BREAKING NEWS

Beaches temporarily closed due to sanitary leak

A sanitary sewer leak has occurred near the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach. The leak occurred within a City line and is draining into Aliso Creek. Specialized equipment and crews are required to bypass and repair the line and are on-scene. They worked through the night last night to affect repairs. At this time, the cause of the leak is unknown and is under investigation.

The sewer leak has prompted the Orange County Healthcare Agency to issue several beach closures as a precaution. All beaches from Poche Beach in San Clemente to Pelican Point at Crystal Cove are temporarily closed for water contact. State law requires temporary closure and posting at beaches in these situations until the water quality meets State requirements. The community is encouraged to pay close attention to any warning signs posted at the beach for their safety. Water monitoring will continue until results comply with State water quality standards.

The leak does not affect water usage or any roadways into or out of the City of Laguna Beach and does not affect the Downtown area. Find more information on current beach closures on the Orange County Healthcare Agency’s website at www.ocbeachinfo.com.

BREAKING NEWS beaches

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Beaches from San Clemente to Crystal Cove are closed until further notice due to sanitary leak

Weather Service issues flood advisory

The National Weather Service has issued a flood advisory until 11 a.m. today, Thursday, Nov 28, due to the active storm system. Drive safely and take appropriate actions.


Beaches remain closed due to sanitary leak from broken City pipe not associated with The Ranch, residents north of Nyes Place asked to conserve water

Beaches remain closed after a sanitary sewer leak was discovered on Wednesday near the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park in Laguna Beach. The leak occurred within a City line and is isolated and draining into Aliso Creek. The leak is coming from a broken City wastewater pipe and not associated with The Ranch Golf Course.

Specialized equipment and crews are required to bypass and repair the line, are on-scene, and will be working throughout the day Friday and possibly into the evening to affect repairs. At this time, the cause of the leak is unknown and is under investigation.

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Wednesday’s sewage pipe leak occurred within a City line and is isolated and draining into Aliso Creek

On Thursday, the City issued a request to residents to voluntarily reduce water usage through Saturday to decrease impact to the wastewater system while repairs are made to the sewage pipe leak. The City sent an updated release on Friday morning stating that residents south of Nyes Place may resume normal water usage at this time; however, residents north of Nyes Place are being asked to continue avoiding any unnecessary uses of water, including washing clothes, running the dishwasher, and taking baths or long showers. This event does not impact drinking water.

The leak has prompted the Orange County Healthcare Agency to issue several beach closures as a precaution. All beaches from Poche Beach in San Clemente to Pelican Point at Crystal Cove are temporarily closed for water contact. State law requires temporary closure and posting at beaches in these situations until the water quality meets State requirements. The community is encouraged to pay close attention to any warning signs posted at the beach for their safety. Water monitoring will continue until results comply with State water quality standards.

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Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Scott Brashier

Beaches from San Clemente to Crystal Cove are closed until further notice due to sanitary leak

Find more information on current beach closures on the Orange County Healthcare Agency’s website at www.ocbeachinfo.com.


2,393 reported cases of COVID-19 in OC, highest single-day increase to date

Numbers released by the OC Health Agency today, April 30, reflect that there have been 2,393 reported cases of COVID-19 in Orange County to date, including 145 new cases reported today, the highest single-day increase to date. There are 37 reported cases of COVID-19 to date in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach, with a population of 23,358, has the second highest per capita rate in OC at 1.584 cases per thousand residents. Los Alamitos, with a population of 11,721 and 23 reported cases, has the highest per capita rate in OC, with 1.962 cases per thousand residents.

Newport Beach has the third highest per capita rate in OC, with 97 reported cases, 1.113 cases per thousand residents.

Santa Ana is the city with the most cases at 366, with a population of 337,716, including 36 new cases reported today. Irvine, with a population of 280,202, has 130 cases. Dana Point, with a population of 34,249, has 23 cases.

Sadly, the County reports 45 deaths due to COVID-19, including one death today. 190 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest number of hospitalizations for a single day to date; 63 are currently in ICU.

The County Public Health lab and reporting commercial labs have tested 31,534 people as of today, a 7.6 percent positive rate.

The County is not releasing data on the number of individuals who have tested negative following a positive test at this time.

For more information, visit www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus.

Numbers are updated daily by Stu News Laguna.

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Courtesy of OC Health Care Agency

Orange County COVID-19 case data, as of April 30;

Click here to visit page that is updated daily


Top 10 Stories of 2019: Part II

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Views differ on Village Entrance

Four-and-a-half hours of the nearly eight-hour council meeting on September 24 was devoted to the Village Entrance project.

Proposals included demolition of the digester building, the removal of some trees, and the question of whether to stick with the Arts Commission’s choice of artist to create an important work somewhere along the pathway that leads from the canyon to the downtown.

The discussion on the proposed artwork took two hours. Hundreds of emails had already been sent to the councilmembers and the City Clerk’s Office.

Mayor Bob Whalen estimated that about 90 percent of the contacts were opposed to the concept endorsed by the Arts Commission.

Despite overwhelming public opposition, the council voted unanimously to stay the course with artist Marc Fornes to develop a refined version for a Village Entrance location.

An extra $15,000 was added to the $25,000 for his original concept.

There was also opposition to the demolition of the digester, one of the few remaining structures built by the Works Progress Administration, founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s to create jobs during the depth of the Great Depression.

top ten digester

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The fate of the sewer digester building was a major issue in 2019

“We’ve got to keep our history,” said former UC Irvine archivist Anne Frank, one of the 10 speakers who asked the council to spare the digester.

The public meeting, which began at 5 p.m., ended at 12:34 a.m.

Coastal Commission vies with the City

The most recent attempt by City and California Coastal commission staffs to address conflicts between the two agencies may prove more fruitful than the previous attempts to reconcile their differences.

Inconsistency between the City’s Municipal Code and the General Plan plus different interpretations by the two staffs has led to appeals to the commission about development projects. The City Council at the April 23 meeting directed the Planning Commission to initiate amendments to sections of the General Plan, the Municipal Code, and the certified Local Coastal Plan related to defining major remodels and the oceanfront bluff tops, clarifying coastal development procedures and streamlining the discretionary review process.

“I have worked on this for years,” said Council watchdog Sharon Fudge.

Fudge and her husband, Mark, are still working on it, as they continue to remind the council at every meeting. 

The City’s Short-Term Lodging ordinance was another bone of contention between the City and the commission. 

A 2016 council decision approved the Planning Commission-recommended Short-Term Lodging Ordinance, with minor changes. The 36 existing permits would remain, but any new short-term use (less than 31 days) in a residential neighborhood would be illegal. STLs in commercial zones would still be allowed. The ordinance was not enforced pending a decision of the California Coastal Commission, which must approve changes in the City’s general plan. 

The Coastal Commission and City staffs have been working on an agreement ever since.

In June of 2019, there was a breakthrough. The City resubmitted an ordinance born of a compromise struck by the two staffs. 

The ordinance as submitted would protect residential neighborhoods, but would allow short-term lodging at 734 residential units in its commercial mixed-use zone, with restrictions on properties that don’t currently meet density or other development standards relaxed.

Short-term lodging won’t be allowed in multi-family buildings that have covenants against converting units set aside for senior, disabled, and affordable housing, according to retiring Director of Community Development Greg Pfost. 

Mayor Bob Whalen opined that the compromise reflected the wishes of the community. 

Preservation of historical resources

The City Council approved in March most of the recommendations proposed by the Preservation Ordinance Task Force to update the ordinance.

Tasked with reviewing a draft ordinance and recommending criteria and incentives for voluntary inclusion on the city’s Historic Register, the 11-member committee faced the same controversies that have stalemated the process for years. The number of meetings has been second only to the Village Entrance project, more than 30. Even so, the task force was divided 6-5 on some of the issues, before making their recommendations.

“It’s time to focus on finalizing a voluntary ordinance so we can give the community something that works,” said City Manager John Pietig. “Council approval of the recommendations keeps it moving forward.”

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The Cathedral at St. Francis by-the-Sea Catholic Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988

Council-approved recommendations included adopting the state numerical status codes for properties; reviewing applications for Historical Register listing and incentives at the same time, so applicants know if they will get the incentives they want in exchange for registering the property; elimination of age as a criteria for placement on the Register; and exemption of modifications to historical structures from the design review process if they would not have been required if the structure was not on the Register.

Residents continued to be divided on Voluntary/Not Voluntary inclusion of property as a historical resource. Some folks believe non-voluntary inclusion as a historical resource is akin to taking property. Others see it as the most efficient way to preserve buildings considered to add to the charm, character, and historical context of the city. 

City budget

The City had a jump start on the 2019-2020/2020-2021 budget, already ahead of the game by $2.6 million in revenue left over from 2018.

As expected the City Council approved at the June 18 meeting the proposed two-year budget.

Proposed expenditures total $70 million in fiscal year 2019-20 and roughly $72 million in fiscal year 2020-21. The 20 percent reserve of $13 million remains intact. Changes to the draft approved at the May 22 Budget Workshop included $227,200 in one-time expenditures and ongoing expenditures totaling $221,400. 

One-time approvals included the $12,000 Moulton Meadows Dog Playground pilot program, $10,000 in safety upgrades at the Alternative Sleeping Location, $250,000 for contract services support for employee recruitments, and $40,000 for a full-time arborist, in addition to ongoing costs of $147,200.

Other approved ongoing expenditures included $74,200 to implement the Cultural Arts Plan and $78,000 of the $156,000 total cost for an Information Technology Project Manager. On the plus side is the $175,000 increase in community development fees to help cover the costs of processing the large projects coming down the pike. 

The Council unanimously approved Community Assistance Grants and nine of the 10 staff recommendations, split 3-2 only on the recommendation that asked for direction on exceptional performance pay for City Manager John Pietig. 

Exceptional performance bonuses were approved for Laguna’s two elected officials and for the city manager in the form of a raise. 

Unlike all other personnel, reviews of the job performance, raises in salary, and bonuses for the city clerk, the city treasurer and the city manager are subject to public debate. The annual discussion on exceptional performance pay is included in the public hearing on the city budget, awkward, if not downright uncomfortable for those being discussed and some folks in the audience.

City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker was awarded a five percent exceptional performance pay increase on a 5-0 vote. City Treasurer Laura Parisi was granted a two percent increase for her performance, also on a unanimous vote. The increases are for one fiscal year. Both received raises consistent with all city employees increases.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow opposed the proposed bonus for City Manager John Pietig.

The subcommittee on performance-dependent-pay for Pietig recommended a five percent exceptional performance bonus, but that was amended to a two-and-a-half percent raise in each of the next two fiscal years, starting July 1. That was in addition to the cost of living raises for all employees.

“John performs at an extraordinarily high level,” said Mayor Bob Whalen, who served on the sub-committee. 

Whalen cited the million-dollar payoff from the lawsuit against the Moulton Niguel Water District, which the mayor said officials never thought the City would get. Whalen also said the number of years Pietig has served the City plays into his salary. He has the second longest tenure as a city manager in the county and recently served as president of the Orange County City Managers Association, significant recognition of his abilities, said Whalen.

Councilman Peter Blake, also on the subcommittee, supported the five percent increase as a way to motivate Pietig to stay on as city manager. 

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City Manager John Pietig tours fire-ravaged neighborhood in Paradise; Pietig received a raise in 2019 for helping keep Laguna safe from fires, among other things

“I see key positions are transitioning into retirement,” said Blake. “The way John walked me through the system showed me how he could help new employees and existing employees to move up in promotions.” 

In July, the council took preemptive action to keep Public Works Director/Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis on the City payroll.

Dupuis was given a $25,000 raise to resist the blandishment and higher salaries from other agencies that want her services. 

“She is being actively recruited by other agencies,” said City Manager John Pietig.

Matt Lawson said the City needs her expertise, although he found it strange to be in disagreement with other conservatives who spoke against the raise. 

“Let her go,” said Jennifer Zeiter.

“No one is irreplaceable,” said Michelle Monda. 

However, no one on the council agreed with them. Nor did Pietig, who was once called stingy by Councilwoman Sue Kempf. 

Pietig strongly endorsed the pay raise. Dupuis, he said, is needed to provide continuity for several major projects that are under way and for the management of the Public Works Department.

He also cited her coordination of the Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Report, unveiled earlier in the meeting. 

“I love this city,” Dupuis said. “I have personal ties to the city and I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors. I see it every day. It is important to me.”

Councilman Peter Blake described Dupuis as the smartest, most resilient employee of the city. 

“$25,000 is nothing compared to the cost of replacing her,” Blake said. 

The vote was 5-0.


Where’s Maggi – the answers!

This is one of the cutest little libraries to make a home in Laguna. Quite a few Stu News readers agree, and they answered Maggi’s challenge.

Anne Polkingharn knew that it is on Catalina at St. Ann’s. So did Jill Paul, Joy Clevenger, Anthony Dalessi, Steve Hoffman, Nancy Wade, Judy Barry, Bundy Kinder, and Darrylin Girvin.

Thanks for sending in your answers!

Look for Maggi’s next challenge coming up on Friday.    

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This little library is on Catalina Street at St. Ann’s Drive


MacGillivray proposal for Digester stalls vote on demolition EIR

By BARBARA DIAMOND

A last-minute proposal to preserve and renovate the Digester prompted City Manager John Pietig to pull an item from the January 21 council meeting agenda that recommended hiring a consulting firm to prepare an environmental impact report for the demolition of the structure. 

The proposal came from Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, in a letter received by Pietig Tuesday morning.

It read: “In order to save the building, as a majority of Laguna Beach residents would support (as shown in a newspaper poll), I along with the probable support of Mark Christy commit to renovating the Digester.

“I will make it beautiful and safe, add public restrooms, and lease it and the land from the city for 99 years. 

“This would cost me around $2.5 million. The city would agree in paying me the $2 million it would have spent in demolition and related costs.”

MacGillivray wrote that he would use the building and designated grounds for some public-serving venue, such as a small cafe, retail and/or art gallery. 

“Regardless of what the offer is, I am only interested in what it would cost the city to operate a cafe or whatever,” said Councilman Peter Blake.

MacGillivray proposal Digester

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The future of the Digester building is still in question

Members of the public have suggested the Digester replace the “mushrooms,” proposed by the Arts Commission, to fulfill the Art in Public Places requirement for the development of the Village Entrance and use the money for the renovation of the threatened structure. 

“I support the preservation of the digester,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow. “But that does not necessarily mean I would be willing to spend $2 million.”

