Celestial Spring Gala benefits Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s I’MAGINE Space Redesign Project

On May 6, guests at the Saddleback Memorial Foundation’s Spring Gala at Monarch Beach Resort partied under sparkling galaxies. More than 400 physicians, philanthropists, and community supporters gathered in the ballroom, which was transformed into an ethereal experience for the black-tie event. The fundraising event garnered $300,000 (net) for I’MAGINE, the space redesign project for Saddleback Memorial Medical Center.

After a hosted cocktail hour, a comet-like explosion in the ballroom kicked off the evening, and the spotlight opened on Saddleback Memorial CEO Marcia Manker, who described the transforming renovations and patients benefits from this three-year project, currently in its second year.

“We care about treating patients in the best possible way, and we are always striving to do better,” Manker said. “Imagine a new hybrid operating suite where world-class physicians will be able to perform more cutting-edge procedures. Imagine more surgical patients being able to heal in private rooms.”  

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Submitted photo

Marcia Manker, Cecilia Belew, Barbara Victor, MD

Funds raised from the gala will directly benefit the I’MAGINE project, which includes the addition of a hybrid suite that provides high-definition cath lab imaging in an operating room. On the second-floor, three disconnected units will be reconfigured into a large unit, and more private rooms will be added. The rehabilitation gym for orthopedic, stroke and cardiac patients will be renovated and feature new equipment. 

Cecilia Belew, Saddleback Memorial Foundation President, announced that the Foundation has already raised $5 million toward its $7 million goal; the total project cost is estimated at $16 million.

Live auction packages included a Santa Fe Opera Tour, house tickets to Hamilton at the Hollywood Pantages, and tickets to New York City Fashion Week. Steve’s Pies, an auction item of homemade pies every month for a year by former CEO Steve Geidt, sold twice for $5,750 each. The live auction raised more than $46,000. 

“The energy this year was extra high among the guests. I’m thrilled so many of them come year after year to support our hospital,” said Belew. “We celebrated personal stories of amazing care and medical excellence, and helped set up the hospital for the future of health care for our patients.”

Tuesday’s council agenda includes BID extension


The City Council is scheduled to affirm on Tuesday its previously announced intention to extend the Business Improvement District for another year.

Laguna Beach levies a bed tax that includes a voluntary two percent donation off the top to the City, to help fund major art organizations that promote tourism. The BID has been in effect since 2001, but must be reapproved annually by the council and the city’s hostelries. 

Bed taxes are the second largest source of revenue for the city, increased by two percent in the November 2016 election.  Hotel and motel operators did not oppose the ballot measure which bumped up the tax from 10 to 12 percent. 

The projected BID contribution in the two-year budget set to be reviewed at 3 p.m. Tuesday is $2,300,000 for FY 2017-18 and $2,400,000 in FY 20180-19.

Proposed distribution of BID income

BID income is proposed to be distributed as follows: $1,150,000 to Visit Laguna Beach and $230,000 each to Laguna College of Art & Design, Laguna Playhouse, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach Arts Commission programs and Cultural Arts Funding in 2017-18, and $50,000 more each of them in FY 2018-19.

An advisory board consisting of the mayor, mayor pro tem, city manager and four members appointed by Visit Laguna Beach prepared the annual report on the BID activities and recommended the distribution.

The Board also reiterated that all materials related to the BID refer to it formally as the Laguna Beach Business Improvement District. Grant recipients are required to include “Funds for this program are provided by the lodging establishments and the City of Laguna Beach” on all written material passed out to patrons, customers, residents and visitors.

Young Laguna Beach surfers are winners at the West Coast Surfing Championship Invitational

The Western Surfing Association held its Season Championship Invitational event this past weekend, May 14 & 15 at Oceanside Harbor in North San Diego. 

Photo credit: WSA Jack Daniel

George Williams (14) and Travis Booth (16)

George Williams, 14 and Travis Booth 16, competed in the hotly contested U16 division, where more than100 surfers compete throughout the nine-event season series.  

Travis and George progressed through the two-day event by navigating the 3-5 foot waves.

In the Final, both boys surfed well and finished first (George) and second (Travis).

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Photo credit: WSA Jack Daniel

George Williams surfing to victory

Also of Laguna Beach, Jake Levine, 17, placed second in the WSA Under 18 Division and Tess Booth, 13, won the Scholastic Surf Series Middle School shortboard State title. 

