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Friendship Shelter should be commended for its Housing First approach

Each of us has experience working as advisors to Friendship Shelter. We are dismayed at the way its Housing First approach has been mischaracterized in City Council candidate debates. We want to set the record straight.

Housing First was developed by a clinical psychologist and has been rigorously studied. It holds that housing is the best first step – and that sustained stability depends upon in-home support. The bottom line of Housing First is that housing is offered with few barriers. That’s because problems are more successfully addressed after people are safely housed.

The approach understands that addiction and mental illness are complex challenges, and protects our community from the risks associated with untreated drug, alcohol and mental health conditions among the homeless population. The bottom line is that communities are safer if people struggling with substance abuse are not left to wander our streets.

We understand and once shared the inclination to favor “zero tolerance” instead. But in working alongside staff to adopt these new methods, we’ve seen it work. We recognize that, as an organization focused on ending homelessness, Friendship Shelter’s role differs from that of a drug rehabilitation program or mental health institution. 

There’s no debating the results. The shelters are now open to vulnerable people who previously were not welcome. More are being housed. 94 percent of the people who live in Friendship Shelter’s housing program stay housed. Whereas before clients could be dismissed over a failed drug test, today they benefit from support as they work toward housing. 

No illegal activity of any kind is permitted. On-site use of drugs and alcohol at the shelters is prohibited. Behaviors that are symptomatic of drug or alcohol issues have consequences. Clients who express a desire to become or remain sober have on-site access to an addiction counselor and psychiatric services. 

Most anyone knows a person who abuses alcohol or drugs, and yet lives in their own home. Nationally, the overwhelming percentage of addicts live in their own homes.  To expect that homeless people must do the challenging and complex work of addressing an addiction before they are eligible for shelter or housing is to require something of them that we do not require of ourselves. 

We are dismayed that by adopting these nationally recognized best practices, Friendship Shelter has attracted unfair and unenlightened criticism from office seekers.  We are proud these proven solutions are being used in our community.

Ed Kaufman, M.D.

Kay Ostensen, M.F.T., Ph.D.

Karen Redding, L.C.S.W., Ph.D

Laguna Beach

Just who is Liberate Laguna? One resident’s viewpoint

Every decade or so, a group of developers and investment bankers come to Laguna to try to find a way to monetize our village. Liberate Laguna’s political action committee is the latest effort.

If you research who the primary 12 backers of this group are you may be shocked to find out what their individual development track record has been. Together, these 12 have contributed close to $100,000 to our election as of the last report. They are, for the most part, very wealthy individuals and corporations with a stated agenda of “liberating” our city council through major reform ( How will they achieve this? By packing it with candidates they believe will facilitate their commercial interests (see Blake and Kempf endorsements), and trying to push out at all costs a City Councilmember who has helped keep important checks and balances in place for this very reason, Toni Iseman.

You can do your own search. Here are some of the principal registered Liberate Laguna corporate supporters: 

--Shopoff Realty Investments

--Sanderson J Ray Development

--Radford Ventures, LLC


The amount of money being spent to support their endorsed candidates is not the issue. It’s a free country! But the ultimate objective to monetize public policy is. If Liberate Laguna’s endorsed candidates, Peter Blake and Sue Kempf, get elected and use their offices to change city rules and regulations that facilitate the destruction of our Village environment and historic heritage, Laguna Beach will never be the same. 

Imagine a “revitalized” downtown with three or four story buildings and designer stores. Imagine your nextdoor neighbor selling their house to a developer who builds a huge steel and glass mansion. Imagine a board that forces you to cut down your mature trees and decorative vegetation that provides beauty, privacy and shade. Or our streets full of hotels, bars and restaurants as traffic proliferates throughout our town. Imagine a city council that discourages resident participation in civic affairs. All this is possible if we are “Liberated”. 

This city council election could change Laguna Beach forever. Let’s protect what we love. Let’s vote for Toni Iseman and Ann Christoph and reject the monetization of our history.

Armando Baez

Laguna Beach

Be careful who you vote for

Many of us in town received the latest mailer from Ann Christoph, who is supported by Village Laguna. The slogan reads “We Know Our Town Best”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but I did have a chance to look up some information on the city’s website at  On this site one can find legal financial documents required to be filed by candidates who are running for public office. These documents must list the names of donors to the various candidates. What surprised me the most or maybe it didn’t were the names of folks who coincidentally have given to Ann Christoph and/or Toni Iseman. Many of the names I recognized from various community committees, including Heritage Committee – by the way there were no new members placed in this committee this go around in the Spring. Is that how one gets on these committees – donate? 

