Our Letter to the Editor policy

It is our firm intention to run any letter that any Laguna Beach resident writes to us with few exceptions.

If the subject of a letter is not a newsworthy individual, we will not publish a letter with any inkling of a personal attack.

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If a business is newsworthy, it is probable that we will accept such a letter.

Generally, we will only change objectionable language and will leave spelling and grammatical mistakes as they were written.

The best rule of thumb is that the decision of the editor is final. 


Keep Park Plaza; underground utilities

I feel [the plaza] it should be on Forest but support the continuation of Park Plaza and hope eventually it will end up on Forest. This would require the merchants who are entrenched on the way it has always been and fearful of any change to gain confidence. Is that possible? Keep Park Plaza. This is Laguna Beach. Unlike suburbia we are a community with a town center and need a plaza type place to meet, relax, have a cup of coffee.

On the topic of undergrounding...

Imperative major routes are undergrounded without any delay. If we need to evacuate with only two routes this could be a problematic, at best, but the possibility of downed poles (and it only takes one) requires that we must think safety above all else. I would like to see the entire city undergrounded with reservations on who pays. My neighborhood, amongst others, is already undergrounded at our cost. I feel we’ve paid and shouldn’t pay for everyone else who hasn’t stepped up to the plate.  Costs should be meted out by neighborhood property assessments.

Kathleen Jepson-Bernier

Laguna Beach


Time to follow New York’s example in reducing smog?

From the website of the City of New York: “You can report an idling vehicle, other than an authorized emergency vehicle, that is parked with its engine running for more than three minutes, or parked next to a school with its engine running more than one minute.”

In other words, you can receive a ticket if you let an engine run for more than three minutes while your vehicle is parked. 

In Laguna Beach and elsewhere, I have seen vehicles-cars and trucks, with engines running while stopped for 20-30 minutes. Since there appears to be a problem with a change in climate around the world, with the destruction of 400 acres of forest per day, fires & smoke almost everywhere in California, and the refusal of certain segments of the U.S. population to admit that there is a problem, perhaps the City Council of Laguna Beach might consider copying the law from New York.

The naysayers and tobacco industry said that to deprive cigarette addicts from smoking in long, steel tubes seven miles in the air, was unfair. Eventually, governments could no longer ignore reality, and prohibiting smoking in airplanes, restaurants and bars became the norm, and not many suffered because of this. 

The auto industry fought tooth and nail to prevent regulations that would require seat belts in vehicles, proof notwithstanding, that such laws would save many lives. Fortunately, common sense prevailed and we always buckle up when driving.

So, how about if the City of Laguna Beach addresses this problem? The City, to its credit, has outlawed smoking on the streets, so can we go a bit further and let citizens know that it is not right to sit in a vehicle with the engine running, polluting the air, and contributing to a degradation of the climate?

Common sense has worked. May it continue.

David E. Kelly

Laguna Beach


Is it just me?

Is it just me that thinks the City has favored the commercial property interests over the resident homeowners?

Is it just me that thinks closing Park Avenue is a bad idea? The Police say the traffic count was low, so no damage done. However, the traffic count was low because that street is used primarily by locals. It’s our relief valve, traffic wise. The City says the new park can be used to allow bar patrons to “sober up” and have allowed it to be open until 2:30 a.m. What a slippery slope. My recollection is that recently the police chief found that allowing the bars to remain open later created a uniformity. That’s great! Bars open longer means more drunks later, but no worry, go to our park to sober up. Thanks.

Is it just me that is disturbed by the fact an “anonymous donor” provided $10,000 to improve the new park? That park is a city street. That is the citizens property. Who gave the money and what’s their agenda? Why is the city accepting anonymous money? The last time we saw anonymous donations was when there was a ballot referendum to allow a marijuana shop in the city. The voters spoke up and shut that down.  Furthermore, if we are now into closing streets, I live on a cul-de-sac and I’m sure my neighbors would “donate” monies to close our street off to outside traffic.

Is it just me that cannot understand why the city is proposing to spend $7,000,000 on a village entrance and another $30,000,000 for a parking garage? We need more tourists and day trippers? I think most residents would say no. The commercial interests would be the only ones to benefit. 

