest cases like mine seeking reform not compensation. 

But unlike some federal courts the judge offered to consider amendments to the complaint on the question of whether the allegations were against the Board and superintendent for individual misconduct, or against the state, which has immunity unless it is waived. After seemingly endless delays due to pandemic and litigation tactics, the judge decided the urgency had passed and dismissed with findings of fact or law at issue in the lawsuit.

That means the court’s ruling did not reach the merits of the case about confidentiality and the special board committee. Still, that didn’t stop the School Board president and superintendent from issuing a misleading statement seeming to falsely imply the court validated the Board’s unproven allegation that I violated Brown Act confidentiality rules by challenging the Board’s resolution enabling my exclusion from closed meetings.

Facts speak louder than spin. I never stopped advocacy the Board was trying to silence. It was the Board that abandoned its abuse of power intended to silence me. I appealed my case for future Board members, and if I now don’t pursue further review as allowed by law it is because other similar cases are now reaching the U.S. Supreme Court that hopefully will prevent abuse of power by local school boards.

As always, my priority will continue to be serving students, citizens, parents and teachers, as I did teaching Special Education and regular education in LBUSD for 35 years. I‘m grateful voters elected me twice, and that those supporting me now for standing my ground also are encouraging me to run again. Until the time for that decision comes, I will continue working to make our good schools better. 

Dee Perry, board member

LBUSD Board of Education

Laguna Beach


Protect our village without the proposed ballot initiative

You may have been approached to sign a petition favoring a public ballot for some future developments in Laguna. Since some people may sign based on sound bites rather than diving into the details, those of us opposed to this process yet in agreement with several of its concerns thought it may be helpful to share some thoughts.   

We respect the intent of LRF (Laguna Residents First) drafters. In fact, we agree with some of their intended outcomes. No projects over 36 feet with no exceptions. Sign us up! No block long, monolithic, high-density developments that are in conflict with the “village feel” and scale of Laguna. Sign us up! 

However, several of LRF criteria go much too far. Here are just a few:

–Small 1,500-square-foot retail stores converting to a grocery or restaurant with daily trip increases of 200 cars demand a public vote. Think about it. A public vote after years of an expensive City approval process. Small businesses then need to spend $100,000+ on ballot fees and promotion with no clue of how the public will vote. 

–Projects greater than nine apartments. Would we ever add any apartments of over nine units if a public vote is required? 

–Combining lots totaling 7,501 square feet. Lots that would comprise a new 7,501-square-foot lot are considered sub-standard so why not enable two substandard lots to be combined without the time, expense and risk of a public vote. 

–Major improvements of 22,000 square feet or greater. The Old Pottery Place wouldn’t exist today. One might say, it’s a great project and voters would have approved, but there was opposition throughout the City process. Had it required a public vote after a three-year City process and activists’ continuing negative disinformation, we couldn’t have pursued it.

No investor will devote time or money to undertake risks associated with a public ballot. Yet, the aging condition of our business neighborhoods would continue to deteriorate and the innovation and creativity that formed today’s Laguna will disappear. Investment will be stifled. 

It’s not simply the additional time and money that’s a problem. It’s that ballot results are a direct reflection of slick advertising, expensive and often misleading promotions and slogans, versus the merits of a proposal. Reflect on how we are inundated with promotions for propositions every election cycle. Is this how Laguna wants land use decisions? This in effect is what the LRF ballot initiative would create. Instead, we suggest the following:

First, don’t sign the LRF initiative if you don’t understand what’s in it. There have been numerous reports of some gathering signatures either not knowing what’s in it or unfortunately making non-valid claims. 

Second, City staff has been directed by the Council to determine if and if so, how the City’s process for considering development can be strengthened. You might watch for this report before deciding to sign anything. 

Third, beyond what the staff report proposes, one can envision an alternative City ballot initiative that doesn’t include the weaknesses of LRF and is focused specifically on what we want to achieve. 

On behalf of those opposing the LRF proposal, we hope you find this helpful.

Joe Hanauer

Laguna Beach


Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor Arnold Hano

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Arnold Hano, pictured with his wife Bonnie, when he turned 99 years of age on March 2, 2021

The legendary Arnold Hano takes his final at bat

I learned early this morning [Sunday, Oct. 24] of the passing of our very own Laguna Beach legend & dear, dear personal friend, Arnold Hano. He passed around 5 a.m. [Sunday, Oct. 24] after being on a long downward slide, just a bit more than four months before his 100th birthday.