Earlier this year I watched the process in city hall as “new” members were added to vacant seats. Toni Iseman, Rob Zur Schmiede and I believe one other council member were in charge – however, Toni pretty much ran the meeting. There was little exchange done between many of the candidates especially those who were not selected and many walked away disappointed. I was disappointed as I had written several letters to encourage new folks to try to get on these committees and try to add new life to them. It seems as though some folks have made a career out of being on these committees, especially Village Laguna members.

No wonder there is such a division in this town – many of us are fed up with the “same players playing the same tune” in this town. 

Some of these donors are writing letters to the editors and you can see now why: they are backing Christoph/Iseman. I sincerely hope that those who tried to crack the code to get into some of these committees will try again. I hope that voters will see through this veil of “We Know Our Town Best” which Christoph states.

I suspect some of the things on the agenda if they get into office – change ordinances about views, trees (notice nobody is saying the word eucalyptus in this campaign), and the word heritage, which is a totally subjective term.

Be careful who you vote for – don’t go down that slippery slope to la la land. 

Ganka Brown

Laguna Beach

Response to recent press release in Stu News

A recent press release posted in Stu News is misleading:

Titled “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work water quality experts met to reduce runoff in critical Laguna areas,” as a professional water quality analyst having over 20 years of experience regarding the creek mouth, this type of false “mission accomplished” information is disconcerting.

In fact, the berm traps’ already highly contaminated water is rife with not only high concentrations of pathogenic, fecal indicator bacteria (FIBs – fecal coliform, e. coliform and enterococcus) but also a gamut of carcinogenic toxic soup substances as well.
By trapping the FIBs, which breed/reproduce at alarming rates, failing to restrain families with children, they’ve created a public and attractive nuisance. The water heats up not only from solar gain but from these bacteria. Simple biology 101: staph, strep, parasites like cryptosporidium and giardia may be present.

Aliso has been monitored and HEP A markers found.

In fact, lifeguards and County beach employees have been inoculated for immunity.

As they breed and die off like crazy these FIBs increase the turbidity (cloudiness), which also increases FIB populations exponentially as they’re no longer subject to UV when it was shallower (which kills them off well, UV being a treatment train element in many purification systems). 

Unwary beachgoers and children are drawn to the warmer water of this mini-lagoon in cooler months, defining it as a nuisance subject to litigation when illnesses can be ascribed to it. Ambulance chasers will tell litigated parties how much their clients’ health (or worse, deaths) are worth.

Ingestion and full immersion are taking place right under the noses of County personnel, and arguably, with their blessing.

There’s nothing to cheer about, and the reporter seems to know little about basic biology. Neither do the purported NGOs.

Go to the Laguna Bluebelt Coalition website as I just did: They have no FBN/DBA on file with the County, can’t accept donations as they’re not a state nonprofit. 

The donations link takes you to some obscure nonprofit named…whose staff and Board seem to have little connection to the environment.

A feel good endeavor that ignores public health and safety. 

Roger E. Bütow

Laguna Beach

They raised their fists 50 years ago

Fifty years ago today (Tuesday, Oct 16), Tommie Smith and John Carlos staged a silent demonstration against racial discrimination during the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Their protest shocked many people who felt it unnecessarily inserted politics into the Games. 

As Smith and Carlos were awarded the gold and bronze medals for their 200-meter race, they bowed their heads and each raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Their protest didn’t stop with their fists. They also wore black socks and no shoes. On their clothes were badges of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a group dedicated to ending racism in sports. 

Spectators booed the athletes as they walked away from the ceremony. If any of this sounds familiar, look no further than the ridicule and public shaming quarterback Colin Kaepernick and many NFL players have endured for taking a knee prior to the playing of the National Anthem. I guess you could say the old adage still is true: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Denny Freidenrich
Laguna Beach

A response to Peter Blake’s “Letter to Our Community”

In his recent “Letter to Our Community,” Peter Blake’s characterization of Friendship Shelter and the homeless people it serves is way off the mark in substance and spirit. In his letter, Peter says he will “keep an eye” on Friendship Shelter. As a supporter and board member of Friendship Shelter I have kept an eye on Friendship Shelter for more than a decade. 

What I have seen in that time is the organization’s effectiveness in responding to the needs of our community. When the City agreed to open the ASL, I was at the Friendship Shelter board meeting as we considered whether to agree to operate the new shelter. I remember listening to a long debate with good points on all sides, and I remember raising my own voice at the end of the discussion to remind everyone that while we did not ask for this task, our community needed us, and we had a responsibility to the homeless people and to our City to be sure that the shelter was successful. I was an enthusiastic “yes” vote when we chose to accept the contract. And today, that shelter has helped more than 100 homeless people move out of homelessness. The original group of about 40 local homeless has been reduced to fewer than 15.