Is it just me that thinks the city should be looking at the big picture issues such as 1) the movie theater has been closed for years; 2) Hotel Laguna is about to close down; and 3) Irvine Company will soon build something like 1,100 apartments at the intersection of 133 and the 405?  

Is it just me that feels the city, which has a massive budget, is wasting our monies on closing useful streets, grand entrances, garages and so much other nonsense it’s hard to keep up? I think the city needs to stop wasting our resources and use the massive tax flow for the benefit of the residents.

Is it just me that feels that a city of this caliber should have a first-rate family recreation center including indoor basketball, fitness center, rooms for yoga, Pilates, spinning etc? The city can find real estate and funds for expensive items that generally benefit the commercial interests. Why can’t those funds be applied for the benefit of the residents instead?

If it’s not just me, I suggest the residents speak up and let their concerns and wishes for the use of their tax dollars known.

James Bridy

Laguna Beach


Morass of above ground utilities is the single biggest threat to our public safety

The City Council at its recent meeting voted unanimously to advance the measures to bury overhead power lines in Laguna Beach. I applaud this decision, and urge the whole community to do so. We all should support this important effort for the compelling reason that the morass of above ground utilities is the single biggest threat to our public safety.

Laguna Canyon Road, our other critical ingress/egress roads as well as over 60 percent of our residential neighborhoods continue to have above ground archaic and dangerous power lines and transformers. This is totally unacceptable and should concern us all for many reasons.

The fact is that above ground power lines and transformers throughout our City present an imminent risk of catastrophic fire - whether triggered by winds, other weather conditions, earthquakes, malfunction or other causes. Recall the devastating 1993 Laguna fire and the recent Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa which was caused by above ground electric wires. These fires ravished the communities, destroying thousands of homes (including my sister-in-law’s), even into areas where utilities are already underground. And beyond fires, downed power lines and poles, from whatever the cause, present significant safety risks including electrocution from live wires and blocking access for people evacuating and first responders arriving in the face of a catastrophic event, as well as overhead wire radiation and the risk of collusion to motor vehicles.

Undergrounding also carries significant benefits including (1) City beautification, (2) increased property values, (3) improved pedestrian circulation by removal of obstructing poles in the middle of sidewalks which particularly hinder access for the disabled, (4) undergrounding provides the opportunity to cost effectively add high speed internet fiber (and needed competition to the Cox Cable high-speed internet monopoly).

There are some “naysayers” who advance arguments which I do not find persuasive in the face of the extreme life safety risks. One is that undergrounding is too costly, but those costs pale in comparison to the losses from a fire or other catastrophic event, not only monetary but the human toll in injury or death, and the destruction of our homes, possessions and memories. Another is that the risk from above ground utilities is overblown, but just ask our Fire and Police Departments, or any of the thousands of people who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire and many others that have been cause by overhead wires. 

And another is that people who have already paid to underground utilities in their neighborhoods will have to pay twice, but the Council has made clear that will not occur. Only those areas not yet undergrounded will pay for that work. The whole community will only pay for undergrounding Laguna Canyon Road and the other critical ingress and egress routes which benefit us all.

The recent winds and fires bring home the point - the time to underground is NOW.

Tom Gibbs

Laguna Beach


Setting the record straight: Robert Elster, Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council Vice-chair, clarifies his views on undergrounding

This is in reference to Barbara Diamond’s December 8th article on the Laguna Beach City Council Meeting of December 5th. While I was quoted twice in the article, some sort of an honorable recognition I suppose, in part I was misquoted and would like to set the record straight. I am firmly in support of undergrounding of utilities within the city, particularly along major evacuation routes from the city.

In paragraph eight of the article, Ms. Diamond incorrectly grouped me with Judy Mancuso in claiming that the proposed survey would be “be spun to get the response the council wanted…”  While this was Ms. Mancuso’s assertion, it was not mine.  My comment was that the proposed survey of 500 residents seemed to be an inordinately small number, roughly two percent of the Laguna Beach population, and suggested that the survey size be increased.  

I did suggest that the survey, particularly of a larger population, would also be an opportunity to personally ensure that the residents surveyed were fully informed, before they responded, of the proposed General Obligation bond purpose, the proposed Community Facilities District, and the financial impact to each of the surveyed residents of both the GO and the CFD.  That’s not spinning the survey.