Laguna’s Digester is said to be one of the few remaining examples of a project by a New Deal Agency created by President Roosevelt in 1935 to provide employment during the Great Depression.

Records indicate that the Work Projects Administration, better known at the WPA, employed some 8.5 million impoverished workers in the eight years of its existence. 

“The Digester is a marvelous reminder of the WPA that provided jobs for millions during the Great Depression, projects that could be used for a useful purpose,” said Dick Frank.

It is on the city’s Historic Register.

“Barbara and I believe that it is a tragedy to demolish the historic Digester Building,” MacGillivray wrote to Pietig. “When I was a child, to me it was Fort Laguna, with its spy tower (the little vent) on the hillside. I’d look forward to this fantasy each year when my family would take us to the Pageant.

MacGilivray proposal couple

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Courtesy of MacGillivrayFreeman.com

Greg and Barbara MacGillivray

“Today, it is one of the historic buildings that many of us (thousands) love and hope will carry on the feeling of our charming art community.

“Don’t you think it’s worth it?”

 Before receiving the MacGillivray proposal, staff had recommended approval of the services of Rincon Consultants Inc. to craft an environmental impact report for the demolition of the Digester that would comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, an $82,566 purchase order and up to $8,250 to cover unforeseen circumstances.

“The February 25 agenda will include the MacGillivray proposal and the staff’s recommendation,” Pietig said. 

If staff’s recommendation on the EIR is approved, Rincon will prepare an initial study, circulate a Notice of Preparation, manage a public scoping session, and prepare and review required technical studies. As proposed, the EIR will include a detailed analysis of impacts to the air, hazards, hazardous material, cultural tribal resources, land use and planning, greenhouse gas emissions, and noise.

The agenda item pulled by Pietig at the January 21 meeting also included a recommendation to reopen bidding on a contract to remove the sludge in the Digester. A bid by Innovative Construction Services far exceeded the $60,000 estimate, staff explained. The company had failed to account for odor control and labor costs required to clean the Digester to an acceptable level that would meet air quality requirements.


Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

In 1871, George Thurston built the first Laguna homestead at what is now Aliso Creek and The Ranch resort. Five years later, Nate and William Brooks purchased, subdivided, and began developing the current Bluebird Canyon area. Nate homesteaded land in Arch Beach in 1879, subdividing the coastal area from Thalia to Pearl Streets. He is sometimes called “The Father of Laguna Beach.”

One achievement the brothers rarely get credit for is the underground water mains laid down during this time to assist in the development. This helped with the founding of the small community of Arch Beach, and the many homes they built there.

Brooks Street was named after Nate (and possibly William), which extends from Temple Terrace to the ocean.

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Brooks Street, circa 1962

In this circa 1962 color photo of Brooks Street, taken from the Gaviota intersection, we see the waters that host the Brooks St. Surfing Classic, an annual event since 1955. Autos could park diagonal in that era, and the photo reveals a row of a couple of classic Chevys, a T-bird, a jalopy, and of course the quintessential surf mobile…a true Woodie, with the back panel open so the surfboards could fit out the back.

The red clapboard home is gone now, along with the white picket fence. Fortunately this photo serves as a time capsule of our beach culture in its 1960s heyday.

• • •

Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit www.lagunabeachhistory.org.


COVID-19: Laguna shuts down city beaches, adjacent parks, and trailheads

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Supervisor Bartlett supports the city’s position and takes it further.

Laguna’s beaches and adjacent parks closed at 5 p.m., Monday. It’s anybody’s guess when they will reopen. 

The decision, made by the City Council at an emergency closed session on Sunday afternoon, was triggered by the folks who flocked to Main Beach, Heisler Park, and popular trails over the weekend, ignoring state, local, and health officials’ advice to stay at home and out of one another’s reach.

“I’d like to thank our businesses and our residents who are doing their best to comply with the governor’s order to stay at home,” said Mayor Bob Whalen on Monday. “My advice to everyone is to avoid all contact possible.”

COVID 19 Main Beach

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City beaches and adjacent parks are closed – Main Beach yesterday 

The council, which had previously closed basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, and children’s playgrounds, also directed city staff to close the access trails to county wilderness parks on Monday morning and to request the County of Orange to close its beaches within the city limits, over which the city has no jurisdiction, or permit the city to do so. 

The request did not fall on deaf ears.

Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said Monday that she would introduce a recommendation at today’s (Tuesday) board meeting to close all 42 miles of beaches, parks, trails, and adjacent parking lots.

“If we close just Laguna Beach, the crowds will just move to Newport or Dana Point,” said Bartlett. “I have been in contact with the officials of the three coastal cities (Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente) in my district, and they are very firm about closing open spaces.

“Our first priority is public safety and that means we lock down the coastal areas.”

COVID 19 trails

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Trailheads closed following Council’s emergency closed session on Sunday

Bartlett also plans to urge Governor Newsom to close the entire California coastline. 

The governor’s “Stay at Home Order” permits outdoor activity as long as folks keep six feet away from people who are not part of the same household. 

Serious breaches of social distancing in public areas were observed and reported this last weekend in Laguna. Physical contact is a primary means of spreading the virus, health experts say – touching benches, railings, and structures in public parks, or for that matter on city streets, according to the city’s press release. 

“I am extremely pleased with what the council did,” said Councilman Peter Blake. “Further, I think we should quarantine the homeless at the Alternative Sleeping Location. I do not think they should be out in public, putting themselves and others at risk.”

The closures ordered by the council will be enforced by the Laguna Beach Police Department, which is practicing what it has preached to the public. Sgt. James Cota, department public information officer, said Chief Laura Farinella has staggered schedules and no one shares an office. 

“Please do your best to observe the Governor’s orders and please know the city has made decisions for your protection and the protection of first responders,” said Cota. 

Violators will be cited. 

The situation remains fluid, according to the city’s press release issued on Sunday. Statements from the city are subject to change.


COVID-19 numbers climb: 28 reported cases in Laguna Beach

Numbers released by the OC Health Agency today, April 2, show that COVID-19 numbers continue to climb throughout the county, with 28 reported cases in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach has the highest per capita rate of cities in Orange County at a rate of 1.199 cases per 1,000 residents.

There are 656 cumulative reported cases to date in Orange County, resulting in, sadly, 13 deaths. 115 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19; 47 are currently in ICU.

Numbers are updated daily by Stu News Laguna.

April 2 Orange County COVID 19 case data 1

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Courtesy of OC Health Care Agency

Orange County COVID-19 case data, as of April 2;

Click here to visit page that is updated daily


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Gather ‘Round Chicks: Easter options from Laguna restaurants

By Diane Armitage

On Tuesday, I reported the beginning stirrings of special Easter offerings from our Laguna Beach restaurants. Now the chicks are fully hatched, and I believe we have a full head count on those restaurants offering special Easter menus for to-go and delivery. 

Keep in mind that most of these restaurants prefer pre-orders in advance of Easter Sunday. Many of these menus are specialty items that they won’t otherwise offer in-house, so please be respectful with noted requests below.

Here’s what we have to date, in alphabetical order: 

Restaurants with special Easter menus

Broadway by Amar Santana is offering a quick and easy Easter menu for two, four, or six people. Chef Amar is opting for Australian Leg of Lamb (garlic and oregano roasted) with four starters and choice of dessert. Chef Amar is also offering Scottish Salmon as a second option, which also comes with four starters and choice of dessert. Prices for both range between $150 and $250, depending on the number of people.

Pre-order can be placed through Friday, April 10 before 4 p.m. Pick up any time on Easter Sunday between noon and 6 p.m.

Las Brisas is offering an Easter Meal for four for $99, which includes a whole roasted chicken, side veggies and potatoes, salad, and mini strawberry shortcakes. Add-ons can include their Mimosa Kit as well as Cadillac and Las Brisas Margarita singles and pitchers. Pickup or delivery.

Lumberyard is offering what I was always raised to eagerly expect for Easter lunch after church…slow-baked ham, mashed potatoes, and veggies with fresh-baked apple cobbler. 

Single servings of the ham dinner are $25, and $75 for family-style that feeds up to four people. Cary Redfearn tells me he doesn’t need pre-orders, but this is on a first come, first served basis; he’s only cooking up so many hams, folks. Try to call an hour in advance before pickup or delivery.

Nirvana Grille is offering a number of Easter-oriented a la carte items. These are all priced in single servings; you simply add multiples as needed. Main entrée items include Herbs de Provence Roasted Pork Loin, 1/2 roasted turkey, applewood smoked ham, pistachio dijon-crusted rack of lamb, and maple ginger glazed Steelhead salmon. Order sides, soups, salads, and desserts as well. Order Easter a la carte items by 10 p.m. Friday. Pick up from 3 - 8 p.m. on Saturday as Nirvana is closed on Easter Sunday itself. 

Oak Laguna Beach is offering two $150 Easter options that feed up to four people. Choose from roasted chicken or bacon-wrapped pork loin with all the fixings, including dessert. Pre-order until Saturday noon, April 11. 

Roux is offering braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes and candied carrots at $33 per person. Add a side salad and slice of pie for $3 more (who wouldn’t do that?). Pickup will be on Sunday, between 5 and 8 p.m., or free deliveries within the Laguna Beach limits. Please pre-order by Friday late afternoon/early evening, April 10.

Gather Round Lamb

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Courtesy of Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill

Royal Hawaiian is offering family-style Australian Rack of Lamb

Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s Easter Sunday Special offers Chef Maro Molteni’s wood-grilled Full Rack of Australian Lamb (between 28 and 32 ounces, plenty for at least three people). The $75 Easter special also includes large, family-style mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus and Farmer’s Market salad, plus a bottle of Chef Maro’s favorite Argentinian “bubbly,” Pascual Toso Brut Sparkling Wine. 

Order now through Friday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Pickup or delivery is Sunday, April 12, between 4 and 7 p.m.

Selanne Steak Tavern is offering two options: An a la carte brunch menu of nine popular items plus sides, or a family-style Easter Brunch for Two priced at $130 with accompanying Sofia Blanc de Blanc or “32 ounces of Bloody Mary in a mason jar” (which sounds like the makings of a song to me).

Restaurants with breakfast & brunch items

Coyote Grill isn’t doing a specialty Easter menu, but they will be offering their usual breakfast menu of 20+ items on Saturday and Sunday until 2. Lunch items are also available from 11:30 a.m. forward. They’re also offering Bloody Mary kits (if you stop by, you can direct the choice of your condiments from the to-go window) and signature cocktails and margaritas, as well as their famed “Mimosa Screw,” a glorified mimosa with peach vodka. Pickup or delivery.

Las Brisas just began offering a weekend brunch (choose from several options in a two-course prix fixe). Add on a Brut Mimosa Kit for $15. 

Gather Round French Toast

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Photo courtesy of Las Brisas 

Las Brisas’ popular French Toast with seasonal fruit is part of the new brunch to-go menu

The Cliff Laguna Beach will be offering their usual breakfast menu on Easter Sunday, which includes seven best-sellers. They’re also offering Bloody Mary kits, Mimosas, and four signature cocktails to go. Pickup or delivery.

The new Pantry at Sapphire is still offering its already-popular breakfast and lunch items any hour of the day during operation. Their new coffee service (with new coffee taste!) has added a second coffee bar option to the HIP District (Pearl St. General Store’s coffee bar is open), while GG’s Bistro’s new coffee service is perking up downtown’s Restaurant Row.

Restaurants offering their usual morning fare on Easter include Anastasia Cafe, Banzai Bowl, GG’s Bistro, Heidelberg, Husky Burger, Jan’s Health Bar, Orange Inn, Shirley’s Bagels, South Swell Donuts, and Urth Caffe

Keep in mind that many restaurants are also open for lunch and dinner orders from their regular menu. You can find these in the PDF Directory at my website, see that detail below. 

And let’s not forget our visiting team

Chef Rainer Schwarz of Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck on Laguna closed his Laguna doors temporarily and has consolidated his operations at Hendrix, his restaurant in Ocean Ranch. I want to be sure we keep him in our love loop. 

For Easter, he’s serving up appetizer platters that feed four to six people and/or Entrée Platters with all the fixings for four to six people, including Prime Rib ($165), New Zealand Leg of Lamb ($130), and Roti Bone-in Pork Roast ($135). Order family-style large sides and desserts, too. Orders must be placed by Friday, April 10. Easter Sunday pickup will be noon to 3 p.m. 

The next best thing to an Easter Basket: Hand-picked Easter wines

McClain Cellars in the Canyon has come up with a couple of new wine packages just for Easter celebrations. Each one is marked down by 40 percent and includes free shipping to your doorstep. Order as soon as possible to ensure delivery (usually two days, but you don’t want to be missing your wine for Sunday). 

Gather Round McClain

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Photo courtesy of McClain Cellars

McClain Cellars is offering two Easter wine packages, including this six-pack Easter Sunday Rocks

Packages are an Easter Sunday Rocks package that includes six hand-picked wines just for the occasion, and a Bunnies Are Cool package, which includes two bottles and artisan popcorn as well. 

Chris Olsen’s Wine Gallery is hopping to as well with recommended Easter wines at special Easter pricing at his website. (It’s a long list!)

Restaurants closed JUST for Easter, back on Monday

       Scott McIntosh at Asada Tacos + Beer and Reunion Kitchen will be closed just on Easter. “I want to give my workers a day to be with their families, but we’ll be back the very next day,” he assured me. 

From North Laguna to SoLag, other closed restaurants on Easter include Zeytoon Cafe, Active Culture, Dizz’s As Is, Ruby’s Auto Diner, and Z Pizza

Otherwise, every restaurant still in operation in Laguna Beach plans to be open during their normal operating hours and with their normal operating menus in the PDF Directory, noted below. 

Full restaurant directory, Version 8, available now

I’m always posting daily finds in my social platforms and updating my large Restaurant Directory on all open restaurant hours, food specials, and discounts here in Laguna Beach (confirmed closures are also noted on the last page). Opt-in at my website for the latest downloadable edition, updated through yesterday, April 9.

Thank you for continuing to support your favorite restaurants and chefs of Laguna Beach! 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


Mai Tai sky

Mai Tai scarlett

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Scarlett and tangerine – a heavenly combination


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Laguna Beach Books announces Virtual Best-Selling Author Events

By Diane Armitage

Just when you thought our entire globe had relegated itself to Netflix binge watching and TikTok karaoke, I have refreshing news: people are ordering books. 

That’s right – actual books that have covers and pages and smell like books!  “I can’t say that we’re seeing as many sales as we do with our actual doors open, but it’s been great to see so many book readers come out of the woodwork these last few weeks,” said Laguna Beach Books General Manager Lisa Childers. 

