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Laguna Beach


Carol Suess 

August 22, 1943 - July 22, 2021

Carol Suess closeup

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Submitted photo

Carol Suess 

Irene Carol Suess, age 77, passed away on July 22, 2021, in Dana Point.

She was born in Detroit on August 22, 1943, and spent her early years in Southfield, Mich. Before coming to California, Irene attended the University of Michigan. She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert and Irma (Hartung) Suess. 

As an artist and jeweler, Irene was involved in many area art shows. 

However, she was most well-known at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach – being a part of the Festival from 1968-2019. Her jewelry could be found at art galleries across the Southwest. 

Services are private. Donations in memory of Irene may be sent to the Sawdust Artists’ Benevolence Fund, 935 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, or you may donate online at

Dicey downtown intersection should be safer

The dangerous, downhill curve on the northbound side of Coast Highway at Forest Avenue has been the site of numerous serious accidents over the years. Another mishap occurred again here last week: one planter box sustained significant damage as it traveled all the way across the sidewalk to a store’s glass window while another box was pushed out of its original position by the vehicle that hit it. Imagine if this had occurred during dinner hour or a busy Saturday morning. If that sidewalk had been filled with people – as it often is in summertime – the outcome could have been far worse.

Letter Sweeney

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Courtesy of Trish Sweeney

This intersection used to have K-rail barriers, which have been extensively crash tested and are recommended for use on state highways like this by the California Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A year ago, when I asked then-assistant city manager Shohreh Dupuis about the change, I was told that: “The intersection has been redesigned and a new curb has been installed for the scramble intersection. There is no longer a need for the crash barrier wall.”

Clearly, that is not the case. Who at the city provided this recommendation? Was he or she a traffic safety engineer? Who made the final decision? What studies show that flower planters are safer than established K-rail barriers?

Keeping the public safe should be the primary consideration in this frequently visited location. The city should revisit its decision – soon.

Trish Sweeney

Laguna Beach

In search of William (Bill) Wilcoxen oral history interviewees

As part of a TOW school community history club project, I would like to briefly interview people who knew Mr. Wilcoxen. I would also be interested in hearing from those who might have known his role as a school board member in helping secure the small TOW View Park located between the TOW Elementary School and Fire Station #3. Please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 274-1085. 

Thank you,

Roger Kempler

Laguna Beach

Plant Man Column

“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” –Warren Buffet

A solitary Parota grows under the intense late July sun in Nopolo, a few miles south of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico. My friend, Gene Gratz, would describe it as a tree of ginormous” proportions (a mature tree can attain a height of over 30 meters and 3.5 meters in diameter); indeed, this member of the pea family is prized for its shady relief and abundance, particularly from central Mexico south to Costa Rica, where it is the national tree known as Guanacaste.

Letter Kawaratani 1

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Parota (Enterolobium cyclocarpum) at 18 years

While this tree is acknowledged for its large shady canopies of feathery leaves and the comfort it provides for those who venture outdoors, the Parota is also sustainable as it switches to a deciduous state to preserve moisture during the dry season. Its flowers provide nourishment for bees and on warm days the fragrance fills the air. Additionally, the tree improves soil quality by its support of nitrogen, with the help of beneficial bacteria.

Climate change, paucity of water, and poor soil fertility and texture do not daunt the Parota, as it has nearly a 100 percent germination rate in dry, tropical locales. The heartwood of the tree has resistiveness to both fauna and disease, and seedlings grow more than a meter in a year. These characteristics allow the tree to be an ideal sustainable resource for reforestation projects in tropical America.

Letter Kawaratani 2

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Photograph and furniture design by Catharine Cooper

The Parota is one of Mexico’s “five most precious hardwoods,” possessing wood that is insect-resistive and less dense than exotic hardwoods. Highly coveted, the trees were originally used in mainland Mexico for dories and small boats. The resistance to termites and the beautiful honey to reddish-brown hue of the milled wood have created a high demand for doors, tables, cabinets, and other wooden furniture. It is a true hardwood – it is not an easy task to move Parota furniture.

