Remembering Stu

With Stu’s passing, Laguna’s colors, maroon and white, aren’t quite so bright today. RIP Stu. You made a real difference in town.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Draft historic preservation ordinance actually loosens restrictions

Laguna’s historic inventory, professionally developed and officially adopted in 1981, lists properties built before 1940 that had kept their historic value at that time. Since the Inventory was adopted by City Council resolution, it does not lose its validity, but it does need to be culled of properties that no longer possess historic character.  As originally adopted, the inventory was simply an official listing of those properties that, at the request of the property owner, were eligible for inclusion on the city’s historic register. 

Question:  What has changed from 1981 to now?  Answer: California state law.

Without exception, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) now requires local jurisdictions to treat all properties that are 45 years or older as potential historic resources—whether or not they appear on a local inventory.  After official review, being determined to have no significant historic value is the only way for a property to be exempted from provisions that relate to treatment of historic resources.

The current process of revising Laguna’s historic preservation ordinance is designed both to satisfy state law requirements and to make life easier for owners of historic properties.

The ordinance specifies that, whenever allowed under state law, local, more flexible guidelines can be developed for guiding remodels of historic properties that, along with other similar properties, enhance the character of our city and its neighborhoods rather than being individually significant. Laguna has previously had no such guidelines, employing the state and federal standards that are not tailored to local conditions. Far from “tightening” restrictions, the draft ordinance seeks to loosen restrictions that in the past have proven to be problematic. 

In addition, when alterations for remodels or maintenance preserve the character of a historic property, the proposed ordinance offers multiple incentives, including more relaxed development standards than non-historic properties enjoy as well as reduced city fees and opportunities for reduced property taxes. It also provides that the City rather than the property owner will pay for the state-required historic evaluation that potentially historic buildings 45 years or older undergo. 

Far from “tightening” restrictions, the draft ordinance seeks to clarify requirements, loosen restrictions that in the past have proven to be problematic, and provide additional incentives for owners of historic properties. It seeks to balance preservation of Laguna’s historic resources while providing increased flexibility and benefits for property owners. 

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach

Time to get H.E.L.P.?

Laguna has an Environmental Sustainability Committee to advise City Council on issues pertaining to Laguna Beach and its environment, an Urban Planning Coordinating Committee, a Heritage Committee for mostly structural historic preservation and a view Restoration Committee but no HELP… Habitat, Environmental open space, Land acquisition and Preservation committee and we desperately need it!

H.E.L.P. would identify, recommend and secure open space preservation in collaboration with  city departments LBBC, Laguna Canyon Conservancy, Harbors Beaches and parks and other regional, state and federal groups, Sierra Club, etc.

It would include representatives who care about Laguna’s environment and physical features and work with existing groups and the city to target projects.

It would review and recommend restoration, maintenance and scheduling for vegetation, cleanup and mitigation of waste, creek restoration, ensure physical continuity for Laguna’s habitats as well human access routes, review and propose land to be included in open space as well advocate and represent the city coordinating land continuity with adjoining cities.

Your support and consideration for a permanent HELP committee is most welcome and needed.

Thank you for all you do,

Leah Vasquez

Laguna Beach Beautification Council

Hearsay is not evidence

I take exception to anyone making libelous remarks about our President or anyone without any basis in fact.  No evidence has come out that President Trump ever provided highly classified information to the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador during their recent visit to the White House nor whether any such information, if provided, was already allowed by our intelligence community since Russia is one of our allies in the war on terrorism.  The only such reports came from media stories insinuating such.  Hearsay is NOT evidence and no intelligent, adult should be reporting such in a letter to the editor.  A Special Prosecutor has been chosen to investigate allegations of Russian interference in President Trump’s campaign and, until such investigation turns up any evidence, speculation is both premature and immature.

I hope the readers take all this into consideration.  We are a Country of laws and everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Gary Zaremba

Laguna Beach

Honorable men are acting like children

President Trump’s terrifying braggadocio, exemplified by his disclosure of highly classified intelligence to Russia’s foreign minister and its ambassador to the U.S. during their visit to the White House last week, has me much less enthusiastic about his possible removal from office.

