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Laguna Beach

Letters to the Editor

Love me some pickleball

Oh, what a joyous sight to behold at Alta Laguna pickleball courts. Like a small child peeking around the corner at Christmas time; so was I peeking each day to see the progress of the pickleball courts at Alta Laguna. 

Our new courts are a sight to behold, bringing fun, collegiality and much needed exercise to Laguna residents of all ages. The focus and determination of the City Council, the Recreation Committee, Alexis Braun CS and our talented pickleball coach, Marc Freije, is to be applauded.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. (William Ward)

So, I express great appreciation to those who worked hard to make our dream come true. 

Dr. Debby Bowes

Laguna Beach 

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Letters to the Editor

Perhaps we can learn some things from nearby cities

I recently heard that Rancho Palos Verdes is creating a plan to help with their fire protection of their city. Cameras are to be installed that can look over the city and detect smoke/fires in different areas of their city. 

This would help their fire department respond to any fires especially in remote areas and areas close to where citizens live. Also, if there is more than one fire, their chief can decide which engine company goes where. 

This sounds like something we could use – cameras at Top of the Word, Bluebird Canyon, Arch Beach Heights and parts of South Laguna. I see this as helpful as an additional fire station is being considered in South Laguna – despite many folks there not wanting a station where one is being considered. We need to be aggressive in our quest to make this city safer – including doing more undergrounding of electrical poles, especially in the canyon. 

I believe the report said that the cameras have a 30-mile, 360-degree view. Anything is better than what we have now – although this point is not a new discussion in this city. 

Hopefully we can consider this option for our city as well. 

Ganka Brown

Despite what he said, let’s thank the residents that took matters into their own hands

Looks like Tom Johnson and Stu News have been duped by Mission Hospital. The happy talk about how “diligent” Mission Hospital was in responding to the spill does not cut it. The truth is that residents took matters into their own hands by contacting the Laguna Beach City Council, numerous state agencies and Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris, who never responded. 

If Mr. Johnson had bothered to do some real reporting, he would have found that the first spill should never have occurred. The state requires that a containment area should be in place to prevent the spill from going into the storm drain that the City of Laguna Beach is responsible for. You would have thought that after the first spill, Mission Hospital would have “diligently” worked to build such a containment area that would have prevented the second spill from once again polluting the beach.

The City of Laguna Beach failed to report the first spill to the appropriate state agency which was their responsibility since the spill traveled through a storm drain. The only reason the state agencies became aware of the spills was because a resident, after hours of research, figured out which state agencies had oversight responsibility and contacted them. The agencies involved had no idea that the spills had occurred. 

Perhaps Mr. Johnson should take a second look and write an accurate account of the disregard Mission Hospital has for protecting our beaches. While he is at it, he might want to look at the issue of having the hospital release patients receiving psychiatric care. Just last week, a woman that had just been released and appeared to be over medicated went into the beach fully clothed and was slammed against a rock by a powerful wave. Fortunately, lifeguards and the Laguna Beach Fire Department were able to assist her.

David Flores

Laguna Beach

We shouldn’t forget that COVID deaths continue to rise

If you are having trouble assessing the impact of three quarters of a million dead from COVID-19, then picture this: It is the equivalent of wiping out the population of San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna, Newport, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa and parts of Irvine.

Another way of wrapping your arms around 750,000 fatalities is this: If each death was represented by a piece of paper, that “tower” would stand more than 250 ft. in the air. Imagine looking up at 25 basketball hoops all stacked on top of each other at Main Beach.

One last perspective to think about: From December 1941 until August 1945, 407,316 U.S. troops lost their lives during World War II. Given today’s death rate from COVID, it is possible we could double that number by the end of this year. 

While on the 2020 campaign trail, Donald Trump repeatedly told his supporters, “All I hear now is…‘COVID, COVID, COVID.’  By the way, on November 4, you won’t hear about it anymore.” Unless you were deaf and blind then, we now know nothing could have been further from the truth.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

We are fortunate to have our arts community

I can’t be the only one who sees the “12 Angry Men” picture through the Pageant of the Masters’ lens, another Laguna Last Supper.

Beautiful story about another pillar in our Arts Acropolis.

