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Laguna Beach


Remembering Dr. King

Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis. I was a sophomore at USC at the time and remember it like it was yesterday.  

Because I wanted to be a teacher, I volunteered as a lunchtime aide at an elementary school a few blocks from campus. Hours before the news broke about Dr. King’s death, I had escorted a rowdy boy into the principal’s office. When I reported for work the next day, that same boy was in the office. When he saw me, he walked up and said, “We’re going to get you today, whitey.”  

I didn’t think much of his threat until I heard students at the nearby junior high school had been rioting earlier in the day. If that wasn’t enough, I was asked to patrol the playground even though all the students were being kept indoors for safety purposes.  

So there I was, a 19-year-old Trojan all alone on an empty playground. I must have walked the perimeter a dozen times that day. To say I was scared is an understatement. I don’t know what I would have done had there been trouble, but I did my job nonetheless. I stayed on as a noon duty aide until June, but I never saw that troubled boy again. I always wondered what I would have said to him if I had.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Important to shut down anti-immigration sentiment

Recently, behind closed doors, Orange County Board of Supervisors decided to join the federal government in a lawsuit against the state of California over its stance on immigration sanctuary. Now, there are neighbors on Nextdoor.com who seem to want the city of Laguna Beach to do the same. Although, I assume they are in the minority, they are determined and very loud.

This harkens back to 2006 when a small conservative advocacy group sued the city for allegedly breaking federal law by spending public funds on the day labor site in the canyon. Our city won that lawsuit, and I’m glad we did. Our council was a voice of reason back then, and I was proud of how hate speech and intimidation were shut down. After the lawsuit, things returned to normal. Laguna remained the accepting place that anyone who’s lived here for awhile can appreciate.

But here we are, all these years later, with a new group of people who seem to be emboldened by current politics. They are very vocal and are pressuring our city to join with other cities and Orange County to go against the state of California. 

The immigrants here in Laguna are part of our community. They are people our kids and grandkids play with, they go to our schools and churches, they serve in our military, they work with us and for us. It is important that we shut down this discriminant anti immigrant pressure, and just like in 2006, we again counter racism in our town, once and for all. 

Carey Strombotne

Laguna Beach


Ted Nugent says shoot Democrats like rabid coyotes

Ted Nugent’s recent comment that Democrats, the media and academics be shot like rabid coyotes is, in a word, “un-American.”  For the most part, here in Laguna, we don’t shoot coyotes.  

I am a 60-something father of three who loves this country. As a lifelong Democrat, I have helped many people seek elective office – including Barack Obama when few knew his name in 2007. Unlike Nugent, I never have advocated violence against Republicans, the alt-right media or ultra-conservative professors. That’s what terrorists do. To remain silent in the wake of Nugent’s statement is, in another word, to be “complicit.”    

Ted Nugent and his followers are a very small group of unpatriotic Americans. The vast majority of us are better than they are. I urge all elected officials, regardless of their political affiliation, to immediately repudiate Nugent’s hate-filled comment in the strongest words possible.   

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach, you still got soul!

It was exciting to watch our city decide March 27 to make our first downtown public plaza a permanent reality. After fans of the Park Plaza experiment this fall showed up in force at city hall, the City Council voted unanimously to reinstitute the block-long stretch near Main Beach into a car-free gathering spot – as part of their larger developing plan to improve the flow of downtown traffic and pedestrians.

I loved how longtime residents and groups from Laguna Beach – Billy Fried, Bill Hoffman, Chris Prelitz, Ruben Flores, the Beautification Council, the Chamber of Commerce, Transition Laguna, and others, from varied personal and professional backgrounds, teamed up to promote this public gathering space in the heart of downtown.

It was equally heartening to see our city officials, especially the city manager, assistant city manager and police chief, recognize the potential of this plaza, embrace the idea and navigate the many bureaucratic hurdles.

Unlike the proponents of other local projects for profit, such as expanding hotels, restaurants and shops, these Park Plaza advocates were after nothing more than helping Laguna Beach retain its prized identity as a forward-thinking community with a village atmosphere.

Also, as someone who used that treacherous shortcut on Park Plaza for more than 20 years to return to our Top of the World home, I’m happy to spend an extra minute or two getting through town to enable the new pedestrian plaza. (And, since pedestrians regularly stepped into the crosswalk against the light there, I believe we will all be safer when it’s blocked off for good.)

Let’s hope the City Council continues to sustain the momentum of this collective effort. A few councilmembers even offered ideas to explore similar pedestrian plazas in other parts of downtown. (To many residents, lower Forest Avenue is the no brainer.)

The greater point of this little Park Plaza victory, I believe, is that we still have the ability, despite our differences, to turn a creative vision into a source of community enjoyment and pride.

Laguna Beach, you still got soul!

Janine Robinson

Laguna Beach


Living peacefully with our wildlife

Last week I was delighted to encounter two coyotes during a morning walk on the trail above my neighborhood. I was equally delighted and awestruck this morning to see a beautiful white-shouldered hawk perched on a neighbor’s balcony. Spring is here and many wild animals with whom we share our neighborhoods and natural surroundings are beginning to breed. They are mating, building their nests and dens, and will soon be hunting food for their young. While they do so, let’s encourage their natural sense of hunting by discouraging their dependence on humans for food. 

Please take the following precautions: Keep your small pets inside at night and supervised during the day, avoid leaving food and water outdoors for animals, secure your garbage cans, and close your screen doors. If we tune in to Nature, we can find wise ways to coexist with our wild neighbors. Let’s avoid another extermination of coyotes like we had in Laguna Beach in 2016.