I owe my reaction to the absolute spinelessness of Republican leaders. What makes otherwise honorable men such as national security advisor H.R. McMaster and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer act like children in defending this president? Why hasn’t Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an 80-year-old with nothing to lose, come out with both barrels blazing?

I watched my young son’s reaction to all this discord, and it makes me think we have let his generation down. We should have been greater than this.

Skip Maison

Laguna Beach

Proposing another NannyState ban

The NannyState now imposes a citywide smoking ban. And Iseman wishes she could even invade our homes with her assault on personal liberties. Wasn’t she the clown who wanted to spay/neuter the poor sea lions that wash up on our beaches?

I propose another ban! No one with less than a three digit IQ may serve on the Council! Call it the Waters/Pelosi Amendment!

Just sayin’

Matt Smith

Laguna Beach

Who is the real showboat?

Back in December of 2011, I suggested that former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a GOP presidential contender then, ought to spend more time with rank and file supporters than “showboat Donald Trump.”  A few people in town told me the way I characterized the real estate magnate was less than polite.

Now skip ahead to last week, when President Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt he fired FBI Director James Comey because he was a “showboat.”  All I can say to my friends today is, “It takes one to know one.”

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Denny’s selective memory

Surprised the GOP voted along party lines? Uhhh, only 4 Dems voted against in 2010, and Pelosi said, “we have to pass it, to see what’s in it”.

Kinda’ selective memory on your part sir. And if new bill allows states to allow pre existing conditions, I’m sure liberal California will allow you and Cher to get your meds. 

You really are on Obamacare??

Bill Kail

Laguna Beach

Phone booth installation is creative and fun

I for one LOVE the art installation in the phone booth. The first morning that I noticed it I laughed nearly all the way to Tustin, where we have our business. The second morning I wanted to stop and take a photo, but the tree trimmers were busy at work there, so I couldn’t; the third morning I got lucky, got a spot, took some photos, and have shared them with nearly everyone I know.

I think it is very creative, very fun, and to me, it represents all of the tourists who cram our beaches and sidewalks. It also reminded me of a time when I was a senior in high school (in Michigan) and we had a competition between the classes to see who could cram the most people in a VW bug. (The seniors won, by the way, and I was on the floorboard of the passenger side, along with one of my best friends.)  

After reading your article, I know that the artist’s intentions were probably not my interpretation, but that is what is great about good art—we all see it differently. And if it gets you thinking and talking about it, that means it worked.

Marge Kehrer Flamme

Laguna Beach

Respectable but hardly world-class

The phone booth is a respectable effort but hardly world-class art.  

If Laguna is to be the “go-to” place for art, installations like the work of Niki de St. Falle or Claes Oldenburg would garner attention from sophisticated art aficionados.

Robert Story

Laguna Beach

“Where is the restraint on this government overreach?”

Too many Laguna homes are being pulled into the “historic” category by vague and overly broad language in the proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance.  Nearly every older home in Laguna could be seen as historic in these terms.  Where is the restraint on this government overreach?  

I might believe the proponents are motivated by historicity if they restricted this taking to a small number of homes.  And, if the proponents are truly interested in historicity, then why restrict controls to just the exterior?  Why aren’t the interiors included?

Clearly, there is another agenda behind this.  Proponents want to prevent changes to the character of their neighborhoods and declaring homes “historic” is how they want to do it.  Fortunately, we have a city agency charged with protecting neighborhood character, the Design Review Board (DRB).  The many wonderful neighborhoods with older homes in our city are not a result of historic preservationists.  Rather, they are a tribute to the work of the DRB and to creative homeowners, architects, and builders.

It has been stated that historic designation has no negative impact on property values, but Laguna residents I have spoken with would not want to buy a home with the restrictions of a historic designation.  They want a Laguna charmer but not one that limits them to “in-kind” repairs.

Let’s not confuse neighborhood character with historicity.  Likewise, let’s not conflate “old” to mean “historic.”  Before we take the property rights and property value from our neighbors, there should be a truly compelling historic story.  I think it is nonsense to believe that thousands of Laguna homes have this level of historicity.

