Was Edison’s “random” visit in upper Bluebird suspicious?

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to the City Council

I am saddened by the decision made by the Laguna Beach City Council to remove the giant eucalyptus trees in upper Bluebird Canyon. And I am profoundly sorry, but I believe we’ve not yet done our due diligence.

Nobody on the council ever addressed the option of trimming the trees.  I am rather new at local politics, but I must confess that I am surprised that only one of you thought that this was a middle ground where everyone can agree.

I guess I’m equally surprised at the lack of concern when 75-year-old historic trees were held up against the whims of one angry neighbor. No one ever asked why this issue was brought up at this particular time.  No one ever asked why these particular five trees were being targeted.  No one ever expressed the slightest bit of suspicion regarding Edison’s “random” visit to the neighborhood.  Please.

And finally, no one ever addressed the glaring fact that once the rest of the neighbors heard about what was about to take place (and mind you, those that had the trees on their property were never even approached), they came out in numbers three times that of the original contingency.

Those of us that live in the shadows of these great trees are in a word, mystified.

You missed a chance at reason.  You missed a chance to say out loud that perhaps you decided too quickly; that perhaps a second look was indeed in order.  This morning, even Bank of America admitted that they had made a mistake.

I ask as a strong supporter of nothing more than reasonable discourse:  May we place this back on the agenda before the saws begin to redefine our distinctive neighborhood?

Mace Morse

Laguna Beach

Lighted crosswalks

Ed. note: This letter was sent to the LBPD

I consider the light crossings at Oak & PCH, LCAD and LCR, Viejo and PCH (or near there) and Michelson and Culver a cruel joke for pedestrians trying to cross highways at these locations. People have told me about close calls and I witnessed many near-accidents at these locations.

Last Sunday I had my own near miss at LCAD where I stopped for a pedestrian but the BMW driver behind me failed to stop. Had I not taken evasive action I would not be writing this letter today.

Rather than use an attention grabbing crosswalk light like a railroad crossing, these yellow Christmas lights were selected to coax pedestrians across the highway yet prevent any inconvenience to drivers of Porsche Cayennes. These lights are a poor committee compromise for stopping traffic at pedestrian crosswalks, let’s get some real crosswalks installed before somebody gets killed.

CALTRANS could make simple improvements immediately to alert automobile drivers and improve safety:

• Post highway speeds at these crosswalks for 25 mph not 35 and 45

• Post warning signage in bright orange to slow traffic

• Install a pedestrian stencil at crosswalk to wake-up drivers

Copenhagen uses topless traffic Docents to get drivers attention, reduce vehicle speeds and improve pedestrian safety. Annual temperatures in Laguna are warm enough to use Docents all year long.

Les Miklosy (chair)
Complete Streets Task Force

This proverbial “but” is a “however”

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to Laguna’s five Councilmembers

With reference to agenda item #14, I am in general agreement with the intent of the proposal.

However, I do have issues and concerns with the inclusion of anything to do with the “Historical Structure Inventory” lists. These lists, including the “Candidate Heritage Tree” lists, were originally meant to be nonbinding on property owners. The lists were meant to encourage property owners to register their homes and/or trees to preserve them and to obtain “incentives” for doing so.

As agenda item #15 at your last Council meeting demonstrates, the nonbinding aspect of the lists has gone terribly wrong. By a 3-2 vote, the Council sided with common sense and fair play to overturn a Design Review Board decision, based on a 9-0 nonbinding recommendation from the Heritage Committee, to require a partial preservation/restoration of the “yellow dog house” in South Laguna.

I respectfully request that the City Council have the Planning Commission also address the fact that many Laguna property owners do not actually know that their older structures/trees are on these “Candidate/ Inventory lists”.

It is very clear from the “yellow dog house” debacle, that very few citizens in Laguna are aware of the down side of being placed involuntarily on these “lists”.

Tom Slattery

Laguna Beach

Rockledge coastal access and Coastal Commission

A lot of people in town have been supportive of our efforts to establish a public coastal access way to the beautiful Rockledge shoreline. Over 3,000 petition signatures have been collected in favor of the project and 50 affidavits have been obtained documenting public use of the area.

So if you are interested please come to the California Coastal Commission meeting on Wednesday, Nov 2 and address the Commission under Item 15b, which is expected to be up sometime in the afternoon.

The Commission will meet in Oceanside City Hall located at 300 No. Coast Highway, Oceanside. Take the I-5 south to Mission Blvd. exit. Go right and turn right on No. Coast Highway. City hall is just up the street on the right at the corner of No. Coast Highway and Civic Center Dr. There is a parking structure adjacent to City Hall and on street parking in the area. Bring your change for parking meters.

The drive takes about 45 minutes from Laguna Beach.

Fred Talarico

Laguna Beach

League of Women Voters to Pat Bates: Thank You!

Some of us who have worked with those taking advantage of our Alternative Sleeping Center have provided transportation to places, which provide access to social services.

We have found it takes most of a day to help a person to apply for food stamps.

We went to our Fifth District County Supervisor, Pat Bates, to see if she could help.  She was gracious in receiving us, and promised to see what she could do.

Within weeks, a representative from County Services was helping clients get the services they were entitled to on the site of our Sleeping Center.  And they will continue to assist in the future.

Pat Bates deserves thanks from the caring people of Laguna Beach.

