clear sky


Laguna Beach

Share this story

Is the school system letter too much?

I am trying to make the community aware of the disaster the school system is trying to create. Attached is a letter sent to families enrolled in Top of the World elementary school. Please help us keep our children from being taught they are racist. We teach our children everyone is equal, brown, black or white. No matter where they live or how much their parents make…everyone is equal. I do teach my children “yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, please and thank you.” It’s called being kind, human and respectful to all.

Christina Dodge

Laguna Beach

Share this story

South Laguna Fuel Modification Project problematic

South Laguna conceptual map

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Mike Beanan

Conceptual Perimeter Wildfire Prevention/Suppression Map utilizing high purity recycled water from the Coastal Treatment Plant

Addressing Agenda Item #21

Mayor & City Council,

Thank you for your tireless efforts to prevent and protect Laguna Beach from annual wildfire threats.

As a 40-year resident living adjacent to the South Laguna Greenbelt Urban Fringe Area, I appreciate the careful removal of dead or diseased trees for wildfire protection. However, several aspects of the proposed South Laguna Fuel Modification Project remain problematic.


The steep coastal terrain surrounding the project area is unique to Laguna Beach in forming a relatively undisturbed virgin habitat for globally endangered South Maritime Chaparral and the wildlife depending upon this area for foraging and shelter. Native vegetation remains green due to the adaptive ability of plants to be “fog feeders” capturing marine layer moisture throughout the year. Native plants and trees add a protective natural oil layer to retain moisture during scorching summers. Consequently, routine hiking surveys and historical records have yet to discover any evidence of massive wildfires.

The City’s Fuel Modification Guidelines adopted in 2005 and again in 2010, reflects development standards common in all surrounding South County communities and the Orange County Fire Authority to maintain a graduated, multicut, biomulched series of Fuel Modification Zones (FMZs) rather than fire breaks on steep, inaccessible hillsides. FMZ A & B are designated to be routinely irrigated to maintain safe hydration as a preventive measure and first line of defense during a wildfire event. Despite multiple requests for a perimeter wildfire water suppression system, the Fire Department and South Coast Water District have failed to consider the obvious multiple benefits of an independent, high purity recycled water system among strategies for long term protection of South Laguna and the City as a whole. Simply stated, water prevents and suppresses fire. To date, there has been no application of the City’s 2005 Fuel Modification Guidelines in South Laguna to provide an independent source of new water within the prospect of a projected, long-term drought.

Unintended Consequences

The proposed project to dramatically remove native vegetation to achieve proposed spacing requirements on steep, South facing hillsides will exacerbate wildfire threats. De-vegetated terrain exposes the fragile soil mantle to harsh sun to elevate surrounding ambient temperatures and dehydrate remaining plants and trees. Native groundcover significantly shades and cools soil temperatures while stabilizing slopes during storm events. Removing vegetation achieves the opposite result to increase soil erosion and silt covering protected tide pools in Laguna Marine Protected Areas.

Exposed soils also add to the urban heat sink. Remaining trees limbed up to mitigate fire ladders unintentionally exposes the tree’s trunk to harsh Southern sun and intense afternoon ocean glare to scorch trees that eventually die, thus adding to wildfire threats. Exposed soils invite introduction of dry, brown grasses and future ember alleys accelerating the spread of wildfires. Evidence of this dynamic is clearly visible among hillsides previously grazed by goats or manually de-vegetated.

Removing native vegetation will diminish the City’s dedication to address Climate Change impacts and opportunities for achieving carbon sequestration goals. Native plants store carbon and mitigate warming temperatures through ground shading. Plants also add oxygen to the environment. The proposed project will dramatically reduce the ability of the Greenbelt to add environmental and economic benefits to the community. Studies by real estate experts have shown, nature reserves add as much as 19 percent to adjacent property values and the benefit extends throughout a surrounding neighborhood.

In addition to unintended environmental impacts, education programs present a false equivalency to promote aggressive de-vegetation. Comparing South Laguna, for instance to the Paradise Wildfire is disingenuous since the community of Paradise is a collection of mobile homes surrounded by expansive forests clustered together with propane tanks supplying fuel and energy. South Laguna, in contrast, is a coastal area with well-maintained homes lacking outside propane tanks near an abundant supply of recycled water infrastructure.

