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Letters to the Editor

Maybe our library would do better under the auspices of the city versus the county

The time has come for me to pass the management of The Butterfly Fairy Garden at Laguna’s public library to a new team of volunteers. I have had eight magical years of absolute joy designing the garden with steppingstone paths, butterfly attracting plants, and little fairy houses for children to discover. 

I have always only meant for it to be a place of peace and joy. So, the controversy over my having placed a peace sign between a small Ukrainian and American flag in the garden has made me sad. The peace sign is not political. It does not take sides. It stands for no armed conflict between all people. It stands for finding humanitarian and peaceful ways to solve our differences and problems. 

So, it is sad that our library has called my peace sign political and taken it down. Especially because I believe peace is what is in all our hearts here in Laguna. 

But I want to make something clear. Laguna’s library is just a branch of the Orange County Library. The head of the library here and all the workers are employees of the county not the city of Laguna Beach. It was the county that demanded the sign be taken down. 

Which leads me to my main reason for writing. 

As the City of Laguna Beach is about to buy the library property back from the county at the April 12th city council meeting, I have a suggestion. Instead of renting the library back to the county to run after the sale, why couldn’t we run our own library? Or rent it to the county to run with a provision that allows Laguna Beach to have a say in what our library can and cannot do? 

For as Rumi is reported to have said: “Out beyond right and wrong there is a field ...I’ll meet you there.” 


Jessica DeStefano 

Laguna Beach

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Jason S Engel

August 11, 1973 – March 20, 2022

Obituary Engel headshot

Photo and artwork courtesy of Wendy Schiffman

Jason S Engel

Jason S Engel bartended for the White House Restaurant for 20 years (where a painting of him hung as one of the people of service there) and then at The Ranch at Laguna Beach. On March 20 at age 48, he passed away from cancer after fighting melanoma for 3 1/2 years.

Jason leaves a wife and 3-year-old son behind as well as a large grieving family of friends and loved ones.

A Celebration of Life Service is planned.

Obituary Engel portrait

Click on photo for a larger image

Portrait of Jason S Engel by Fredda Ferguson

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Letters to the Editor

Yes, we need a “speed hump” – unfortunately, mistakes leave us wanting for another two years

First a little history should be noted – residents have been, at a minimum, pushing for a speed hump on Bluebird Canyon Drive since 2009. That is the year of the first proposal I reviewed – although older residents on the street have told me there were multiple proposals prior to 2009. 

Since 2009 there have been multiple formal requests for a speed hump. 

In case you were wondering if the support has waned over the years, please note that the 2019 proposal received over 75 supporting signatures. Considering vehicles’ acceleration capabilities have improved over the years this makes sense. 

This also begs the question – would residents be expending so much time and energy over so many years if there really wasn’t a speeding issue on BBC Drive? 

This brings me to the electronic speed measuring sign that found only 78 of 22,233 vehicles were traveling >40MPH. The PTC fails to note this sign is located nowhere near where the most problematic speeding occurs – the 800 block. 

I downloaded an app named SpeedClock – I found – 33% of vehicles traveling >40MPH. Again, would residents really be pushing for a speed hump for a minimum of 13 years if only .0035% of vehicles were traveling >40MPH? This defies logic. 

That the PTC somehow relied on this electronic sign in bolstering their decision is comically misinformed. The PTC did set up a temporary electric sign to measure speeds on a different section of BBC Drive. This sign was placed very near to the Oriole stop sign measuring speeds going uphill. In early March after residents complained it was not measuring speeds in the right portion of the street the LBPD said the sign would be “moved around” during the coming weeks.

The sign never moved. 

This brings me to the LBFD’s position. We the residents who support the speed hump obviously understand that a fire truck will have to slow down 2-3 seconds in the event of a catastrophic fire to navigate a speed hump as they would do on Temple Hills or Glenneyre. It should seem obvious there is an asymmetric risk profile at play. The associated risk of slowing down 2-3 seconds in the event of a fire that requires speeding 50MPH+ and the daily danger to pedestrians and cars navigating in and out of garages. 

One would think dramatically lowering the latter’s risk would warrant the former’s trade off. It should also be noted that the LBFD stated they were against a “speed bump” which is not what we proposed (a 25MPH speed hump). One wonders if the LBFD even understood what the ask was.

In terms of procedural errors, we were told explicitly that we would be notified of the PTC meeting so that we could present our case. We were not notified and only found out about the meeting after the fact once the decision had been rendered. 

According to city policy we now have to wait two full years to re-submit a proposal for a BBC Drive speed hump. 

I should lastly note that George Weiss was very helpful in trying to push this forward for us – it became readily apparent to me that the other councilmembers showed almost no regard for the issue and seemed to be much more concerned with Peter Blake’s email disputes. I attended the March 1st meeting where our issue was raised as part of the official agenda much to the chagrin of our mayor specifically. 

So, what are we left with? The LBPD telling us they cannot enforce speeds due to a technicality and a minimum two-year wait to try again. In other words, no solutions. 

For good reason residents have little patience and regard for our local government.