Beyond Parota’s sustainable benefits and as furniture, it has important uses in nutrition and medicine in Mexico. The foliage, fruit, and seed are used as food for cattle, horses, pigs, goats, and sheep. Homeopathic uses include providing relief from flu and bronchitis. Refined astringent from the green fruit is a treatment for diarrhea. The sap is used as pegamento (glue) and chewed as a gum (perhaps the origin of sticky saliva in the Americas?). The fruit and bark contain tannins that are part of soap production and for curing leather.

Letter Kawaratani 3

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Photograph and furniture design by Catharine Cooper

One of the joys of living occasionally in Mexico is the enjoyment of all things Loretano; that includes the natural resources of the Sea of Cortez, locally sourced food, and furniture built by master carpenter Samuel Arias Ayala. Entertaining family and friends in our beautiful home is, of course, a prerequisite on every trip. See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 494-5141.

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach

Stand up for students, teachers, parents – not political party ideology

With race equity curriculum, pandemic protocols, and school governance “in the news” nationally, it’s not surprising political party junkies on the far left and far right are drawing the same ideological battle lines on public education that are dividing Americans on so many issues at the state and national level.

The commentary “Parents Stand Up,” by Jennifer Welsh Zeiter and India Hynes (Stu News Laguna, July 22, 2021), argues local press coverage of our own School Board’s race education program “veered far left.” Zeiter and Hynes call on like-minded citizens to rally at the August 19 meeting of our School Board, seemingly predicated on a belief race equity curriculum proposed by our School Board’s high-priced consultants is part of a national movement threatening to “overthrow our nation.”

For at least a decade many of us who have had kids and grandkids in local schools advocated an end to what we view as over-delegation of school governance responsibilities to overpaid but underperforming senior staff and consultants. But many who also oppose our School Board’s reliance on costly consultants instead of our trusted teachers for development of race equity curriculum want to focus on restoring School Board accountability for how its powers are exercised by surrogates acting on delegated authority.

Accordingly, ours were among the first voices in town to propose a historically literate rather than a politically trendy race education program in local schools (“Teach students U.S. sacrifice defeating fascism, racism,” Stu News Laguna, May 4, 2021). We also have opposed the Education Element consulting contract (“Education consulting industry profits in LBUSD race program,” Stu News Laguna, July 20, 2021).

However, many share my own concern that Zeiter and Hynes promote a flawed narrative of pseudo-constitutionalism in which “equality before law” uniformly creates a level playing field for all willing to work hard, while law and policy with a social equity purpose ushers in government-imposed socialist socio-economic engineering that rewards failure and punishes success.

Under the U.S. Constitution, equal protection of law and due process are redeemed by limitation of government powers in the Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment. Government by consent of the governed is redeemed by the right under Art. I, Sec 2 and Art. II, Sec. 1 to vote for equal representation in Congress and the Electoral College.

What Zeiter and Hynes seem to have missed is Art. I, Sec. 8, in which judgment as to what laws are necessary and proper to carry out federal powers is vested in Congress. That’s where the governed consent to law and policy that democratically has practiced discretionary powers over social equity issues since 1789.

So, was it a socialist scheme for Congress to enact federal laws creating not just equality but greater equity for girls and women in public school sports programs and employment in the workplace? Was the act of Congress known as the ADA, mandating greater social equity for the disabled, a socialist scheme rewarding “losers” for being disabled? Or is it only social equity law and policy that address the legacy and still persistent vestiges of institutionalized racial discrimination under our laws until the 1970s that seemingly threaten to “overthrow our nation” according to Zeiter and Hynes?

Some may believe the legacy of a century of racial segregation after the 14th Amendment failed to secure due process and equal protection for black Americans was resolved when Congress and the courts belatedly ended systemic legalized racism in the 1960s. Most Americans know we still have work to do on race equity in our society.

School Boards are non-partisan, elected without party affiliation, and recent history has taught all of us political party control of the School Board does not serve our schools or community well. So, instead of making the August 19 meeting of our School Board about national political party ideology, let’s focus on the real local issues.