Arnold was to our village what Jim Dilley was to the canyon. As I understand it, they had a gentleman’s agreement that each would protect what they so loved.

We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all that Arnold did over the many decades, his stewardship in fighting for what he thought would protect our village from being over-built, championing the 36’ height ordinance & oh so many other accomplishments, all stemming from his deep love of Laguna Beach. 

If you Google his name, you will learn so much more about Arnold. The literary world knows him best for his famous baseball narrative, A DAY IN THE BLEACHERS. There were many books, magazine articles, etc., that Arnold authored. He was so creative & engaging & mentally sharp as a tack right up to the end. 

I had the great privilege of having a close & special friendship with both Arnold & Bonnie for many decades but more so in these past five years since my husband’s death. Arnold was one of the first people I met after moving back to Laguna Beach in the late 1970s. I found Arnold to be fascinating from the start, whether talking about politics, sports, life or most anything else. 

I feel a great personal loss, but our community has also lost. Few individuals with the passion, dedication & follow-through, come along in our time. Arnold Hano was one of those amazing people proving that one person can, indeed, matter greatly. 

Please take a moment to tell someone you care about, just how much they mean to you.

Trudy Josephson

Laguna Beach

In loving memory, Arnold Hano

It is with a sad heart that I share the news of the passing of Arnold Hano, a longtime member of Laguna Canyon Conservancy and indeed a Laguna Beach legend. A native New Yorker, he traversed across the USA to our fair city of Laguna Beach in the 1950s where it has been his home for more than 50 years. Hano is the author of more than 30 books, a World War II veteran, a Giants baseball fanatic, Peace Corps volunteer, world traveler, women’s rights advocate and a progressive activist. He and his beloved wife, Bonnie have made many contributions to our fair city, all with a keen eye on preserving our legacy.

Not only do I feel a personal loss with his passing, but it is also a tremendous loss for the community. Arnold Hano, with a profound sense of common good and human decency, personified all that is fair and honorable. We rarely encounter such an individual, one that also demonstrates and celebrates a spirit of hope and the value of making a difference.

We wish to express our sincere sympathies to Bonnie and all the Hano Family. He will be sadly missed.

Gayle Waite

Laguna Beach

Laguna Canyon Conservancy


It’s Secret Santa time when some community members need your help

Hello Laguna Beach friends, community and out of county/state donors,

This year we will be doing a Secret Santa for two Laguna Beach families and one senior citizen who are in need. Secret Santa has been going on for 20 plus years now. This online payment platform is secure and is the same one also used by Thurston PTA and LBHS PTA.

Family 1: A mother and daughter who live in Laguna Beach. Mom has MS, lupus and Hashimoto’s disease. She works full time at a grocery store and her daughter attends Laguna Beach High School. They have been a regular Secret Santa recipient for many years now.

Family 2: A single dad and son who live in Laguna Beach. Mom is not in the picture ss she left when her son was a toddler. Dad works full time and volunteers. This family has been a recipient of the annual Secret Santa for 10 years. The son attends Laguna Beach High School.

Or if you prefer, please drop off or mail any gift cards to grocery stores, Visa gift cards, shops, restaurants, or any other gift cards you would like to donate. Please mail or drop off the gift cards to our home address to be included in the Secret Santa gifts: 499 Canyon Acres Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

No. 3: A senior citizen. i had a Laguna Beach female senior citizen reach out to me about the Secret Santa. She was wondering if we could help her. She is a homeowner in a teardown house that is more than 100 years old. She has no family, other than her beloved dog. Her home has no heating, but she has a portable heater she only uses in her bathroom, as she can’t afford a huge electric bill. Her tiny income is barely enough to cover her property taxes and extremely low-living expenses. She has a very simple wish list and thought perhaps some of you might be able to help donate some Trader Joe’s, CVS or Gelson’s gift cards.