Laguna Beach Jane

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Courtesy of Laguna Beach Books

Laguna Beach Books Owner Jane Hanauer, left, and General Manager Lisa Childers 

Each day, Childers devotes several hours in her “home office” (formerly the dining room table) to answer questions, offer suggestions, and fulfill orders from the many online purchases at the store’s website, www.LagunaBeachBooks.com.

“We decided against doing pickup of orders at the store, so we’re doing shipping from our warehouse direct to people’s homes. It’s almost as fast and much more efficient all around,” she said.

Escapism is real

Childers noted that reading tastes over the last few weeks have pivoted more toward “escapism,” imagine that. Current big sellers include Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens and Mark Christie’s book, Greenwood

Greenwood is one of the best books I’ve ever read,” said Childers, who devours books on a daily and weekly basis like the rest of us devour bags of Fritos these days. 

“It’s a timely book, too. It’s set in 2038 after a pandemic has come through and killed all the trees except for a stand of trees on one island,” she noted. “It’s sort of a ‘where do we go from here?’ book that requires a new community of solution-based thinking.”

Four big releases happen today

Today (Tuesday, April 21), four highly anticipated books are being released, and Childers noted that pre-orders have been significant. 

All best-selling authors, the publisher releases include Janelle Brown’s new Pretty Things; Stephen King’s If It Bleeds, a collection of four novellas; David Baldacci’s Walk The Wire, with the return of the FBI Consultant Amos Decker in the popular series; and A Moment of Tenderness, a series of never-before-published short stories from Madeline L’engle.

Childers noted that Laguna Beach Books still has plenty of stock of each new release.

New virtual events feature best-selling authors

Thanks to a world forced into virtual events of late, Laguna Beach Books has also found a way to continue its popular in-store Author Events with newly scheduled Zoom events. 

The store’s new Virtual Author Event format has allowed the bookstore to reach out to globally known authors who might not have otherwise planned for Laguna Beach on their book tours. 

The events are just one hour in length, from 5 to 6 p.m.

This Friday, April 24th, Don Winslow, the author of the international bestseller Broken, will be speaking. Known for his “surf culture” writing style, Winslow will also answer audience questions moderated by none other than our own Greg MacGillivray, the renowned film director of IMAX-format movies.

Laguna Beach MacGillivrays

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Courtesy of McGillivrayFreeman.com 

Greg and Barbara MacGillivray: MacGillivray Freeman Chairman Greg MacGillivray will be moderating the first Virtual Author Event this Friday, April 24

On Friday, May 1st, best-selling author Janelle Brown will be discussing her newest release, Pretty Things, with Laguna Beach local and fellow author Kaira Rouda.

And, on Friday, May 15th, best-selling author (and a fellow independent bookstore owner) Louse Erdich will be discussing her latest novel, The Night Watchman, a fictionalized story of the extraordinary life of her grandfather who fought for Native Americans’ rights during Congress’ “emancipation bill” in the 1950s. 

Laguna Beach stack

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Courtesy of Laguna Beach Books 

Known for always housing bestsellers and eclectics combined, Laguna Beach Books sells many copies of “The Night Watchman” 

Register for Virtual Author Events at the website

“People aren’t required to purchase the books to be a part of any of the Virtual Author Events, but they do need to register for access to the Zoom call,” said Childers.

“We’re just so pleased with all the support we’ve seen from our readers that we wanted to try to do something nice for our community in return. It’s opened up a whole new world of authors to all of us.”

Go to www.LagunaBeachBooks.com to register for the Author Events and browse for your next good read.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


“Clap for Key Workers” campaign initiated by local girl: join in on Sunday at 7 p.m.

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Kirsten Bruce and her daughter Nina Rogers have been watching as people in the United Kingdom join in on the national “Clap For Carers” event, which has taken place every Thursday at 8 p.m. for the last five weeks. 

Nina and Kirsten hope to spread a wave of gratitude across Laguna for our first responders, medical professionals, and essential workers of all types by initiating a “Clap for Key Workers” event to be held every Sunday at 7 p.m., beginning on May 3.

Kirsten says, “This idea of applauding health care workers was started by Annemarie Plas, a Dutch yoga teacher, in South London a month ago. Her campaign went viral after she posted on Facebook saying that ‘they need to know we are grateful’ and is spreading across the globe with millions of people clapping, cheering, playing instruments, and sharing heart-warming applause.

“It’s a simple way to show our gratitude to all the people keeping us safe. It’s a way we can feel unified in our social isolation. It’s already happening in pockets here every night in Arch Beach Heights. I think Laguna is the kind of community that will embrace this idea. We just need to coordinate, so we can all share this together as neighbors and friends going through this global pandemic.” 

Clap for Nina

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Submitted photo

Nina designed a flyer that she posted on social media

“Coronavirus affects us all. All our lives have changed unimaginably. My family is in Scotland, and their weekly experience of clapping is a real spirit lifter and much needed morale boost; it’s their favorite part of the week,” says Kirsten. “My young niece and nephew stand on their doorstep, PJ’s on, banging pots and pans – they can hear people clapping and cheering from streets away. It’s so unifying and fun.”

In hopes that this event would catch hold as a grassroots movement here in Laguna, they took action. “We have been thinking for weeks that a community clap would work so well in Laguna.” 

Nina, who is a freshman at Laguna Beach High School, designed the flyer for “Clap for Key Workers.” She then shared it on social media.

“I wanted to do something while I’m stuck at home to show all the people who are caring for us and risking their lives that I am grateful,” says Nina. 

“Laguna Beach is a kind community. Neighbors look out for each other. We support our local businesses and have pride in our town. Let’s stand on our doorsteps and balconies together and make some noise to really show our essential workers, medical health care professionals, and first responders here and around the world how grateful we are.”

Clap for group

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

First responders and health care workers at Mission Hospital LB

“It’s so emotional to unify and recognize our key workers. Laguna is definitely a place that would embrace this,” adds Kirsten. “We want to spread the word and get all our neighbors to do it so it takes off.”

They are hoping the notification can also be sent through Nixle.

In the UK, the first event was held in honor of the National Health Service (NHS). However, the “Clap For Our Carers” event now pays tribute to all key workers including NHS staff, supermarket workers, and teachers. 

“Health care workers, emergency services, armed services, delivery drivers, shop workers, teachers, waste collectors, manufacturers, postal workers, cleaners, vets, engineers, and all those who are out there making an unbelievable difference to our lives in these challenging times…bravo, you are amazing!” it says on the event’s website.

Kirsten says, “The aim is to get the whole of Laguna to participate in unison. Seeing this happen in the UK and globally, it’s definitely a morale booster. Gratitude makes people happy. It is good for our community.”

To view the clip showing how this simple “thank you” is spreading globally, click here.


The William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation donates $50K to Laguna Food Pantry

The William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, the charity founded by retired financial asset manager Bill Gross and his son and daughter, has donated a $50,000 emergency grant to the Laguna Food Pantry. 

The donation will assist the organization in its efforts to provide food to the dramatic surge in the number of South Orange County’s newly unemployed, food-insecure seniors, low-income families with children, disabled and sheltering veterans, and homeless men and women seeking help during this extraordinarily difficult time.

“Jeff, Jennifer and I greatly appreciate the work being done by the Laguna Food Pantry and its volunteers to bring nutritious food to our community during this crisis,” said Bill Gross, the co-founder of the Newport Beach-based PIMCO asset management firm and a longtime resident of Orange County. “Anne Belyea and her team deserve to be recognized for their tireless commitment to serving those in need.”

The William Bill

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Bill Gross of the William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation 

Anne Belyea, Executive Director of the Laguna Food Pantry, said: “Everyone at Laguna Food Pantry greatly appreciates the ongoing generous support received from the William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation. Thanks to the Gross Family Foundation and other donors, we can continue working to feed our neighbors-in-need in South Orange County.”

According to the Laguna Food Pantry, the Gross Family Foundation’s grant of $50,000 provides for:

--Groceries to 3,500 people and their 14,000 family members;

--PPE for Pantry volunteers and staff (masks, gloves, cleaning supplies);

--The ability to purchase protein (eggs, meat, peanut butter, beans, etc.) and fresh vegetables to augment fluctuating food bank staples and grocery store- rescued items;

--Trucking costs to pick up unique opportunities of donated or low-cost bulk food;

--Support for the new program of pre-packed fresh, nutritious groceries for delivery to seniors and veterans;

--Additional equipment and supplies to meet increased demand and accommodate outside distribution (an outdoor cold storage system for perishables, additional racks, carts, dollies, pop-up tents and tarps, grocery totes and cardboard boxes);

--One or two new refrigerators to hold the increased amount of perishables to meet the shopper volume;

--A new, three hours per day, five days a week, $12 per hour employee to handle the traffic flow during pick-up. (The employee is a previously unemployed, newly housed local man.)

William volunteers

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Food Pantry volunteers (L-R) Cecile Scott, Rebecca Washington-Lindsay, and Nancy Oughton

The population served by the Pantry was already struggling to provide food for themselves and their families. Since the outbreak, these food and financially insecure shoppers have lost their jobs and only source of income. 

The choice between paying rent and buying healthy food has become more desperate. With schools closed, more families need assistance to feed their children. 

In April, the Laguna Food Pantry served an all-time high of 472 first-time shoppers, a dramatic increase of new people needing food since the start of the pandemic.

The Gross Family Foundation’s donation to the Laguna Food Pantry continues a longstanding commitment to provide financial resources to organizations that provide a direct benefit to the communities in which they serve. 

The William, Jeff and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation and its predecessor have donated more than $60 million to nonprofit organizations since 2017, including $1.5 million in March to organizations providing relief from the effects of COVID-19 and its impact on Southern California communities. 

Prior to this latest donation, the Gross Family Foundation provided assistance to Miku, the industry’s leading contact-free baby monitor, in an accelerated program to equip hospitals nationwide with its real-time respiration monitoring system.

More information about the Gross Family Foundation can be found at www.grossfamilyfoundation.com.


Rhapsody in red

Rhapsody in sun

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Photo by Scott Brashier

The sky closes in on the sun and sea in a symphony of scarlet and amber


With friends and family at her side, resident completes goal of walking every street in LB

By DIANNE RUSSELL

As Sharael Kolberg reported last week in her Stu News article, “What started out as a New Year’s resolution ended up being the perfect activity to keep busy during the coronavirus pandemic. Janelle Naess, founder of Laguna Beach Walks, challenged herself to walk all 419 streets in Laguna Beach in 2020, and she only has one street left.”

On January 1, 2020, Naess wanted to start her quest by walking First Avenue but found out there is no First Avenue (or First Street), so she started on the street before Second Avenue, Eagle Rock Way.

Last Friday, 20 friends joined Naess to walk the final street – Pacific Coast Hwy and the seven miles south from one end of Laguna to the other.

With friends group

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Group distancing six feet apart

Naess says, “Not all of my friends made it the whole way. Lots of others were driving by and honking. 

“When I first started this challenge, I walked mostly with friends. There weren’t a lot of others walking the streets. When COVID-19 hit, and we were all on lockdown, I would walk by myself or family members only. That’s when streets were packed with others walking. I don’t want to go back to how it was before. I like walking and seeing my neighbors, other locals, enjoying the day, the weather, the beautiful tree-lined streets. During COVID-19, all the walkers were so happy to see another human, from six feet away. Everyone was so friendly, nice, and happy to be out walking. Let’s stay in this place, minus the COVID-19.

For the past 20 plus years, I have walked some of the same streets in town,” says Naess. “Almost every house I pass by has something interesting to see. I call it ‘urban hiking.’ I thought about all the other streets I haven’t walked and was dying to see what else I was missing. 

With friends kids

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Photo by Jan Schrieber

Janelle followed by her three teenage children

“I love combining physical activity with exploring Laguna Beach. There is so much more we can see on foot, at a slower pace. Laguna Beach is like one giant outdoor museum. Loved seeing every street, and I’m going to miss waking up every morning and deciding what area of town to hit that day.” 

Although she doesn’t know how many miles were involved in walking all the streets, Naess says, “It did take me almost five months, and PCH took less than three hours to walk. Laguna Beach is a very walkable town. Hope to see everyone in town walking to Forest Avenue when it closes to cars later this month.” 

And did Naess celebrate at the finish? You bet.

“My friend, Ashley Tyus, who lives in Three Arch Bay, near the end of the PCH walk, hosted a celebratory champagne lunch after completing the PCH walk. We were able to walk to her house from the finish line: Laguna Beach sign, southern entrance to the city, that says Home of the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters.” 

With friends PCH

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Walking south on PCH

Kohlberg says, “I was so excited to join Janelle to walk part of the last street on her list. I am so proud of her for walking all 419 streets in Laguna. She is such an inspiration. Every time I walk with her, I see something new that I might not have noticed or meet someone I didn’t know. She really takes the time to slow down and appreciate all that our charming town has to offer.”

At the present time, Naess has no new goals in mind, however, she does have a new experience on the horizon.

“I’m taking a break right now, but I do have my next super fun Laguna Beach adventure in mind. It’s a secret but when I start it, I will announce and document it with pictures on my Laguna Beach Instagram and my www.LagunaBeachWalks.com blog.


A Weekend of Protests in Laguna Beach

Hundreds of Laguna Beach residents came out in support of Black Lives Matter this weekend, joining together with out-of-town protesters on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Main Beach.

The three protests at Main Beach drew hundreds of participants daily. The protests were all peaceful.

A Weekend of 1

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Protesters at Main Beach on Friday

A Weekend of 2

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Protester holds sign that reads, “Know Their Names, Black Lives Matter”

A “Solidarity in Surfing” paddle out was held at Thalia Street Beach on Friday in support of Black Girls Surf and Black Lives Matter (see below for full story). The event drew nearly 100 participants.

A weekend of 3

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Local surfer on Friday night in support of Black Girls Surf and Black Lives Matter

On Saturday, a group of local residents including Mayor Bob Whalen took a knee at City Hall in support of ending racial inequality.

Mayor Bob Whalen said, “Every city in this country has been touched by the events of the last two weeks. We all must engage and look for ways to be better and make our society more fair and just for everyone.”

A Weekend of 4

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Submitted photo

Local residents, including Mayor Bob Whalen, take a knee in support of ending racism

Three years ago, Denny Freidenrich and five other Laguna residents were pictured taking a knee in support of 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his call for social justice. Freidenrich thought it was time to take a knee again.

