Dennis’ Tidbits


May 20, 2016

Most May Gray since 1982 – but we were due for it

Boy, the dreaded May Gray is really doing a number on us this time around and we’ve still got June to deal with. It’s the worst onslaught of gloom since 1982 when May that year had a total of only two sunny days and that June had only three nice days but then July and August were good. 

Every year is different as far as the amount of gloom is concerned and we were overdue for a heavy dose of it. This May’s gloom layer is up to 4,000 feet thick at times and that’s enough to drop heavy drizzle or light rain particularly during the morning hours with even measurable precipitation but amounts are usually in the form of a few hundredths of an inch up to maybe a tenth at the most. Wednesday dropped 0.04 inches and Thursday collected a mere 0.02. Here at 5 p.m. Thursday we’re still socked in but once you go north past Newport the sun is out up in Huntington. Typical thick Catalina Eddy where it takes longer to clear down here in South County. 

This is a good time to flee to the mountain resorts or wilderness, whatever your preferences as those places are above all the creepy crud. 

But just remember one thing. We only have to endure a couple of months of this. Just when you think it’s that bad, try spending some time up in the Pacific Northwest where it’s gloomy sometimes from Labor Day to July Fourth with barely a break. The worst day in Laguna is still 40,000 times better than the best day in Portland! I know that from experience. Years ago I spent time up there and the gray gets to you where you get to the point where May Gray and June Gloom are a walk in the park! ‘Nuff said! 

Like I said, this may has been a bit extreme compared to a normal as this month averages only about 8-10 days of the gray mantle and it normally peaks in June with an average of 12-15 days but things begin to improve by the last week of June. Sometimes we get lucky with only a handful of crummy days. The total of gray days in May and June of 1981 only totaled seven days and 1996 had two gray days in May and only one in June, and several other years had less than ten days. 

It is just our turn for some rough going, but at least the afternoons aren’t that chilly with temps reaching the upper 60’s. 

Just grin and bear it and think of the Northwest, then you’ll cheer up a bit. 


Blooming Spring Beauties

Photo Gallery by MARY HURLBUT

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Enjoy more of Mary’s Spring Blooms in the slideshow below

Click on the left side photo to see them all

Friendship Shelter works with Collaborative to provide countywide permanent housing for the homeless


There is a widespread but largely inaccurate belief that subsidized permanent supportive housing for the homeless provides opportunistic men and women with a way to subvert the system, getting away with paying less than working people for their homes.

This may be true in some parts of the United States, but it is decidedly not the case with Orange County’s Permanent Supportive Housing Project, according to Larry Haynes, executive director of Mercy House, who heads up a Collaborative of six nonprofits, which includes Laguna Beach-based Friendship Shelter as well as Colette’s Children’s Home, Jamboree, Orangewood Children’s Foundation, and Share Our Selves (SOS), which provides comprehensive safety net services to the Orange County Community.

“There is no credible response to ending homelessness that does not include permanent housing initiatives,” Haynes says. “Market forces will never create a situation where the vulnerable and severely disabled are able to afford a home, particularly in Orange County.”

Identifying the most vulnerable in the homeless population

Dawn Price, executive director of Friendship Shelter, explains the method that the Collaborative uses to select clients and weed out anyone hoping to exploit the system.

“We use a ‘vulnerability index assessment’ to prioritize assistance. The chronically homeless and most disabled people, mentally and/or physically – those with the greatest service needs – rise to the top of the list. There are practical as well as compassionate reasons for taking this approach,” Price says. 

“These are vulnerable people who desperately need our help, yes. But they are also the group who cost society the most, because they frequently visit emergency rooms, are in and out of jail in some cases, and place the greatest demand on social services funded by taxpayers. We have seen this dependence change, quite dramatically in some cases, when they have access to permanent supportive housing.”

In the past eight months, the Collaborative has provided housing for 100 homeless people, thanks in part to a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

44 of those 100 homeless men and women lived in Laguna Beach.

A “scattered-site” approach that works

The Collaborative applies a “scattered-site” strategy to house applicants. In other words, for the most part, there is no centralized housing for the formerly homeless. Instead, skilled outreach workers, health care providers and a network of nonprofits reach out to landlords countywide, asking them to rent one or more units for the cause. Those landlords who participate are happy because they get dependable rental checks directly from the Collaborative, and they can call on dedicated case managers if there are any issues with their tenants. That’s an important part of the puzzle.

Laguna Beach homeless are now housed in units in Laguna Woods, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, Lake Forest, Dana Point, Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo.