Senior citizen wish list:

1. A warm bath towel (Does anyone have a used very warm bath towel size small or medium they no longer use?).

2. An anonymous family is donating warm blankets.

3. Warm pajamas (An anonymous family will purchase these.)

4. Warm sweatpants and a sweatshirt, size small (she’s 100 pounds and 5’2”).

5. Gift cards to Trader Joe’s (she goes to the food pantry once a week), CVS or Gelson’s.

If you do not wish for your name to be included in the Secret Santa gift, please write “Anonymous” in the checkout.

Here is a link to a previous Stu News story about the annual Secret Santa: https://www.stunewslaguna.com/index.php/2-uncategorised/16150-local-family-continues-20-year-tradition-with-secret-santa-112720.

As always, for full transparency, community “watchdog” Sheri Morgan will count the money with me and all donations processed. Pictures and total amount given to each family will be provided.

To donate, go to https://laguna-beach-secret-santa-for-10-families-in-need-copy.cheddarup.com/.

Kind regards,

Celine Macmillan

499 Canyon Acres Drive

Laguna Beach, CA 92651


Influence city council, obtain land use entitlement, make money

How’s this for a business mission statement: “A key strategy is our ability to add value to real estate through securing land use entitlements that allow properties to be developed. Land use entitlements are approvals from local municipalities…typically, discretionary actions that require approval of the local planning commission and/or city council through a vote of that governing body.”

How’s that for creating value?

How has this worked in Laguna Beach? Liberate Laguna, or Laguna Forward, is a Political Action Committee created to get city councilmembers elected who will make big development easier by changing long established city standards. 

Residents find an obliterated Laguna with relaxed parking requirements for business expansion, while eliminating many public parking spaces, replacing of mature trees with small trees and raiding city discretionary funds primarily to respond to the needs of visitors to Laguna Beach.

The Liberate Laguna 2018 financial disclosure statement details $152,000 of expenditures in getting Peter Blake and Sue Kempf elected to the city council.

The top contributors were Cindy Shopoff, Shopoff Reality Enterprises ($68,000); Michael and Leslie Ray, Sanderson/Ray Developers ($27,000); Mohammad Honarkar, 4GWireless ($20,000); Samuel Goldstein, Radford Ventures ($20,000); and Chris Dornin, Dornin Investment ($10,000).

Goldstein has secured land use entitlements to the Heisler Building, including a rooftop deck that (is) to be ADA accessible (with an) allowed elevator exceeding the city’s 36-foot height limit. 

Dornin has secured land use entitlements (toward) building a 28-unit apartment in Laguna Canyon, not in accordance with the city’s rules and regulations, such as being small scale and rural. 

Honarkar has grandiose proposals for a Cleo Hotel and a Museum Hotel, among other projects.

$152,000 or $250,000 sounds like a lot of money, but really a small investment to influence the city council, secure land use entitlements and make money. Unfortunately, the city council is supposed to represent the residents of Laguna Beach.

Gene Felder

Laguna Beach


Monitoring our ocean with a positive outcome

(Sent to the Laguna Beach City Council)

Hello Councilmembers,

I have been doing ocean monitoring and restoration in Laguna Beach for 19 years. Having worked on kelp forest restoration and abalone restoration in Laguna, I was filled with anxiety as the oil spill approached our reefs earlier this month. 

I have begun to assess the reefs for evidence of damage from the spill. My team and I did six dives from CdM to Emerald Bay yesterday (Wednesday, Oct. 20) and we plan on diving Crescent to Dana Point next Wednesday, Oct. 27.

So far, we have not seen any evidence of oil on the reefs. We know what “normal” looks like since we dive every week along the coast collecting data. We went out to look for “abnormal.” We saw no evidence, on the macro scale, of any oil on the surfaces of animals, algae, or reefs; there were no dead animals on the bottom; and the animals we did encounter were acting “normally” and responsive. 

I thought you might be relieved to have this information. I was going to share it during public comment next week at your meeting. 

Have a great day!

Sincerely,

Capt. Nancy L. Caruso

Marine Biologist/Founder

Get Inspired


PMMC remains busy following spill, but news is optimistic

(The letter below was an oil spill update distributed last week by Pacific Marine Mammal Center CEO Peter Chang.)

As we come to a close of another busy week, I wanted to share with you all that Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) continues to prioritize, monitor, and actively support in the recovery and clean-up efforts of the October 2 Huntington Beach crude oil spill. As some of you may have seen reported, it appears that the oil spill could be smaller than what was originally projected. This is GREAT news, but nonetheless, the impacts will continue to be felt over the next several weeks, months, and even years.