“The cry for social justice in this country is loud and clear,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue. Now is the time to come together and achieve the American ideal that all men and women are created equal, and that no matter what color a person’s skin is, he or she should be treated fairly under the law,” Freidenrich stated.

A Weekend of 5

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Courtesy of LBPD

LBPD Sgt. Farris (right) and Officer Flagstead (right) with peaceful protesters at Main Beach on Sunday in support of Black Lives Matter

A Weekend of 6

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Courtesy of LBPD

Main Beach on Sunday afternoon

A peaceful car caravan protest also took place on Sunday afternoon, with hundreds of cars driving through Laguna Beach, honking, displaying signs, and raising fists out their windows in support of Black Lives Matter.

The caravan protest started in Newport Beach at PCH and Superior, proceeding down the highway including through Laguna Beach, and ending at Ocean Institute in Dana Point.


7,987 reported cases of COVID-19 in OC to date, 202 people have died

Numbers released by the OC Health Agency yesterday, June 11, reflect that there have been 7,987 reported cases of COVID-19 in Orange County to date, including 260 new cases reported yesterday.

Sadly, the County reports that 202 people have died due to COVID-19, including four deaths reported yesterday.

The County reports 294 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19; 142 are currently in ICU.

Laguna Beach has a cumulative case count of 49 cases to date, a per capita rate of 2.098 cases per thousand residents. 

Los Alamitos, with a population of 11,721 and 92 reported cases to date, has the highest per capita rate in OC, 7.849 cases per thousand residents.

Newport Beach has had 166 reported cases to date. Irvine has had 227 reported cases to date. Dana Point has had 35 reported cases to date.

Santa Ana has had 1,716 reported cases to date, a net increase of 68 cases yesterday. Anaheim has had 1,482 reported cases to date, a net increase of 53 cases yesterday.

The County reports 389 cases to date in its “Other” category, which includes the aggregate case count of the unincorporated areas of the county that have less than five cases, plus cases incarcerated in Orange County jails.

The County Public Health lab and reporting commercial labs have conducted 172,072 tests as of yesterday.

The County reports that 3,726 people have recovered from COVID-19 to date. Visit https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc for recovery data criteria and more information.

Numbers are updated daily by Stu News Laguna.

7,987 reported cases 1

7,987 reported cases 2

7,987 reported cases 3

7,987 reported cases 4

7,987 reported cases 5

7,987 reported cases 6

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Courtesy of OC Health Care Agency

Orange County COVID-19 case data, as of June 11;

Click here to visit page that is updated daily


Cloudy skies

Cloudy skies

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Photo by Scott Brashier

The heavy clouds bear down on land and sea


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“Outdoor Dining” expands to more options in your own backyard

By Diane Armitage

With new closure orders issued this week for most California counties (including Orange), our Laguna Beach restaurateurs are “watchful.”

“It’s great that we still have outdoor dining available to us, but I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Cary Redfearn of Lumberyard, The Yard Bar, and Slice Pizza

“If this spike continues, and if people continue to refuse to wear masks, I think it’s only a matter of time before we’re back to ‘square one’ with takeout only,” he finished.

Apparently, other restaurateurs are feeling the same as this week saw a new spate of creative flourishes in alluring to-go meals and family-style takeout innovations.

outdoor dining ahi

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Courtesy of Lumberyard

Lumberyard/Yard Bar’s new Seared Hawaiian Ahi

Redfearn’s Yard Bar (the outdoor extension of Lumberyard) introduced two summer specials, a Seared Hawaiian Ahi with forbidden black sticky rice, and a 16-ounce Grilled Ribeye with garlic mashed potatoes. Already favorites at the Yard Bar, these new meals can be packaged easily for takeout and ordered in duplicate for an outdoor dining event of your own. 

Meanwhile, Redfearn’s four family-style dinners on his takeout menu have increased in popularity in recent weeks, too. I recently ordered Lumberyard’s BBQ Rib Dinner, and it arrived with still-steaming cornbread, sweet potato fries, and cole slaw. (The added fresh-baked apple cobbler is a must, too.) The meal was a giant hit.

Expanding the Family 

Ever on the side of innovation, Nirvana Grille’s Chef Lindsay Smith just announced “Dine Out at Home” with the addition of Nirvana porcelain plates with every order. 

Available for all of Nirvana’s individual and family-style orders on their to-go menu, you simply re-warm your plated dinner in a 200-degree oven (on the plate, sans plastic wrap please), or pick up your assembled food hot and ready to eat.

“No more boxes to eat out of,” quips Chef Lindsay. “It’s just a much nicer presentation.”

outdoor dining nirvana

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Courtesy of Nirvana Grille

Plated for takeout, this sample Nirvana Grille meal for four includes salmon, short rib, a large “kitchen sink” salad, and family-style ravioli

The plate inclusion requires just a $20 refundable deposit. Simply return the plates washed off and the Nirvana team will sanitize.

Mexican Food, Family Style

Four of Carmelita’s most popular single items are now being packaged for parties of three or six. The restaurant’s family-style grilled chicken or steak fajitas deliver a significant pile of marinated, freshly grilled proteins, roasted peppers, grilled onions, and house-made tortillas. 

outdoor dining carmelitas

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Courtesy of Terri Smith

Carmelita’s fresh-grilled family-style fajitas for three

While I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this yet, I have friends who are devout fans. They say the helpings are so generous that they bake and cook with the leftovers for a couple more days.        

Meanwhile, El Ranchito Laguna Beach has expanded its party and family packs for beach goers and backyard dinners. They’ve also recently added large, family-style salads including the popular Azteca Chicken Salad.

outdoor dining el ranchito

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Courtesy of of El Ranchito

El Ranchito’s Azteca Salad served family style

“We probably get more family-style orders than individual orders and that’s great with us,” said co-owner Michael Avila. 

“We grew up with my Grandma Avila always making food fresh in her kitchen and serving it in large platters. It was so healthy and delicious. She cooked with love and that’s the way we still do it every day here.”

Pasta, Anyone? 

Adding to that heapin’ summer lovin’ spoonful, Chef Greg at Harley has added Wild Boar Bolognese and Cacio E Pepe handmade pastas to his cadre of family meals. Chef Greg chose not to open for the short season of indoor dining and has no outdoor dining area presently available to him, so everything on his menu is available for takeout. 

outdoor dining harley

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Courtesy of Harley

Harley’s Wild Boar Bolognese served family style

Chef Craig Connole introduced Ristorante Rumari family meals just this week. Loosely coined “value dinners,” Chef has five new family style treats, most of which are hearty one-pound servings and all of which are accompanied by large salads. 

Try his fresh take on Short Rib Ragu, Rigatoni Bolognese with Italian Sausage, Slow-Cooked Beef Brasata (beef shank an oxtail in red wine), Spaghetti & Meatballs, or the all-vegetable Caponata con Spaghetti with eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. 

If You Have to Cook Something…

And, of course, if you want to pretend you had something to do with the cooking of your takeout meal, GG’s Bistro gives you the option of uncooked chicken or steak filet kabobs. 

outdoor dining gg's

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Photo by Diane Armitage

GG’s BBQ Kit with grill-them-yourself kabobs

The kit debuted for the Fourth of July Weekend, but it proved so popular that the Gundogars chose to keep it on the menu through summer’s duration. In addition to the ready-to-grill kabobs, it includes a giant Mediterranean salad and rice sides and all the sauce and dressing fixings you need to look like you worked yourself to the bone in the kitchen. I’ve ordered it twice – absolutely delightful with plenty of leftovers.

Every Single Restaurant is Participating

Remember, even if you don’t feel comfortable eating out, our Laguna chefs have your back. I’ve only highlighted a few restaurants here, but every restaurant in our city limits is offering significant takeout menus for both individual orders and family-style dinners. 

As has been mandated, if you are enjoying outside dining, wear a face mask as you approach the host, as you are seated, and as you exit the restaurant’s place of business.

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at https://thebestoflagunabeach.com/ and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


Police identify Laguna Lido homicide victim

LBPD released the name of the homicide victim who died of gunshot wounds at Laguna Lido early Tuesday morning, July 28. The victim was 46-year-old Barret Slome, a part-time resident of Laguna Beach who also lived in Los Angeles.

At 5:19 a.m. on Tuesday, July 28, Laguna Beach Public Safety Dispatchers received a 911 call from a concerned resident of the Laguna Lido Condominiums located at 31755 Coast Highway. The caller described hearing glass breaking, which was immediately followed by the sound of gunshots.

Officers responded to the building and began searching for the source of the noise and located a unit on the second floor, which had a shattered window. Upon entering the residence, officers located a man suffering from gunshot wounds. Paramedics responded to the scene for medical aid, but the victim expired prior to their arrival. 

According to LBPD PIO Sgt. Jim Cota, there were personal items taken from Slome’s residence by the suspect(s).

“Detectives are currently reviewing hours of surveillance video to identify the suspect(s) and any associated vehicles,” Sgt. Cota stated. 

Slome was also the victim of an unsolved shooting in Los Angeles three years ago, which he survived after a lengthy recovery, according to Sgt. Cota.

No suspect descriptions are being released at this time. This is the first homicide in Laguna Beach since August 2019. 

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call the Laguna Beach Police Department Major Crimes Investigations Unit at (949) 497-0767 – Detective Drake or (949) 497-0373 – Detective Butterfield.


Art of Fitness transforms parking lot into outdoor gym and oasis

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Art of Fitness has transformed their 2,000-square-foot parking lot into a welcoming outdoor refuge, just one of the many innovative ideas co-owners Marian Keegan and Fernanda Rocha have come up with to keep the Art of Fitness Family together – and healthy.

Tomorrow evening (August 26) at 5 p.m., they are offering members of the community a free Course of Miracles class, “Giving from the Overflow” (taught by Marian and Daphne Martino), that is guaranteed to boost your inner strength and expand your collective conscientiousness. The class will focus on meditation, heart expansion, and self-awareness – they say it will change your perspective and maybe even your life. 

(To sign up, call (949) 464-0202.)

Importance of exercise for immunity and stress

Both Keegan and Rocha emphasize the importance of exercise during these trying times to boost immunity and alleviate stress. And they both are well-versed in its benefits – Keegan holds a Master’s Degree in Fitness and Rocha has a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology. 

Art of Fernanda and Marian

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Co-owners Fernanda Rocha (on left) and Marian Keegan

Twenty years ago, Keegan opened the gym, and two years later Rocha walked in to ask if they needed any instructors – and a partnership was born.

If you’re wondering where the name comes from, it started as a gym/gallery, and they still feature the work of local artists. 

In the outdoor area, Art of Fitness offers the following “turf” classes: Vinyasa yoga, gentle yoga, cycling, cycling/pump, Brazilian Booty, and Barre. 

Strictly adhering to pandemic guidelines, the staff is militant about distancing and sanitizing. After each class (which means every hour), they spray the area, and the bars and bicycles (all 15) are thoroughly wiped down.

“We had to find ways to facilitate members’ return and create a safe space,” says Rocha.

Putting the space together happened rather quickly. 

“We got a limited use permit from the city in one day,” says Keegan. “And we had the artificial grass waiting in the wings. A member donated the shade tent and others donated umbrellas.” 

For clients who don’t feel comfortable walking through the gym, they can use the MindBody app to check in and just walk straight to the outdoor area. 

Art of orange sign

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Art of Fitness repurposed space behind the gym

 “Members don’t have to go inside at all,” explains Keegan, “so they can feel safe and not compromised.”

“We want a good environment, where clients feel comfortable, and we care about their progress,” says Rocha. “We want to give them what they need, so we’re willing to make adjustments.”

And as if on cue – but not staged as Keegan and Rocha assure me – an Art of Fitness member named Kim walks by where we’re sitting outside at Laguna Coffee Company and thanks Fernanda and Marian for staying open. “It’s my sanctuary,” she says.

Rocha acknowledges that it’s been worth it. “For staying strong and excited about our business, the reward from members is gratitude.”

The day the doors closed 

Keegan says, “We closed the day before everything else did. We got new floors and upholstery and painted and installed a new cleaning system. We used the staff because we wanted to keep them working and we kept the instructors for the online classes. On March 18, we started online classes.” 

Art of cycles

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Submitted photo

Cycling class

Rocha says, “It was all a learning process. Filming videos/online meant being upstairs in a room with camera and lights, and it was a challenge to stay connected with members. We now have a library of classes, and we give the codes to members so they can access them.” 

“We lost about half of our business, and the demographic has changed. Many of the older clients didn’t return,” says Keegan. “We have been reaching out to them.” 

Art of Fitness now has a Seniors Only yoga class from 1 to 2 p.m., and Rocha again states, “We’ll do whatever we can to adapt to client needs.”

The community has rallied around each other, according to Keegan. 

“We get a lot of support from local businesses. Laguna Coffee Company gave us a percentage of their sales from one day. We’ve also partnered with The Wine Gallery. We had a yoga and wine night, and they brought the wine to serve after the class.”

Art of over 60 yoga

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Submitted photo

Over 60 yoga class

“Since March, it’s been waves of emotion (and expenses),” Keegan admits. 

“We want to build community. People want to help each other and, as a result, businesses are coming together. It’s important to give back and find ways to work as a community. We know so many people in town because they are members here. We work with Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold at the Chamber of Commerce, and we like to see a strong Chamber. It’s critical to put our voices together because a lot of people are going out of business.”

Rocha adds, “We want to focus on creating outdoor events. It’s important people socialize again, but at a distance. We must be aware of safety.”

“We let others use the space if they want to, we put word out,” says Keegan.  “We offered the space to Cho’s Academy and Core Play – who will create a kids camp – to partner with them.”

Staying ahead of the curve

“We stay connected to other fitness brands to see what they’re doing,” says Rocha, “and how we can implement certain things [they have] such as technology. We reach out to other professionals.”

Keegan says, “It’s difficult because there is no plan for opening again – we want to stay ahead of the curve. There are so many good and amazing people here, it’s the Art of Fitness Family.”

When times get tough, the tough get innovative – that’s exactly what Art of Fitness has done, and their clients couldn’t be more grateful.

Art of Fitness is located at 1080 S Coast Hwy and is open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. on weekends.

For more information, go to www.artoffitnesslaguna.com or call (949) 464-0202.


Man dies near Diver’s Cove, third ocean-related death in two weeks

Sadly, another person has died following an ocean-related incident, the third death in Laguna Beach in two weeks.

On Saturday, Sept 5 at 7:51 a.m., a call came in regarding a male scuba diver who had been found floating in the water unconscious near Diver’s Cove some 200-300 yards out.