South Laguna’s small streets present another challenge for wildfire threats. Fire Department trucks appear to be typical of modern suburban communities with wide streets as opposed to more compact trucks typical among forested communities with limited access. The present policy to protect Fire Department personnel and equipment is understandable but can mean large urban designed equipment will not be able to enter a compact older neighborhood to suppress wildfires. In effect, residents are left on their own to combat approaching embers responsible for spot fires.

During the 1993 Laguna Wildfire, I was among residents who formed a hasty fire watch network to use water to suppress embers in North Laguna and save numerous homes. The wildfire subsequently, avoided Cliff Drive homes and jumped five lanes of Coast Highway to burn homes in Emerald Bay.

The present plan for significant de-vegetation of steep hillsides will introduce a greater wildfire threat by adding large areas of highly flammable brown grasses requiring expensive maintenance and future habitat rehabilitation.

A 30-Year Plan

California will experience a series of severe drought conditions over the next 30 years. Wildfire threats can be addressed with a systematic long-term approach utilizing available unallocated supplies of new, independent water resources coupled with prudent, routine grooming of the Greenbelt urban interface.

South Coast Water District has reclaimed water lines along Coast Highway with outlets installed to supply recycled water to Mission Hospital and other clients. Increasing delivery of recycled water to hillsides above Mission Hospital is essential to protect this critical First Response facility. Extending the recycled water line to the proposed project areas will add additional moisture to maintain safe hydration of native plants and be a determining factor in suppressing an on-coming wildfire. Irrigated FMZs, a common feature in all surrounding cities, is a development standard presently ignored for consideration in the proposed project area.

Title 22 recycled water is an independent resource to significantly add more water before and during a wildfire event. This feature allows Fire Departments full access to potable water supplies otherwise tapped by individual homeowners seeking to suppress ember showers. Recycled water, however, can be problematic for firefighters since latent Constituents of Emerging Concern (CECs) are likely vaporized and inhaled during high heat fire events. Fortunately, compact water filtration units strategically placed can polish recycled water to potable standards and distribute this new water to FMZ A & B to protect firefighters and homeowners from CECs.

Additional independent supplies of high purity “new water” will maintain a green buffer zone next to homes while reducing the burden of ever-increasing insurance rates. Just as interior sprinklers can mitigate fire insurance costs, an independent supply of new water will allow homeowners to negotiate reductions in insurance rates. Interviews with firefighters reveal their preference to enter vegetative areas that are green rather than brown.

Generous State and Federal grants are now readily available for recycled water infrastructure to address wildfire and drought conditions. Studies have shown, as much as ½ of water demands can be met with recycled water supplies. The City of Laguna Beach remains the only city in South Orange County lacking recycled water despite surrounding older cities, like Dana Point, with a robust recycled water infrastructure. More recycled water upcycled for wildfire prevention and suppression presents the added benefit of reducing ocean discharges of Laguna’s 1.87 million gallons per day of secondary sewage adjacent to State MPAs.

Going Forward

Wildfires will continue to threaten the well-being of South Laguna for the next 30 years or more and should be addressed as a long-term public infrastructure program. Extensive wildfire fear campaigns diminish a thoughtful approach to prudent planning and adds unintended consequences to increase wildfire conditions. Drought mandates requiring less use of potable water supplies will add additional stress to native vegetation already suffering from known anthropogenic impacts to climate change.

Following the devastating San Francisco Earthquake 100 years ago, city planners introduced large cisterns among street intersections throughout the city’s steep terrain as a pre-emptive measure for any future fire event. Laguna Beach should consider a similar system to take advantage of gravity in storing and distributing water for wildfire prevention and suppression.

The proposed project needs to incorporate a long-term plan to create a green zone instead of a Brownbelt and access readily available high purity recycled water along Coast Highway as one of the best measures to protect and preserve the many benefits of the Laguna Greenbelt to our community. Water puts out fire and:

“Without water, a firefighter is just a spectator” – Retired Laguna Beach Firefighter.

Thank you for reviewing and incorporating my comments and recommendations to the South Laguna Fuel Modification Project. 

Mike Beanan

South Laguna

Share this story

Plant Man Column

“All doors open to courtesy.” –Thomas Fuller

Ordinarily, I would attempt to wax poetic in this space about our City Hall’s Mediterranean Revival Style architecture, replete with its distinctive, scrolled rafter tails and other details envisaged by Aubrey St. Clair. And, of course, honor the adjacent and stalwart California Pepper (Schinus molle), which was originally planted as a homesteading requirement during Laguna’s pioneer days.