PMMC’s team of “activated” personnel by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) continue to be very involved with the official wildlife recovery process and response teams. Our staff has been canvasing the beaches throughout the week, including over the weekends. At this point, although we continue to plan for the worst, it’s been mostly birds that have been recovered and rescued. There have only been three mammals picked up as of the end of yesterday, October 14.

Only one of the mammals was alive, which was a Northern Right Whale Dolphin that PMMC responded to on the evening of October 13 under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and OWCN. Upon arrival, the hard decision for humane euthanasia was decided that was best for the animal. The cause of death has yet to be determined, and it’s still unknown if the animal was impacted by the oil spill. A necropsy was performed yesterday by PMMC’s Dr. Alissa Deming and Dr. Kaylee Brown, along with our incredible necropsy team. Findings still to come.

In the meantime, we continue to be very busy. 

–In this past week, NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla reached out. They are the designated primary site to handle the necropsy and analysis of all dead dolphins, whales and turtles related to the oil spill, but they’ve been experiencing a shortfall of resources due to continued COVID restrictions, which are much stricter at the Federal level. Fortunately, we were able to respond pretty quickly, and specifically…As of next week, PMMC will be adding an additional paid veterinarian to the team that will be based at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. She will be leading the development and implementation of all required oil response protocols with regard to dead cetacean and turtles. In addition, she will also be the primary scientist performing the necropsies there. 

–We continue to actively support our other sister agencies in a number of ways. Since the start of the crisis, we’ve been providing shipments of supplies to the Huntington Beach Wetlands and Wildlife Center. We now also have designated PMMC volunteers on-site at their location daily to handle phone calls and other support, as they are the primary triage center for the impacted birds.

More updates to share in the coming weeks, and above all, thank you for your ongoing support. 

Peter Chang, Chief Executive Officer

Pacific Marine Mammal Center


“Laguna Residents First Initiative is an answer looking for a problem that doesn’t exist”

It is trick or treat time in our fair hamlet and from what I continue to read in our local papers, it seems that more tricks are being played than treats. The re-hash of elections past. The non-fact-based missives purported as absolutes is getting childish at best. 

I do believe that some of our neighbors, friends and fellow residents truly believe that there are not enough firewalls in place in city hall that oversee what can or cannot be developed in our commercial and residential zones to the point where they feel their “Beautiful Laguna overlay zoning district” is the only solution to keeping Laguna Beach safe and sound from evil developers waiting in the wings to intensify all land uses in more than 50 percent of town. 

Let’s talk about development for a minute. We all love our theater. Thank you, Mr. Aufdenkamp! We love the Hotel Laguna. Thanks Mr. Underwood! We love the Coast Inn. Thank you, Mr. Smith! We love the Coast Liquor store. Thank you for your design, Mr. Abel. We also love the Heisler building, The White House and Pyne Castle! Guess what my friends, they were ALL developers and/or designers of these great landmark buildings that we all cherish. 

Would any of these buildings be allowed to be built today here in Laguna? Would they pass muster under the new overlay zone? Would those visionaries of these landmark buildings be vilified as “evil developers” by those residents who want nothing more than to turn back the clock to some idealized time in our history? What would Laguna Beach be without these magnificent buildings?

There is an old saying, “People don’t decide issues. They vote for the people who decide issues.” Don’t like city council. Run for council. Don’t like the planning commission? Don’t appoint them. Same with Design Review board, etc. 

Let’s talk about fiscal impact of special elections. In the past five years there were roughly 18 projects and currently a dozen pending projects that would have to go before the entire community for an up or down vote. That is 30 projects! A rough estimate of the costs for these special elections in noticing, staff time and voter pamphlets could be up to $60,000 each election, equating to $1,800,000! 

Who pays? Residents? Shop owners? Building owners? “Evil developers?”

No one in their right mind looking at this additional financial burden to do anything in the city where it is already excessively hard to open a store, new business or remodel/build anything would ever think of bringing viable creative projects to town. New business/development need not apply, says Laguna Residents First! 