According to reports, a group of nearby swimmers and a paddle boarder swam him in and carried him up to Picnic Beach together, where initial CPR was performed.

“When the patient was brought into shore, he was unresponsive; he did not have a pulse and he was not breathing,” Laguna Beach Fire Department Paramedic/Engineer Pat Cary stated.

According to Cary, additional CPR was performed by lifeguards, followed by lifesaving measures by Laguna Engine One Paramedics.

“We were unable to get a pulse back on the beach. We transported him to a local hospital and continued to attempt lifesaving measures before turnover to a local hospital physician. He remained pulseless throughout our transport and on the turnover to the hospital,” Cary stated.

According to Cary, the man was in his 40s and lived in Orange County.

His name has not been released by the coroner’s office yet, nor has the cause of his death.

Back-to-back airlift rescues at Thousand Steps Beach on Sunday

Also over the weekend, on Sunday, Sept 6, two people were airlifted by helicopter off of Thousand Steps Beach. 

According to Cary, one patient was a female who sustained a neck and back injury. She was treated by Laguna Engine Four Paramedics and transported to a local trauma center via Mercy Air.

Minutes later, in the same area, a male in his 50s suffered a leg injury, according to Cary. He was transported to an area trauma center via OC Sheriff’s Duke helicopter.

According to Cary, helicopters landed within five minutes of each other.


Radiant sunset

Radiant sky clouds

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Photo by Steve Allegaert

The sun throws a flame-like reflection on the sand


Laguna Beach Community Clinic’s Annual Salsa Sunday goes live stream

Four years ago, the Laguna Beach Community Clinic started a new tradition by hosting a family-friendly live Cuban Salsa concert in its parking lot. 

“The pandemic is requiring all of us to be innovative. We weren’t going to cancel a community event many have grown to love, so we’ll be live streaming our concert on Facebook,” stated Dr. Jorge Rubal, CEO and medical director of the Laguna Beach Community Clinic. 

The Cuban band Changui Majadero will be performing live along with professional salsa dancer Kati Hernandez. The performance will occur in L.A., home to the band and dancer, with Rubal and his family opening the event from their local backyard. 

Laguna Beach dancing

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Clinic staff and community members enjoy Salsa Sunday in 2018

Rubal says, “It’s always been a family event. I love seeing all the children dancing and chasing each other. Music brings people together, and the idea is that families can safely gather to enjoy music and dance in their own homes and yards.”

Fans of Cuban Salsa and the Clinic can catch the live stream on the Laguna Beach Community Clinic’s Facebook page this Sunday, October 4th at 3 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back here in 2021 when we can celebrate together in person. Until then, we want to encourage everyone to continue to dance while safely socializing,” added Rubal.

For more information about Laguna Beach Community Clinic, go to www.lbclinic.org.


Southern California Region under stay-at-home order starting Sunday night

Today, December 5, the Southern California Region dropped below the 15 percent Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity thereby triggering the state of California’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order as was announced on December 3, 2020 by Governor Gavin Newsom.

As a result, Orange County residents – along with residents of the other 10 Southern California Region counties comprising approximately 23 million of 40 million California residents as designated in the state’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order – will be required to stay at home as much as possible and not mix with other households to reduce exposure, effective 11:59 pm Sunday, December 6 due to our regional ICU capacity reaching 12.5 percent. The current ICU capacity in Orange County is 18.1 percent.

As a result of the state’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order, all Southern California Region counties including Orange County must close the following sectors on 11:59 pm Sunday, December 6:

--Indoor and Outdoor Playgrounds

--Indoor Recreational Facilities

--Hair Salons and Barbershops

--Personal Care Services

--Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums

--Movie Theaters

--Wineries

--Bars, Breweries, and Distilleries

--Family Entertainment Centers

--Cardrooms and Satellite Wagering

--Limited Services

--Live Audience Sports

--Amusement Parks

The following sectors in the Southern California Region will have additional modifications in addition to 100 percent masking and physical distancing:

--Outdoor Recreational Facilities: Allow outdoor operation only without any food, drink, or alcohol sales. Additionally, overnight stays at campgrounds will not be permitted.

--Retail: Allow indoor operation at 20 percent capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems. 

--Shopping Centers: Allow indoor operation at 20 percent capacity with entrance metering and no eating or drinking in the stores. Additionally, special hours should be instituted for seniors and others with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.

--Hotels and Lodging: Allow to open for critical infrastructure support only.

--Restaurants: Allow only for takeout, pickup, or delivery.

--Offices: Allow remote only except for critical infrastructure sectors where remote working is not possible. 

--Places of Worship: Allow outdoor services only.

--Entertainment Production including Professional Sports: Allow operation without live audiences. Additionally, testing protocol and “bubbles” are highly encouraged.

The state Stay-at-Home Order does not modify existing state guidance regarding K-12 schools.

The following sectors are allowed to remain open in the Southern California Region when a remote option is not possible with appropriate infectious disease preventative measures including masking and physical distancing:

--Critical infrastructure 

--Non-urgent medical and dental care

--Childcare and pre-K

The Southern California Region will remain in the Regional Stay-at-Home Order status for at least three weeks. The Southern California Region may come out of the Stay-at-Home Order after three weeks, if at that time, hospital ICU capacity projected four weeks out reaches 15 percent. Then individual counties such as Orange County will return to our Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier determined by their case rate and test positivity. If the ICU capacity for the Southern California Region is less than 15 percent after the three-week period, the ICU capacity will be assessed weekly to determine when the order can be lifted.

In addition, the state’s Stay-at-Home Order will place the following restrictions on counties in the Southern California Region on non-essential travel lodging:

--Except as otherwise required by law, no hotel or lodging entity in California shall accept or honor out-of-state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.

During this time, the state Stay-at-Home Order encourages members of the same household are to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, hike, walk, or bike ride when safe to do so and socially distanced. Orange County residents are also encouraged to keep connected with loved ones virtually.

For more information, visit the state’s COVID-19 website.

What Orange County Residents and Businesses Can Do

There are several steps Orange County residents can do at this time:

1. Get Tested for COVID-19

The OC Health Care Agency officials are urging residents, especially those with any symptoms, to get tested for the virus.

COVID-19 testing is now widely available across the county for those who are symptomatic or asymptomatic, with or without insurance, at no cost. Testing takes only a few minutes and results generally come back within two to three days.

If you test positive for COVID-19, stay home and let close contacts know. A close contact is someone you were within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour period during the infectious period.

2. Stay Home if You Don’t Feel Well

Consult with a health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, you may call the OC Health Care Agency’s Health Referral Line at (800) 564-8448.

3. Stay Home When Possible

When you leave the house, avoid crowds and stay 6 feet apart from people not in your household.

4. Do Not Gather

Do not mix households at this time.

5. Wear a Face Covering

Wear a face covering you are around people not in your household, especially when indoors.

6. Wash Your Hands Often

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

7. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, and Mouth with Unwashed Hands

8. Clean and Disinfect Frequently Touched Surfaces

9. Understand and Comply with the State’s Guideline for Your Business and Events

Orange County residents may search for a business or activity type by visiting https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/ and typing in “Orange” in the County field, entering the business or activity type, and clicking “GET LATEST STATUS.” 

For questions related to COVID-19, contact the Orange County COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 426-6411, visit www.ochealthinfo.com/novelcoronavirus, or follow the HCA on Facebook (@ochealthinfo) and Twitter (@ochealth).


Neighbors helping neighbors – that’s the silver lining to the closure of Johnny Rockets

By MAGGI HENRIKSON

Last week, Heidi Miller, owner of the downtown World Newsstand and Tight Assets, was going about her usual business when there was a noise in the alley out back.

“I went back there, and there were guys hauling these tanks out of Johnny Rockets,” she said. There were some Johnny Rockets employees wondering about it, too, when Heidi asked, what’s going on? “Johnny Rockets is closing,” they were told.

They were all stunned.

Johnny Rockets manager Nikki Seidelman told Stu News it was a combination of reasons for the closure of the 20-plus year iconic Laguna diner. “There were some permit issues for the grease trap, cost issues, and an economic downturn,” she said.

What she might not have been at liberty to elaborate on, Stu News confirmed from an outside source. The restaurant had reportedly wanted to do a small remodel, maybe in the vicinity of $10,000, but the old grease trap would be required to be replaced, in order for remodel permitting. The new grease trap, up to code and more environmentally friendly, was going to cost in the neighborhood of $100,000. Which proved too steep to move forward on.

Though Seidelman will not be losing her job – she’s going to another Johnny Rockets – her concern was for her workmates. “We’re all family here. We love this community,” she said. 

Miller, having found out this surprising news at the same time as Johnny Rockets’ employees, many of whom she’s known for many years, felt instant compassion. What’s going to happen to these people?

She took action and picked up the phone.

“What do you do when your neighbor Johnny Rockets suddenly closes and dozens of employees are out of work? You call your friend Chris Tzorin from Oak restaurant here in Laguna Beach and he immediately comes to the rescue offering jobs on the spot!” she stated on Facebook.

Neighbors helping Chris

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Courtesy of Heidi Miller

Chef Chris Tzorin and Johnny Rockets manager Nikki Seidelman, “That’s Laguna LOVE,” said Miller. “We all help one another.”

Executive Chef of Oak Laguna Beach, Chris Tzorin added his own words, “Johnny Rockets Laguna Beach is closing today! It’s been there for so many years! I thought about the staff. There are loyal staff that has been there for so many years that call their job home. They support families with this job. I went in and got a roster list to hire employees that are in need, so they can become part of Oak family. Many don’t think about the closing of a restaurant affecting families. All I can say is ‘give love back!’ Thank you Heidi Miller for putting this together!”

Miller gives a shout back, “I think it’s marvelous we can help our neighbors out. Chris just took the bull by the horns!” 

For her part, Seidelman is grateful for the outpouring of support for her fellow employees, “We wanted to make sure everyone had a new home.”

Currently undergoing a de-accessioning, Johnny Rockets kitchen supplies are up for grabs. As of this writing, Hennessey’s and The White House, among other local restaurants, are loading up on stainless steel trays, bins, and other kitchen provisions. The Laguna Playhouse got wind of it and came a’calling on, who else? Heidi Miller.

“The GM guy there said, ‘You can have whatever you want,’” she said. “So, instead of paying $4,000 for a set piece for the next show, the Playhouse is getting two diner booths and the juke box [gratis]!” 

The pieces from Johnny Rockets will make their theatre debut in the upcoming Rita Rudner play.


Village Entrance update

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Village Entrance tractor

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Hard at work

Village Entrance Deere

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Clearing a pathway


Supporters “take over” KX 93.5 airwaves for annual fund drive next week

KX 93.5, Laguna’s only FM radio station, invites local leaders and legends to take over its airwaves March 25 through 29. Guest hosts will DJ their own hour live on the air, with their own handpicked music and content, to raise money for our beloved community radio station.

“KX Takeover is such a special fundraiser for us because it shows us every year that our station thrives when our community bands together to support it,” said KX 93.5 General Manager Tyler Russell. “It means so much to us that Lagunans will take time out of their schedules to create passionate radio and fundraise on our behalf.” 

KX 93.5 is a throwback to classic days of radio, when DJs actually picked their own music and listeners expected a human connection and community involvement from their local station. To honor that, KX Takeover guest DJs will craft their own playlist and hour of storytelling, as they talk about how music and radio has impacted their lives. 

KX Takeover is a friendly-but-stiff competition where the guest DJ that raises the most money receives the coveted “Silver Tongue Award.” Past winners include Larry Nokes, Rick Riess, Bobbi Cox, Clay Berryhill, and Awakening Code Radio hosts. 

Supporters Sgt Cota

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBPD PIO Sgt Jim Cota will host a 2-hour radio show with Stu News’ Shaena Stabler on Tuesday, March 26 from 12 to 2 p.m.

Some of this year’s participants include City Council members Toni Iseman, Peter Blake, Sue Kempf, and Bob Whalen, LBPD PIO Sgt Jim Cota and Stu News’ Shaena Stabler, musician Dylan Rouda, IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivray, surfer/entrepreneur Brandy Faber, local Brenden Hexberg, and designer/contractor Julie Laughton. 

Pledges can range from $20 to $20,000, and 100% of the proceeds generated during the fundraiser will assist the general operating budget of the station. By pledging $65 or more, listeners can become members of the radio station to receive annual benefits to ensure KX 93.5’s sustainability. When you make a donation online, you’ll be able to select which guest host you want it to count toward. 

If you value Laguna’s own radio station, as an alternative to corporate media, a source of independent views and thoughtfully crafted music shows, as a resource to be cherished and cared for, as a microphone into the very soul of Laguna, then please help keep us live on the air. Listen in and pledge during KX Takeover from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 25 - 29. 

Find the full schedule of shows and make your donation at www.KX935.com/kxtakeover

For more information, contact Monica Silva-McCusker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Real Talk Laguna Beach presents community discussion on building resilience on March 27

The community is invited to join Real Talk Laguna Beach on March 27 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Susi Q for a discussion on the importance and strength of resilience. Resilience can effectively manage our health in the midst of life’s inevitable changes. 

Dr. Elsie Beach, a licensed Clinical Psychologist with a specialty in abuse and trauma, will be the event facilitator. She has experience working in correctional facilities, child advocacy centers, trauma centers, impatient hospital settings, and community mental health centers. 

Real Talk center

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Join Real Talk for a community discussion on resilience at Susi Q on March 27

Dr. Beach is currently working on a book about resilience and parenting as a way to combine her professional expertise with her current interests, being a stay-at-home mom. She also speaks on the topic of resilience to share with parents and the community evidence-based, research supported approaches to effectively managing our mental health in the midst of life’s challenges. 

The event is free and seating is limited. To RSVP, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Susi Q is located at 380 Third St.


Two Laguna Beach bands headline at The Coach House Concert Hall next weekend, April 12 & 13

On Saturday, April 13, Mad Dogs & The Englishman, led by Jason Feddy, will headline at The Coach House Concert Hall in San Juan Capistrano. The band starts playing at 8 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. 

Mad Dogs & The Englishman is a brilliant, all-star Joe Cocker tribute show fronted by longtime Laguna Beach favorite and real Yorkshire growler Jason Feddy. Members of Cocker’s own band have said Feddy is astounding.

British singer Joe Cocker amazed and moved a generation of Rock n’ Roll fans with his incredible interpretations of some of music’s most popular songs, by artists such as The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Elton John, and most famously, The Beatles. His performance at Woodstock 50 years ago this summer is truly an historic moment in our culture.