America is the greatest human rights success story in the history of human civilization, especially compared to other nations, both historically and even in our lifetimes. That’s why the U.N. Charter is based on the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

The free press makes our race history an open book compared to most countries. So, instead of conspiratorial fear about “Critical Race Theory,” let’s instead challenge ourselves to deconstruct CRT in an intellectually honest way. That is how we can best support development of a curriculum that equips our children for their futures based on an accurate history of institutionalized racism and the future of racial justice values in America and all the nations of the world.

We all are in recovery, praying the worst is behind us, needing to heal and restore an ordered reality. K-12 students are doing better than many adults, and the resiliency of our kids and grandkids gives us hope they’ll not only recover but be a great generation. Let’s make the August 19 meeting about getting our schools safely back to a new normal with an interdisciplinary curriculum that is better than ever for our students, teachers, and parents.

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Political double-speak

Politicians are famous for speaking out of both sides of their mouths. One day they are against something and the next day they are for it. Too bad there isn’t a vaccine to prevent this. Let me explain:

I was shocked when I heard former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders say on Friday she would not impose vaccine requirements if elected governor of Arkansas in 2022.

Here is what she said: “We will not have mandates on the vaccine, we will not shut down churches and schools and other large gatherings, because we believe in personal freedom and responsibility.” Huckabee Sanders then added, “It’s one of the key cornerstones, frankly, of our country.”

Then, on Saturday, the gubernatorial candidate announced in an op-ed she has been vaccinated against the coronavirus and urged others to do so. “Based on the advice of my doctor, I determined that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweighed any potential risks.” She also indicated the fact that Donald Trump and his family had been vaccinated helped inform her decision.

Imagine if something like this happened in Laguna. One day, Mayor Bob Whalen urges residents to be water-wise or face mandatory cutbacks in consumption. The next day, neighbors call the media because his over-watering is running down the street. Mind you this is pure fiction on my part, but here’s my point: No matter where they live or what their political leanings are, we want leaders to speak clearly and be consistent. 

I know this is true here in town. I wonder what voters in Arkansas are thinking now?

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Pickleball courts: A residents’ perspective

Regarding the pickleball craze, I need to express my views as to the noise issues that are caused by players determined to use “hard paddles” and balls at Lang Park. 

I am a resident at Vista Aliso, a senior community right next to these courts. The noise level makes peace and quiet impossible to those of us living nearest to the courts.

In your pickleball article, there was no mention of the noise issue, which has inspired me to reach out to those involved in this sport and ask them to use “soft paddles.”

Play begins promptly at 8 a.m. and doesn’t stop until almost 8 p.m. during the long days of summer. The noise is so loud, it carries into my living room, bedroom, and even into the shower! When play begins, I am forced to close my doors and windows to try and lessen the sound. Peace and quiet is shattered as more players are joining this “craze.” I now must wear “shooting range” headgear to try and block the sound. When these courts are full, the number of players can be eight, which results in unbearable loud noise that can last all day! It makes relaxing on my small deck to watch the ocean impossible. The other residents whose apartments are nearest the courts are also bothered, but I have become the “spokesperson” since my unit literally overlooks the courts.

I have voiced my concerns to City Council who did approve installation of “acoustic panels.” Unfortunately, they do not muffle the loud “clacking” sound and chatter of the players. The sharp “clack” even carries across PCH to the Montage, and also the adjoining apartment buildings nearby.

Pickleball has become a conflicting issue across the country, with different counties enforcing their own mandates to try and solve the many complaints of nearby residents. Courts are recommended to be “500’ from a Residential Community” by Acoustic Regulations. These courts are literally 25’ across the sidewalk! (Vista Aliso was formerly a school, which is part of the reason these courts are so close.)

I know pickleball has been suggested to become permanent at Alta Vista. Bravo! But I am again pleading for the council to pass a municipal code to use “soft paddles” at Lang Park, and make the hour of play to begin at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. (It used to be 7:30 a.m., and thanks to Alexis Braun was changed to 8 a.m.) To allow certain hours for the tennis players who used to play here would be a relief! 

In closing: I realize pickleball is “enjoyable” to the players, and they are totally unaware of the anguish they are causing. Perhaps if they knew, more would be willing to use “soft paddles.”

