Dancing in the light: Breaching Whale celebrates the coming Spring Equinox

Photo by Tom Berndt

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Breaching Whale in Heisler Park celebrates the longer daylight hours

If you’re so moved, celebrate Transit Driver Appreciation Day today and tomorrow!


Sunday is Transit Driver Appreciation Day across the world, but the City has decided to celebrate these driving forces within our Laguna community with two days of appreciation, starting today, Friday, and continuing tomorrow, Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

That way, the City can give a shout-out to honor drivers on every schedule. 

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Photo courtesy of the City

Our drivers make the right moves and we honor them

Stu News feels sure that the drivers will be deeply moved by riders’ encouraging words and gratitude. So, if you are in a transport of delight – say so! This world needs a little more love and kindness. 

And you know our Laguna transit drivers will steer you right. #Hoponarrivehappy

Crucial Wildlife Corridor connecting the Cleveland National Forest with OC’s coastal habitat takes shape 


On Tuesday, an audience of dignitaries, developers, and wildlife lovers, sat near the edge of the proposed Wildlife Corridor as Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC (a partnership of FivePoint Holdings, LLC) and Laguna Greenbelt celebrated its unveiling.

A vital link connecting the Cleveland National Forest to Orange County’s coastal hills, the corridor is a nearly 2.5-mile ribbon of native vegetation that soon will host grey fox, bobcat, coyote, gnatcatchers, and other native species. 

The Irvine Wildlife Corridor is being developed on City land in the Orange County Great Park and is key in preserving the long-term biodiversity of native species and protecting the heritage of coastal California. 

But the ceremony wasn’t just about the connection of these critical areas, it was about the realization of a longtime vision and the collaboration of all those involved. 

In addition to FivePoint and the Laguna Greenbelt, the Wildlife Corridor plan was developed in consultation with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Endangered Habitats League and the Friends of Rivers, Harbors and Parks, with the benefit of peer review by wildlife corridor experts. 

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Photo by Tsutsumida Pictures

(L-R) Irvine Councilmember Christina Shea, FivePoint COO Lynn Jochim, FivePoint Chairman & CEO Emile Haddad, President of Laguna Greenbelt Elisabeth Brown, Ph.D., Irvine Mayor Don Wagner, and Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox

Tuesday’s unveiling follows decades of dedicated work by environmental groups to complete this “missing link” between more than 20,000 acres of coastal chaparral and the Santa Ana Mountains – creating a nearly six-mile long corridor in its entirety. 

And for many, especially Elisabeth Brown, this is the fulfillment of a longtime dream.

“Finally, we can share with other people what we’ve been talking about all these years,” said Elisabeth Brown, president of Laguna Greenbelt, who has championed development of the corridor since the late 1980s and collaborated with FivePoint over the past five years to see it realized. “Bobcats and coyotes, foxes and raccoons – they’ll all use it. Because the corridor is so big, some of them will live in there. Others will be passing through. It will be a microcosm of all the wild areas that we’re connecting.”

Mayor of Irvine, Don Wagner, said, “We’ll be giving back to so many creatures by returning land to them that we’ve been borrowing for 100 years.”

Nearly a quarter-mile across at its widest point, the approximately 175-acre corridor covers land previously used for agriculture and a portion of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro golf course.

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Photo by Harry Huggins, Laguna Greenbelt

Elisabeth Brown, Ph.D., president of Laguna Greenbelt

“Realizing the long-held dream for the Irvine Wildlife Corridor reflects FivePoint’s duty of stewardship for California’s natural resources and our expansive definition of community,” said FivePoint Chairman and CEO Emile Haddad. “We are a company that is committed to sustainable land use – whether through ecologically sensitive development, outright preservation or, in this case, the creation of a vital pathway for wildlife and plant species to flourish.”

“What’s exciting and unique about this project is that FivePoint is designing and building a true, natural corridor to promote the migration of wildlife increasingly isolated by urban development,” said Tony Bomkamp, the lead biologist overseeing the construction of the corridor. 

“Habitat loss and fragmentation are the two main contributors to continuing declines in biodiversity. When complete, this landscape will create an unfettered path between two of the largest wild spaces in Orange County – giving native species a wider range in which to feed, hunt and mate.” 