David Powers

Laguna Beach

Replacing the tiles at Brooks, really?

Maybe I’m nostalgic, but the tiles are just fine and beautiful, and do they really need replacing? Thinking about walking/climbing down to go to the beach before the awesome stairs were even designed and built. A new mural? Too much time on someone’s (our) hands or minds? Committees and subcommittees...I respect the decision-making process, but I think it’s just the concrete that is getting old and needs replacing.

Marisa Parker

Laguna Beach

It’s hard to find good help, but definitely worth it

(On October 27, there was a medical emergency at Las Brisas restaurant. The following is a list of thanks to those who quickly responded with “5 Stars/Most Excellent” assistance.)

–The Las Brisas wait staff who helped lead the 88-year-old female (Janet) to the ground, as she had fainted in the chair and I needed help lowering her to the ground. (The man) answered by hand signals to assist and was very caring with the task at hand.

–The Las Brisas management who handled calling the Laguna Beach Fire Department and the (obtaining of) information from me for the incident report. Our waitress, Josie S., was kind enough to bring a pillow for Janet, freeing my purse to access my phone and call Janet’s daughter to advise her of the events.

The Laguna Beach Fire Department and ambulance team were so good with the recent widow, whose husband was a firefighter for the Garden Grove Fire Department back in the day. Now alert and sitting up in a chair, vitals and reports were all completed, the LBFD medic listened and conversed with Janet and it was heartwarming to say the least. 

The care and compassion with all involved was commendable and so appreciated. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Jan Stapler (took Janet to lunch)

Huntington Beach

City Council to vote on DA offer to settle Brown Act compliance case

A letter to the DA from the City Attorney dated September 29 admits the City Council did not notice both of the exceptions to the Brown Act Open Meeting Law that the City Attorney asserted at the August 10 meeting of the Council, at which the majority censured Weiss for disclosing reasons he was challenging the legality of a closed meeting conducted on June 29, 2021. What follows is my opinion about all this, not that of Stu News or anyone else, obviously.

The Mayor and City Attorney accused Weiss of violating closed meeting confidentiality rules, without citing any specific law allegedly violated. The September 29 letter from the City Attorney answered the DA’s September 21 notice (that) it was the City that clearly had Brown Act compliance issues, Weiss not so much. 

The City Attorney’s June 29 letter to the DA was essentially an accounting of the DA’s offer of a plea agreement, asking for leniency that the City Attorney has never shown to anyone else as far as I know. The DA was satisfied with the remedial program the City Council proposed, which was to have careful certified minutes made in all closed sessions until compliance with the Brown Act rules are restored. The DA had proposed recording the closed meetings, but apparently decided the City was chastened enough to allow the Council to get its house in order without more restrictive sanctions. 

The DA also requires that members be educated on their right to challenge legality of meeting closures under Brown Act protection, so members are not silenced by the Council majority even when it is acting unlawfully. At the November 2 meeting, the Council will approve the plea agreement under Agenda Item 9, based on the City Attorney’s allocution to the rehabilitation terms the DA accepted.

The moral and ethical question the Council must now answer is whether the Council majority would have censured Weiss on August 10 if, instead of assuring the June 29 meeting had been closed in strict compliance with the Brown Act, the City Attorney had told the Council what he now has told the DA about deficiencies in the meeting closure.     

If the City Attorney had revealed that he and the Mayor had agreed the closure was not “best practices” and closure proceedings needed to be tightened up as he told the DA, would Councilmember Kempf still state on the record that Weiss acted to “subvert the law,” as if a judge had found him guilty?

CA Gov. Code Sec. 54963(e)(2) protects the right of Councilmembers to disclose factual and legal grounds for challenging the legality of meeting closure. Contrary to the City Attorney comments on August 10, the right to challenge meetings permits public statements, not just pleading behind closed doors.

Similarly, Sec. 54956.9 requires specific compliance with narrowly drawn exceptions to the open meeting law to lawfully close a meeting. In its September 21 letter, the Prosecution Unit of the DA’s office reached an initial conclusion that the June 29 meeting was not lawfully closed, thereby rejecting the August 10 findings of the Council majority against Weiss, based on the agenda report from the City Manager and City Attorney calling for censure. 