Friendship Shelter hasn’t done this by housing people in Laguna Beach. I was part of the effort to establish permanent supportive housing in Laguna Canyon, but when we lost that fight I saw our staff push on and find another way. Today, Friendship Shelter has 87 formerly homeless people in housing it operates, including dedicated sites in San Clemente and Dana Point as well as individual units throughout southern Orange County. 94 percent of the people Friendship Shelter has housed have stayed in their housing. Providing housing for these people costs half of what it costs to leave them on the streets. 

Peter’s characterization of our supporters as “progressive elites and misguided socialites” is mean-spirited and inaccurate. I am an example of the typical Friendship Shelter supporter: I’ve lived in Laguna Beach since the ‘70s. I own and operate a local business. I’ve raised my family in our schools and I’m active in our community. I am neither a socialite nor an elite. There were homeless people in our downtown when I moved here 45 years ago; there are homeless people here today. The criminal who recently tried to break into my wife’s care was not homeless – he was a well-dressed, healthy, athletic man. My response to that experience is not to expect that our town will ban all well-dressed, healthy, athletic men.

I agree with Peter Blake on just one thing regarding homelessness: I don’t want any homeless people in Laguna Beach either. That’s why I support Friendship Shelter. They’re working hard to understand each homeless person’s situation and to find the housing that will work for them. I have watched Friendship Shelter research, consider, and implement new approaches to address homelessness and I have watched their success rates rise as a direct result of this diligence and perseverance. In the fight to end homelessness, I’ll put my faith in an organization with 30 years of experience and an ongoing willingness to learn, change, and improve. 

Friendship Shelter’s three decades of work in our community will survive these unfounded criticisms. I believe most people understand that taking homeless people off our streets and helping to house them reduces homelessness. Which is equally smart and compassionate. Friendship Shelter is a known regional leader in addressing homelessness, and their work speaks for itself. I simply could not sit by and let that record of success be misrepresented. 

Marshall Ininns

Laguna Beach

A new broom sweeps clean

I have heard, from the moment I decided to run for City Council, that I was too “new”. I dismissed the claim immediately, and pushed forward. I didn’t give it a second thought. I found it so peculiar and absurd.

I kept hearing it. A prominent businessman who agreed to have coffee with me said, “You’ve only been in Laguna Beach two years? You are too new.” I asked what that meant. “You don’t know the insiders. Get out before you make a fool of yourself. You will look like a silly woman.” That’s a direct quote. 

I carried on. I come from a long line of fiscally conservative Democrats. I fully subscribe to TR’s “Square Deal” policy and the “3 C’s”. Not steal from the rich, but give everyone a fair chance. A hand up, not a hand out. 

When I finally posed the question “Too New” on Nextdoor (a site where the most civil seem to lose all reason), there wasn’t any response. It was amazing. No one could tell me what that meant?

Was it the established Republicans? Village Laguna? Remarkably, Nextdoor had gone silent. But for one or two supporters who told me to carry on and stop worrying about it, I never did get an answer. 

So, after almost three years in Laguna Beach, and two years in San Clemente, when do I get to say, “I am no longer a newlywed?” I am in love with Laguna Beach and I am going nowhere. However this turns out, thank you. To all the wonderful people I have met, to the incredible groups doing amazing, mostly unrecognized work, and to those who weren’t in fear of “new eyes” on old topics, it has been my honor to get to know you. 

There was another Roosevelt who once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” Rest assured dear Laguna Beach, I am not “winging it” as Billy Fried suggested while interviewing me. I have done my due diligence and have studied hard to understand what is at stake. I appreciate all who just might realize, “A new broom sweeps clean.” The unfortunate things about living in a bubble, is that bubbles tend to burst. It also clouds judgment. It is advisable to remain open minded and looking to the future. I am open to all questions and new ideas for Laguna Beach. 

Allison Mathews

Laguna Beach

Candidates’ responses not truthful at Susi Q Forum

Previous forums wouldn’t allow debate among candidates on audience questions. That changed for the better at the recent Susi Q Forum with Council incumbent Iseman, Planning Commissioner Kempf, and former Council member Christoph’s answers.

Question #1 to Toni Iseman: “Do you think the City Council should be allowed to usurp Measure P sales tax 1 percent intent and take away resident voter rights to vote on a 25-year bond?”

Iseman failed to answer question in first attempt saying that’s up to the voters to decide, then corrected herself when challenged as “this is not true” by candidate Lorene Laguna. Iseman added, “We’ll find experts that will make recommendations.” (Decide for you with Council vote, taking your right to vote away, usurping resident right to vote on bond funded by 1 percent sales tax Measure P.)