Letter Kawaratani

Click on photo for a larger image

Laguna Beach City Hall – 505 Forest Ave

But today, I would like to offer the perspective of someone who has lived here for a lifetime and is involved in the property development process. It is a poorly kept secret that Laguna Beach is a terrific place to visit and live, and not coincidentally, our property values continue to soar. 

Planning review is often a complex and lengthy process in any jurisdiction, and Laguna Beach is no exception. Most applications are required to transit through the planning review process to ensure project feasibility within the constraints of the Municipal Code and General Plan. The process has the added scrutiny of the Design Review Board, which ensures compatibility with City standards.

The COVID-19 lockdown created an opportunity to reimagine our homes and fueled a desire for improvement projects. The flood of planning and permit applications to the City’s Community Development Department is near historic levels, while staffing levels remain basically static. The number of projects under review by each planner has doubled, and in some instances, even tripled.

Marc Wiener, the Director of Community Development, and his staff are actively transforming their workplace for more efficient and effective operations and additional planners are being added. This will translate to faster review times during the project application process.

During this period of transition, please consider your actions when you’re at the Community Development counter. Courtesy, kindness, and understanding go a long way in making a difficult job easier for everyone. Good projects get approved; please practice patience! See you next time.

Steve Kawaratani has been a local guy for seven decades and likes to garden and drive the Baja Peninsula. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (949) 494-5141.

Steve Kawaratani

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Councilman Peter Blake calls Johanna Felder a liar

Your readers should be interested in an exchange of emails that I recently had with Laguna Beach Councilman Peter Blake.

August 27, 2021, Gene Felder email to Peter Blake:

Councilman Peter Blake,

At the August 24, 2021 City Council meeting, from the dais, you interrupted my wife Johanna Felder from providing public input and called her a liar.

Johanna has a stellar reputation for honesty. What are you referring to?

Your conduct is an addition violation of the City’s rules of decorum and civility, as well as Robert’s Rules of Order. I would appreciate for you to retract your inappropriate comment.

Gene Felder

August 30, 2021, Peter Blake email to Gene Felder:

Gene, actually I waited until Johanna was done with her testimony and then questioned her. I did not interrupt her. I did not call her a “liar” 

Her “stellar reputation for honesty”?

I have the right to question anyone spinning the facts whether its you, your wife, the president of PAC Village Laguna or any activist. If you feel I violated the City’s rules of decorum and civility and/or Robert’s Rules of Order, then I suggest you get one of my colleagues to file a censure.

I will NOT be retracting any comment.


September 2, 2021, Gene Felder email to Peter Blake:

Perhaps this will refresh your memory. [Referring to audio file that was attached from city council meeting]

Your conduct is an addition violation of the City’s rules of decorum and civility, as well as Robert’s Rules of Order. I would appreciate for you to retract your comments.

Gene Felder

September 3, 2021, Peter Blake email to Gene Felder:

Thanks for refreshing my memory Gene!

It gets difficult sometimes to keep track of all the lies that Village Laguna puts out.

To refresh your memory, I mentioned I will NOT retract my statement and that you should have me censured. Maybe George or Toni can get the ball rolling for you lol!!

Have a great day!


September 7, 2021, Gene Felder email to Peter Blake:

You missed the point. The voice memo from the City Council meeting that I sent you clearly shows that my claim that you called my wife Johanna Felder a liar is true and correct.

And that your statement “I did not call her a ‘liar’” is false and incorrect.

The transcript of the voice memo is as follows:

Johanna Felder: “I’m very upset. Peter speaks to people in such a way that is intimidating and I am really upset”

Interrupting Councilman Peter Blake: “Maybe if you don’t lie when you testify, I won’t speak to you that way”.

Johanna Felder: “Peter, stop that. I do not lie.”

Mayor Bob Whalen: “Peter, do not call speakers liars, they get to offer the testimony that they want to offer.”

Please note that the Mayor of Laguna Beach’s comments included “Peter, do not call speakers liars.”

Your conduct is clearly a violation of the City’s rules of decorum and civility, as well as Robert’s Rules of Order. I would appreciate if you would retract your statements regarding my wife’s veracity.

Gene Felder

One should expect Mr. Blake to at least be responsible for his statements.

Gene Felder

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Who said that school boards aren’t political?

LBUSD should be ashamed of their attitude and vote to basically do nothing about our school children except to “possibly” create a contrived testing platform.