If the DA’s prosecutors had a good faith belief the meeting was not lawfully closed, then clearly Weiss reasonably could have reached the same conclusion. 

Accordingly, the Council’s conversion of political censure into quasi-legal proceedings finding Weiss guilty of violating law should be rescinded to dispel the appearance of political slander without proof or justification. 

Howard Hills

Laguna Beach

Obviously, Gene Felder and I have a difference of opinion, let me explain

In last week’s Stu News, Gene Felder attacked me again and several other residents for making political contributions to a local PAC. He claimed that my donations were to make “big developments easier by changing long established city standards.”

His only proof: I secured land entitlements to make the “E” Rated Historic Heisler Building ADA accessible. Is Gene Felder really against our city creating equal access to facilities for elderly and disabled people? It shouldn’t be a surprise when you read Felder’s political beliefs below.

I will not apologize for my 43 years of efforts to improve Laguna Beach because I’m proud of my work to establish the two percent hotel bed tax. Since its passage in 2001, over $18 million in funds have been directed toward the arts. I was also the activist who after 38 years, got an orchestra and music program in all our Laguna public schools and am co-founder of Laguna Beach Live. I have also continued to fight against the corrupt TCA toll roads. And now I am working as a member of the Housing and Human Services Committee to promote affordable housing – something we have not done for more than 20 years and which you and your group have done your best to shut down.

I have fought against entrenched groups that you espouse that are desperate to maintain the status quo. I value and I donate to political candidates who want to move forward. They don’t ask me to; I know my own mind and support those who know we need fresh ideas and aren’t afraid to implement them. I know a dangerously small-minded candidate when I see one and unfortunately for our community, a pair have seats on our council.

Here’s another attack on me that Gene Felder wrote in Stu News (March 9, 2021): “One wonders what vision and development plans Sam Goldstein has for Laguna Beach; in his testimony he described our beloved Laguna Beach as a ‘dying, decaying, totally fragmented city right now with most of our businesses closed.’ Yikes!”

Gene, I wonder what you have done with your life in Laguna? All I see is your blind support of your wife and her group who have stifled all growth in Laguna Beach since 1974. Only two (2) new commercial buildings have been built in Laguna for the last 47 years – the Susi Q/Community Center and the Montage. All other commercial projects in town were simply remodels.

Now, more about you…according to FEC data, in 2020, Eugene (Gene) Felder donated more than $4,700 to Donald Trump and Republicans. What was his motivation? Was it Trump’s attacks on the environment? Mismanagement of the pandemic? The January 6 insurrection? I’m curious to know…because all I see with the writings of Gene Felder is the same negative and degrading approach that Donald Trump uses on people. Gene, you make a perfect Trump clone!

I know one thing: Trump donor Eugene (Gene) Felder, and the rest of the proponents of this ballot initiative share a total disregard for the truth…just like Donald Trump!

Thankfully, the residents of Laguna know better and will soundly reject this bogus initiative…AND YOU!

Sam Goldstein

Laguna Beach

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Guest Letter

Remembering Jim Stauffer

Fifty years ago, the Spring of 1971, a young girl tugged at the T-shirt of a Newport Beach Lifeguard. She pointed to a Pacific Harbor Seal pup that had washed ashore, looking dreadfully sick. She asked the Lifeguard to help save it. Back then, the way to deal with a sick marine mammal was to call the Police and a shot in the animal’s head took care of the problem. However, that moment and that little girl gave Jim thought; he had a better way to deal with a sick seal.

After his second attempt to get the Harbor Seal pup in his truck, he got it home, dismantled his own bed, lining the frame with a shower curtain and filled it with water. With help from a vet friend for meds and local fishermen for fresh fish, Jim helped the little Harbor pup get over pneumonia and worms and back into its ocean home.

Not long after this, word was out that this Newport Beach Lifeguard was the guy to call when a sick marine mammal washed ashore.

Jim set up his own backyard with several kiddie pools for the increasing calls of seals and sea lions in need. He got the attention and help from Veterinarian Dr. Rose Ekeberg. Neighbors annoyed by all the noise, forced Jim to move to Laguna Beach, where his new place had a pool, and as Jim said, “God’s doing” with hearing impaired neighbors.