Laguna Beach Top Results

WSA U16 West Coast Championship 

1st Place- George Williams 

2nd Place- Travis Booth 

WSA U18 West Coast Championship 

2nd Place- Jake Levine 

Scholastic Surf Series State Title

1st Place Tess Booth 

Established in 1961, the Western Surfing Association (WSA) is the oldest amateur surfing association in the USA and, by far, the largest on the West Coast, according to the WSA website.

Proposed City budget to be reviewed at May 23 workshop: Economic forecast is (mostly) sunny


The City will have enough money to pay its bills and then some for at least the next two fiscal years, according to the draft budget to be reviewed at a public workshop set for 3 p.m., Tuesday May 23. 

City Manager John Pietig posits that the City will still have almost $600,000 unspent at the end of fiscal year 2018-19 – and that doesn’t include the mandatory 20 percent reserve or the 10 percent disaster fund. However, Pietig includes the usual caveat about pension funding, which is bedeviling California cities and casts a shadow over the city’s otherwise sunny economic outlook. 

The City has approximately 277 active and 362 retired employees enrolled in the California Public Employee Retirement System, better known as CalPERS, Pietig reported in a detailed explanation of how the pensions work and how CalPERS hasn’t prospered, due to various reasons, including bad investments, which will cost Laguna about $53 million, based on the most recent CalPERS actuarial reports. 

Opting out of CalPERS “is not an option”

Dreaded and sometimes misunderstood ‘unfunded liability” for pension benefits generally exist when the value of all projected benefits exceeds the projected value of assets available to pay those benefits. Opting out of CalPERS is not financially feasible. It would cost the city $460 million to terminate its contract. 

Pietig will offer alternatives for dealing with the city’s unfunded liability at the workshop, including advice to Council to exercise fiscal restraint when reviewing “wish list” items that add ongoing programs and services that are not supported by new revenue and may not be sustainable.

He will present a memorandum separate from the draft budget that addresses requests for funding that could not be accommodated by expected revenue outline in the draft budget.

Revenue and expenditures

The 208-page draft, not including Pietig’s summary, details expenses and revenue.

Taxes account for most of the revenue in the General Fund, which the Council can spend at its discretion.  

Property tax is the primary income source for Laguna, more than half of the total revenue in the General Fund. About 13,000 parcels – around 90 percent of them residential – have an assessed value of $13.6 billion.  Transient Occupancy Tax – bed Tax – comes in a distant second at 11 percent, based on expected four percent increases in 2017-18 and 2018-19. 

Sales tax accounts for even less of the General Fund revenue. Interest on investments is projected to be $1million in the next two fiscal years.

Estimated General Fund revenue is $62.2 million for FY 2017-18 and $64.1 for 2018-19. Expenditures in FY 2017-18 are estimated at $61 million and $63.7 for FY 2018-19 

The draft budget also identifies revenue from funds that are dedicated, including street lighting, parking, gas, wastewater and transit.

Emergency and public safety departments get 37 percent from all-funds revenue. Public Works gets 33 percent of the amalgamated revenue sources. 

The proposed budget does not include distribution of Community Assistance Grants, which will be recommended by a sub-committee for council approval when the budget is approved. The subcommittee will be appointed at the workshop. 

A second public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on June 27, at which time Pietig expects the two-year budget to be adopted. The City code requires adoption of  a budget by July 1.

Pet of the Week

Marge, a terrier mix: “She’s a really extra nice gal!”

Marge is described by those who know her as, “a really extra nice gal.” Marge is an 8-month-old female terrier mix. In addition to her lovable personality, she has all the right qualifications. She’s housetrained, spayed, and current on her vaccinations. Who wouldn’t want this sweet little girl as a new member of the family? She’s more than ready to join your household. 

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The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, their return rate is five percent as compared to the national return rate of fifty percent.

The LB Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, (949) 497-3552, or go to the website for information on adoption procedures:    www.puplagunabeach.org/our-pets.php.

Misty moody Laguna

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Photographer Mary Hurlbut says: “Wednesday evening, Laguna Beach felt like the hometown of my youth (1960-1970’s) with very little traffic, lots of parking along Cliff Drive and empty beaches.”


Shaena Stabler and Stu Saffer are the co-owners. Shaena is the Publisher and Stu is the Editor-in-Chief.

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