Vera Martinez, Unit Chair, League of Women Voters

and Daga Krackowizer, Jean Raun, members



Nancy Hamm

Last year, I vowed not to get caught up in overdoing the holiday season. My plan this year was to keep it simple and begin early. The plan was to get a head start on everything since I knew I’d probably already be feeling overwhelmed. I was really planning on simplifying or at least I thought I was. After all, I knew what I didn’t want, over-the-top pumpkin patch carnivals, and what I did want, quality time at home.

I also had the perfect excuse to tell my overzealous family, “Oh, we’d love to but I’m not sure that I can handle that being that I’m nine months pregnant.” or “Well, the baby will be only a couple of weeks old so let’s just play it by ear.” Now, with Halloween just around the corner the drama of the holiday is already amping up my stress levels.

It was barely September when I began working on Halloween, asking Fabrizio what he wanted to be. What I wasn’t expecting was his unfaltering declaration to dress as Aqua Shark, his made-up superhero. At first I loved the idea, “Oh how creative!” “What an imagination!” and finally, “What a nightmare!”

I spent the majority of September trying to figure out how to create this imaginary super hero. Needless to say, I drew only blanks and after much online research the closest thing I got to was on Etsy.com, cost $76 and was back ordered. Things weren’t looking good for Aqua Shark and so we carted him off to the nearest Halloween super store and told him to pick out whatever he wanted. For anyone who has a child who fixates on one thing at a time you know that this was a complete mistake. Finally, my husband and I picked out Batman, which seemed like a nice compromise and I did my best to promise alterations in way of a homemade fin.

October arrived along with the preschools costume rules. Lengthier than I could ever imagine and including a ban on all super heroes. Panic was beginning to set in but I was determined not to cave. After all, we still have last year’s pumpkin costume and after a lengthy discussion on school costume policy he agreed to wear it to school and don Batman for trick-or-treating.

Crisis averted, until yesterday when we finally opened the Batman costume only to see that some kid had previously used it to blow their nose on. Gross! This was something that I wasn’t willing to salvage so back to the Halloween superstore we went. Naturally, they didn’t have any more Batman costumes in his size and we walked away empty handed.

Now less than a week away from the beginning of holiday season I’m scrambling, again. I’d love nothing better than to throw my hands up in the air and yell, “I give up!” but I just can’t do it. I’ve already disappointed the kid enough. First, no Aqua Shark, then, no Batman. What’s next? I cancel Christmas?

No. What’s next is me running around town trying to find another super hero or if I’m really lucky a shark costume.

Next up: Our new addition. Wish me luck!


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

Reflecting on death and our own lives

Each day as we transcend from the unconscious state of our beings into the light of day we take much for granted. The magic that takes place around us every minute is hidden behind our cares, worries and fears as we make our way through each day. To be in wonder of how we are re-born each time the sun comes around the earth to awaken our souls from our rejuvenating slumber is often secondary to our hectic plans for survival.

When one of our fellow souls is lifted from our conscious world we are reminded just how delicate our lives are and how trivial most of our worries and fears really are in the whole scheme of things. When reflecting on our memory of that life, which has been snatched from us, it sometimes feels as if the years blend together as if they are only yesterday.  Each of us look through the window of our own experiences and attempt to interpret life, now that someone has transcended their physical being and left us to wonder again where their soul has gone.

Each time we experience the death of a person close to us, someone that has weaved their way in and out of our own life experience, it stops us in our tracks and forces us to sit down and put aside the current affairs of our own lives and reminds us how fragile this gift of life really is.

It is unfortunate that we cannot be aware of this magical gift more often and must be shaken to awareness by a life being extinguished for us to be reminded.

Hopefully, when we do take the time to reflect on a person’s life experience we remember the positive they left behind. Their footprint in the sand of this world will be remembered by the souls they touched during the brief moment they spent with them. We need to remember that when we finally shed the physical portion of our being we too will have friends and family who will be stopped in their tracks once again to share the memories of our life time on this planet. What will their memories include? We must always recall that we too will have an obituary written within every soul we touch as we pass through this life.

Religion seems to always have an icon that is worshiped. A person, a Buddha, a Jesus, which is placed on a pedestal of perfection. Our own interpretation of the perfect person who is kind hearted and healing with no ego to feed, who helps one who is in need without the expectations of reciprocation.

We are somewhat in control of the memories we create in others’ minds by the actions we take while still here amongst the living. So instead of praying to an imaginary being to make us strong and give us the answers search within because this perfect icon is within all of us.

Worship the soul that is pumping your heart and filling your lungs with air because each of us is capable of even a small reincarnation of the icon that people admire and will speak well of when they are remembered.

An interesting reality that takes place when there is a death of a person close to us, or one who has played a role in our life experience, is the coming together of the friends and family of the missing person.  Depending on our gene pool, or Karma if you will, a person is born into a certain society of Homo sapiens on this planet. It is a crapshoot of sorts where we are born and raised and finally settle down to spawn our own new souls.

One thing is certain, and it does not matter where on Earth you are, when we are faced with the death of another and again stopped in the tracks of our hectic survival tactics, we scramble to get in touch with people we have not communicated with for months or even years.  We find that we have sacrificed friendships and relationships with family and friends for the sake of the busy schedules we have created.  It is definitely sad that it sometimes takes a wake or funeral to bring people back together.

As we make our way through each of our lives, day in and day out, we often forget to keep in touch with people that played a part in our growth. We get stuck in our routines and one day we awake to find that we have lost another.  Our first reaction may be to ask ourselves, why didn’t I keep in touch with that person or, I was meaning to call but couldn’t find the time. Time, our nemesis, our unbeatable opponent.