Jack Robbins

Laguna Beach

The library garden and free expression

Public libraries are on the front lines of free speech and free expression. But in the name of “neutrality” our local library took down the Ukrainian flag and peace symbol from the library’s little flower garden developed and maintained by local Laguna artist, Jessica DeStefano. Jessica placed her display in a show of solidarity for the People of Ukraine. 

I spoke with our librarian, Nadia, who explained that the library needs to be “neutral” because some people felt that Jessica’s Ukrainian flag display was “political.” Nadia said, “There is a fine line of freedom of speech and expression and the library’s mission and vision of Orange County to have a safe place for everybody, where everybody feels welcome.” 

That “fine line” feels more like a gulf. Why is Jessica’s display considered political? Whose safety is threatened? Why is it “unwelcoming?” 

“Neutrality” is about not taking sides. Are we supposed to reflexively accept neutrality over not siding with the millions of people whose homes and villages have been pillaged, the thousands who have lost their lives, the women raped by Russian soldiers in front of their children – only to make those same children orphans – because we are concerned about offending those who support Putin, the Butcher of Bucha? The war criminal? 

What is happening in Ukraine is an existential threat to our democracy and a crime against humanity. Benjamin Franklin famously said of our new nation – “It’s a republic if you can keep it.”

Keeping it, is defending it and defending democracy. Yet, it seems the concept of defending democracy is lost on many Americans. While many of us sit on the sidelines in the comfort of our homes, the people of Ukraine are defending not just their democracy but ours – with their lives. 

Should Putin win, Poland and the Balkans will be next. And if they are dragged into this war, we too as a member state of NATO will be dragged in.

Sadly, the library administration is playing politics ironically in the name of not wanting to be political. So please let’s not talk about neutrality when it comes to Ukraine. There should be no neutrality here. This is about a fight for our souls, for our way of life, for our democracy, for our humanity. 

We need to step up our support for Ukraine. We can show support for Ukraine – We can begin in a small way with a little flag in a little garden at a little library in our little town and we can be thankful to artists like Jessica DeStefano who are showing us the way.

Alan N. Boinus

Laguna Beach

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Bonnie Hano

September 12, 1926 – April 4, 2022

Obituary Bonnie and Arnold

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bonnie and Arnold Hano

Bonnie Hano, 95, passed away yesterday, just 5 1/2 months after she was preceded in death by her husband of 75 years, Arnold Hano.

Both were legendary figures of Laguna Beach. Bonnie was a founding board member of Village Laguna and together they were recognized by the Laguna Beach Patriots Day Parade Committee as 2013 Citizens of the Year.

Their cherished life included supporting Laguna Beach causes that they found near and dear to their hearts. At 66, Bonnie joined Arnold in the U.S. Peace Corps, going to Costa Rica, where they helped build a school.

Born on September 12, 1926, in Sioux City, Iowa, her life would take her to New York where she worked in publishing, before following Arnold’s dreams as a baseball writer which brought them to Southern California.

They are survived by daughter Laurel and son Stephen.

No services have as yet been announced.

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Letters to the Editor

Singing for Ukraine

You’d have to be living in a cave not to know about the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. In a little more than a month, more than 10 million people have been uprooted from their homes as a result of Russia’s unprovoked invasion. 

Because there is so much darkness in the world today, I hope my rewrite of the iconic civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” will shed some much-needed light in Eastern Europe.

To this end, Laguna native Clair Rachel Howell was the first to record and upload her version of “Ukraine Shall Overcome.”

Here is the link to her video.

And last week, members of the LagunaTunes Community Chorus recorded their rendition of “Ukraine Shall Overcome.”

Here is the link to their video:

Some people say no song can change the outcome of the war in Ukraine, but I don’t believe them. As far as I am concerned, a song is just as powerful as a bomb.

If you would like to record and upload a version of “Ukraine Shall Overcome” to YouTube, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. I gladly will send you the lyrics to the rewrite.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Let’s get commercial property owners fully invested

Laguna Beach is a community made up of residents, commercial property owners and the businesses who rent spaces from commercial property owners. (It’s why the City’s recent Polco survey was labeled a “community” survey). 

However, parking structures have been funded solely by residents via their property taxes, which denies part of our community (commercial property owners and businesses) the same civic responsibility as residents to pay for those parking structures, particularly in our restaurant- and business-intense areas. 

We’re all part of the community, and commercial property owners should pay their share for any new parking structures, along with the businesses. Give commercial property owners and the businesses the opportunity to act like fully invested community members and do their duty to pay half the costs for building any new parking structures. 

Otherwise, they won’t seem like fully invested members of our community. 

Deborah Laughton

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Will grocery workers strike at Ralphs and Pavilions?

After weeks of stalled negotiations, thousands of Southern California grocery workers employed by Ralphs and Pavilions have voted to authorize a strike. This doesn’t mean clerks at two of Laguna’s grocery stores definitely will hit the picket lines, but it is possible.

A strike will force people of good conscience to ask themselves, “Am I willing to cross a picket line, yes, or no?” In an effort to avoid that scenario, I suggest the grocery workers mount a major “sick out” instead. The impact will be the same. Either management will adjust its bargaining position or face staggering losses. 