Please remember there are seniors trying to enjoy their “Golden Years” in comfort.

These courts have driven me “pickleball crazy!” I welcome comments from others who also suffer from the noise.

Thank you for listening,
Susana Cruciana

Laguna Beach

Honoring our height limit history

August 3 is the fiftieth anniversary of the initiative that established Laguna’s 36-foot building height limit, and Village Laguna, whose founding members created the initiative, wants to share the story of how it happened.

In 1971 the city was just getting started on curbside recycling, South Coast Community Hospital was preparing for expansion, the Aliso Pier had just opened to the public, Eiler Larsen had a birthday party in Bluebird Park, a pound of ground beef cost 58 cents, and you could buy a three-bedroom, two-bath house with an ocean view for $46,500. The city was developing a General Plan, and a 25-member citizens’ advisory committee had recommended that one of its goals be to “maintain a village atmosphere and a sense of relaxation, peace, and tranquility.”

At the same time, a study commissioned by the City Council had recommended a doubling of the number of hotel rooms to increase tourism revenue. Maximum building heights in the two commercial zones were 30 and 50 feet. The Surf and Sand Hotel had recently been granted a variance to build to 58 feet, and a 95-foot hotel at the north end of Main Beach was believed to be on the drawing board. The Planning Commission was considering a maximum height of 70 feet. One of its hearings drew some 250 people; all but a few opposed to the idea.

Eventually the commission settled on a 50-foot maximum height, but before the recommendation could reach the City Council a citizens’ group of five filed a notice of intent to circulate petitions for an initiative that would limit buildings to 36 feet above the highest point of grade citywide. Signature gathering began in March, and after a single weekend the volunteers had all but 30 of the signatures they needed. The goal had been 1,140 signatures, representing 15 percent of the city’s registered voters, and in the end 3,049 signatures were certified as valid. Faced with these figures at its May 19 meeting, the City Council called a special election to decide the issue on August 3.

On election day, 62 percent (4,920) of Laguna’s registered voters turned out (a record, according to the City Clerk), and 75 percent of them voted yes.

The height limit saved views and helped keep our oceanfront from looking like Huntington Beach, and the tradition of Laguna residents’ working together to shape the city’s future continues to this day.

Anne Caenn

Village Laguna President

Teaching educational equity

I write to weigh in on the issue of teaching about matters of racial justice in our schools. There has been a great deal of misinformation circulating, and I’d like to offer my perspective as a professional historian of the United States.

My specialty is women’s history, though I’ve also studied and written about race relations as well. I was drawn to study women, because when I was growing up, the subject received no attention at all in our textbooks. History was the story of (white) men and their activities. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was giving myself a compensatory education by haunting the Laguna Beach public library when I was in high school to read biographies of women like Elizabeth I or Catherine de Medici. What a joy that, when I started a doctoral program at Stanford in 1970, a new field was being born, and I could focus on it. How empowering it was to learn about the many social movements led by women, even before we had the vote, for example.

And that’s what animates the push to diversify the curriculum now. Male students need to learn about women (though I’ve met with resistance over the years from reluctant men), and all of us need to learn about the history of people of color. How many know that Native Americans didn’t achieve full access to citizenship until well into the 20th century? Nor, might I add, did many Asian-born people.

Moreover, critical race theory has become a bogeyman. Let me say, first of all, that this theory in its fullest expression was developed at law schools, and the teaching of this full expression is confined mostly to law schools and graduate programs. But the core insight – that racism is baked into many of our institutions – is demonstrably true and should be part of the education of all Americans.

Let me offer one example. In the 1930s the federal government began developing programs to help people afford to buy homes. From the get-go, via mapping cities to see which neighborhoods had high concentrations of people of color, these programs were targeted for white people. After World War II the government invested more heavily than ever in insuring home loans and at the same time systematized the exclusion of Black people, a practice known as redlining. Over the decades, this discriminatory lending has made it much easier for white people to accumulate generational wealth. We can’t address injustices if we’re ignorant of their existence.

Glenna Matthews, Ph.D.

Laguna Beach

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