I guess if we live in a very small tribal setting and the population of our community was only a few souls, we would be in touch with everyone in our lives on a daily basis. However, most of us live in societies made up of thousands of souls hustling and bustling to, as it is said, make ends meet. The survival of the fittest frame of mind is traded for that mindset that takes the time to insure lasting friendships and family closeness.  We, as humans, are able to reason in a manner unlike other souls that make up other living beings on this planet. Some people are convinced that the other animals and species sharing this rock soaring through space do not possess a soul. Spirit, soul, that energy that appears to power the physical portion that makes up the whole.

The question that has haunted every human that has had the sense to ask is “Where will my spirit go when my body is unable to support it?” We all hope that we will meet again on an alternate plane of existence.

In the meantime let us live with one another as if today may be the last day amongst our friends and family because as you can see by a sudden death, we cannot take for granted that tomorrow will come.

Robert T. Carey

Laguna Beach


Inside Design Review

Leslie LeBon, AIA

To Be or Not To Be?

Last Tuesday, I ran for an appointment to the Design Review Board, fully expecting to lose. I ran to make a point – and Council members Rollinger, Iseman and Egly certainly proved it: They do not want architects on the Design Review Board. Instead, they prefer to have a Board majority that truly does not understand how to analyze architecture. Nor do they, as revealed by their choices, believe the community is entitled to a fair and impartial design review by actual experts.

I was not the only design professional to put in my application. Two other well-qualified professionals (a local Builder and a retired Civil Engineer) also ran against the two incumbents. But par for the extremist course, the City Council majority reappointed the two incumbents.

At the Tuesday meeting, Council member Rollinger defended her appointments by stating since 1976 she has watched the DRB hearings and that some of the finest Board members have been design professionals. She is right, of course, which makes it even more ironic that she doesn’t vote for them. In fact, at last year’s DRB appointments, Rollinger went out of her way not to vote for the two design professional incumbents. She went against council policy and voted for only the two (lay) incumbents when there were three open positions.

As for Mayor Iseman, she is apparently out of touch with Design Review issues altogether. She claimed in the hearing Tuesday night that this has been the best Design Review Board the City has ever had and that she never receives complaints from anyone, when the facts tell just the opposite to be the truth. In fact, all of the council members have received numerous complaints about Board member conduct, including several letters written about one of the incumbents applying for reappointment. Incredulously, Mayor Iseman also claimed that they have had fewer appeals this year. Wrong!  Appeals for denied projects are actually way up from previous years.

As for Jane Egly: Jane, Jane, Jane, where did your moderation go? She was supposed to be the Great Moderate Hope for the Design Community but in the end only a huge disappointment.  She never has supported an architect for Design Review. She positions herself as a political fence sitter, not taking sides with any particular group. But when the political fire is burning she typically sides with her extremist base.

So there you have it. The DRB will continue as it has for the past couple of years with biased lay people trying to figure out how not to approve a project, while appeals to Council will continue to spiral upward and homeowners seeking nothing more than fairness will be denied their rights.

And Council members Rollinger, Iseman, and Egly will continue to have us believe there’s nothing wrong with the current design review process in Laguna Beach when nothing can be further from the truth.

Leslie LeBon, AIA is a licensed architect in the State of California with over 30 years of experience in residential and hospitality design. She has a local practice and has resided in Laguna Beach for over 14 years.  She was on the Design Review Board from Jan 2006 to Jan 2011.

I didn’t want it to end

Shirley Valentine at Laguna Playhouse is the best show! I didn’t want it to end.  I want to know what happens to these people.  “Shirley Valentine II”?

Actor Deedee Rescher, director Andy Barnicle and writer Willy Russell are a stellar combo.  You still have time to see and laugh and cry and thoroughly enjoy this gem of a play. Shows through Oct 23.

Bobbi Cox

Laguna Beach

A response to an Oct 14 newspaper article by the chairman of The Laguna Resource Center

Ed. Note: The writer is referencing an article in the LB Indy

After reading Rita Robinson’s October 14 article, “Coping with Two Losses,” you might think that The Laguna Resource Center is a front for organized crime.

I’d like the opportunity to tell you who we really are by explaining what we do.

*   We give away groceries to approximately 800 families a month.  That’s about 3,000 people.  Much of that food is donated by our generous residents, schools, churches and local businesses.  But a lot of it we have to buy from the Federal Food Bank and Second Harvest.

*    We send our homeless and low-income clients to the Community Clinic downtown, who then bill us for their co-pays.

*    With a grant from the Homeless Court Foundations, we pay for our clients’ prescriptions.

*    We have brought our clients to Lenscrafters, who give them eye exams and glasses at no cost.

*    For the past year, we provided food for hot breakfasts to the homeless shelter.  Now that we no longer operate the shelter, we’ve been asked to provide cold-breakfast foods only.

*    We pick up lunches from Hoag Hospital, Irvine, and deliver them to the homeless shelter.

*    For years we have provided our clients with donated clothing.  We will continue supplying the shelter with donations we receive.

*    We distribute bus passes (donated by the Neighborhood Congregational Church) to homeless and low-income individuals.

*    We provide professional counseling to our clients and  help place those with addiction problems in rehab.

*    Best, we give toys donated by you to the children of low-income families.  (Christmas is around the corner.)

*    We donated $65,000 to the City to build kitchen, laundry and bathroom facilities at the homeless shelter.

*    We helped distribute over $220,000 of your donations to victims of the December floods.  And we will be there to help in the event of another disaster.

*    We treat everyone who walks through our door with dignity and respect.