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Photo by Tsutsumida Pictures

(L-R) Moderator Steve Churm (FivePoint Chief Communications Officer) with environmental roundtable panelists Jonathan Parfrey (Executive Director of Climate Resolve), Elisabeth Brown, PhD (President of Laguna Greenbelt), Emile Haddad (FivePoint Chairman & CEO), Terry Watt (Statewide Environmental Leader) and Joel Levin (Executive Director of Plug in America),

Wildlife will enter the corridor from the Santa Ana Mountains and travel along the eastern edge of the development, to a wide culvert beneath the I-5 and 1-405 freeways. The corridor then winds its way into Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the adjacent wilderness parks and preserves.

Access to the corridor will be restricted to only wildlife by protective fencing and berms to minimize the intrusion of light and noise that might frighten wildlife. The project also forms a new channel on what was once flat ground to support seasonal water flows that nurture native habitat.

For more information on Laguna Greenbelt, go to www.lagunagreenbelt.org.

Barbara’s Column

Run, hide, fight – don’t get shot



Almost 70 people turned out Tuesday to attend a seminar on how to respond when someone starts shooting indiscriminately – what police call an active shooter.

The basic message is Run, Hide and, if the first two options are not available, Fight. That was the advice given by veteran Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Eric Lee, backed by videos provided by the FBI and Homeland Security. 

“That is the model we teach,” said Lee, whose looks belie his 30 years with the department. “Get out if you can - encourage others to leave, but don’t let them slow you down. If you can’t get out, hide – act quietly and quickly, silence cell phones. If all else fails, fight, improvise weapons.”

Even if you believe a mass shooting couldn’t happen in Laguna, it can’t hurt to be prepared. 

Your best bet is quick action, but plan ahead, Lee told an attentive audience. Have an escape route in mind if you plan to run. Leave belongings behind and keep your hands visible, as those teenagers did exiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Cops are looking for an active shooter – you don’t want them looking at you.

If you choose to hide, stay out of the shooter’s view, in a corner of a room not visible through a window or glass door. And for God’s sake, lock those doors if possible. Otherwise block them with furniture: pile up desks, chairs, computers, whatever

“It might not stop the shooter, but it may slow him (most, although not all active shooters are male and most fly solo) down and he may decide to go elsewhere,” said Lee.

Call 911 when it is safe. Give the location of the shooter, the number of shooters, distinguishing characteristics – it is difficult to pick out a teenage shooter from a cluster of teens running out of a school. 

Identify the weapon if you can, estimate the number of potential victims and the location of casualties. 

“It’s all so scary,” said Ann Weisbrod.

Fighting is the last resort and advised only when your life is imminent danger. 

“Be aggressive, throw things, yell, improvise weapons,” said Lee. 

Chairs, flag standards and high heels were some ideas for possible weapons from the audience when asked by Lee for suggestions. Fire extinguishers are a favorite weapon, Lee said. It’s probably a good idea to periodically make sure they are still operative.

“Don’t let up,” Lee further advised. 

Advice to teachers: Keep fighting

For the several teachers in the audience, Lee said, “Get pissed off. How dare you come in my classroom and threaten to hurt my kids? Keep fighting until the shooter is incapacitated or leaves. The more of you attacking, the better.”

The same advice applies to children’s dance classes and adult gathering places such as bars or at their jobs.

Office managers or supervisors have the responsibility for their employees. They should prepare an action plan they can deliver in five minutes, train their people and have an emergency bag, properly equipped. A Band Aid is not going to stop the bleeding from a gunshot wound, Lee said. Pressure bandages and tourniquets are required. 

And don’t worry about applying a tourniquet Lee said. Most “incidents” are over in 10 to 15 minutes – 69 percent in five minutes. 

However, that could seem to be the longest few minutes of your life. Training will help, Lee said. 

And it’s not over when the cops come to the rescue. Their job is to get the shooter. They are not going to stop to provide comfort for the terrified or even care for injured. 

Photo courtesy LBPD 

The goal of the police is first to get the shooter: comfort comes later (pictured here, a “victim” during an active shooter exercise)

“If a pipe bursts, you shut off the water, you don’t grab a mop,” said Lee, getting a laugh in an otherwise grave presentation.

And remember even after the water is shut off, cleanup is necessary.

Once the shooter is “neutralized” – in custody or most often dead – responders will perform triage to determine the most serious injuries and begin evacuation from the premises. 

“It can take a long time,” said Lee. 