Dan Summerl

Laguna Beach

Values of owning and living in a historic property are more than financial

In reference to the pending Historic Preservation Ordinance a lot has been said about a historic designation being an impediment to selling, and devaluing the property. 

We did not find that to be true. 

We purchased our home at 424 Jasmine Street in May, 2015. It was listed on the Historic Inventory and we understand that the seller, Ross St. Clair, had been worried that he would not be able to sell the property for what he thought it was worth.  But the property sold the same day it was put on the market and it sold for the asking price—to us!  We had been searching for a home in Laguna Beach for some time and his asking price was not low.  

At the time that we learned it was on the market, we were told that we had a two-hour window to see the house, and that if we liked it, we had to make an offer that afternoon. Our realtor said there were four other offers made that day as well. Before our offer (which was a full price offer) was accepted, the seller’s realtor spent a lot of time making sure that we understood that this house was on the Historic Inventory, and the restrictions associated with this. We were pleased to be purchasing a home with history, and for us it was a draw, not a deterrent.

Subsequent to purchasing the home, we placed it on the Historic Registry. 

From there we applied for a Mills Act contract. This was recently granted to us, and will provide a meaningful financial decrease in our property taxes, such that we are confident that we can keep the house in good repair, and representative of its history. 

This past month our home was appraised in an effort to refinance. We were happy to see that the appraisal reflected the work we had put into it, but also that the value was retained. We believe that the Mills Act contract will increase the value even more, were we to want to sell.

But the values of owning and living in a historic property are more than financial—there is the value of enjoyment, and feeling a part of Laguna’s history.  

Without the city’s historic preservation program the home we now enjoy could have been demolished before we or some other buyer who appreciates historic properties would have had a chance to buy it.

Monica Thompson

Laguna Beach

Why Mar-a-Lago matters

In 2015, Trump said he would “rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done.” Now, he is golfing and visiting a Trump-branded property every few days!

I’m deeply concerned with Trump’s taxpayer funded trips to Trump properties, Mar-a-Lago.

Here’s why:

Trump is putting taxpayer dollars directly in his pocket by visiting his properties so frequently. The Secret Service has spent tens of thousands of dollars on golf carts alone at Mar-a-Lago, and that’s the tip of the iceberg! 

While Trump spends our tax dollars at Mar-a-Lago, he’s also hosting high-profile meetings with foreign heads-of-state there, like the Prime Minister of Japan. Talk about a photo op for his own property!

After Election Day, Mar-a-Lago doubled its membership fees to $200,000. That’s a lot of money in Trump’s pocket! 

Nobody should be allowed to profit for the presidency. I’ve had enough. It’s time for our representatives in Congress to stand up to Trump’s abuse of power and waste of taxpayer dollars. 

Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago have already cost $25 million. That’s enough to pay for over 2,000,000 Meals on Wheels! 

If Congress continues to sit on its hands, our representatives should be held accountable for their complicity to Trump’s corruption. I’ll remember their inaction when I step into the voting booth.

Ann Marie McKay

Laguna Beach

House vote to repeal Obamacare

After last Thursday’s vote to repeal ObamaCare, I told a conservative friend in town I think I suffer from a pre-existing condition. It’s called I Don’t Like Republican Hypocrites or IDLRH.

It’s bad enough the House reversed course on ObamaCare. What’s worse, a number of lawmakers admitted they simply followed the GOP party line ... and didn’t actually read the bill.  

Americans need their congressmen and women to be inquisitive, thoughtful and principled. As far as this voter is concerned, none of these qualities were on display when the all-important health care vote was taken.

I can’t write anything else now.  That’s because my IDLRH symptoms are acting up.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Airport traffic overhead is enjoyable to some

Let me just say...not everyone dislikes a little aviation traffic.  I for one enjoy watching a little commercial air traffic fly overhead…it is certainly not excessive in volume or frequency.  We have much bigger problems in this country and world.  

I could get “snarky” but I’ll just keep my powder dry for now.

Pat Forrest

Laguna Beach

Keep the C system 

It is important to keep the Contributing rating (C) system as the City revises the Historic Preservation ordinance because taking away their historic status would probably lead to the loss of a number of them, and the neighborhoods and the City would be the poorer for it.  

These historic beach cottages contribute their Charm and Character to the town and what makes Laguna Laguna.  