A few years ago, when I was managing our food pantry, I encouraged one of our volunteers to take bulk-item donations (that we couldn’t distribute) to an orphanage he supported in Mexico.  When Sita Helms of Helping Hands objected, I asked him to stop, and he did. Today, along with the Presbyterian Church, that volunteer finances food purchased for the orphanage at the Ensenada Costco.

At the risk of sounding self-serving, we are not the bad guys in town.  We’re people like you who want to help friends and neighbors in need.  Please come visit us at The Laguna Resource Center Food Pantry, just north of the dog park.  If you’d like, bring us a can of vegetables or fruit from your tree in the back yard.  Our clients will be grateful.

Andy Siegenfeld, Chairman

The Laguna Resource Center


Inside Design Review

Leslie LeBon, AIA

Design Review Board Members: Professional or Lay Person?

Would you have a teacher design your new custom house? How about an attorney design your historical remodel? Or someone that has difficulty understanding plans, design your new addition? If you are like most, you would answer no to these questions and probably hire the best architect or design professional you can. Yet twice a month, Design Review Board (DRB) members in Laguna Beach with such lay backgrounds essentially design homes, remodels, and additions by telling applicants and their architects what they can – or cannot – do with their property.

This current DRB is very much a reflection of our City Council and particularly Councilmembers, Toni Iseman and Verna Rollinger. Both Rollinger and Mayor Iseman have consistently opposed electing architects to the DRB because they apparently believe architects are already biased and only side with applicants and developers.

But here’s the problem that arises with a DRB of all lay people. By definition, lay people are biased simply because they lack the education and experience in building design. They can only provide applicants their limited personal opinion, and in many cases they tend to support neighbor concerns rather than the design itself.  For example, if a neighbor wants a house to be lowered a few feet to preserve an unimpacted view but lowering it will significantly impact the design, the Board member will ask the applicant to lower the house irrespective of its impact on the design – and even it meets all the design review criteria.

It’s also common for lay people to have personal agendas inconsistent with the city’s design review criteria. For example, some current Board member personal agendas include: no palm trees, second levels no more than 400 square feet, ceiling heights no more than 9 feet, no swimming pools or spas, no large decks (or any deck for that matter), and no landscape lighting. Board members then get their way by blackmailing the applicant by placing onerous “conditions” on a project, i.e. “I’ll support your home addition if you remove your (50 year old) palm trees.”  This is outrageous behavior, but most people will make such concessions to gain board approval.

The Bigger Picture

To be an effective Board member, it takes more knowledge than how to read a “blueprint” (as lay people call it).  My son was able to read plans when he was nine years old, but that doesn’t qualify him to be a good DRB member. Doing your DRB duty without bias means being able to analyze and understand three dimensionally, two-dimensional floor plans, site plans, elevations and sections as well as how the proposed design meets the given Design Review criteria. It also means understanding the design review criteria, such as: mass and scale, design integrity and articulation, and sustainability in the context of the building and the surrounding environment. Architects experienced with building in Laguna Beach can understand the complex issues associated not only with the design but the required City zoning and building codes, as well as the Design Review criteria, far better than any lay person. They are also trained to work with all parties involved, including neighbors when designing a home for a client.

As one local architect aptly put it, “Our Design Review process serves such a vital and critical role in the way our town chooses to allow development that it’s only logical to have design professionals play an integral part in the Design Review process. They have proven themselves to be valued and reasoned members of the Design Review Board and constantly demand excellence from the design community.”

To be clear here, I’m not saying that there should not be any lay people on the DRB.  I am saying that at least one member should be an architect and two should be other design professionals, such as engineers, contractors or landscape architects. In fact, the majority of Design Review Boards in cities throughout California require at least one if not all members to be licensed architects. And how many of these cities have the same complex issues that Laguna Beach has? The answer: very few indeed.

The bottom line? Laguna Beach is unique with its coastline and rolling hills. These beautiful elements create complex issues when it comes to tasteful development. We deserve to have the best Design Review process available to not only maintain and protect our city’s beauty, but to provide an even more beautiful future.

Right now we fall short.

Ed. Note: this letter was addressed to Laguna Beach City Councilmembers

I strongly support the application for a Demolition Permit [31762 4th Ave] and believe the DRB decision to deny the permit should be overturned.

My support of the permit is based on two factors:

The Water District infrastructure project is important and should be supported and facilitated. After the needed project is completed and the Water Department no longer needs this property for the staging of their equipment, I am confident that some very pleasant community serving facility (a park or another community garden, perhaps) will be developed at this location.

The existing and derelict structure is of no real value to the surrounding community and has been a non-functioning and unpleasant location for years. I have lived in this neighborhood for more than 65 years (yes, since 1943) and in my earliest memories this “house” was already boarded up and virtually abandoned. I know of no historical significance other than it’s interminable existence and its notoriety as an eyesore.

I respectfully request that the City Council overturn the DRB decision and allow the SCWD to demolish the building at 31762 4th Ave and proceed in the process of implementing their important infrastructure project.

Thank you for your consideration.

Kathryn Lang Slattery

Laguna Beach

Class Warfare corporate style

Most people assume the Republican Party is opposed to welfare and other forms of social spending. Various reasons are given including social programs being a form of class warfare redistributing wealth downward from the hardworking rich to the lazy poor.