Current vaccine mandates in school districts nationwide:

--Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis


--Measles, mumps, and rubella

--Hepatitis B


Someone needs to explain to me why COVID should be exempt from having a vaccine injection mandate at all Laguna Beach and Orange County schools (for those eligible at this time) as it’s already killed nearly 4,550,000 people worldwide. If one child dies or becomes gravely ill, you should all be incarcerated.

Samuel Goldstein

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Seat belt mandates vs COVID vaccine mandates

Back in the early 1980s, when Michigan state representative David Hollister introduced a seat belt bill that would fine drivers for not buckling up, opponents compared him to Hitler. At the time, only 14 percent of Americans regularly wore seat belts, even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required them in all new cars starting in 1968.

In his piece, “When new seat belt laws drew fire as a violation of personal freedom,” author Dave Roos wrote the following: “Drivers and passengers complained that seat belts were uncomfortable and restrictive, but the objection to mandatory seat belt laws mostly was ideological. One of Hollister’s colleagues in the Michigan House called his seat belt bill ‘a pretty good lesson in mass hysteria created by a corporate-controlled media’ and warned that the government would outlaw smoking next. Another said that anyone who voted for the bill should be recalled. Clearly, the battle over seat belt laws in 1980s America reflected widespread criticism of government regulation in a free society.”

If any of this sounds familiar, it should. Today, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are making similar arguments when it comes to the COVID pandemic. They believe the Federal Drug Administration’s science is flawed just as people once thought the NHTSA’s was. If that wasn’t enough, they also believe the Constitution guarantees them the right to remain unvaccinated and unmasked.

So how did people come to embrace seat belts? In a word, they were mandated. If you ask me, that’s the only way we are going to overcome the devastation caused by COVID now.

Despite President Biden’s constant urging, approximately 80 million Americans still refuse to get vaccinated. At first, I thought financial incentives, like discounts on groceries or income tax breaks, would encourage reluctant citizens to change their minds. When that didn’t work, I began asking former President Donald Trump to speak up. Unfortunately, his public pleas seem to have fallen on deaf, mostly Republican, ears. Which brings me full circle back to seat belts. Because of seat belt mandates, Americans’ behavior has changed dramatically over the years. Today, virtually no one – from first-time teenagers behind the wheel to young parents to grandparents – would think about driving a car on Laguna Canyon Road, Park Avenue, or Nyes Place without buckling up. And when you add a 5-year-old to the equation, I’m guessing 99 percent of Laguna’s drivers believe it is a serious crime not to buckle up that little one in the back seat. 

In my opinion, each of us has the right to decline a tetanus shot. Why? Because that decision only impacts one person (i.e., he or she who stepped on that rusty nail for example). You can’t say the same thing about a COVID shot. Plain and simple, millions of lives are at stake. For those who already are vaccinated, I say thanks. To those who aren’t, listen up: Because you have refused to voluntarily roll up your sleeve, your shot is going to be mandated.

Holding up a copy of the Constitution won’t do you any good, nor will protesting at Main Beach. As far as I am concerned, you have no one to blame for your lot in life now. When it comes to getting vaccinated, you brought this mandate on yourself. 

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Art in Public Places

As a former Laguna Beach resident and a past Arts Commissioner, I’d like to congratulate the current commission and the Cultural Arts Manager, Sian Poeschl, on the amazing public art and art events. It’s amazing to see how the arts have blossomed throughout the city. Not only is Laguna Beach known for the summer art festivals and the Pageant of the Masters, but for the year-round arts and cultural events.


Linda Dietrich

Franklin, Tennessee y’all

Share this story

Dangers from within

In a speech given on the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Penn., our 43rd Republican President George W. Bush said the following statements taken from his overall speech: “We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within…There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home…But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile National symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

After the January 6th, 2021, violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the capital, Bush said: “This is how election results are disputed in a banana republic – not our democratic republic.” He added that he was, “Appalled by the reckless behavior of some political leaders since the election.”

I am thankful for his recent honesty. I am not thankful for him getting us into two unnecessary wars.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach

Share this story

LB goats’ welfare = wildfire prevention

Our home is bordered by the watershed known as Aliso/Woods Canyon Park. In normal years the stockade fences are set up and we entertain the LB goats, managing the kid escapees. This year it was Camaroon – he learned to jump the electric fence and was teaching others jump technique. Every September the goats come, I provide water for them and trim our yard greens just to supplement their diet – they love green yard clippings. In years past the rancher also supplemented these goats with alfalfa bales but due to cost the rancher stopped the supplements.