Lastly, the old adage of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure was never more true as a means to avoid the horror that swooped down on Parkland Fla in February. 

Watch for signs of potential violence such increased drug and alcohol use, increased absenteeism, depression, withdrawal, increase in unsolicited comments about violence, firearms, other dangerous and violent crimes.

“If you see something, say something.” It could save lives.

Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee Chair Matt Lawson attended Lee’s presentation and said other groups in town would benefit from hearing it. 

“I absolutely think major organizations in town that hosts large groups should consider contacting Eric,” said Lawson. 

Lee has presented a much more extensive Active Shooter Program than outlined in this column to local schools, hospitals, and other gathering places. He is available to speak to groups and can be reached by calling the Laguna Beach Police Department at (949) 497-0701 and asking to speak to him. 

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff (and at least this week, vital information) for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com.

Brayden Belden opens his eyes: The young surfer and TOW student is making progress

Eleven-year-old Brayden Belden is making slow but steady progress, according to the GoFundMe site set up to help with his medical expenses (www.gofundme.com/brayden-belden). 

Brayden suffered a near-fatal head injury while snowboarding in Oregon during Ski Week.

Photo from GoFundMe page

Brayden Belden is recovering

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Courtesy of Kimberly O’Brien-Young

Earlier this week, Wahoo’s drew a large crowd who helped raise money for Brayden, with Wahoo’s donating 20 percent of purchases to his recovery fund

Chamber of Commerce Leadership Luncheon March 20: Leads, Lunch and Leadership in Laguna Beach

Following a successful Winter Mixer at Okura and Outdoor Display Workshop at the Susi Q Center, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce is proud to celebrate its 30th Annual Signature Leadership Luncheon at Tivoli Terrace on Tuesday, March 20 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:50 p.m.

Attendees can expect some new surprises, prizes, and connections this year. The festivities begin with a Champagne Cocktail Reception followed by an interactive luncheon and business spotlight session where participants are recommended to refine their 60-second elevator pitch, bring plenty of business cards and marketing collateral, and share special offerings or member deals with fellow industry attendees.

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Photos by Bear Flag Photography

Christa Johnson (left), Assistant City Manager, and Dawn Knepper, member of the Chamber Board of Directors and Leadership Luncheon co-chair

“We know our business community is looking for more opportunities to meet and connect with other business owners, employees, entrepreneurs, and service providers throughout Laguna Beach and Orange County,” says Meredith Dowling, Executive Director of the Chamber. “The Chamber’s Leadership Luncheon is one of several annual signature events we host dedicated to meet that need.”

Over the last 100 years, the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce has worked diligently to cultivate a strong business community, protect the area’s unique landscape and pristine coastline, preserve a growing artist colony, and create a solid and safe infrastructure for all citizens to call home. This year the Chamber is hosting more events, adding festive mixers, informational workshops, and enhancing signature events like the Taste of Laguna, all designed to help businesses prosper and grow.

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Chris Tebbutt, member of the Chamber Board of Directors and co-chair of the 

Leadership Luncheon

“The Chamber’s Leadership Luncheon is a fantastic opportunity for members and prospective members to meet, mingle, and promote their businesses with each other. The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce continues to work with the City to provide program and initiatives that will improve the business climate in our town,” says David Rubel, Board President. “We encourage everyone in the business community to join the Chamber and to attend and support our wonderful programs, events, and workshops. 

Tickets are $55 for Chamber Members and $70 for Prospective Members. VIP seat pricing and sponsorships are also available. Luncheon registration includes a champagne cocktail reception, opportunity drawing to win fabulous prizes from Main Street Bar & Cabaret, which is celebrating its 60th Anniversary, Mike Pyle Designs, and Toastmasters International. Other fun giveaways are in the works.

Visit www.lagunabeachchamber.org to purchase your tickets. For questions about VIP tickets or event sponsorships please call 949-494-1018 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Special thanks to Chamber Board Members and Luncheon Chairs, Chris Tebbutt, Berkshire Hathaway CA properties and Dawn Knepper with Buchalter law firm, Ashley Munson with Laguna College of Art & Design, Jessica Shapiro, and Carol Josepher.

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce Mission is to promote, represent and support the members of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and to serve the best interest of the community. To find out how you can join the Chamber of Commerce, visit lagunabeachchamber.org.

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