The Coach House audience can expect to hear virtuoso performances of songs from across Joe’s career, including “Feeling Alright,” “The Letter,” “You Are So Beautiful,” and of course, “With A Little Help From My Friends.” 

Two Laguna mad band

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Photo by Arina Churchill

Mad Dogs & The Englishman: (L-R) Jimmy Zavala, Alan Deremo, Lori Mark, Ray Weston, Jason Feddy, Janis Liebhart, Pat Hawk, David Witham, and Richard Bredice

The band is a tour de force of extraordinary singers and musicians. They have played and sung with David Gilmore, George Benson, Eurythmics, Michael Bolton, Barbara Streisand, Joe Cocker himself, and so many of the greats there isn’t room to do them all justice here. 

Common Sense, another Laguna Beach band, will perform at The Coach House the night before, on Friday, April 12. Common Sense is not just another reggae band from Orange County. With a SoCal background and a small beach town attitude, Common Sense took their reggae-rock influences and created their own style.

Common Sense has established itself as one of California’s premier reggae rock bands. Nick Hernandez, Larry Young, Billy Sherman, and Phil Gough have been brothers in music for years. The band’s multiple personalities work together to a craft soulful, intelligent sound that tells stories of real life. With heartfelt lyrics and melodic harmonies, Common Sense delivers a true music experience.

Two Laguna Common Sense

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Courtesy of Coach House

Common Sense

The group started out in the college music scene of Santa Barbara and quickly dominated the Southern California club scene. Noted for their high energy live shows, they continue to grow a loyal fan base. The band has toured with many legendary reggae artists such as Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse, and Jimmy Cliff. Their far-reaching style has earned them a spot on national tours from the Van’s WARP Tour to Reggae Sun Splash and Reggae on the River.

The Coach House Concert Hall is located at 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano 

For tickets and info, visit www.thecoachhouse.com

For more info on Mad Dogs & The Englishmen, go to www.joecockertributeband.com

For information on Commonsense, go to www.commonsenseband.com.


Local Realtor Tom Berndt supplies glasses and hats for Village HopeCore International in Chogoria, Kenya

For eight years, Tom Berndt, a realtor with Coldwell Banker in Laguna, has been supplying reading glasses for recipients half way around the world at Village HopeCore (VHC) at the base of Mt Kenya (over 6,000 ft) in Cogoria, Kenya. 

He says, “This year, I also included baseball caps for the two orphanages, and sunglasses. At that altitude, the children develop cataracts early on, hence the glasses and hats. The reading glasses went to the adults. I delivered 1,500 readers, over 400 hats and over 400 sunglasses. They all know my name on Mt Kenya, even though I’ve never been there.” 

Local Realtor caps

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Submitted photo

Children of Village Hope wearing baseball hats 

Village HopeCore started in the year 2000, with Founder and CEO Dr. Mugambi, the current Medical Director Dr. Phil Rasori, 12 women, and $5,000 USD. Since then, they have launched, grown, and evolved the all their programs to support the health of children and their mothers. 

Their website states, “HopeCore’s approach is sustainable and replicable. We treat children and their mothers from conception through 18 years of life. All programming works within existing institutions to ensure longevity of programming. We partner with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, schools, and many others to ensure all activities are working hand in hand with other area interventions and that we do not duplicate efforts.”

Local Realtor Tom

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Submitted photo

Tom Berndt

Berndt says, “VHC also makes $400 loans to the local women, as a woman in Kenya cannot obtain a loan. With this money, they start a small business. They will buy a sewing machine and make clothes, or buy some goats for milk, etc. VHC has a remarkable pay back rate. Over 93 percent of the loans are returned. Pressure from other women in the village accounts for this high rate, as they must wait until the loan is paid for their turn.”

Berndt relies on local realtors for donations.

“All of the 1,500 reading glasses, 400 hats, and over 400 sunglasses were donated by my fellow Realtors in Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel. They drop off items to my office all year long. 

“I started eight years ago just collecting reading glasses. I started this because I use reading glasses. I couldn’t get through a day without them. That’s the beauty of this donation. One pair of reading glasses can change a life. And they’re only a dollar at the 99cent store. That’s where I go when I get monetary donations. I clean out the store of all their glasses. Realtors write checks to me, or hand me cash, not expecting a receipt. That’s just the way they are. And they trust I will get their donation to the right place.”

Local Realtor Kathy

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Submitted photo

Kathy Sangster during one of her visits to Village HopeCore

A friendship with Lido Island resident Kathy Sangster sparked Berndt’s interest in VHC. “I became involved knowing Kathy for many years. She lives on Lido island. She couldn’t be 90 pounds soaking wet and endures usually two to three months there, often returning sick. It is not a healthy environment. Kathy is forced to hand carry all of the items I deliver as luggage, because if sent ahead, it would likely be stolen in the Nairobi airport.”

Berndt says that Kathy, who goes there each year, also collects vitamins. “She travels there with doctors and nurses, dentists and hygienists. The diet there is terrible, as is the general health. Dentists end up just pulling teeth all day. The doctors treat all manner of malady. And they go there on their own dime. This is a charity that actually puts every donation into the hands of the needy. It is run by an attorney in San Francisco who was born there.”

Local Realtor thanks

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Submitted photo

Village HopeCore members express thanks for donations 

“This year was the first for hats. I learned the children were contracting cataracts because of the high altitude sun. Every child in the two orphanages got a hat. Many got sunglasses. However the adults were first, as a pair of sunglasses is a status symbol. Only the adults get reading glasses. Kathy will take needy children to a doctor for prescription glasses.

“It is a long way from their village (Chogoria) to any kind of store. And they really don’t have the money for glasses, anyway. The villages around Chogoria are the coffee growing regions for Kenyan coffee beans. The farmers are paid poorly.” 

Berndt describes VHC as, “A charity with zero fat. Every dollar gets there. It’s dedicated to helping women.” 

For more information about Village HopeCore, go to www.villagehopecore.org.


Where’s Maggi – the answers!

This sculpture is on the radar of a few Stu News readers. They knew where Maggi took this photo – on Coast Highway at Pearl Street.

First on it was John Joseph. Next up were Pat Carpenter, Grace Roxas Morrissey, and Jane Swintek.   

Thanks for keeping Maggi on her toes, and for sending in your answers! 

Wheres Maggi 4 16 19

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Sculpture found on Coast Hwy at Pearl Street


Terra gets new look for 2019 FOA

Terra gets construction

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

In anticipation of the 2019 Festival of Arts season, Terra Laguna Beach’s updated look includes installing low retaining walls and minor grading activities around the area of the restaurant, and some interior revisions (including the kitchen areas). The restaurant’s permit was recently amended to also include the installation of a foundation for an elevator that will eventually require Planning Commission approval, according to Scott Drapkin, City Planner Manager. The permit also includes the replacement of restaurant windows, doors, and stucco.


Beaches R Us

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Beaches R Pearl

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At the south end of Pearl Street Beach is a natural arch in the rock wall called the Keyhole, and according to the California Beaches website, this is the origin for the name Arch Beach – here’s the beach during a high tide

Beaches R Bluebird

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Bluebird Beach is named for bluebirds that used to frequent the beach and nearby Bluebird Canyon – here waves scallop the shore, and the beach shimmers in the sun


Dennis’ Tidbits 

By DENNIS McTIGHE 

April 19, 2019

It’s a matter of degrees 

Dennis 5Well, here we are, 109 days into 2019 and we’re still waiting for our very first 80-degree day. This is the latest we’ve gone without reaching that figure. In fact, by now we’ve even seen 90 or more on several occasions and even the 100 mark twice already in April, in 1985 and 1989. April 1, 1966 came close with 95.

On this date in 1974, the water temp here in Laguna plunged to 49 degrees tying the all-time record low set in January of 1949 and February of 1989. Compare that to the record high water temp for this date of 74 in 1992 and 1997, a swing of 25 degrees. The average water temp for this date is 60.

Tornado Alley is really living up to its moniker as of late and for the next three days it’s really going to go off the charts. There’s better than a 60 percent chance of violent twisters spanning ten states. Also included in the forecast is baseball to softball size hail and some straight-line winds approaching Category 2 hurricane status. Man, would I ever like to be there right now! Seriously, folks, the more dramatic the atmosphere, the more excited I get. Unfortunately there are always casualties and destruction. That’s the serious downside.

Also on this date in 1983, Laguna amassed a total of 1.42 inches of rain from a strong late season Pacific storm, part of a total for that April of 5.16 inches, the second wettest April on record, second only to 6.02 inches in 1965.

Also on this date in 1906, the San Andreas literally went off the Richter as a catastrophic 7.9-8.1 quake hit. The strength of that quake tied with the Fort Tejon Quake on January 9, 1857, for the strongest California quakes in recorded history. Globally the strongest quake of all time was a 9.5 in Peru on May 22, 1960. There’s never been a 10 at least not since people were documenting this stuff. Scary stuff!

ALOHA!


Temporary sculpture at City Hall lights up April 30 

The lawn of City Hall will be the new exhibition space for the temporary installation The Shape of Light by artist team Hybycozo. The temporary sculpture will be on display from April 30 through July 3. 

Three geometric sculptures created of laser cut metal lit with LED will bring light and shadows to City Hall.

Temporary Sculpture green

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Submitted photo

A temporary light sculpture will brighten the night at City Hall from April 30 through July 3

Hybycozo is a collaboration of two artists: environmental scientist Yelena Filipchuck and industrial designer Serge Beaulieu. The name Hybycozo stands for “Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone,” a nod to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The two first met in New York City in 2013, but moved to the Bay Area to make a series of works for Burning Man. 

“We decided to create a set of sculptures that could represent our fascination with the beauty of mathematics and the language of the universe,” Filipchuck says.

This temporary installation is one of many works the City of Laguna Beach Arts Commission hope to bring to the community. 

Temporary Sculpture brown

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Don’t miss “The Shape of Light” by artist duo Hybycozo at City Hall 

Adam Schwerner, Vice-Chair of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission, explains, “We are excited to bring this young artist team to Laguna Beach, their works are an exploration of light with incredibly intricate patterns. It is bringing some of the creative brilliance of Burning Man to Laguna Beach.” 

Arts Commission Chair Michael Ervin added, “It is wonderful to see this program take shape and we are looking forward to bringing diverse works to the community, and we thank the City Council for the support to explore this new programming.”

This is a program of the City of Laguna Beach and has been funded by the lodging establishments and City of Laguna Beach.

City Hall is located at 505 Forest Ave.


The Heritage Committee presents Historical Residential Project Forum, May 14

On Tuesday, May 14 at 6 p.m., design, architecture, and real estate professionals will present historic projects and experiences during a special Historical Residential Project Forum, presented by the City of Laguna Beach’s Heritage Committee as part of the City’s Heritage Month events. Attendees will hear insights, myths, challenges, and opportunities involved in the development of historic properties.

The panel includes architect Todd Skenderian, architectural designer James Henry, Jr, and realtor Loraine Mullen-Kress. Architectural case studies and information about real estate values associated with historic homes will be presented in a way to help the community better understand historic preservation. 

The committee seeks to provide information as to why many people favor these homes. Properties featured and insights shared by experienced professional will be an excellent chance to see examples of successful projects to help balance the public dialogue, the committee says.

The Heritage Historical Society

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Courtesy of Facebook

The Murphy-Smith House, built in 1920, is an example of an early Laguna Beach cottage

The forum will be held at City Council Chambers, 505 Forest Ave. 

Want more history? Visit the Laguna Beach Historical Society, open Friday through Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. The LB Historical Society is located in the Murphy-Smith House, 278 Ocean Ave. Built in 1920 in the Builder Bungalow style, and it is an example of an early Laguna Beach cottage.    

For more information, contact Martina Caron, City of Laguna Beach Heritage Committee Staff Liaison, at (949) 464-6629.


Health in Balance presents Regenerative Medicine Seminar, May 14

Discover how stem cell therapy and PRP can improve your quality of life on Tuesday, May 14 at Health in Balance starting at noon. A complimentary seminar with lunch will be provided.

This class is intended for those who suffer from joint pain that keeps them from doing the things they love that want a solution to help. Guests will learn how regenerative medicine with stem cell and PRP therapy can effectively reduce and eliminate pain without surgery. 

Health in stem

Submitted photo

Join Health in Balance for lunch and a helpful seminar 

There are exciting, cutting-edge advances in medicine that have led to effective new therapies for joint pain. Join Health in Balance at the seminar to discover the solutions available through regenerative medicine. 

To RSVP, visit www.healthinbalance.com/regenerative-medicine-seminar

Health in Balance is located at 330 Park Ave, Ste 9.


2019 South County Senior Summit is on Friday
and open to all

As the lead sponsoring nonprofit agency, Age Well Senior Services, Inc. invites residents to attend the 2019 South County Senior Summit on May 17. This popular 12th annual event is being presented by Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, in partnership with the Orange County Office on Aging, Soka University of America, and Age Well Senior Services, Inc. 

2019 South Bartlett

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Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors

The 2019 Senior Summit will take place Friday, May 17 in the city of Aliso Viejo at the beautiful Soka University Recreation Complex. The program will feature a panel of experts providing timely presentations related to this year’s theme, “Back to the Future of Aging and Dementia.” 

As such, the 2019 South County Senior Summit will offer valuable information on new, cutting-edge approaches for Risk Reduction, Caretaking, and Treatment of Dementia as well as other debilitating aging-related conditions. Over 1,200 older adults are expected to attend the 2019 Senior Summit, which will begin at 8 a.m. with an interactive vendor fair and complimentary breakfast, followed by an informative and engaging program commencing at 9 a.m. with a welcome address by OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. There will also be door prizes and free giveaways.

2019 South Chang

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Courtesy of Facebook

Wan-Chin Chang will perform at the conclusion of the program in Soka University’s Performing Arts Center

The keynote speakers will be Judi Bonilla, director of education for Brain Fit Now!; Kerry Burnight, PHD, Gerontologist/Researcher/Advocate and Chief Gerontologist, Grand Pad; Linda Zimmer, project director, Iris OC; and Joshua Grill, PhD, director, Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, UC Irvine.

At the conclusion of the program, a complimentary lunch will be provided for all attendees, and Soka University will also conduct special private tours of its stunning Performing Arts Center. At that time, attendees will be treated to a private recital by Wan-Chin Chang in the grand Soka University Performing Arts Center.

For more information and to RSVP online, go towww.officeonaging.ocgov.com/events/south.

To RSVP by phone, call (800) 510-2020 or (714) 480-6450.