Are Republicans and their Dixiecrat/Blue Dog/DLC Democrat brethren really opposed to welfare? The facts are in the Federal Budget.
The Nuclear power industry cannot make a profit without the help of the American taxpayer. The Nuclear Power Industry therefore gets $7.1 billion per year in profit subsidies. The federal government gives away nuclear research ($468 million per year), insurance subsidies in the event we have an American Chernobyl ($3 billion per year), uranium fuel enrichment ($2.3 billion per year), reprocessing spent fuel rods ($340 million per year), nuclear waste storage ($420 million per year), and nuclear plant decommissioning ($2.1 billion per year). Ask your Congressman if profit subsidies are his idea of capitalism?
The oil and gas industry is profit subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of $2.4 billion per year. The Oil Depletion Allowance cost taxpayers more than $1 billion per year by allowing oil companies to deduct an extra 15% from their gross income they derive from any oil or gas wells, which remain in production no matter how long that well is active. If the price of oil drops below $20 per barrel, the deduction gets bigger. How would you like a 15% income tax break for staying employed?

The Intangible Drilling Cost Deduction is another profit subsidy costing taxpayers more than $500 million per year. Oil companies are allowed to deduct 70% of the cost of drilling a well in the first year. Over the next 5 years the remaining drilling cost can be deducted. If an oil company drills a dry hole, 70% of the cost of that dry hole can be written off. For the oil companies, failure is profitable.

The Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit is another $500 million profit subsidy. This boondoggle allows oil companies to deduct from their bottom line the high cost of extracting oil from nearly depleted deposits. Write your Congressman and ask why we the taxpayers should guarantee the super profits of the oil companies.
Mining Subsidies of $3.5 billion per year guarantee mining industry profits. The Mining Law of 1872 allowed the Canadian mining company, American Barrick, to extract $10 billion in gold from public lands in Nevada. American Barrick paid only $5,190 in lease fees and paid the American taxpayer not one red cent in royalties. Chevron Oil Company and Manville Corporation paid $10,000 in lease fees to the American public and extracted $4 billion in platinum and palladium from their mining operations on public lands in Montana. They also paid no royalties to the American taxpayer.

Finally, the big corporate miners can deduct 85% of the projected mine exploration costs in the first year of the operation and they can treat the sale of coal, gold, iron ore, etc. as a capital gains and thereby pay less in income taxes. On the other hand, guess who gets to clean up the mining mess left behind?

Ask your Congressman who is waging class warfare on whom?
And while you’re at it, also ask your Congressman for a list of individuals, corporations, and foreign nations who own a million dollars or more of your national debt. Since it is you, the taxpayer, who must pay back these trillions of dollars in national debt, don’t you want to know who has you on a leash? You will be surprised by his response!

T.C. Borelli, Laguna Beach

Demolish the “Dog House”

Ed. Note: This letter was sent to all City Councilmembers

As the designated unpaid member of the South Laguna Water and Sewer Advisory Committee, serving at the Council’s pleasure for over seven years, I have serious issues and concerns regarding the process that has brought this appeal forward. As you know, the SCWD is required to obtain a demolition permit for the purpose of removing a structure from their recently acquired property at 31762 4th in South Laguna. The removal/demolition of the boarded up structure is absolutely necessary to facilitate the safe and efficient execution of the tunnel shaft project at that location. The full use of the entire land area is required by the licensed certified project engineers for the use of support vehicles and mining equipment necessary for this project. Full use of the land area will make it possible for all vehicles to be off neighborhood streets and a safe area for such vehicles to maneuver in the project space.

The structure in question has been completely boarded up for the last 35 to 40 years. The structure was, in fact, completely boarded up in 1981, six years before South Laguna was annexed to the CLB, when it and 57 other structures in South Laguna were included on the Historical Structure inventory list. At the time, this list was compiled without the permission of structure owners. Very few were ever fully aware of the list. CLB records show that ten property owners requested removal from the list in the CLB in 1982.

CLB records also show a complaint to the County of Orange by an immediate neighbor to the subject structure concerning its derelict and deteriorating boarded up condition. The handwritten note from the County inspector says “structure occupied by a dog that is let out by the owner twice a day.” The actual owner lived elsewhere.

The process to acquire the necessary demolition permit started with the Heritage Committee. During the first hearing, HC member Hano requested a Peer review of the status of the “dog house”, at a cost of $2000 to CLB taxpayers (invoice on file) to compare with the SCWD review. At the second Heritage committee meeting, at which I testified, the HC did not even discuss the results of the reports that supported demolition. The HC ignored the facts that not only the two reports supported demolition, they also ignored the facts that the structure did not qualify for preservation under any Federal, State, County, or City guidelines. The HC spent a great deal of time trying to find out what was to become of the subject property once the engineering project was complete five or six years from now. The HC’s purview is the permit for demolition, not disposition of the property.

The HC voted 9-0 to preserve a major portion of the “dog house” in a non-binding recommendation to the Design Review Board because it is “old”.

At the DRB hearing, at which I testified, the four members present voted to require preservation of the large portion of the “dog house” as recommended by the HC. Members of the DRB expressed unqualified opinions that the SCWD did not “really” need all of the area in question to accomplish the project and also their reluctance to overturn the “hard work” of the HC. DRB members spent most of their time trying to micromanage the project and find out what the disposition of the property will be when the project is complete in five or six years from now.

So, now the issue is in your hands. The “ dog house” does not qualify for any preservation. The space is needed and is critical to the safe operation of the engineering project.

The arguments that the “dog house “ is part of the heart and soul of South Laguna and that we are losing our “c” rated structures are hollow. South Laguna has hundreds of occupied, well cared for and loved homes. On the map included with this letter I have shown the area of South Laguna bounded by Eagle Rock, Coast Hwy, 4th, and Scenic. Fourteen structures are shown in yellow as being on the heritage “list”.  I have taken the liberty to add 49 other structures that would fully qualify for “c” rating shown in blue.

