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Camp David Gun Summit Part II

Hello Mr. Kail. Because I am the writer you referred to in your recent letter, who has urged President Trump to convene a summit on guns at Camp David, I thought I would introduce myself (“Laws won’t fix school shootings”).  

People’s feelings about the NRA and the Second Amendment currently are at a fever pitch. So much so, rational conversations are almost impossible to have in Congress or around our dinner tables. Are you aware that several of the teenage survivors of the shooting in South Florida, who currently are organizing student marches, have received death threats? I believe my call for a summit not only will help turn down the heat caused by mass shootings, but set the stage for productive talks. I’m sorry you disagree.

I have been told that when Jimmy Carter informed his White House staff in 1978 that he intended to bring old warriors Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Menachem Begin of Israel to Camp David, most of his aides, fearing failure, urged the president not to go forward with his plan. Despite all the fighting in the Middle East today, Egypt and Israel still are at peace. I firmly believe President Trump has a chance to accomplish a similar outcome with a summit on guns now.

Thanks, again, for mentioning me in your recent letter. Let me know if you want to get coffee and discuss our differences.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Hotel Laguna: Time for us all to move on

It is hard for me to understand why the Andersen family seems to be using the courts to obstruct the re-opening of the Hotel Laguna by the new operators.  Given that the Andersens have been supportive of our community for many years, why would they now want to keep the landmark of our town dark? Fortunately for Laguna Beach, the new operators also have a sterling history of good deeds to improve our town, so I have much reason to anticipate how the re-opened Hotel Laguna will enhance our community. It is time for all of us to move on.

Jerry Immel

Laguna Beach

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Stop Taxing Our Property

A new coalition of concerned residents in town called S.T.O.P – Stop Taxing Our Property (, has formed to give residents all the facts about undergrounding, not just those the City and its consultants want to “educate” you about. 

The City had budget surpluses of $9.9 million in FY 2015, $9.8 million in FY 2016, and recently $4.8 million in 2017. If undergrounding is so safety essential, why haven’t those surpluses been saved for undergrounding, rather than placing the burden squarely on taxpayers’ backs? Shouldn’t we demand better planning and fiscal responsibility of our City’s leaders? Why doesn’t the City use Measure LL funds to support a revenue bond, repayable by the City, not the taxpayers? At $2.5-$3M year, those funds could support a $50-60M revenue bond debt. The City’s capital improvement plan allocates $15 million to a proposed community pool. Why is a pool prioritized over undergrounding? 

The City will spend over $240,000 on consultants to push undergrounding and biased surveys. Contrary to the article by Mr Gibbs of Underground Laguna Now, the surveys did not find that the majority of residents strongly supported paying for undergrounding. The surveys “found” what we already know, that we live in a fire threat area. But how does that equate to an imperative to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to underground utility poles?  44 percent of California is in a high fire threat area. Laguna is no different than hundreds of other cities. The ’93 fire was caused by arson, not utility poles, and the cause of the most recent fires in Sonoma and Santa Barbara have not been factually determined. There has never been a major fire in Laguna caused by utility poles.

The City estimates six 1/2 years and around $10 million before construction would even begin on undergrounding. Wireless power already exists, and is developing faster every day for mass scale use. Soon electricity transmission by wires will be obsolete. Why are we spending hundreds of millions to underground a soon to be obsolete method of delivering power?

Last December the CPUC ordered new stricter fire safety measures for electrical distribution systems in high-risk areas, and created a “Fire-Threat Map” where those measures are currently being implemented, including Laguna and Laguna Canyon Road. With these significant new fire prevention measures for utilities, including frequent monitoring and inspection of all utility poles, immediate correction of safety hazards in high fire threat areas, and major new rules for vegetation management, shouldn’t we wait and see if these safety measures work before asking taxpayers to foot the bill to underground utilities? If SC Edison doesn’t comply, wouldn’t there be substantial cause to force SC Edison to underground at its own cost?

Laguna’s urban areas(downtown and residential zones near PCH) are not high risk for widespread utility fires. California has not had an urban conflagration initiate within an urban core area in many decades. Why is the City insisting on undergrounding in these areas using the arbitrary “evacuation route” scare tactic?  No one can predict where a fire may break out, and lower urban routes (like Glenneyre and PCH) are not high risk. Fallen trees, light poles and parked cars obstruct as much as power lines. Ninety percet of all fires are human caused (cigarettes, campfires and arson), followed by lighting and lava.  Electrical transmission fires causing widespread damage are an extremely low percentage of all fires.

Many neighborhoods have already paid thousands to underground, some over $50,000. Why should these residents have to pay for others to do the same thing? Some of these neighborhoods were on so called “evacuation routes.” Many other residents would never use any of the “evacuation routes.” One council member lives on Glenneyre and her view would be greatly improved by undergrounding. Is it fair or equitable to force others to pay for that view?