Guest Letter Remembering first release

Jim at his first sea lion release

Right around that same time, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 was enacted, and Jim became the first person to be granted permission by the Fish and Game to care for marine mammals in the backyard of his home. At this point, John Cunningham, a Laguna Beach Lifeguard and Laguna Beach High School teacher joined Jim and Dr. Ekeberg as co-founders in what Jim had named FRIENDS OF THE SEA LIONS. The community also joined in as around-the-clock volunteers.

In 1976, Jim had been named Laguna Beach Lifeguard Captain as well as Laguna Beach Head of Animal Services. He was aware of an abandoned barn along Laguna Canyon Road and by raising funds selling T-shirts and memberships – a new home for recovering stranded seals and sea lions was born. John Cunningham’s students helped with digging pools and adapting the landscaping for its marine occupants.

In his new Lifeguard Captain position, Jim trained Lifeguards along the coast how to guide stranded seals and sea lions into crates that Jim himself had created. And then of course to call Friends of the Sea Lions for a pick-up.

As Jim rose up the ranks and became Lifeguard Chief with the County, he handed the day-to-day operations off to John Cunningham where FRIENDS OF THE SEA LIONS became PACIFIC MARINE MAMMAL CENTER.

It is with great sadness to announce that Jim Stauffer, PMMC’s co-founder, passed away on October 21, 2021. Jim was 76.

Jim’s dedicated work, passion and love of marine mammals is carried out every single day at PMMC. In the mid-‘90s, he moved to Petaluma with his wife, Lynn, and their three kids, Natalie, Clark and Weston. He was a devoted Dad and was so very proud of his kids. He also recently became a granddaddy. Jim and Lynn celebrated their many happy years together and their 35th wedding anniversary in 2020.

Throughout, Jim stayed in touch with PMMC over the years. He was so proud of John Cunningham and the outstanding work he and the others had done to grow the organization. Jim and John were great friends and kept in touch over the many years…his enthusiasm for PMMC never waned. 

Thank You Jim Stauffer. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for your big smile and hearty laugh. Thank you for making this world a better place. 

Please keep Jim’s wife, Lynn, and their family in your thoughts as they go through this difficult time.

There is a bronze-coated mural at the Art Hotel in Laguna Beach featuring Jim. It is not far from Seal Rock where Jim released his first rescue, that little Pacific Harbor Seal, back in 1971.

Guest Letter Remembering sea lion

Click on photo for a larger image

Jim attending to a sea lion

Letter to the Editor

Lucky me, Arnold changed my life forever

What an honor to have known Arnold, he was one of the most exceptional men I ever knew, a man of integrity and principle.

He changed my life 22 odd years ago when he asked me to come on the board of Village Laguna. He knew I was an environmentalist and he told me that he needed me on board to help protect the natural environment of Laguna and make it a better place for us all to live. He added it is hard to make a difference on the world stage, but if we residents strived to take care of our local habitat such news would echo, just like a good Baseball Team. How could I resist? What a privilege and pleasure it was to work with him and listen to his determined and learned mind! 

I never forgot his words and I continue to do his bidding to this day. Thank you, Arnold, I tip my hat to you beloved friend, may the good gods be with you and may you watch over us with intent.   

Charlotte Masarik

Laguna Beach

Editor’s Note: Stu News encourages Letters to the Editor and they should be submitted to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Deadlines for submission are Monday noon, for Tuesday publication and Thursday noon, for Friday publication. Stu News reserves the right to approve and/or edit all letters.

The court ruling: from my point of view

Stu New Laguna’s coverage on dismissal of my lawsuit (“Fair Game” Oct. 22) channels the narrative of the School Board majority. Along with many in our community, I see the ruling very differently. 

My case arose after a closed meeting on March 26, 2019, when the School Board went into closed secret session due to alleged litigation threat. Instead, we heard a seemingly absurd report by Board counsel that the superintendent might sue the District! Supposedly for damage to his reputation, because I had expressed concern that parents, teachers and even students reported fear of retaliation if they questioned School Board policies.

Mark Breese, the lawyer hired by the board, admitted that no one had actually threatened suing the district but it was possible someone might. I suggested that we focus on an open dialogue on how to make it safe for public questioning of board policies without fear. 