And as for that white-shouldered hawk on my neighbor’s balcony? When my neighbor realized it was eying her pet rabbit, she took the bunny indoors where it will stay for the remainder of spring. We then admired the hawk until it flew off into the canyon across the street where it likely will find its next meal – in the wild.

Cheryl Procaccini

Laguna Beach


Trump labels Comey “Untruthful Slime Ball”

Last fall, the president called NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick an SOB. Some time later, the commander-in-chief derided North Korea’s leader as a “Rocket Man.” Now he is attacking former FBI director James Comey as an “untruthful slime ball.” All of which leads me to ask my GOP friends in town: When is enough enough?  

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

How to solve traffic congestion – the blog Laguna Streets offers this wry look at the reasons we’re all so congested…


Just a Hole in the Ground

UndergroundLagunaNow.org reads, “Above ground utilities are the single biggest threat to our public safety.” The proponents of undergrounding use fear to motivate voters to approve the ballot measure. The proponents want to bury SoCal Edison’s 19th century power lines and pass the costs onto property owners and Laguna’s retail sector through bond measures approved by voters, but their headline is false and unsubstantiated. Statistical data show the top three greatest threats to public safety are falls, poisonings and motor vehicles not utilities, the occasional gas-burp from Bluebird Substation notwithstanding.  

As long [as] property owners are asked to pay for a $200 million 30-year commitment to dig a hole and bury obsolete utilities, it is prudent to review what to bury in the hole. Over time technology shifts are disruptive and largely unpredictable like the smart car, the smart phone, like distributed renewable power. How these technologies play out is uncertain, but the future will arrive and now is the time to study how renewable power will enter the value chain, define operating models and business in Laguna Beach. Solar energy systems worldwide have been consistently underestimated by the EIA (US Energy Information Administration). In Laguna, solar power utilities were not considered when undergrounding citywide.

The annualized cost of $200 million to underground power lines at three percent for 30 years is $10.2 million per year – alternatively this funding could be directed to build Laguna’s sustainable energy future for 2050. If Laguna became a clean power producer and sold power back to utility companies, SoCal Edison would happily bury their power lines at their cost not ours. UndergroundLagunaNow should propose a modern power utility rather than bury obsolete utilities, propose sustainability not creative financing, [and] motivate voter approval with facts, not public fear. 

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach


Main evacuation routes vs key evacuation routes

The undergrounding project should be scaled back and limited in scope to reduce the enormous cost burden on resident taxpayers and our many seniors on fixed incomes.  

Main Evacuation Routes are readily established as PCH North/South and Laguna Canyon Road because every resident of Laguna Beach would seek to utilize one or more of these main evacuation routes, in case of an emergency. Measure LL funds should be exclusively used to purchase Utility Credits from other cities to be used for Main Evacuation Routes. However, the city has chosen to develop an ill conceived plan of mapping neighborhood «Key evacuation routes” that is entirely unfair to a majority of residents who will not use these routes during an evacuation. The current mapped “key evacuation routes” should be collectively and exclusively funded by Neighborhood Assessment Districts.  

I find it particularly disturbing our City Council would choose to burden the many senior residents of this community to pay the cost to improve the aging infrastructure of publicly held billion dollar company, Edison. The census indicates that 40 percent of residents are renters which means a large majority of voters needed to approve a Bond Measure will not be property owners. However, a General Obligation Bond property tax assessment cost will most certainly be passed along to renters and adversely impact the rental market. This demonstrates a lack of compassion for those residents who struggle economically. It appears our current City Council prefers community gentrification by attrition. 

In addition, $242,000 of your taxpayer dollars is being spent on marketing surveys, promotional mailers, power point and video presentation to manipulate residents using Psychology 101 scare tactics to get residents emotionally invested in the underground concept by selling fear. It would make prudent sense to utilize a share of these funds and approach a potential partnership opportunity with Elon Musk to ask him to develop a Solar City, USA model here in Laguna Beach by forming a sustainable energy development team. Laguna Beach may be able to take the lead to develop a sustainable energy model as the future vision for our community. Perhaps, residents will have potential benefit by a tax credit and derive income by selling our excess power to Edison! We won’t know what current technology will bring until we take the opportunity to explore the possibilities that may be available to our seaside community. 

Lorene Laguna (Auger)

Laguna Beach


Smart people can surely figure out a way to permit ADUs

The City Council will be considering an ordinance regarding the restriction/regulation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) sometimes referred to as “granny units” on May 9. This ordinance pretty much squelches any plan to add living quarters for a multitude of residents. This is just sad.  

It is like a kick in the stomach to residents who may have thought that someday they would be able to build a “granny flat” for their aging Mom or Dad or even a caregiver for themselves someday.   

It dissolves any hope that a resident could build some living quarters for their adult children who are trying to save for a home someday or who have recently graduated and cannot afford to pay the astronomical going rental rates in the OC. 

Instead of embracing a solution to the housing crisis and finding ways to make this work, the City’s proposal does its level best to obstruct or totally restrict an affordable solution. Its basic intent is...let them move somewhere else! 

It puts a damper on any hopes of promoting a student housing option for LCAD who is desperately seeking options for students, many of whom are commuting from the Inland Empire due to lack of affordable student housing.

There are so many legally questionable restrictions in the proposed ordinance. It appears that using and hiding under the guise of “impaired access” is the only road they can take to maximize the restrictions on ADU’s and they have chosen that path. 

There must be some opportunity for compromise on this? Is an on-site parking requirement the answer? Legal shield or waiver of liability? Mitigation agreement?

There has to be a way to figure this out...there are a lot of intelligent people in this city!

Kristine Thalman

President, Laguna Beach Seniors

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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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