“Rents in Laguna Beach are much too high for us to be able to subsidize in any meaningful way,” notes Kristin Points, director of development and marketing for Friendship Shelter. “That’s one of the reasons that the scattered-site strategy works so well.”


This 34-year-old man was so overwhelmed upon entering his apartment that he fell to his knees in gratitude

In turn, the County’s new Coordinated Entry Program, managed by 2-1-1 Orange County, helps the homeless secure the documentation they need to prove chronic homelessness and qualifying disabilities. 2-1-1 also works to ensure that there is a single, seamless entry point for the program. (Tenants pay one-third of their income toward housing costs.)

The myth also exists, Dawn Price says, that many homeless people prefer living on the streets or in their cars.

“This may happen once in a while, but mostly these are people who don’t believe that having a permanent home is possible for them. It’s a fantasy. They’re skeptical when we first reach out to them. We’ve had plenty of ‘choking-up’ moments when we’ve shown people their new homes,” she adds. 

Price describes a middle-aged woman who had lived on the street and in local parks for years with an undiagnosed mental illness. For months she wouldn’t accept housing because she didn’t believe she had a disability. 

“Staff finally gained her trust. When she entered her apartment and saw the bathroom she cried, because it had been so long since she could take a bath—let alone in her own home.”

Dealing with the challenges of daily living

At the press availability, I asked about practical matters. For example, how did the new home-dwellers deal with cooking, cleaning, and so on? How does the intensive case management work? 

As one example, I was told, a newly housed woman at first needed the help of her case manager to do her grocery shopping while she waited at home. Then she would sit in the car while the case manager shopped. From that point she accompanied staff into the store while they shopped. Now she does her own grocery shopping.

Another woman was so grateful for her home that she is adamant about putting aside 80 percent of every meal she cooks on the counter for the “food gods.”  Staff members of SOS don’t battle with her over this. They simply remove the remnants when necessary, and everyone is happy. 

Permanent Housing Services approach saves money

“The hope is that the most vulnerable of our population won’t continue to cycle through the system, because they are the ones who place the most demand on social services and cost the most,” Price explains. “Plus it is just the right thing to do.”

According to Julian Castro, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, PHS (Permanent Housing Services) costs an estimated $20,000 per annum per person compared with the $50,000 that would otherwise be spent on these individuals. The figures may be different in Laguna Beach, but significant cost savings have been demonstrated in similar programs nationwide. 

Certainly this is just one aspect of a complex issue. No one pretends that this will solve the problem of the chronically homeless, nor address all of the complicated issues presented by homelessness, chronic or acute. There are many challenges ahead, members of the Collaborative agree.

But it is a start, and Laguna is fortunate to have leaders such as Price to lead the way in making inroads in this heart-breaking and costly issue. The teamwork of the nonprofits in the Collaborative is also much to be admired.

Price notes that the Collaborative, independently and collectively, will be keeping definitive records to measure retention, quality of housing, case management and so on. 

“We’re motivated. We’ve seen the successes and we want to make the biggest impact possible. Every citizen benefits,” she says.

Friendship Shelter has worked for more than 27 years to end homelessness for men and women aged 18 and older in south Orange County, by providing year-round shelter and permanent housing, along with a full complement of rehabilitative services. Visit their website at to learn more about the organization.

PMMC’s Martini Madness fundraiser pulls in thousands

Story and Photos By DIANE ARMITAGE

The popular annual Martini Madness party, a spring fundraiser for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, knocked it out of the park again this year with a new location and more than 225 attendees. 

Initially the brainchild of Jon Madison’s Madison Square & Garden Café, the Martini Madness Party moved this year to The Cliff Restaurant with very happy results. 

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Who wouldn’t be happy with panoramic views of the ocean on a perfectly blue Laguna day, three signature Cliff martinis to choose from (along with wine and beer selections), and tray-passed hot appetizers? Even the spouting whales showed up on cue (and they didn’t even ask for a tip). 

“It was really a honor to put this together for the PMMC,” says Andrew Turula, General Manager of The Cliff Restaurant. “Both of our entities have been here in Laguna Beach more than 30 years, and it’s important to us to support the little home-grown cause that became a nationally recognized hospital for seals and sea lions.”

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Co-Owner Sharon Haron was on site to greet incoming PMMC guests as the rank and file of partygoers grew by the minute. In addition to the Cliff’s plentiful food, drink and friendly service, the PMMC offered a mini gift shop on site and introduced this year’s “Under the Sea Treasure Chest,” which just might be showing up in some mysterious places in the very near future, packed with promising bounty. (Keep an eye out, ye pirates!)