I also requested that we work on this issue together and enable our fellow citizens to express their opinions without fear. 

The Board lawyer then sent me a letter threatening personal legal consequences if I continued to speak out. I had a right and a duty to seek advice on my legal rights from experts, including a lawyer in the District Attorney’s office and head counsel for CAL AWARE in Sacramento. I was advised by both that the lawyer’s letter was not privileged and that I did not violate the Brown Act or give the superintendent plausible grounds to sue me or LBUSD.

If the Board truly believed I violated the law, Brown Act remedies include referral to the DA or seeking an injunction, but then the unlawful meeting and intimidation letter would have been scrutinized. To avoid that, the Board adopted a politicized special resolution to give itself the power to exclude me from meetings.   

I refused to be silenced, and my lawsuit was to nullify the anti-democratic Board resolution threatening to exclude me from meetings. My legal action held the Board accountable, and on advice of its lawyers the Board allowed its unconstitutional resolution to expire as a litigation tactic to “moot” my case, and claim “no harm, no foul,” because the Board only threatened to violate my constitutional rights.

But adoption of the resolution to exclude me was retaliation and intimidation violating my rights. So, my lawyers chose federal not state court to challenge our School Board’s infringement on my constitutional right to represent voters who twice democratically elected me. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear School Board abuse of power case demonstrates federal courts can be the right venue. And my lawyers have been successful in public interest cases like mine seeking reform not compensation. 

But unlike some federal courts the judge offered to consider amendments to the complaint on the question of whether the allegations were against the Board and superintendent for individual misconduct, or against the state, which has immunity unless it is waived. After seemingly endless delays due to pandemic and litigation tactics, the judge decided the urgency had passed and dismissed with findings of fact or law at issue in the lawsuit.

That means the court’s ruling did not reach the merits of the case about confidentiality and the special board committee. Still, that didn’t stop the School Board president and superintendent from issuing a misleading statement seeming to falsely imply the court validated the Board’s unproven allegation that I violated Brown Act confidentiality rules by challenging the Board’s resolution enabling my exclusion from closed meetings.

Facts speak louder than spin. I never stopped advocacy the Board was trying to silence. It was the Board that abandoned its abuse of power intended to silence me. I appealed my case for future Board members, and if I now don’t pursue further review as allowed by law it is because other similar cases are now reaching the U.S. Supreme Court that hopefully will prevent abuse of power by local school boards.

As always, my priority will continue to be serving students, citizens, parents and teachers, as I did teaching Special Education and regular education in LBUSD for 35 years. I‘m grateful voters elected me twice, and that those supporting me now for standing my ground also are encouraging me to run again. Until the time for that decision comes, I will continue working to make our good schools better. 

Dee Perry, board member

LBUSD Board of Education

Laguna Beach

Protect our village without the proposed ballot initiative

You may have been approached to sign a petition favoring a public ballot for some future developments in Laguna. Since some people may sign based on sound bites rather than diving into the details, those of us opposed to this process yet in agreement with several of its concerns thought it may be helpful to share some thoughts.   

We respect the intent of LRF (Laguna Residents First) drafters. In fact, we agree with some of their intended outcomes. No projects over 36 feet with no exceptions. Sign us up! No block long, monolithic, high-density developments that are in conflict with the “village feel” and scale of Laguna. Sign us up! 

However, several of LRF criteria go much too far. Here are just a few:

–Small 1,500-square-foot retail stores converting to a grocery or restaurant with daily trip increases of 200 cars demand a public vote. Think about it. A public vote after years of an expensive City approval process. Small businesses then need to spend $100,000+ on ballot fees and promotion with no clue of how the public will vote. 

–Projects greater than nine apartments. Would we ever add any apartments of over nine units if a public vote is required? 

–Combining lots totaling 7,501 square feet. Lots that would comprise a new 7,501-square-foot lot are considered sub-standard so why not enable two substandard lots to be combined without the time, expense and risk of a public vote. 

–Major improvements of 22,000 square feet or greater. The Old Pottery Place wouldn’t exist today. One might say, it’s a great project and voters would have approved, but there was opposition throughout the City process. Had it required a public vote after a three-year City process and activists’ continuing negative disinformation, we couldn’t have pursued it.

