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Location location location

[Park Plaza]. A solution in search of a problem.

Maybe the grain of positive idea initially but in a poorly thought out, hasty location: Making it a feel-good but irrelevant installation.

Stupid is as stupid does, here for 45 years it never ceases to amaze me how my City finds ways to blow big $$$ on what’s unimportant, minor tweaking while ignoring the larger good for residents: Commerce first, locals second.

(1) Most of the time those chairs/tables were empty. During the pilot/demo phase I went down there two to three times a week at different times of day/evening. Ditto. Many times no one there period, weekends a handful. So few go there on weekdays off-season, locals stayed away in droves, it’s success greatly exaggerated by proponents (many paid and/or on the Chamber/Visitor’s Bureau payroll). Special business interests want it.

(2) Two of the three NGO’s mentioned in support, Beautification Council and Transition Laguna (501c3 public benefit), have had their non-profit status suspended by the State Franchise Tax Board. Look them up. The Chamber is a special interest 501c4.

(3) As a land use/regulatory compliance advisor myself, I see no mention of CalTrans. Hey, City Council? Anything you do to PCH is in their domain, jurisdiction. That includes the obvious re-routing, re-circulation projections. The City paid a vendor to tell them what they wanted to hear/achieve, interesting that two-thirds of the letters were opposed, so they’re ignoring the will of the residents and blowing more of our $$$.

(4) Under CEQA, any potentially significant impacts must be considered, analyzed and mitigated. What LB is proposing will irrevocably, irreparably alter the downtown traffic circulation patterns, and there’s no proof as an improvement. It should have an independent, third-party enviro-analysis/review, not rubber-stamping. And that would include detailed feedback/input from Cal Trans expert engineers

(5) Losing those staging/parking spaces on PCH + parklet will put more stress on visitors trying to pick up/drop off or park family vehicles in proximity to the beach. That’s a Cal Coastal Commission issue because Beach Parking = Public Access. Also, the reduction of approximately 15+ spaces total must be balanced, made up somewhere else: Yet no such plan is included. It should go through the CCC to determine if the combo of parking space los + circulation alterations make Main Beach less attractive/usable/functional. Including amending not only the Downtown Specific Plan but amend our Local Coastal Plan.

(6) Downtown vendor trucks (food, Fed-Ex, OC Library, north side PCH merchants) will no longer have anywhere to park in the early a.m. hours as now. None is allowed in the alley behind The White House/Library, the meter cops chase them off or ticket them. So no staging plan in place or proposed. And look for beach visitors to fudge, use the Library lot, reducing OUR (locals) access to that facility.

(7) This is a poorly critiqued attempt that creates a cold breezeway that will not be utilized at least nine months out of the year while putting stress on other contiguous locations. During poor weather or off hours it eliminates a small yet highly valuable cut-through to assure/relieve circulation stress. And due to the wind pattern, Venturi Effect (air speeding up going through the compressed space), coupled with the car pollution, those who do sit there will be in the shadows bundled up, inhaling concentrated PCH generated particulates.

Our City Council listened to a very small yet vocal sample of residents, came up with something right out of Dumb & Dumber.

Must be an election year when fluff trumps substance.

Roger Butow

Laguna Beach

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Predictions: Garbage-In Garbage-Out

“Uber car in autonomous mode kills first pedestrian.” In gripping headlines the media remind us of the moral imperative in accepting autonomous cars. Days later details of the crash emerge albeit reluctantly from network news in Tempe Arizona. What the hype-slingers didn’t mention was the accident occurred at 22:00 nighttime when 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, wearing dark clothing, was pushing her bicycle with no lights across a high-speed highway. A 48 second Youtube dash-cam video from Uber shows the impact. The Uber car was traveling 38 mph; at that speed her probability of impact survival was 47 percent. 

Back in Laguna, Agenda Bill 14 reads “Coast Highway intersection improvements feasibility study.” 

In 91 pages we are told the intersections at Broadway, Forest, Ocean Avenue and Laguna Avenue will be modified to improve traffic, pedestrian flow and reduce delays. Yet another consultant was retained to gather the traffic numbers and scramble them in a software model. Their winning recommendations propose removing the crosswalk at Ocean and adding two pedestrian scrambles at Forest Avenue and Laguna Avenue, makes you wanna join the City Cheerleaders! A crosswalk at Broadway will be left unchanged, something about scramble coupling with Forest Avenue and apparently too much of a good thing. The software model shows adding scrambles to intersections causes car traffic delays, so to compensate the consultants add car turn pockets at Legion and Broadway and remove parking and a pedestrian ramp at Main Beach. 