All in all, it was both a spectacular and charming event. At day’s end, the Martini Madness party brought in nearly $15,000 in funds, and many people purchased pre-gala seats for the popular PMMC “Under the Sea Gala” scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more generous venue or more generous patrons at this party,” says PMMC Executive Director Keith Matassa. “We’ve been so busy with so many incoming patients this year that it’s really an emotional experience to see the community respond with so much support.”

Police Files

Murder conviction overturned in 2009 beating death of Damon Nicholson in his North Laguna apartment

Damon Nicholson was murdered with a baseball bat in his Dolphin Way apartment in October 2009. At the time, the 40-year-old man was the banquet manager at Hotel Laguna and well known around town.

After an investigation, Laguna Beach Police detectives arrested two Lake Forest men, Matthew Dragna and Jacob Quintanilla, both 19, for Nicholson’s murder. Both men had gone to the Dolphin Way residence to have sex with Nicholson.

Dragna had been there on more than one occasion and court records show that he invited Quintanilla to the location on the night of the murder.

Dragna and Quintanilla were convicted of the murder in separate jury trials with Dragna convicted in December 2013 and later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed that conviction finding that Laguna Beach detectives had continued to question Dragna after he had invoked a request for an attorney. That, the court ruled, was a violation of Dragna’s rights under Miranda v. Arizona. That ruling removed the evidence that had been obtained during the questioning.

California’s Attorney General’s office acknowledged that the detectives made the error but argued that there was other independent evidence sufficient to convict Dragna. That evidence included DNA. 

The Orange County DA is expected to file charges for a new trial but have made no announcement.

A spokesperson for the Laguna Beach PD said they have no comment at this time.   


New “Coast to Coast” seat belt enforcement effort starts May 23 and aims to increase Click It or Ticket participation, save lives 

From May 23 to June 5, local law enforcement personnel will participate in the national Click It or Ticket campaign in an effort to save lives through increased seat belt use. This education enforcement period comes ahead of the Memorial Day holiday, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. 

According to research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, while 88.5 percent of passenger vehicle occupants buckled up in 2015, almost 50 percent of occupants of fatal crashes nationwide are not restrained. In some states, the rate is as high as 70 percent unrestrained in fatal crashes. In California, more than a half million people travel our roadways at grave risk without proper restraints. These facts highlight the need for increased education, awareness, and enforcement of seat belt use. Law enforcement agencies statewide are joining the Click It or Ticket effort to emphasize the “Coast to Coast” seat belt safety awareness campaign in all 50 states. 

“As law enforcement, we have a special role in helping protect the safety of our citizens,” said Lt. Jeff Calvert. “Time after time, we see the deadly results that come from drivers and passengers refusing to wear a seat belt. Wearing a seat belt is one of the most important steps in increasing survivability in a crash. Our job is to stop those who are not buckled up, and to keep them from repeating this potentially deadly mistake.” 

In 2014, nearly half of the 21,022 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes nationally were unrestrained, according to NHTSA. During the nighttime hours of 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., that number increased to 57 percent of those killed. 

“Hundreds of thousands of citizens will be traveling this Memorial Day weekend, as well as throughout the summer vacation season. We want to make sure that people are buckling up to keep themselves and their families safe. It is the greatest defense in a vehicle crash,” said Rhonda Craft, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety. 

For more info on the Click It or Ticket campaign, visit

Beach Brella – a local’s unique line was “Made in the Shade”

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Submitted photo

Beach Brella is a premium, boutique brella brand created to capture a luxury lifestyle beach and resort experience. The brand mantra, “Made in the Shade,” sets the tone for their unique line of brellas that stand apart from the crowd, infused with a certain style they like to call modern-vintage chic.

The brellas are 100% UV protective, fade resistant, lightweight, and come in a fashionable, beachy carrying case. All brellas are handmade and hand sewn with a Beach Brella Karma Guarantee. All brellas are eligible for refund within six months from the original purchase date with a receipt.

Beach lover, dedicated surfer and Laguna Beach local, Shelley Arends had a vision of standing out on the beach with a unique Beach Brella. Shelley is excited to share with you her journey in celebrating the California lifestyle through Beach Brella.

“My Brellas’ are a reflection of what I value most in life – enjoying a healthy, balanced lifestyle where we work hard but always make time to put toes in the sand.”

For more information, visit, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @beachbrella.


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