If Laguna wants to preserve the distinctive character of its neighborhoods the Cs must be preserved and our General Plan policy requires it.

Most of our historic structures are beach cottages not unlike the cottages at Crystal Cove and are often not as substantial as the structures that are considered historic in other parts of the country. This means that they may be underappreciated by professionals trained elsewhere. However, in their modest scale, their homegrown character, and their simplicity they accurately reflect our past, and we value them. 

It is important that our Historic Preservation Ordinance recognizes C structures as historic resources.

Johanna Felder


Village Laguna

C-Rated and CEQA

The proposed amendment regarding historical properties (Zoning Ordinance Amendment 17-0388 and Local Coastal Program Amendment 17-0389) presented at the April 19 Planning Commission meeting is an improvement over the ordinance we have:  for example, it calls for drafting special guidelines for evaluating alterations to “C”-rated properties, and it’s important that these guidelines be in place before any change to the ordinance goes into effect.

CEQA allows the City to adopt its own “performance standards” to mitigate changes in “C”-rated structures without the need for individual EIRs. As the PC staff report explained, these standards can be as strict or flexible as is necessary to avoid the loss of historic character of neighborhoods or streetscapes. If the City decides that houses don’t need to meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards if they simply make a significant contribution to the look of the neighborhood, it can make its own rules for alterations to those structures.

This is one of the ways that the proposed amendments are an improvement over the ordinance we have, and I hope the City will make sure these special guidelines relating to C-rated properties are included when changes to the ordinance are made.

Rosemary Boyd

Laguna Beach

Historic Preservation and misinformation

City staff has been assigned to revise the Historic Preservation Ordinance by the City Council and there has been a great deal of misinformation disseminated with the intent to scare owners of historic cottages. Many of these the issues are covered in the City’s list of Frequently Asked Questions about historic preservation.

For example, see: 

If my property is a historic resource:

Can I make repairs?  Yes. In-kind repairs and in-kind replacement of deteriorated features of a building are allowed without CEQA review.  

Can I add on? Yes. The Heritage Committee reviews proposed additions and changes to historic properties, and many are approved every year. Retaining the exterior historic character of the building is the overriding criterion.

Will the ordinance impair the value of my property? All properties are different, but realtors report that buyers are especially seeking buildings with historic Laguna character and these houses sell readily at market prices. The potential for Mills Act property tax relief is a significant benefit for new buyers. 

Gene Felder

Laguna Beach

Unmasking CEQA and historic preservation

As an owner of a C rated cottage, I have followed the events surrounding the city’s process to amend its outdated Historic Preservation Ordinance (HPO). A recurring point made by those whose support HPO recodification goes something like this:

Even if Laguna Beach were to eliminate the HPO in its entirety, to the extent a Laguna Beach resource is deemed historic, it would still be subject to the onerous California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) restrictions. Since we’re subject to CEQA with or without the HPO, let’s amend the HPO in a manner that exempts ourselves from parts of CEQA so that we can have some control of our own historic preservation.

The notion of “we’re subject to CEQA except when we legislate not to be” has always struck me as a bit odd and frankly, dangerous, partly because if a municipality has the right to exempt itself from CEQA, it is not bound to do so in a manner less restrictive on its constituents. Given I am working on a project in a different part of California that requires a CEQA compliant document, I decided to dial up my environmental team and pay for an answer to the following question: “What is a historic resource pursuant to CEQA?”

Much to my surprise, I learned that CEQA has clear criteria of which only one need be met for a home to qualify as historic. Simply stated, these criteria are that a home must have a historic event, person, relic or architect associated with it or that it represents a special kind of workmanship. Based on these criteria, my cottage, while old and cute, does not qualify as a historic resource pursuant to CEQA. So why is my cottage C rated under the guise of historic preservation?

The answer to this question rests in the position that the city may have already exempted itself from CEQA by creating its own rules for what it deems worthy of preservation, rules that unfortunately appear to be far more subjective, less quantifiable and less related to historicity than those provided by CEQA. Some have said the entire concept of historic preservation in Laguna Beach has little to do with CEQA but rather is a thinly veiled attempt by the city to preserve our cottages without having to pay for that privilege. I’m not ready to go there just yet, but I do wonder why the city has yet to implement a voluntary and (real) incentive based historic preservation system as provided for in its General Plan. 