Let’s hope it’s the former.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach 

When do you stop caring?

Jessica De Stefano is a sculptor – an artist – and a longtime Laguna Beach resident. She was the fairy on Hospitality Night that gave the children two wishes, one for them and one for the world. The children wished for peace on earth and no one should ever be hungry. When the town had the pancake breakfasts, she gave out watermelon and was the watermelon fairy.

About eight years ago, the Laguna Beach Library let her use the land in front and Jessica transformed dirt into a beautiful butterfly garden. After years of her volunteer effort, it is now also a fairy garden for children. They leave messages for the fairies and the fairies write them back. When I see children there it makes me smile. The garden is the most beautiful spot in all Laguna Beach. During COVID, the children really enjoyed the garden.

Jessica cares about our town! 

During these terrible times of war in Ukraine, Jessica put a small peace sign with a small Ukrainian flag in the garden to show the town that we hope for peace in Ukraine. The library removed the sign and flag and said it is political. Is it really political to hope for peace in Ukraine? Do you think the library is right?

Jessica is showing the town that we care and would hope for peace in Ukraine.

I am happy to live in Laguna Beach because Jessica’s garden makes the town magical.

Larry Zadan

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Oil on Bluebird Beach

Last week (March 10, to be exact) my sister and I picked up a lot of oil on Bluebird Beach between Mountain Street and Pearl. (That photo is about 2/3 of what we harvested.) I reported it to the police and got a call back from some water quality department (I don’t remember the name of the dept. or person but 949.497.0391 is the number of whomever called me).

Letters to the Editor oil

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Nancy Englund

We stopped because it got too dark and our bags were too heavy, but feel we made a small difference. We went back the next day at low tide (wearing gloves) and picked up some more and could smell that the seaweed on the beach was loaded with it. It is a lot harder and more disgusting to pick up when it is warm than when it is cold. The city collected it and I hope can track it to its source. 

Nancy Englund

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Time to give thanks to the DRB team

After 3 years on the Design Review Board, I want to thank the Laguna Beach community, city staff and our city councilmembers for appointing me and trusting in my abilities to serve on the Board. I believe that teamwork and collaboration are at the heart of our achievements.

Being on the DRB is no easy task and making balanced decisions is challenging. At its core, the Board’s responsibility is to assess what changes are reasonable for our community’s most personally valued resources – our homes, our views, our neighborhoods.

This is a responsibility I have not taken lightly. For years, the DRB process has been feared amongst property owners and neighbors alike. During my service, the last two years as chairperson, I am proud to say we have taken actions to make this a better process for all.

These actions include:

–two rounds of streamlining processes

–rewriting the bylaws to make the process and responsibilities more consistent 

–adding a term limit clause

–encouraging more transparency, with documents available online

–successfully adapting and conducting public hearings through the pandemic 

–continuing support for ongoing online/Zoom participation for applicants and neighbors

–hosting 10+ workshops and community discussions on related topics and education

–reducing the project appeal rate 

As I conclude my service as chairperson of the Board, I wholeheartedly thank the community and those who have served alongside me. Through this process, I have personally grown, learned and valued your perspectives from project to project. 

We do not always agree on the details, but you have shared in my vision to make this a more consistent and healthier conversation for our community, showing respect for each other, listening to all the issues, being civil, and finding balance within the guidelines to meet concerns. I thank you all for your time and dedication.

Going forward, I will continue with my appointed DRB term and I look forward to continuing to serve my Laguna Beach community!

Louis Weil 

Laguna Beach

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Barbara Morrison

September 10, 1949 – March 16, 2022

Obituary Barbara Morrison

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Live!

Barbara Morrison

It is with great sadness that Laguna Beach Live! announces the passing of jazz and blues legend Barbara Morrison. Barbara last performed for Laguna Live! Jazz Wednesdays in March 2020, just before the pandemic lock down. She was scheduled to be part of the opening jazz series, appearing with acclaimed saxophonist Rickey Woodard on April 6.

“Along with her monumental talent and consummate professionalism Barbara Morrison was an incredible pleasure to work with. Ever gracious and sharp witted, she had the ability to awe while making you feel special in her presence. We at Laguna Live! will sorely miss her and the twinkle in her eye.”

Originally from Detroit, Barbara Morrison’s lifelong career as a performer and recording artist included appearances worldwide with some of the greatest names in jazz: Ray Brown, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Collette, Joe Williams, Gerald Wiggins, Jimmy Witherspoon, Hank Crawford, Eddie Harris, Nancy Wilson, David T. Walker and Jimmy Smith.

She performed in such highly regarded venues as Carnegie Hall, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Bern Jazz Festival and the Playboy Jazz Festival. Morrison also toured Europe with Ray Charles.

In addition to teaching at UCLA, Morrison was a teacher, founder and director of her own school of music in Inglewood, teaching beginning to advanced music, jazz/blues interpretation and history, acting and concert performing techniques.

Bio courtesy of UCLA Herb Albert School of Music.

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