Question #2 to Sue Kempf: “What is your reaction to the news that our City Planning and Council members never informed residents or public agencies of the loss of 120 parking spaces, not their disclosure of just 10 spaces reported by the City for the last four years of meetings, and presentations of Village Entrance design plans?”

Kempf stated spaces lost were around 25, but Planning Commission was not responsible, and City Council was, and her role was just reviewing the landscape, lighting and fencing issues, and approval was left to Council.

This is false. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 approval on 12/13/17. This resolution authorized the project/provided the approval of C.U.P. 17-2506, Planning Commission D.R. 17-2659 and Coastal Development Permit 17-2507 (Village Entrance Project) – sent to the Coastal Commission – certified on 1/23/18 by the City. Kempf failed to accept responsibility for the plan, flawed design and second motion, of the approved VE project.

Question #3 to Ann Christoph: “Do you agree with the City promoting and advertising the message of fire and fear for evacuation routes in order to sway voters to approve undergrounding power lines with the Measure P sales tax?”

Former Council member Christoph (served 1990-1994) stated she wasn’t for Measure P and in her closing statement erred by saying Lot 10’s existing 67 parking spaces were “not supposed to be double-counted” bought as an offset for landscape, said not fair to include in lost parking count.

This is a false statement, as Lot 10’s 67 spaces are year-round City revenue earning spaces, with the lot including a pay station for the last four years. It was a valet paid parking lot for decades before for our Festivals’ 464 spaces existing in our City parking resources within project boundary, now reduced to 342, losing 122 existing car stall parking spaces we had access to.

Bryan Menne

Laguna Beach

20 years of Iseman is enough

Urban design experts show us building parking structures does not reduce traffic congestion. In 2013, the $65 million dollar parking garage was opposed by Let Laguna Vote on grounds of cost scale and size. Toni Iseman joined LLV to oppose the structure until she proposed a parking garage of her own design at less cost and smaller size. On July 25, 2017, Village Laguna proposed seven more possible sites around Laguna to accept a parking structure. The city agenda item was moved by Councilman Dicterow, seconded by Boyd, and approved 5-0 by City Council including Iseman. 

Year after year advocates for less auto congestion propose mobility solutions to Laguna’s City Council. At one point our efforts brought Joe Alcott, an OCTA Rep (September 13, 2016) to present a report for PCH bicycle safety provisions and consistency from Seal Beach to San Clemente. Toni Iseman sent Alcott packing – she would have no bicycles in her town. PCH and Laguna Canyon Road are managed and operated by Cal State Department of Transportation Caltrans. Iseman denied them a multi-modal traffic solution on their own road. 

In a City Council meeting Iseman reminded older members of the audience if they sold their homes the City would benefit by higher tax revenues from property reassessment. 

At the Susi Q Candidate Forum an audience member asked whether residents would vote for the bond to pay for the power utility underground project. Toni answered that Laguna residents would be given the opportunity to vote approval for the sales tax increase measure. In reality residents vote only for the measure; the bond is approved by proxy. The City Council will potentially vote to float the bonds up to $135 Million or more, not the residents. Toni Iseman benefits directly from Measure P’s proposed undergrounding of utility poles by increased property values and enhanced views on her street while residents pay for it. (LB Seniors Campaign Forum – October 8, 2018 at 6 p.m.)

Iseman also denied that she, as a vote of City Council, eliminated 120 parking spaces when the Village Entrance was approved. This was strongly refuted by a member of the audience who has the actual accounting for loss of parking spaces and filed a complaint with the California Coastal Commission over the City’s VE. A reduction of parking spaces was a goal of Village Laguna as recorded on their website. (LB Seniors Campaign Forum – October 8, 2018 at 6 p.m.)  

Councilwoman Iseman has given years of public service to Laguna residents, but to the extent she and Village Laguna participated in the aforementioned shenanigans, isn’t 20 years of Iseman and company enough? 


Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, still a great place to live

Rather than a long diatribe, I’ll keep this letter positive and short. I moved to Laguna Beach in 1987. I love and appreciate living here now as much as I did in ‘87. I give the former and current city council members as well as city agencies and their employees much of the credit for keeping Laguna great (imagine a green hat with the letters KLG.) Additionally, it is clearly apparent that some members of our community have an exceptionally strong bond with and love for our city demonstrated by their frequent participation in various civic activities that make Laguna a special place to live. All one needs to do to see actual evidence of this involvement is to look at photos in old and current issues of local publications. Who do you regularly see in group photos? None other than Ann Christoph and Toni Iseman – Ann a former council member and Toni a current long-serving council member. They have my vote in the upcoming election because I know they truly and selflessly care about Laguna.

Lenny Vincent
Laguna Beach

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