In paragraph 10, I was also quoted regarding the danger of telephone poles and lines falling in an earthquake and blocking egress routes for residents.  While true that I did mention earthquakes, the major point of my comments was that overhead utility lines and poles are threats in more ways than just starting fires, and are more common occurrences. For instance, downing of poles and electrical lines due to traffic accidents can block streets and impede first responder access to accidents, as well as disrupting commercial and residential traffic; this can happen, and has, on both major arteries / evacuation routes and on feeder streets in Laguna Beach neighborhoods.  Replacement of damaged poles and overhead power lines can further disrupt traffic.

Robert E. Elster

Vice-Chair, Emergency Disaster Preparedness Council

Laguna Beach


Meter/property owners should be exclusive focus of the Council survey

Your paper reports that: “Councilman Bob Whalen, an early advocate of a bond to rid the city of overhead utility poles along major evacuation routes, reiterated his position. 

“I feel strongly that we have to go to the voters and ask for support for a city-wide measure to fund evacuation routes,” said Whalen.

Who pays the cost of any such bond, the voters or property owners? It is not right for voters who may not be property owners to force a cost onto property owners who may not even vote in Laguna. This issue is just “spin” if meter/property owners are not the exclusive focus of the Council survey, if the bond is to go on the property tax and not paid for by “the voters”!

RT Price

Laguna Beach


Historical Preservation Ordinance: CEQA’s role is misunderstood

Please attend the Council meeting, Dec. 16 [at] 9 a.m.  The Planning Commission ordinance revisions expand the definition of an “historical resource” under the CEQA law. Hundreds of homes Laguna will become subject to time consuming historical reviews at your expense.

CEQA grants each city the legal right to enact, or not, an historical preservation (HP) ordinance, in their sole discretion. There are over 500 cities in CA. The CA Office of HP reports less than 100 cities have HP ordinances. Ron Parsons, State Historian told me “there is no legal requirement that a city have a registration program or an inventory”.  Over 400 cities have opted not to have a HP law. 

The proposed revisions build on the flawed 1981 survey. Using the drive-by opinion of a paid consultant the list is now about 1018 and each is “recoded”. This list includes some of 298 homes now on the old “registry”. This means over 720 homes will be “un-registered” but designated a HR against your will. It gets worse. All homes over 70 years old will be treated as HR’s. In time, thousands of homes will become subject to costly historical reviews. You will be “presumed guilty” and forced to defend your home at your expense. All based on an arbitrary consultant’s opinion.  Dozens complained about this at the PC meetings, but some commissioners said Sorry, CEQA is making us do this!”  Not true.

The ordinance requires registrants to sign an undefined “agreement”. The actual agreement (not on-line) co

mmits all current and future owners to accept control of your home by the City ... forever! It appears Laguna may be the only city with this onerous agreement. It denies due process, excludes the   right to terminate, and forces you to accept change of law risk. It conflicts violently with the 10 year Mills Act contract.

The City Council should reject the revised ordinance, suspend it, and instruct the staff to design a new ordinance which respects homeowner rights and immunizes owners from unwanted CEQA controls. All registrations should be strictly voluntary. There is no need for expensive inventories or surveys. Mills Act contracts should be the only incentive. Stop the practice of forcing a homeowner on a perpetual registry before they can apply for Mills Act. Other cities don’t have this disincentive.

Other cities have preservation society charities (Laguna has none) which has proven that the historical character can be preserved by voluntary actions and residents who love our history. Design Review has done a good job of protecting each of us from a neighbor who wants to “mansionize”, block iconic views, or disrupt the historical pattern of development. Other than a voluntary registration/Mills Act program, we don’t need this complicated, unfair, over reaching “revised” ordinance. 

Doug Cortez

Laguna Beach


Don’t forget Sandy Hook

As we approach Dec. 14, the fifth anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I want to remind everyone to keep the memories of the 20 youngsters and six adults who were gunned down alive. I can’t begin to understand what the families of the innocents who died that terrible morning must still be feeling; nonetheless, I want them to know there hardly is a day that goes by that I don’t think about their loved ones.  Maybe it’s because I have three children or that I taught preschool at Anneliese’s in 1974-75.  No matter the reason, my hope is one day Congress will do the right thing and pass effective, responsible gun safety laws. Only then will the families and I feel a sense of closure to one of the most horrific events in modern American history. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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