Soka University Recreation Complex is located at 1 University Dr, Aliso Viejo.


Local parent brings DECENCY movement to Laguna Beach

Erin Decker, Laguna Beach resident and parent, is bringing the National DECENCY movement to Laguna Beach. Inspired by her cousin Lisa Cholnoky’s passion for change, she is helping to bring DECENCY west. 

Erin has submitted a proclamation to the City Council to make May 14 an official day of DECENCY and hopefully, grow the movement so that DECENCY becomes an everyday experience in Laguna Beach. 

Lisa, a New York City based parent and graphic designer, created and launched DECENCY (a non-partisan grassroots movement) in early 2017 to reassert and encourage DECENCY as a baseline in everyday conversations and actions. Dismayed by the divisive public discourse around her, as well as in the news and on social media, Cholnoky designed the DECENCY button – a simple yet powerful reminder – and wore it every day, whether on the street or on the subway. The impact was immediate, the message contagious. DECENCY starts with simple ABC’s: Active listening, Better understanding, and Compassion. 

Erin is also in the process of working with our schools to not only recognize the day but adopt a curriculum to reinforce DECENCY in students’ everyday lives. 

To memorialize the day and the concept, Erin will be giving out buttons that say DECENCY around town, so keep an eye out for them. While the movement was born on the east coast, Erin is committed to seeing it flourish on the west coast, as well.

Proclamation to make

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Local Erin Decker is bringing the DECENCY movement to Laguna Beach

“Centering the focus on DECENCY marks a valuable opportunity for schools to reaffirm this standard of civil discussion for students of all ages and to talk through the practicalities of how to treat everyone with respect and master the art of listening,” said Lisa.

Schools and community groups in over 25 states have enlisted their hometown governments and school boards to issue proclamations for their own local DAY OF DECENCY on May 14 – part of a nationwide effort to put DECENCY back on the map and to engage students, educators, family, and community members to promote civil discourse. 

By raising awareness, the movement aims to encourage more participants to embrace DECENCY and integrate it into both curriculum plans and service projects.   

“Our children need role models,” said Cholnoky. “If we can all be civil with one another, we are setting the right example.”

On May 14, members of U.S. Congress will lend their support of the DECENCY initiative with a bipartisan endorsement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

For more information, visit www.decency.today.


The art of rain 

Photos by Scott Brashier

The art tennis

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Splish splash, your serve! 

The art drops

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Drops create scarlet circles

The art drain

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Beauty in rushing water


Don’t miss Tie-One-On Retrospective exhibit reception at City Hall on Thursday

The Artist Fund at Festival of Arts invites the public to a reception at Laguna Beach City Hall this Thursday, June 6 from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. Exhibits include Tie-One-On Retrospective, featuring 40 neckties decorated by Festival exhibitors circa 1999-2005. Also on display are 40 Art-To-Go pieces by current exhibitors, under the theme “Full Circle.”

Dont Miss Amanda Fish

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Photo by Gar Crosper

Amanda Fish with her Art-To-Go donation

Dont Miss Judith Cameron

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Photo by Gar Crosper

Festival Exhibits Manager Ron Morrisette admires a donated work by Judith Cameron

Dont Miss Elizabeth McGhee

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Photo by Gar Crosper

Q II by Elizabeth

“Q II” by Elizabeth McGhee is among 40 works in the Art-To-Go “Full Circle” preview show at City Hall

Visitors may cast votes for the People’s Choice Artist and qualify for a free prize drawing. The exhibit celebrates the organizations 20th Anniversary and is sponsored by Laguna Coast Real Estate and First Thursdays Art Walk. The show runs through June 27 at City Hall located at 505 Forest Ave. 

For more information, visit www.TheArtistsFund-FoA.org or call (949) 612-1949. 

For the online gallery, click here.


Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Laguna Beach A Look Back 6.25.19

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Big Bend, 1919

In this 1919 photo of Big Bend in Laguna Canyon, a lonely Model T weaves its way through the canyon. 

Almost 80 years later, in February 1998, severe flooding in the Big Bend area took two lives and destroyed dozens of homes.

Due to restoration efforts, the Big Bend area is now home to the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park at Big Bend as well as the Laguna College of Art and Design.

The estimated population of Laguna Beach in 1919 was a little over 300.

• • •

Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit www.lagunabeachhistory.org.


Stardust in your eyes at this year’s Sawdust 

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Stardust in Whalen

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Mayor Bob Whalen opens the 53rd Annual Summer Sawdust Festival on Friday. Just inside the gates of the Sawdust Festival, gold stars and a spaceship greet visitors. It makes perfect sense, as the Sawdust, by all rights, is its own universe. One anticipates entering another world – the sights and sounds are exclusive to this particular space – and that’s the wonder of it.

Stardust in father and son

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Father and son Jim and Noel Lashley share a booth. One always expects the work of the Sawdust artists to be unique, but this year seems particularly innovative. It’s a wonderful blend of seasoned and new exhibitors.

Stardust in Lisa and Nancy

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Lisa Mansour and Nancy Deline are two of the 191 artists/makers exhibiting at the Sawdust. This year’s theme – expect the unexpected. During the process of making art, unexpected things will happen, and that is what makes it unique and beautiful.

Stardust in tree

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Visitors are saying, “this is the best ‘Dust in years! Wow!” Don’t miss the chance to see the world a little differently. For more information on events, workshops, and music, go to www.sawdustartfestival.org.


17 local businesses will be certified green by the council

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday will recognize 17 local businesses that have qualified for Green Business Certificates.

City Manager John Pietig was authorized in 2014 to implement the certification program, which is managed by Waste Management, as part of its franchise agreement with the city, according to the staff report. The program is part of the California Green Business Network operating in 17 counties and 22 cities. 

The certificates will be presented at the beginning of the meeting, prior to the Public Comment Period on items not included on the agenda. Photographs are permitted at special presentations.

To be recognized Tuesday:

--7 Roots

--Black Bough

--Catmosphere

--Dog Ranch Bed & Biscuit

--Forest & Studio Ocean Gallery

--Kokopelli Gallery

--Sourced 

--Studio 7 Gallery

--The Soul Project

--The Stand Natural Foods 

--Visit Laguna

--City Hall West

--Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Senior Center

Re-certified:

--Hobie Surf Shop

--Marshall Ininns Design Group

--Nokes & Quinn Attorneys

The additions to the list of businesses that have previously been certified bring the total in Laguna Beach to 35.

All 17 have gone above and beyond to conserve natural resources, including installation of LED lighting, installation of low flow aerators for faucets provided by the Laguna Beach County Water District, reduced use of disposable paper products and the use of recycled material, environment-friendly cleaning products and energy-efficient appliances.


Barbara’s Column

Bragging Rights 

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Laguna Beach Police won bragging rights with a 16 to 7 victory in the inaugural Guns ‘n Hoses softball game against the combined Fire and Marine Safety Departments team on Tuesday night.

Both teams were ready to take the field for the nationwide annual National Night Out, created to bring neighbors and law enforcement closer together – and have fun doing it. 

Kudos to Community Service Officer Natasha Hernandez, who organized the Guns ‘n Hoses game. 

Prior to the game, Police Sgt. Jim Cota told Stu News, “The [police] softball team is very excited to be playing the Laguna Beach Fire Department/Marine Safety team on National Night Out. Bragging rights are on the line. On a personal level, we are all very close so this will be some friendly fun.” 

In response, Fire Department Engineer Paramedic Pat Cary said, “The Laguna Beach Firefighters are excited to participate in [Laguna’s] first annual National Night Out event and see this as a great way for the community and residents to connect with each other and their first responders!” 

Bragging Rights teams

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First Annual Guns ‘n Hoses competitors

“To say we are a competitive group of firefighters would be an understatement and we can’t wait to play baseball against our brothers and sisters in Blue! Let’s Play Ball!” 

The game was played on the Laguna Beach High School baseball field. Skipper Carrillo threw out the first ball – well, of course. “It was a home run day,” Skip’s signature phrase for good times. 

Cota pitched a complete game for the win. He also hit a scorcher to the opposite field and deserved to be the MVP, according to Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock, who was in the stands for the game. 

But Cota was not Villwock’s only candidate for MVP: Shortstop Jesse Schmidt was also a contender. 

“He cranked a home run in the first inning,” said Villwock. 

Another fan said Schmidt was all over the field. That might be due to the fact that he previously played for a San Francisco Giants minor league team.

Bragging Rights Cota

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Sgt. Jim Cota pitched a complete game for the win

Randy Bitonti went four for four and ran the bases like a hyena,” said Villwock. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to get away from him – they’d get caught.

Brandon Drake also had an outstanding game.” 

Larry Wohrman was Cota’s battery mate. Guns’ position players included Joy Butterfield, Jimmy Gramer, Jeremiah Kennedy, Dave McGill, Tommy McGuire, Kyle Milot, Britnie Priest, Ryan Radel, Abraham O’Campo and Raj Patel.

The Fire Department’s Hoses team included Cary; firefighters Grant Collison, Zack DeJohn and James Lin; Engineers Tony Carlson, Brian Adams, Dave Lopez, Adam Schulenburg and Kurt Bladergroen; and Captains John Kuzmic and Andrew Hill, who grilled the free hotdogs to go with chips and soft drinks before he took to the field. Compliments to the chef.

The firefighters were joined by Marine Safety Officer Tommy Cantrell, Hourly Lifeguard David Brunner and Tower Lifeguards Bridget Storm, Jack Proctor and Corey Solomon.

Bragging Rights OCampo

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Detective Abe O’Campo 

DeJohn was the pitcher. Carlson was behind the plate. 

“Our best hitters were Kuzmic and Collison,” said Cary. 

The team did not take the loss lightly. 

“We are looking forward to our second annual Guns ‘n Hoses game,” said Cary. “We will be practicing and ready to go.”

Kaley Gilstrap and Alicia Gutierez were in charge of the scoreboard. Keri Moreno helped out. 

The game was preceded by a K-9 demonstration by partners K-9 Ranger and Officer Zack Fillers

Ranger joined the Laguna Beach Police Department in October 2014, thanks to generous donations from the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach and the Assistance League of Laguna Beach. 

He is a Belgian Malinois that received several years of training in the Netherlands before coming to the United States. He was named Ranger in Laguna Beach in honor of the late Officer Jon Coutchie, who had been a U.S. Army Ranger before he joined the police department.

Fillers joined the department in 2011. Together they have completed months of intensive training. They are on call 24/7.

Bragging Rights boy

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Officer Hariri and Officer Lee with young fan

Other pre-game activities included an Orange County Health Care Agency information booth, staffed by Program Supervisor Pauline Stauder and Health Educator Sherryl Ramos.

Laguna Beach Detective Natalie Leal, accompanied by James Merritt, staffed a booth selling patches to raise funds for Breast Cancer Awareness. 

“We will be selling the patches year-round on our website, www.lbpdpinkpatch.com,” Leal said. Patches also are sold at the Police Department’s front counter. 

The Guns ‘n Hoses softball game is in a league of its own. The National Night Out promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie as a base path to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.

National Night Out fosters a relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. In Laguna, that includes first responders.

The event was introduced in August of 1984. Neighborhoods across the nation began to host block parties, festivals, parades, cookouts and various other community events with safety demonstrations, seminars, youth events, visits from emergency personnel, exhibits and more.

Bragging Rights Kennedy

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Submitted photo

Officer Jeremiah Kennedy

It has grown into a celebration beyond front porch vigils and symbolic efforts amongst neighbors to send a message of neighborhood camaraderie. 

City Council members said they wished they could have attended the game, but they had a full agenda Tuesday night. 

Fire Chief Mike Garcia also was unable to attend the game. He was needed at the council meeting. However, Police Chief Laura Farinella was in the stands to see her team score the win. 

Also in the stands, Gwen and Community Emergency Response Team Director Sonny Myers; Mary and Matt Lawson, who had all the bases covered. Matt was wearing a Hoses’ T-shirt, a Guns cap and a red line flag, green on the flipside, signifying that police and firefighters’ lives matter. 

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. Contributions are welcomed.


Laguna man discovers rare piece of Laguna Beach history while hiking at TOW

By SUZIE HARRISON

Last Monday, longtime local Joey Sammut took a friend from Pomona on a scenic hike of our trails. The jaunt ended up turning into a much bigger adventure than either had planned. 

“There’s a secret way while hiking on the TOW fire trail before it leads to Arch Beach Heights that splits off. It’s the way I take. It’s more of the scenic route,” Sammut said. 

While they were walking, Sammut said he saw something sticking out of the ground that resembled old steel scissors.

 “I was like, huh? So, I stop, look at it for a second, and I grab and pull on it, as it was kind of buried,” Sammut said. “I pull on it some more and I see this long piece of metal that’s attached to it. That’s when I recognized it was the barrel of a gun.”

Despite his friend telling him it was a piece of junk, just an old BB gun, and that he should just leave it there, Sammut immediately recognized it as a real rifle.

“I said, oh no, this isn’t a BB gun, this is a real gun. I ended up leaving the rifle there and covering it up with some leaves, finished the trail, and came back, picked it up, and brought it home.”

Intrigued, Sammut did some research about his newfound treasure, and joined a Facebook forum called the Winchester Rifle Association, a group of about 30,000 people “who really love Winchesters.” By posting pictures of the piece, the forum was able to tell him the make, model, and where the serial number is located.

Laguna man discovers gun

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Photo by Joey Sammut

Local Joey Sammut found this old Winchester while hiking at TOW; he even talked to LBPD, who told him to be careful because it could have a live round

“Yesterday, I received an email from Daniel Brumley, the Director of the Cody Firearms Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky,” Sammut said. “They have one of the biggest collections of firearms.”

“This carbine appears to be a Winchester Model 1894 Saddle Ring Carbine. It had a tang mounted peep sight on it, Brumley said.

“He pretty much confirmed what I thought I had. The model of the gun is an 1894 Winchester rifle, so the first time it was made was in 1894,” Sammut said.

Sammut explained that some guns had shorter barrels and others had longer barrels. His gun has a 20-inch barrel, which is considered shorter, and a tang mounted peep sight on it.

“That’s a sight that would pop up from the top of the gun, so you could shoot it more from the hip, which would help with accuracy when shooting it,” Sammut said.

Diving deeper, he purchased some rust eater, carefully cleaning just one little section of the gun over the serial number to learn more. 

“Some people told me to soak the gun in vinegar, but I just want to leave it the way it looks, the way I found it,” Sammut said. “The museum that I reached out to actually has a database of books dating back to the very first [Winchester] gun. If I knew the entire serial number, it could tell me a lot of things.”