Because of the western drought there is little rain and very little watershed grass to graze on. Now the goats are climbing trees to nibble new growth and yard fences to reach the ivy. This year the drought impact is exceptional – the goats have bloated bellies and very shaggy coats; I’ve never seen them in such bad shape. There is so little to graze the goat keeper had to move them every day, that means set up and tear down the stockade every day. Normally we host goats for a week; they stayed three days.

The LB goats are Laguna’s wildfire prevention specialists; the goats remove chaparral fuel by eating it. Our LB goats perform Laguna’s best fire prevention duty 24/7 without complaint and little notice from Laguna residents or visitors. When you read about the nutrition requirements of healthy goats compared to conditions in Laguna’s watershed it is easy to see the shortfall in their nutrition. I forwarded some goat nutrition facts to our LBFD and asked if a veterinarian assessed our goats. My concerns will be forwarded to the rancher was my reply.

From the LB City Budgets, here is the goat-math for 12 years averaged. The Fuel Modification contract is 2.5 percent of the LBFD Budget. A 20 percent alfalfa supplement to feed the goats is 1.7 percent of the Fuel Modification budget –

that’s 0.043 percent of the LBFD Budget. If anyone is interested in higher goat-math, contact me.

Letter Miklosy

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Len Miklosy

Our LB goats deserve better; our city should treat them better.

Les Miklosy
Apprentice Goat Keeper

Laguna Beach

Share this story

Home is where the herd is

It is a lovely sight to watch our Laguna Beach goats as they protect us from fire danger. I’ve given much thought to them lately, along with climate change challenges and how we are all being affected by the drought.

How wild indigenous creatures are suffering due to this manmade disaster. The decimation of wild open spaces that are no longer habitable for so many creatures.

But goats aren’t wild. They were the first animals to be tamed by humans and were being herded 9,000 years ago. Goats can be taught to respond to their names. Each kid has a unique call, along with its scent, and that is the way it is recognized by its mother from birth. Not by sight. And…one of the most bizarre behaviors displayed by goats is their sudden impulse to faint when frightened, as do some people.

To remain healthy, goats eat 3-4 percent of their body weight daily. For a 90-pound goat x 150 goats in the Laguna Beach herd, that is roughly 475 pounds of feed per day, augmented by 20 percent protein by weight from feeds. Their present diet consists of eating watershed sage. Protein, which is required for a healthy diet, is obtained from hay, grains, and alfalfa. Does the City Laguna Beach augment their diet with these proteins? Is the contractor maintaining the protein sources in their diets?

If we don’t know these answers, we should. If not, we are starving the goats and decreasing their energy source. 

Look at those brown hills. Do you think it possible that the herd receives that kind of nutrition in Laguna?

Below is a chart showing the proposed budget for our Laguna Beach goats in 2021-2022, compared with two previous years. The portion for the subcontract to the rancher who owns the goats is Fuel Modification Program; the other categories are shown, including the Laguna Beach City overhead to run this program (LB Proposed Budget, 2021-2022, page 108).

Letter Levitt

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Jahn Levitt

In previous years our fire prevention program was starved, while our fire abatement program grew (fire equipment and overhead). That means our goats were starved too.

In previous years this same program exceeded $1.0 million. Now the City is spending $1.0 million in a separate program to study invasive weeds” in South Laguna. What about the living creatures we use as fire prevention, never complaining about the food, always on the job? Don’t they deserve as much concern as an invasive weed program?

Would it be a good idea for the city to call in an independent veterinarian, to be certain our goats are healthy and receiving the nutrition they require to thrive?

When the city signs a contract on behalf of us residents regarding animals, are nutritional needs listed, is there a vet on call, and shouldn’t someone from the city check this occasionally? is the contractor’s responsibility to maintain these animals. But ultimately, isn’t it the responsibility of us all?

If you hired a contractor to build your home, would you sign a contract and never check on the contractor’s work, or take his word for his work?

Certainly, animals used for labor, to protect us residents from fire danger, deserve at least that. Let’s be sure the goats are safe.

Jahn Levitt

Laguna Beach

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

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

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: with news releases, letters, etc.


Email: for questions about advertising


© 2023 2S Publishing, LLC - All Rights Reserved.