I would respectfully request that the City Council overturn the DRB decision and allow SCWD to demolish the “dog house” and proceed in the process of implementing this extremely important infrastructure project.

Thomas Slattery

Laguna Beach


Toning down the class clown…

Nancy Hamm

At the beginning of the school year Fabrizio’s teachers told me, with genuine surprise, that he was funny. The kind of funny that most children don’t understand, while leaving adults to wonder if a four-yr-old really said what they thought. It was no surprise to me that he has a sense of humor beyond his years, after all, I live with the kid. I like to think that he has my dry humor but I know all too well that he has an equal part of my husband’s slap stick humor as well.

This coupled with his lack of concern with discipline makes a bad combination.

So it came as no surprise to learn that a month into the school year he spends quite a bit of time in the preschool director’s office because he doesn’t know when to turn it off. When most typical kids see this as a punishment he unfortunately sees it as just another outlet for his craft. I’m told that he works overtime trying to get the director to laugh, which she does and he invariably gets in a bit more.

By now I’ve cornered the teachers a few times and have learned that they have been trying various techniques to no avail. If threatened with the prospect of losing a turn in a game he’ll reply, “That’s fine, I didn’t want to play”. When asked if he tried to trip his teacher he’ll start cracking up and proudly claim his action. After disturbing the class during the entire nap time he’ll be asked to move to the room next door, in which he’ll crawl on hands and knees like an animal laughing the entire way.

One of my favorite parts about this school is that his behavior is never brought to me by exasperated teachers who have clearly had enough. It’s the contrary, his teachers laugh when recanting their stories of how funny he had been that day. It is refreshing to hear that they are working on getting him to know when it’s ok to be funny and when it isn’t, rather than trying to extinguish his playful side altogether.

Now that we are on our third (and final) preschool I can say that I’ve experienced the gamut, from ignoring his behavior because of his cerebral palsy to acting as if he is the most difficult child on earth. It’s refreshing to finally have found a place that treats him the same as the other children and expects him to participate in class on the same level.

When listening to their stories I laugh along with them and think to myself, “Good luck!” Their approaches are great and I really hope that they succeed where I’ve failed because I can’t count the number of times I’ve told a hysterically laughing Fabrizio, “If mommy isn’t laughing then it isn’t funny!” only to be met with more laughter. I could have steam coming out of my ears and be red with rage and it would make no difference to this boy because to him, he is his audience.

Last week a light bulb went off in my husband’s head and he now takes partial responsibility for our out of control clown. YES! (small victory dance for me)

On Saturday and Sunday morning the two of them can usually be found camped out in front of the TV watching episode after episode of the Three Stooges. This had to be the source! When I told his teacher her reply was simply, “Ooooh that explains a lot.” I felt a little relief that she wasn’t too put off by it but she did suggest that maybe we cut it down to one episode per weekend if he’d been good during the school week, i.e. no trying out Three Stooges on his school friends or teachers.

This morning on our way to school I had to reiterate what I feel should be common sense, “Listen to your teachers, use your words, and no Three Stooges on anyone, except Daddy!”


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

Villagers of the “decade” with Jim Dilley’s smile of victory

This Saturday Oct 8, Village Laguna will honor this year’s Villagers of the Year at a party. Partying is what Village Laguna does best. The party takes place at the home of Cindy and Mark Evans, 435 Hilledge from 3 to 6:30 p.m.  There will be a lavish dinner, with wines and soft drinks.

We will honor Elisabeth Brown and Carolyn Wood; they could as easily be Villagers of the Decade. Liz Brown heads the Laguna Greenbelt; Carolyn the Laguna Canyon Conservancy. But lurking in the shadows, you may feel the presence of the man who made all this possible. Jim Dilley. The land that became our land was land Jim Dilley dreamed into reality.

How Jim did it remains elusive. He wanted the Irvine Company and other landowners to give him pieces of the Canyon. Free. Just hand them over so Jim could build a greenbelt. You gotta be kidding.

Jim would drive to the Irvine Company headquarters, bearing a bouquet of roses for the secretaries. He would sit with the company honchos and ask for their land; they would say “No” and Jim would drive back to his bookstore and issue a Victory Statement.

Eventually all the Victory Statements grew so high, the Irvine Company feared they might topple and crush them beneath the weight of Jim’s persistence. They graciously surrendered.

The Greenbelt was born. No, I do not have a better explanation.

So come and honor Liz and Carolyn. And perhaps you will glimpse a ghostly shade, peering above the rim of his eyeglasses, smiling a smile of Victory.

Arnold Hano

Laguna Beach


Inside Design Review

Leslie LeBon, AIA


Design Review: To Go or Not to Go – That is the Question

I recently gave a tour of my newly renovated home to a neighbor; and she asked how long Design Review (DR) took because she is contemplating remodeling her own home. When I told her I didn’t have to go through DR, she looked at me like I was from another planet. Like many people in our town, she thought everything must undergo DR. Not so—here’s how the DR gate basically swings.

Development Exceptions (Zoning Code Section 25.05.040(B)(2)) include:

• Interior alterations (except to historic structures)

• Repainting

• Re-roofing with similar material (the key word is “similar”!)

• Window and door replacements

• Minor landscaping changes

• Patios on grade and decks less than three feet above grade

• Fences that comply with the zoning regulations (except chain link or wire mesh)

• Anything that is the opposite of the list below (i.e. additions less than 50%) but only if it   doesn’t have any other elements subject to DR.