No investor will devote time or money to undertake risks associated with a public ballot. Yet, the aging condition of our business neighborhoods would continue to deteriorate and the innovation and creativity that formed today’s Laguna will disappear. Investment will be stifled. 

It’s not simply the additional time and money that’s a problem. It’s that ballot results are a direct reflection of slick advertising, expensive and often misleading promotions and slogans, versus the merits of a proposal. Reflect on how we are inundated with promotions for propositions every election cycle. Is this how Laguna wants land use decisions? This in effect is what the LRF ballot initiative would create. Instead, we suggest the following:

First, don’t sign the LRF initiative if you don’t understand what’s in it. There have been numerous reports of some gathering signatures either not knowing what’s in it or unfortunately making non-valid claims. 

Second, City staff has been directed by the Council to determine if and if so, how the City’s process for considering development can be strengthened. You might watch for this report before deciding to sign anything. 

Third, beyond what the staff report proposes, one can envision an alternative City ballot initiative that doesn’t include the weaknesses of LRF and is focused specifically on what we want to achieve. 

On behalf of those opposing the LRF proposal, we hope you find this helpful.

Joe Hanauer

Laguna Beach

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor Arnold Hano

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Arnold Hano, pictured with his wife Bonnie, when he turned 99 years of age on March 2, 2021

The legendary Arnold Hano takes his final at bat

I learned early this morning [Sunday, Oct. 24] of the passing of our very own Laguna Beach legend & dear, dear personal friend, Arnold Hano. He passed around 5 a.m. [Sunday, Oct. 24] after being on a long downward slide, just a bit more than four months before his 100th birthday.

Arnold was to our village what Jim Dilley was to the canyon. As I understand it, they had a gentleman’s agreement that each would protect what they so loved.

We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all that Arnold did over the many decades, his stewardship in fighting for what he thought would protect our village from being over-built, championing the 36’ height ordinance & oh so many other accomplishments, all stemming from his deep love of Laguna Beach. 

If you Google his name, you will learn so much more about Arnold. The literary world knows him best for his famous baseball narrative, A DAY IN THE BLEACHERS. There were many books, magazine articles, etc., that Arnold authored. He was so creative & engaging & mentally sharp as a tack right up to the end. 

I had the great privilege of having a close & special friendship with both Arnold & Bonnie for many decades but more so in these past five years since my husband’s death. Arnold was one of the first people I met after moving back to Laguna Beach in the late 1970s. I found Arnold to be fascinating from the start, whether talking about politics, sports, life or most anything else. 

I feel a great personal loss, but our community has also lost. Few individuals with the passion, dedication & follow-through, come along in our time. Arnold Hano was one of those amazing people proving that one person can, indeed, matter greatly. 

Please take a moment to tell someone you care about, just how much they mean to you.

Trudy Josephson

Laguna Beach

In loving memory, Arnold Hano

It is with a sad heart that I share the news of the passing of Arnold Hano, a longtime member of Laguna Canyon Conservancy and indeed a Laguna Beach legend. A native New Yorker, he traversed across the USA to our fair city of Laguna Beach in the 1950s where it has been his home for more than 50 years. Hano is the author of more than 30 books, a World War II veteran, a Giants baseball fanatic, Peace Corps volunteer, world traveler, women’s rights advocate and a progressive activist. He and his beloved wife, Bonnie have made many contributions to our fair city, all with a keen eye on preserving our legacy.

Not only do I feel a personal loss with his passing, but it is also a tremendous loss for the community. Arnold Hano, with a profound sense of common good and human decency, personified all that is fair and honorable. We rarely encounter such an individual, one that also demonstrates and celebrates a spirit of hope and the value of making a difference.

We wish to express our sincere sympathies to Bonnie and all the Hano Family. He will be sadly missed.

Gayle Waite

Laguna Beach

Laguna Canyon Conservancy

It’s Secret Santa time when some community members need your help

Hello Laguna Beach friends, community and out of county/state donors,

This year we will be doing a Secret Santa for two Laguna Beach families and one senior citizen who are in need. Secret Santa has been going on for 20 plus years now. This online payment platform is secure and is the same one also used by Thurston PTA and LBHS PTA.