The $240 median per parcel trumped out to support the undergrounding only applies if your property tax assessment is $600,000. That’s great if you bought your home many years ago, like the city council, whose average assessment is $462,000. Many other residents who bought more recently will pay thousands more. Is this equitable? Who else isn’t paying their “fair share?”

The City paid over $200,000 to put new carpet in City Hall, and has been on a hiring binge over the last three years increasing payroll and pension liabilities. City health insurance is expected to increase by 18 percent. $3 million of new vehicles were purchased in under 3 years, unnecessarily replacing vehicles with low mileage and much useful life. Millions have been spent purchasing real estate that may be desirable, but is not necessary. Shouldn’t we demand responsible spending first before taxpayers are asked to tax themselves and give the City even more? 

Ask questions, get informed.  It’s your money.

Jennifer Welsh Zeiter, local business, tax and estate planning attorney, former President of Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association, co-founder of S.T.O.P, and self-appointed fiscal watchdog.

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No good deed goes unpunished

Nearly 2.5 years ago, the City agreed to begin a 10-year rehabilitation schedule for our Sanitary Sewer System (SSS), funding $3.5 million per year for 10 years = $35 million. 

That was codified, i.e., agreed to contractually in a federal court as a result of litigation initiated by California River Watch in October 2014. My NGO, Clean Water Now was the sole Laguna protectionist group to formally join the lawsuit.

Readers can peruse and confirm the details via online historical research, CWN joined because after 15 years on this issue, little rehabilitation or improvement had taken place.

For us it was unfinished business, our previous work around 2000 on the same topic was being ignored, the City not fulfilling its promises to both California and USEPA.

One of the burning issues was the City’s antiquated, increasingly failing SSS, the specter of larger overflows looming plus one of the major defect symptoms: The buildup of H2S (hydrogen sulfide gases, that obnoxious odor of human waste) in several key neighborhood zones.

It really hit home for myself and my neighbors here in Victoria Beach and just south along PCH near Ruby’s and Montage as proven in court. Letters had been written to the City over the course of nearly a decade, demanding redress and relief. 

The City acknowledged the more pungent, problematic and objectionably smelly, deficient lift stations during the proceedings.

We along PCH here to the south were assured that we’d be a high priority being chronically affected, the lift station near Nyes Place and the one on the stairs leading down to Victoria Beach prime candidates.

So it has been with great curiosity that we’ve tracked the subsequent budgets since that compact was mutually agreed upon by all parties.

The LB Taxpayers, local media columnists, letters in MSM and individuals petitioning the City at budget hearings seem to be unaware of that compact with the court system, plaintiffs and more importantly, those concerned about SSS spills: Unsafe, hazardous beach conditions triggering closures and decimating fragile marine eco-systems.

Viewing the upcoming budgets, I can’t find earmarked funds that confirm, that sustain the City’s promises: Nor am I reassured by the lack of specificity regarding prioritization.

Myself, CWN and my neighbors are justifiably wondering: Are we being punished for being whistleblowers, for exercising our rights to petition and acquire a redress of legitimate grievances?

Obviously, no good deed goes unpunished here.

Roger Butow

Laguna Beach

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Jack Morse

April 29, 1934 – March 10, 2018

Our incredible father, husband, grandfather and beloved friend, John Morse died peacefully at his home in Laguna Beach on March 10, 2018.

John, known to his friends as “Jack,” was born on April 29, 1934. He came to Laguna Beach at nine months old, and aside from his time away for college and his time in the Army while serving in Korea, he lived his entire life in Laguna until his passing at the age of 83. He was an extremely lucky man and he knew it!

Jack graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 1952 and continued on to receive his Bachelor’s from the University of New Mexico.

He was a retired LA County probation officer of 30 years and Dean of Students at Santa Margarita High School, respected by his peers and loved by his students. Upon his retirement, Jack spent his time focusing on his passions of music and teaching. He was an accomplished ukulele player who continued to serve the local community teaching ukulele classes and building incredible friendships at the Susi Q Center in Laguna Beach.

Jack loved the ocean, playing and teaching the ukulele, weekly coffee gatherings with his friends, and watching his grandkids grow up, always encouraging them to do their best and reach for the stars. Nothing was more important to him than his family and friends.

Jack’s signature everyday look was a Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirt with jeans and a ukulele. Jack loved his time as a Laguna Beach lifeguard in addition to surfing, fishing and diving. No one knew the beaches of Laguna better than he did. That is the simple life Jack loved. He was always there to greet you with a smile, offer sage advice, or provide a steady hand. Jack was one of the kindest people you could ever meet opening his heart to many.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Susan Morse, his four children (Gretchen, Peter, Megan and Tim), and the eight grandchildren he adored.  

Our incredible father, husband, grandfather and beloved friend will be missed.

A Funeral Service in memory of Jack will be held on Friday, March 23 at 12 p.m. at St. Catherine’s Church in Laguna Beach with a reception following at Fratello’s Italian Restaurant in Laguna Niguel from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Those who desire may make memorial donations in memory of Jack to The Susi Q Center (Laguna Beach Senior Center) 380 Third St., Laguna Beach, CA 92651.