My house avoided DR because it was primarily interior remodeling and exterior repair. But while the Exception list is relatively small, the mandatory DR list is as long as the average DR hearings of late. In particular, development subject to DR (Zoning Code Section 25.05.040(B)(1)) includes but is not limited to:

• Any new structure

• Additions that are 50% or more of the original gross floor area

• Additions that exceed 10% of the original gross floor area of an existing legal nonconforming structure

• Alterations or additions to a structure on the historic registry

• Additions that create a new upper story

• Additions that exceed a height of 15 feet above the adjacent ground elevation

• Modifications to previously approved design review plans including landscape plans

• Anything that requires a Variance or Revocable Encroachment permit

• Any instance where a coastal development permit is required to be issued by the city

• Any improvement in environmentally sensitive areas and on lots with a slope greater than 30%

• Grading in excess of 20 cubic yards (with exceptions)

• Swimming pools and permanent spas and associated equipment.

And with a list like this, it’s no surprise most people prefer avoiding the DR gavel and tailoring their projects accordingly – some by legally conforming and others by going unpermitted. In fact, some people estimate that up to 50% of all construction happening around town could be unpermitted. It’s not that people can’t afford to get permits; it’s that they are simply afraid of what they may be required to do – or be prohibited from doing.

Let’s be clear here: evading the City Building Department is not the answer. Even if you have a good contractor, most will only work with permits; and if you are caught (and many are), you will face fines at a minimum or worse, be required to remove the structure if it doesn’t meet DR approval.

That said, I have seen unpermitted finished construction get red tagged by the City and later get DR approval if the project met the DR criteria. On the other hand, I have also seen unpermitted and red tagged, finished structures that didn’t meet DR criteria be denied for approval – resulting in a very costly removal of the structure.

Some people think the City should have stiff penalty fees for unpermitted construction and make the owner tear it out before applying to the DR for a permit. This not only is a waste of resources and very disruptive to neighborhoods, it will scare people away from trying to bring an inherited illegal structure into conformity.

To reduce the fear and bring more projects to the City, perhaps the Zoning codes need to be revisited. For example, does a Revocable Encroachment Permit for an existing small planter really have to go through a full DR hearing or could it be better handled administratively? Does the Zoning department or the DR Board really need to spend hours carefully scrutinizing every little non-conforming issue when the majority of homes in Laguna are non-conforming? And given that new air conditioners are a lot quieter than the older models, are they really a DR issue? These are but a few examples that are ripe for reform.

More broadly, with time comes change and our Zoning codes need to be flexible and change with time. While our city staff doesn’t have the time to revisit codes every couple of years, they will change things if the majority of the citizens in our city deem it necessary.

Proud that we make open space a priority

I’m wondering what all the hoopla is about the open space initiative.

Seems to me that we all live here because we have the need to be submersed and surrounded in beauty.

I am relieved, and proud, that we find preserving open space a priority.  Let’s continue to be the example. It makes sense on so many levels.

Meghan E. Kelly

Laguna Beach

Eschew the flip flops – drive with bare feet

On September 13, as many of us do every day, I was driving in flip-flop sandals.

I was in the process of leaving the Whole Foods parking lot to turn onto Ocean Avenue, and after waiting for an opening in traffic, I began to pull out of the driveway.  As I switched my right foot from the brake to the gas pedal, the flip flop on my right foot wedged behind the brake and twisted.

When I tried to dislodge the sandal, the top portion of the sandal applied full-throttle pressure to the accelerator, shooting my car across Ocean Avenue and into a parked car.  The impact created a deafening and frightening sound, deployed the air bags and jammed me into my seat.

Within minutes, I was being assisted by police, fire and paramedic personnel, and then taken to Mission South Coast Hospital, where I was also well cared for.

It is difficult for me to consider what could have happened if my car had struck a sidewalk full of pedestrians rather than a parked car.

I share this terrifying personal experience to caution others of the dangers of driving in flip flop sandals.  The potential for danger is not worth the ease and comfort flip flops provide.

Lastly, I received good advice from one of the officers who came to my aid.  He simply stated that when he is wearing flip flops, he slips them off before driving, adding, “it is not against the law to drive bare-footed.”

Carl Post

Laguna Beach


Billie Louise (Crowley) Sumners

Billie Louise (Crowley) Sumners, a 40 year resident of Laguna Beach, died July 23, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. She was 94.

She was born Dec 10, 1916 in Post, Texas to Dell and Lou Ella (Gantt) Crowley.

Billie’s early life consisted of humorous tricks played on her seven brothers and sisters; lots of singing and activities at church, [which did not include a forbidden attendance at a dance for which her father had to make a public apology.]

Following her marriage to Jewel Sumners in 1935, their honeymoon in Laguna Beach led then to make their home here. Their family life was blessed with the birth of son Warren and frequent visits from members of their extended families.

Here, next to the Pacific Ocean, with the scent of salt air instead of Texas dust, her love of life, sense of humor and concern for education led to positions as a member of the Laguna Beach Unified District School Board and as the long time secretary at her beloved Aliso Elementary School.  It was often said, by the principal and the staff, “Billie ran the school.”  A plaque with her name and date of retirement, 1974, was placed on the wall of honor at the District office.

Billie was also organized the first supervised all night party for the graduates of the LBHS Class of 1955.

Summer months were spent at their cabin on the Navajo River at the Crowley Ranch in Chromo, Colorado.  Surrounded by her Crowley, Shahan, and Eaklor cousins, roundups, picnics, and grand adventures were the order of the day under the Continental Divide.