Family 1: A mother and daughter who live in Laguna Beach. Mom has MS, lupus and Hashimoto’s disease. She works full time at a grocery store and her daughter attends Laguna Beach High School. They have been a regular Secret Santa recipient for many years now.

Family 2: A single dad and son who live in Laguna Beach. Mom is not in the picture ss she left when her son was a toddler. Dad works full time and volunteers. This family has been a recipient of the annual Secret Santa for 10 years. The son attends Laguna Beach High School.

Or if you prefer, please drop off or mail any gift cards to grocery stores, Visa gift cards, shops, restaurants, or any other gift cards you would like to donate. Please mail or drop off the gift cards to our home address to be included in the Secret Santa gifts: 499 Canyon Acres Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

No. 3: A senior citizen. i had a Laguna Beach female senior citizen reach out to me about the Secret Santa. She was wondering if we could help her. She is a homeowner in a teardown house that is more than 100 years old. She has no family, other than her beloved dog. Her home has no heating, but she has a portable heater she only uses in her bathroom, as she can’t afford a huge electric bill. Her tiny income is barely enough to cover her property taxes and extremely low-living expenses. She has a very simple wish list and thought perhaps some of you might be able to help donate some Trader Joe’s, CVS or Gelson’s gift cards.

Senior citizen wish list:

1. A warm bath towel (Does anyone have a used very warm bath towel size small or medium they no longer use?).

2. An anonymous family is donating warm blankets.

3. Warm pajamas (An anonymous family will purchase these.)

4. Warm sweatpants and a sweatshirt, size small (she’s 100 pounds and 5’2”).

5. Gift cards to Trader Joe’s (she goes to the food pantry once a week), CVS or Gelson’s.

If you do not wish for your name to be included in the Secret Santa gift, please write “Anonymous” in the checkout.

Here is a link to a previous Stu News story about the annual Secret Santa:

As always, for full transparency, community “watchdog” Sheri Morgan will count the money with me and all donations processed. Pictures and total amount given to each family will be provided.

To donate, go to

Kind regards,

Celine Macmillan

499 Canyon Acres Drive

Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Influence city council, obtain land use entitlement, make money

How’s this for a business mission statement: “A key strategy is our ability to add value to real estate through securing land use entitlements that allow properties to be developed. Land use entitlements are approvals from local municipalities…typically, discretionary actions that require approval of the local planning commission and/or city council through a vote of that governing body.”

How’s that for creating value?

How has this worked in Laguna Beach? Liberate Laguna, or Laguna Forward, is a Political Action Committee created to get city councilmembers elected who will make big development easier by changing long established city standards. 

Residents find an obliterated Laguna with relaxed parking requirements for business expansion, while eliminating many public parking spaces, replacing of mature trees with small trees and raiding city discretionary funds primarily to respond to the needs of visitors to Laguna Beach.

The Liberate Laguna 2018 financial disclosure statement details $152,000 of expenditures in getting Peter Blake and Sue Kempf elected to the city council.

The top contributors were Cindy Shopoff, Shopoff Reality Enterprises ($68,000); Michael and Leslie Ray, Sanderson/Ray Developers ($27,000); Mohammad Honarkar, 4GWireless ($20,000); Samuel Goldstein, Radford Ventures ($20,000); and Chris Dornin, Dornin Investment ($10,000).

Goldstein has secured land use entitlements to the Heisler Building, including a rooftop deck that (is) to be ADA accessible (with an) allowed elevator exceeding the city’s 36-foot height limit. 

Dornin has secured land use entitlements (toward) building a 28-unit apartment in Laguna Canyon, not in accordance with the city’s rules and regulations, such as being small scale and rural. 

Honarkar has grandiose proposals for a Cleo Hotel and a Museum Hotel, among other projects.

$152,000 or $250,000 sounds like a lot of money, but really a small investment to influence the city council, secure land use entitlements and make money. Unfortunately, the city council is supposed to represent the residents of Laguna Beach.

Gene Felder

Laguna Beach

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - [email protected]

Lana Johnson, Editor - [email protected]

Tom Johnson, Publisher - [email protected]

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: [email protected] with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: [email protected] for questions about advertising


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