Regardless, it seems pretty clear to the extent the standard for historic resource qualification as provided by CEQA is not met, the issue of historic preservation in Laguna Beach is not at all a “CEQA issue”, but instead rests squarely in the laps of our local elected officials.

Dave DiCesaris

Laguna Beach

LGBT Pride month

On May 9, Tuesday, at the Laguna Beach city council meeting, mayor Toni Iseman will proclaim June LGBT PRIDE month. 

We can all proud of Laguna’s open door for members LGBT community dating back decades whenmany of these fellow citizens had to live life in the “closet.” History tells us that Main Beach was a welcome destination for gays when they flocked to the sand south of the old life guard tower and when we had one of California’s first gay bars right behind the beach called Dantes. 

When the pile driver worked ever so slowly to set the supports in the sand for the new board walk, the beach was impossible to use and for reasons not known, LGBT people began gathering at West St. beach in south Laguna on one of our town’s largest expanses of sand and today West St. is a international destination for thousands with multiple websites available when you enter West St. beach on your computer. West St. beach offers portable restrooms, volleyball courts and its own county lifeguard in the summer. 

Today we also have the Main St. Cabaret, Koffee Klatch and our sixty plus art galleries, shops, restaurants and hotels, which attract many LGBT locals and visitors. We also have the newly remodeled and re-designed hotel, golf course and restaurants in Aliso Canyon - a short walk from West St. beach. 

Looking forward, we should help our young people who are LGBT, encourage the opening of a public restaurant and dance venue such as the “Boom Boom Room”and remind local seniors that the Susie Q has a LGBT group that meets the first and third Friday at 3 p.m. 

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer for West St Beach and if it’s warm, there will be LGBT people from all over to enjoy the sand and sea. 

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Climate change is an opportunity too

Southern California has the opportunity to be the leader in clean tech for the entire country, taking on climate change while creating thousands of clean energy jobs. Yet, lifetime politician Dana Rohrabacher thinks global warming is a myth and has done nothing to protect our pristine coastline.

After watching what’s happening in Washington DC, it’s more clear to me than ever that Orange County deserves a Congressman with a better vision for the future of our families.

That means we can embrace common sense and end the divisiveness in order to build real, lasting change.

While Trump and Rohrabacher would expand offshore drilling, threatening our coastal homes and devastating our clean water, I will work to reduce our use of fossil fuels and invest in clean, renewable energy.

While Trump and Rohrabacher are supported by fossil fuel companies and shady SuperPACs, I will work to abolish Citizens United and the special interest money undermining our democracy.

While Trump and Rohrabacher support unlimited fracking on our public lands, I will work to bolster anti-fracking efforts and fully ban it in California. 

I watched my dad build a business from nothing, and know personally from my own business what it takes to innovate, create jobs, and build a successful team to achieve important goals.

We can turn our region into one of the greatest clean energy job creators in the world—but we need new leadership to make it happen. I’m ready to be that leader—to put service above self, and country over party in order to solve problems and fix what’s broken in Washington.

We have so much to do. But if we recognize that we’re all in this together, we can get it done. 

I’m fired up.  Let’s do it!

Harley Rouda

Laguna Beach

“Sell like hotcakes”

Those who oppose the historic preservation ordinance say that being identified as historic resources will diminish the value of their homes and make them difficult to sell, but this is counter to real estate ads in the local paper. Three real-estate sections of the Indy has several listings for historic cottages.  In fact, one was advertised recently as a “historic Village cottage restored to perfection by one of Laguna’s great cottage architects, Greg Abel,” another is written up as a secluded cottage “design awarded by Greg Abel,” and another as a “Classic Laguna cottage.” 

Many of these Laguna cottages are C-rated, and are in demand and have value.  If fact, a realtor testified at a resent Planning Commission Meeting saying, these cottages “sell like hotcakes”.  

When revising the historic Preservation Ordinance it is imperative to recognize the C ratings as historical resources. 

Darrylin Girvin

Laguna Beach

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