In 1975, the Sumners moved to Tempe, Arizona where Billie‘s activities included golf and bridge.  Her University Methodist Church friends provided companionship and comfort until her death.

Billie was predeceased by her husband, Jewel; son, Warren; stepson, Happy; and seven brothers and sisters, Grady, Lonnie, and Jim Crowley, Odessa Hutto, LuDell Morgan, Mildred Collins, Maurine Stephenson.

She is survived by: grandchildren Steven Sumners (Shannon) of Port St. Lucie, FL; Kathryn Maguire (Jason) of Chesapeake, VA; great grandsons, Evan and Mitchell Maguire; and daughter-in-law Rose Sumners; as well as: many cousins and friends who will never forget her warm generosity, friendship and great sense of humor.

A memorial service will be held at the University United Methodist Church in Tempe AZ at 2 p.m. on Friday, September 30, 2011.

Stimulus spending for public works

Re:  Tibor Machan’s Op-Ed on “Stimulus-driven public works:  Projects multiply beyond apparent need, just to spend the money”, OC Register 9/21/11

Ed. Note: The Op-Ed in question can be read at the link below:





Mr. Machan blindly adopts a flawed premise and then bloviates for nearly 20 column-inches about how stimulus funds are wasted on unneeded public works projects without sound rationale.  Then there’s this gem:  “Unless one has roads with gaping potholes that just no longer can accommodate traffic, the time to spend funds on upgrades and fixes turns out to be arbitrary”.  He rants that Keynesian politicians, searching for stimulus targets, should not be making public works decisions; engineers should.

Well, Mr. Machan, the engineers have weighed in heavily on this.  They are making the recommendations for aggressive public spending on America’s infrastructure.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives America’s infrastructure a “D” on its infrastructure report card – a “D” for deteriorating water and sewer systems, roads, bridges, dams, and public buildings.

ASCE estimates deferred maintenance on America’s infrastructure to be $2.2 trillion and climbing.  And this vital investment, necessary just to keep us from backtracking into developing nation status, only keeps us running in place.  It doesn’t even address the funds needed for new 21st century infrastructure such as universal broadband, smart-grid power systems, high-speed rail, and green energy.  South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the BRICs are making the needed infrastructure investments to compete in a global marketplace.  Will America?

Mr. Machan is enamored with the unfettered free market, and, for the most part, so am I.  But (to paraphrase Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts candidate for Senate), he may forget that the publicly funded roads allow private goods to be efficiently moved to market; that workers in private enterprises were educated using public tax dollars; that the safety of private enterprises is guarded by public police and fire forces.

He may have forgotten that the greatest of American achievements were public endeavors, funded by tax dollars – the interstate highway system, the space program and the moon landings, winning the struggle with Fascism and Communism.  The resulting boon, benefits, and spin-offs to private enterprise from these public achievements are invaluable beyond calculation.

Some humility, acknowledgement, and gratitude at the immense value and contributions of the public sector are in order.  The public sector has a vital support role to play so that the efficiency of the private sector can be unleashed to realize its greatest potential.  That is the right combination for a winning nation.  Conversely, a failing infrastructure, unsupported by public funds, is a sure recipe for a future of American mediocrity.

Richard Henrikson, P.E., LEED AP

Principal of an Irvine Engineering Firm

Laguna Beach


Just Say No…

Nancy Hamm

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little invisible and while that’s not entirely possible since I feel like I might be the size of a walrus I am feeling slightly unheard. Maybe it’s because I repeat myself like a broken record to a 4 year old that has no intention of ever answering my questions unless they are along the lines of “Do you want a hamburger/pizza/candy?”

Or perhaps it’s my endless whining of how tired I am and then I’m piled with more things to do. All of this got me wondering how it’s possible to teach my child to assert himself when I haven’t managed to master this skill myself?

It’s not that I never assert myself in fact I’m very good at it when it comes to my immediate family. “Mommy can I have an ice cream for dinner?” NO. “Honey, will you run out and grab a six pack of beer while I watch the game?” Nope. No, nope and not going to happen seem to roll freely off my tongue and I can hold my own but when it comes to other adults in my life it never works out that smoothly and I’m often left feeling pushed into things that I most definitely would rather not do.

That’s exactly what happened this past Saturday at my baby shower when I sat surrounded by gift wrap, boxes and baby paraphernalia. I thought that I had been clear, “Yes, thank you, I’d love a shower. You can do whatever you like but I just don’t want to open gifts in front of people.” The last part I muttered at least five times on the day of the shower but the hostess vetoed my pleas and there I sat. At what point can an adult say to another adult, “Listen to my words, I said NO!”

At the end of the shower my little niece asked if she could open a gift given to my son. Of course but then I thought it best to ask my son first. After all, he hardly seemed to notice the gift in the first place and was now contentedly swinging away on his cousin’s play set. Fabrizio, I shouted, can Juliet open this toy? “I’m swinging.” Yes, I know but can she open this toy?  “No I’m swinging” I began to think that he didn’t quite understand what I was asking him. Yes, I know you’re swinging and you don’t need to stop but can she open this toy? “I understand and I said no!”  At this point I felt the need to do what I’ve told him so many times, listen to his words. No meant no and he had tried to make his point without being harsh but I was the one who just didn’t get it.

Huh, well I guess he doesn’t need anyone teaching him how to assert himself. Maybe I should be taking his lead on this one.


Nancy Hamm is a wife and mother to a 4 year old with cerebral palsy. She is currently working on her first novel. http://www.cultivatingnancy.blogspot.com

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