We have plenty of firewalls to non-creative, over-development. City council, planning commission, design review board, the building department, the fire department and our coastal commission. Laguna Residents First Initiative is an answer looking for a problem that doesn’t exist. Nobody on city council or any of the appointed oversite committees wants to aspire to be Huntington Beach or Dana Point. That is pure fantasy and fear mongering and is immature nonsense at best! Creative visionary solutions should be the goal. Not pointless initiatives proposed by the “Lingering Resentment Factory”.

Respectfully,

Jorg Dubin, 45-year resident

Planning Commissioner

Laguna Beach


There are options to the Ti Amo site for a fire station

At the August 24th City Council meeting, Mayor Whalen stated that although the city is buying the Ti Amo property, it might not be used as a fire station. He implied that the city would be continuing to look at several other options.

As we noted at the hearing, there are many reasons why the South Laguna Civic Association and virtually all of the 50-plus participants in its August 11th Zoom Community Input meeting recommended against the Ti Amo site:

–Access is difficult and less safe since there is no side street to allow entrance to and exit from the busy Coast Highway.

–It would put the busy use directly adjacent to residences on three sides.

–It would create negative impacts on views of neighbors and the character of the village commercial area.

–It may require removal and/or serious reduction of the landscaped median which welcomes people coming from the south to Laguna Beach and serves as a centerpiece of the neighborhood.

–It may violate zoning restrictions on height and setbacks.

–The proposed secondary access to the rear of the building takes away an existing neighborhood access route and may violate prescriptive rights of use.

So, we are relieved to learn that the city says it is continuing to explore several alternative locations for a fire station and other options for use of the Ti Amo site.

At this point there are at least four viable alternative sites that could accommodate a fire station or be used to address the other important community needs listed by the city as possibilities for Ti Amo.

1. The three-lot site fronting Coast Highway at 5th Ave. is for sale. It is vacant, has desirable side street access to Coast Highway. At 11,332 sq. ft. it is larger than the Ti Amo site, could offer on-grade parking for firefighters’ vehicles avoiding the need to construct an expensive basement under 50,000-pound fire engines and has minimal view impacts on neighbors.

2. An approximate 3,000 sq. ft. dental building occupies a 17,552 sq. ft. site at 5th Avenue and Coast Highway and while not on the market for sale, the closed session agenda for the Sept. 21, 2021 City Council meeting indicate(ed) there may be discussions between the city and the owner. It shares the advantages of the three-lot site described above (#1) but is a larger site.

3. 31652 Second Avenue is for sale. The city liked the property well enough that it unsuccessfully attempted to purchase it previously. It is located directly across Virginia Way from the existing fire station and offers the opportunity for a village-oriented creative solution to the fire station dilemma. If used as a fire station, it should face the least neighbor opposition since it is virtually adjacent to the existing fire station and, with the three city-owned sites adjacent to the fire station there would be 14,289 sq. ft. of city-owned property in that location. 

4. The Catalina site – which was attractive enough to the city to have previously been under contract to be purchased by the city – is now once again available for purchase. Though it is less acceptable as a location for a fire station, it could provide a perfect adjunct to the Village Green Park, providing a much-appreciated amenity for the neighborhood.

We urge you to think of your acquisitions in a comprehensive context relating to the whole South Laguna village area. Now is the time to make use of the potential offered by the several vacant properties to fulfill a wide range of community and general public needs. We invite the city to work with SLCA and the community to minimize impacts and provide long-needed benefits.

Greg O’Loughlin, President

South Laguna Civic Association


Time for retirement and pension funds to divest of fossil fuel investments

It is time to help move our world away from pollution and climate change. One practical solution is divestment from big oil and big plastic. 

SB-185 (2015) and SB-964 (2018) require public retirement systems to divest from thermal coal companies and climate-related financial risk. The City of Berkeley divested from publicly traded fossil fuel companies and banks that finance pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure.  

I propose that California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) – the largest pension fund in the country which has $30 billion invested in fossil fuels (do you know the fossil fuel industry has been aggressively expanding in plastics?) sell those assets post haste.

All public entities, like city pension funds, should do the same.

Assemblymember Petrie-Norris and Senator Min, we’re counting on you to introduce a divestment bill. We cannot afford another oil spill, not financially, not emotionally. 

Jonathan Lukoff

Laguna Beach

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