Software modeling is used to convince decision makers of accurate predictions. Our consultant uses plenty of it, SimTraffic, HCM and Synchro circa 1960 among them. A detailed look at the software shows what the color glossy does not. The consultant measures success with terms like Capacity Ratio, Queuing Penalty and Parking Occupancy – all are measures of counting cars not pedestrians, bicycles, buses, planes, trolleys, not even bullet trains…it’s cars.

The consultant does not conform to Caltrans’s own mandates for Complete Streets Policy. Residents and decision makers should remember the fundamental rule of software model predictions: if garbage-in then garbage-out. Relying on predictions from the right software model will improve traffic, the wrong fundamentals will ensure Laguna’s car gridlock.

Les Miklosy

Laguna Beach

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Michael J. Fickling

October 16, 1952 – March 17, 2018


A brilliant star was extinguished from life all too soon when precious son, brother, friend of many left to join our Lord & Savior in heaven.  

Michael J. Fickling was born October 16, 1952 in Newport Beach, California, grew up and was schooled in Laguna Beach, and graduated from Laguna Beach High School. On Dec 14, 1990, Michael successfully completed Prescribed Program of Electronics Engineering Technology and [was] awarded Associate of Applied Science Degree from ITT Technical Institute.  

Michael will be remembered as an extraordinary musician who excelled in drumming, entertaining with his very own group, Second Helping, the Peter Dobson Band, popular Laguna Beach Art Festivals, and magically styling rhythms to please audiences from Southern California Night Clubs, to River 47 Church in Orange.  

Michael was especially grateful to have entertained the world over with The Darryl Mansfield Christian Band, which took him to a multitude of foreign countries.  Let’s also recall a second happiness in Laguna Beach when Dog Grooming inspired his unusual concept of washing family dogs together rather than separately thus giving pets a fun time together rather than an upsetting experience, typical of his appreciation for creatures big and small. Michael would not even swat a fly, rather ushered insects carefully out the door.

God took Michael lovingly home following a very sudden cerebral hemorrhage on March 17, 2018. God bless this sensitive, loving son, brother, friend. May dear Michael remain forever in Heaven, the place to be for which he long prayed.

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Bo Brackett

December, 1940 - March, 2018

Click on photo for a larger image

Bo Brackett, former longtime resident of Laguna Beach, passed away in March 2018 in Encinitas, California. He was 77.

Bo was born in Richmond, Virginia in December 1940 and moved to Los Angeles in 1948 when his father, Deke, accepted an assistant position coaching football at UCLA. Bo earned a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a Master’s degree from USC.

While attending UCLA, Bo served as President of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He also proudly served in the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant for four years during the Vietnam War era. Bo met his wife Nancy when she was a student at UCLA and they married in 1967. Bo worked as a probation officer in LA County for 10 years.

The Bracketts moved to Laguna Beach in 1973 where Bo sold real estate with Lingo Real Estate, then partnered with Ken Kelly in their own company, Coast and Country, and later with Prudential. Bo and Nancy had their daughter Catherine in 1984. They remained in Laguna Beach until retiring to Palm Desert in 2006 and eventually moving to San Diego in 2016 to be near Catherine and her family.

Bo was a loving, devoted husband and father who will be remembered for his outgoing and unforgettable personality. He made friends with people from all walks of life and loved to give people nicknames. If you knew him you probably have one. He adored his daughter and was an enthusiastic participant in all her activities from weekly volunteering at Top of the World school to AYSO soccer, Indian Princesses, and “handicapping” dance competitions. 

People will remember his pie and ice cream breakfasts, how he loved playing volleyball at Main Beach, and the special friendship he had with his mother in-law, Helen, who survives him at age 95. Bo is survived by Nancy, his wife of 50 and a half years, his sister Sallye, his daughter Catherine, son-in-law Travis, and his three precious grandsons – Deacon Jay, Wyatt James, and Austin Bo. The family resides in Carmel Valley in San Diego. He will be missed every day by family, friends, and his rescue dog Wiley. 

A military service will take place on April 5, 2018 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. 

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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

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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 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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