Note: Fratellos is located at 31371 Niguel Rd, Laguna Niguel.

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First amendment rights usurped?

My son is an eighth grade student at Thurston, like many of his fellow students he felt duped by the school administration. He felt that his 1st amendment rights were usurped by the school administration, which controlled the walk outs by turning it into an extended break, run by the school administration. The intended message, to honor the 17 dead students and seek change in gun laws that would make kids like him safer was muted.

Our children’s’ rights need to be respected and “their” voices heard.  

David Flores

Laguna Beach

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Arboretum or city: that is the question

A local, well-known landscape architect has recently started a dialogue about plant life in our town. Sounds like this person was mostly about getting our City to look more like an arboretum and Roger’s Garden. I, too, am about the beauty and all that Nature has to provide that keeps us in awe. I am a gardener at heart and have had to learn that planning and planting must work hand in hand. 

However, when does the planting exceed the glory of plant life? Take trees for example, we are impressed by their beauty and often times [they offer] protection from many heated days from the sun on our homes. All of this is fine until tree roots invade another person’s property and raises their concrete driveway or even invades footings and foundations. Sidewalks, too, often times are raised and cause risks to those walking daily on our walkways.

Living in such close proximity to neighbors, trees and their roots systems can be a dangerous risk. Tree roots often are the major source of blocked sewer lines. Also, when trees are not planted with knowledge of their maximum height, views from other properties can be obstructed and Pandora’s Box is again wide open to create unrest among neighbors leading to confrontations and even lawsuits. 

Yes, I agree with this landscape architect but then again when planting trees the end result must be a major consideration for all concerned. Plant life, like all of Nature, is intended to expand as it grows. Oftentimes folks want an instant and mature looking garden by over planting and not allowing enough space in between plants to expand and develop into a well planned and beautiful garden. Plants need both food and water. They must be cared for like any living organism. Planting and caring can take on more responsibilities. So please plant wisely and keep the peace and the safety wherever and whenever we can. 

Jim Gothard

Laguna Beach

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Going, Going, Gone: Fence ordinance needs changing

On December 20, my downhill next-door neighbor erected posts for a six foot fence. I had no notice that this was going to be built. I immediately ran to the City Of Laguna Beach to verify that this neighbor had a building permit, and indeed they had one. I made a complaint, which was dismissed by the City. The City fence ordinance gives homeowners the right to build fences such as this as long as it is on the fence owner’s property. 

We are always friendly with our neighbors, and have cooperated to build neighbor-friendly fences. My uphill neighbors and I built a fence together, it’s four feet tall, and protects my neighbor’s ocean views. The Driftwood Estates tract is a hidden treasure of mid-century single story small homes; all the lots are terraced. Historically, no fence has ever been constructed that would obstruct anyone’s ocean view. The views on this street, Ocean Vista, have always been respected by all neighbors; we communicate with each other when trees or hedges need a trim.

Note: The owners next door have never moved into the house to this date, it has remained vacant. 

When on December 20, I asked these neighbors to please come over and view the impact that this six foot fence was going to make on my view, they declined, stating that they had a permit, and they needed their privacy. The lot line where this fence is built is uphill from their house by about 12 feet, but is level with my front yard, so they would have to look up and away from the ocean to even see my house.

I have since contacted more people at the City, nobody could help me, but it was suggested that I write to this newspaper.  

What really needs to happen is a change needs to be made to the Fence Ordinance when it affects a neighbor’s ocean view, and Design Review should be involved. I am volunteering to help start a committee to change the fence ordinance, please contact me if you’re interested in helping. I would not wish this to happen to anybody else. It seems like it’s the end of friendly neighborhoods in my town, which is the saddest part.

Melinda Zoller

Laguna Beach

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Marching is important, voting in the primary is more important

I have just returned home from the March for Our Lives in Santa Ana.  

It was an inspirational and emotional day. Hearing the personal stories of students, teachers and others who have been affected by gun violence made a huge impact on the thousands of us who were there in solidarity.

There were many statements and chants about the importance of voting, all of which was directed to the November election.

I think there was a missed opportunity in emphasizing the importance of the June 5 Primary election, particularly for Congressional districts. Due to the rules of the jungle primary, only the top two candidates from the June 5 election will go on to be placed on the ballot in November. With so many candidates running for each Congressional district, it is imperative that voters understand the importance of voting on June 5 so that the two candidates who win are the ones that we want to vote for in November. If we do not do our job June 5, the November election will once again be a missed opportunity for change.

Candidates: Get the June 5 message out. Voters: Do your homework and make your votes count on June 5.

Jada Robitaille

Laguna Beach

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From Main Beach to Washington and beyond

File this under “There are no coincidences.” What if today’s teenagers from Stoneman Douglas High School are the “thoughts and prayers” Republican members of Congress have been talking about since Columbine?

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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