So far, he’s found the first three serial numbers, 457. 

“The rest right now are still kind of hard to see. But I am working on it as we speak,” Sammut said. “But just based on the first three serial numbers it tells me that the gun was made anywhere between 1896 and 1908.” 

Eager to learn more, Sammut reached out to Megan Wilson, an archeologist from Duke Cultural Resources Management in Irvine, who told him there were a lot of the early ranchers and settlers in that area of Top of the World.

He also reached out to a museum in Wyoming that specializes in dug up found weapons and guns. 

“The guy told me that the location I found it in was populated at the time,” Sammut explained. “He said if I were to go back to the location and dig around, I could possibly find human remains. 

“This gun is older than Laguna Beach; it’s way older than the city. It could be a founding father of Laguna Beach’s like Thurston. It’s exciting that such a record exists.”

Sammut said he is going to hang the gun up in his place for people to see, keep the conversation going and the narrative alive.

His friends say perhaps he should go into archeology. As a ceramic artist, he said it kind of goes hand and hand.

 “I just feel very lucky to have found it and to rescue it for people to see it. Because it really does tell a story, and it’s pretty amazing,” Sammut said.


Controversial sculptures get mixed reviews

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Controversy about art is not a bad thing. Just the opposite says the avant-garde arts community. It stimulates discourse. 

If that’s the goal, the sculptures created by well-known street artist Mark Jenkins – and recently positioned on the lawn in front of City Hall – are doing their job. 

Some passersby call the figures creepy. Some love it. Others just don’t like any art on the lawn, even if temporary, considering it a diminution of City Hall.

Varied opinions are being logged in on the city’s Facebook page

“It’s art guys!” posted Shane Townley, artist and founder of LagunaArt.com. “Fantastic. Did its job.”

Cheryl Heichemer disagreed.

“I can appreciate art and its message, but the location is completely inappropriate for this,” posted Heichemer. “Better in a museum with a fully noted write up.

“This is beyond creepy for so many reasons – especially for a public and highly trafficked area. Please reconsider this ASAP.”

Controversial sculptures men

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Installation by artist Mark Jenkins will be on display until Oct 18

The installation, titled “The Caretakers,” has five characters all of which relate to lawn games and activities in the age of global warming. The characters’ faces are hooded from the sun. 

One of the characters is toasting his hotdog in the sun. Another is playing horseshoes. A third is vacuuming the lawn. The fourth is aiming a bow armed with a plunger at the fifth figure, who has an apple on his head, a reference to the Swiss revolutionary William Tell. 

The sculptures are made of concrete and resin and will be on display for up to three months, the third in a series of temporary installations approved by the Arts Commission and the City Council.

“At first I commented that I wasn’t crazy about it, because I didn’t realize it was a temporary installation,” posted Vicki High. “As a temporary exhibit, I think it’s great!”

Jill Doran looks forward to the next project about three month down the road. 

She supports the city’s open mind to different concepts in art and has no objection to this exhibition’s theme, but she thinks it missed its mark.

“The Caretakers” was funded by Laguna Beach’s lodging establishments and will be on display until October 18.

Subsequent installations to be installed outside City Hall will vary in genre and duration and will be curated to bring variety and experience, according to the city’s statement.


Aliso Beach afterglow

Aliso Beach afterglow

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The day slowly and softly slips into night at Aliso Beach


Montage Way home ranks as third largest sale in Laguna Beach in 2019; and it’s all in the family

By DIANNE RUSSELL

It seems inevitable that the paths of two members of a longtime Laguna Beach family would cross businesswise if the father is a well-known local architect and the son is a premier real estate agent in town. Call it serendipity, karma, or whatever you prefer, but this particular intersection is one to be savored.

Last month, The Skenderian Group, led by Marcus Skenderian, secured the sale – at 19 million dollars – for the buyer of 17 Montage Way. Coincidentally, the home was designed by his father Morris Skenderian, a renowned and respected architect who came to Laguna in 1968.

Only two other LB homes sold for more in 2019

Per the California Multiple Listing Service, 17 Montage Way is the third largest sale in 2019 (two Emerald Bay homes sold in low $20 millions range), and in the Top 10 in Orange County (seventh to be exact). The home at 17 Montage was on “hearken” for 140 days prior to its purchase.

In an interview with Stu News Laguna in 2015, the elder Skenderian talked about his involvement with the Athens Group when they were designing and building Montage Laguna Beach back in 1995. 

“They came to me and said, ‘What would you do?’ I said, ‘Wow. That’s a lot of responsibility for me to tell you what to do, but I think if you go with a Greene and Greene, craftsman-style and keep a low profile, people will embrace it,’” he said. “They said, ‘Great! Let’s do it!’ With the way it turned out…that feels really good.”

Montage Way Marcus

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Photo by Christina Shook Photography

Marcus Skenderian of The Skenderian Group

Of the sale, which was the largest in his career, Marcus said, “The extra bonus for me, which was so cool, was that it was my dad’s home, he did the design. Knowing that my dad was the architect of the home was just so awesome.”

And the Laguna connections don’t end there. The Tim Smith Group, led by Tim Smith and Amy Calvert of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, represented the seller in the transaction. Amy Calvert is married to Captain Jeff Calvert, a 23-year veteran of the Laguna Beach Police Department.    

Marcus speaks highly of the Tim Smith Group. “It was a very cooperative effort with everybody – with Tim Smith and Amy Calvert.”

All cash, short escrow

According to Marcus, the 17 Montage Way home sold on August 15. “It was a short escrow and a cash sale. We agreed to the deal on the 5th of August, and it closed on August 15.”

He adds, “They were beautiful people to work with – both sides – the buyers and the sellers. We have a very Lagunaeques approach to our business, and I think the buyers really felt that when this was going on.” 

Not only is Marcus experienced in real estate, he is also accomplished in architecture, construction, and development. It appears that real estate, as well as architecture, is in his genes. His mother Carolyn Skenderian was a Laguna Beach realtor for over 30 years.

“The biggest sale of my career,” he said. “Sometimes you get lucky.”

However, as in most cases, luck is usually the result of considerable work.

Marcus says, “You work really hard for many years to put yourself in a position for something like this to happen. It just fell into place.”

Montage Way house

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Courtesy of CRMSL

17 Montage Way 

Although Marcus was on a family vacation when the sale was closing, Brendy Michael of The Skenderian Group and the rest of the team worked from Laguna while he worked from Idaho.

At the time of his trip, the house was in escrow and, “Most of it was done electronically,” he explained.

Marcus commends his team and their efforts on the sale, “Brendy [Michael] is a great support and really gets Laguna. She has a great demeanor with clients – she is very nurturing with them, and she knows the style of Laguna Beach.”

And Brendy returns the compliment, “The thing about Marcus is he loves being a part of our community. He’s super friendly (impossible to walk down the street with him), always offering to go beyond, and knows how to get things done whether it’s through the city, with another agent, or a local resource. Everybody loves the guy.”

A bang for your buck!

So what does one get for a $19 million dollar price tag?

Built in 2005, 17 Montage Way is an open-concept residence set within one of the world’s most prestigious resorts, packed with premium services and exclusive perks. It clocks in at 8,000 square feet of space with impressive ocean views facilitated by slide-away stackable doors and an expansive wrap-around patio. It has four bedrooms – including an ocean-facing master suite fit with a private fireplace and spa-bath – and the property also comes with a gourmet kitchen, wine cellar, and media room.

Although this is not the first home designed by his father that Marcus has sold – the number is somewhere around 10 – this will certainly go down in history as a very special one.


Marine Safety Files

Unconscious female airlifted via helicopter from Whiskey Cove

On Tuesday, Sept 24, at 2:36 p.m., LBFD, LBPD, and Laguna Beach Lifeguards responded to a call at Whiskey Cove for an advanced life support medical aid of an unconscious female.

According to Marine Safety Capt Kai Bond, “When on scene, lifeguards made contact with the patient who was unconscious. It was determined the best way to remove the patient and transport them to the hospital would be a helicopter.”

LBFD requested a helicopter from Orange County Fire Authority to respond and hoist the victim.

Marine Safety Files rescue

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Photo by Ryan Keller

Helicopter airlifts unconscious woman at Whiskey Cove on Tuesday

“She was taken to Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo,” Capt Bond said. “She was never in the water. She appeared to be just on the rocks on the north end of Crescent Bay toward Whiskey Cove.”

Capt Bond reiterated that she was found unconscious but there was no indication that she had any sort of fall.

“There’s a possibility that drugs or alcohol could have been involved,” Capt Bond said.

An unknown caller contacted 911 for a possibly intoxicated female.

The victim was described as an adult female. As of press time, her current status is unknown.


Pet Parade and Chili Cook-Off at Seven7Seven was dog, cat, and chili-lover heaven

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

There was a lot of tail wagging and chili tasting going on at the 23rd Annual Pet Parade and Chili Cook-Off event at Seven7Seven on Sunday. This furry fundraiser was sponsored by the Laguna Board of REALTORS® and Affiliates’ Charitable Assistance Fund with all proceeds going to Laguna’s pet nonprofits. 

Pet parade all contestants

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Pet parade contestants wait for results 

There was something for everyone – booths for pet portraits by Sarah Perez, and caricatures by Twist and Shout artist John Baldwin, animal balloons, yoga for dogs, hot pepper cookies, popcorn, and libations. 

Pet parade chili judges

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Chili Cook-Off judges

There were dogs as small as two pounds – named Itsy Bitsy Baby – and some as large as 155 lbs. In fact, four Newfoundlands – Callie, Enzo, Oscar, and Harley – weighed anywhere from 115 - 155. And the competition included two cats, Cody and Rolo, who was dressed as Puss and Boots, and Dallie, the Spanish water dog who resembled a mop, but was not wearing a costume.

Pet parade best chili

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Laguna Board of REALTORS® Affiliates won Best Chili 

Officer Zach Fillers gave a riveting demonstration with his K-9 dog Ranger, complete with a mock attack and then more mock attacks. 

Pet parade best booth

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Best Booth – American Title

The chili judges reached their decision and the festivities continued with First Place in the Chili Cook-Off being awarded to the Laguna Board of REALTORS® Affiliates. American Title won First Place for Best Booth, and Second Place for Best Booth went to Pacific Sotheby’s.

Only at the Annual Pet Parade can pets strut their stuff across the stage to compete for prizes, and this year, there were so many great contenders. 

Pet parade Cody

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Cody wins Most Gorgeous Senior 

Pet parade judges included Leon Rosen, Laura Parisi, Amy Rosencrantz, Toni Iseman, and for the first time a newbie judge – me. It’s not an easy task; there were an endless number of adorable dogs (and two cats) of all ages, and clever costumes like spaghetti and meatballs. 

Pet parade Griffie

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Griffie - Best Costume 

The winners in each category were: 

--Best Costume: Griffie, the Italian Mastiff dressed as a pirate

--Prettiest Female: Paris, the Golden Retriever

--Most Handsome Male: Ozzie, the Australian Shepherd

--Happiest Rescue: Piper, a five-month-old Bernese, Husky, and German Shepherd mix 

--Cutest Baby: Piper – won again

--Most Gorgeous Senior: Cody, a 14-year-old cat from Blue Bell Foundation for Cats

Pet parade Piper

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Piper takes two categories – Happiest Rescue and Cutest Baby

The best news of all is that while visitors and participants were having fun, they were also helping the beneficiaries: Catmosphere Laguna, Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, The Pet Rescue Center, Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, PUP (Protecting Unwanted Pets), and the Laguna Board of REALTORS® and Affiliates’ Charitable Assistance Fund. 

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see the slideshow below


Planning Commission to hear concept for block-long commercial project

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Planning Commission will review on Wednesday the concept of a block-long project that would require the demolition of North Coast Highway buildings from Jasmine Street to Cliff Drive.

Mark Orgill, identified as the Heisler Laguna LLC agent, submitted the request for the concept review to get feedback on the proposed size, mass, and scale of the structure and its potential impacts on views. It is being called the Museum Hotel project by the development company according to Orgill, but the name is not written in stone, according to Hasty Honarkar, daughter of developer Mo Honarkar.

“The city has project plans available online and there will be a video presentation at the hearing,” said Orgill. The high point of the building has been staked.

Demolition of the block would accommodate the construction of a new mixed-use facility that would include a hotel, public art galleries, retail space, and restaurants, according to the staff report.

Currently the concept for the Museum Hotel calls for 118 rooms or possibly 74 suites. Amenities, as conceived, would include a restaurant on the third level of the structure, a rooftop pool, and garden area. Parking would be underground. The exterior shown on the concept to be reviewed by the commission is not what the completed project will look like.

“Our intention is to make the project look like a series of smaller buildings coming together, like the southern side of Forest Avenue,” said Hasty Honarkar. “There are seven parcels that will be combined to become the Museum Hotel. The properties are all owned by the developer.

Plans to diversify the architecture could put a Craftsman-style bungalow on one lot. A Spanish hacienda could be next to it, with an Art Deco design on the other side.

From the outside each one would look different, but the interiors would be connected.

“Since no one specific style of architecture defines Laguna Beach, mixing in a few different architectural time periods can help make the building itself a work of art and a representation of the evolution of architecture within our community,” said the younger Honarkar. 

This is the second concept review of a proposed hotel-plus to be developed by the Honarkars. 

Laguna Beach Company, another Honarkar business entity, also requested a concept hearing for a proposed hotel on the block of Cleo Street between South Coast Highway and Glenneyre Street. 

The Planning Commission, at the hearing, advised Honarkar to reduce the room count from 112 to 80. That could be accomplished by converting some of the rooms to suites but it wouldn’t reduce the proposed size of the project, according to architect John Tilton.

Honarkar also owns the land lease for Hotel Laguna, which is being renovated with plans that include structures up to Legion Street. 

No approvals or permits will be granted for the Museum project at Wednesday’s hearing.


LBHS student helps lifeguards save mother and daughter caught in a rip current

On Thursday, Nov 14, at 2:31 p.m., at the 100 block of Thalia Street, lifeguards responded to swimmers in distress at Thalia Street Beach.

According to Capt Bond, “There were three people in the water calling for help. They were approximately 100 yards off shore. Apparently a mother and her child were pulled out of a rip current. They were rescued by a Good Samaritan named Gavin Pike, who witnessed this mother and child get caught in a rip current.”

They were waving their arms in the air and screaming for help.

“He sprinted out to them. They were in a state of panic; the mother was hyperventilating. And he was able to get to them and keep their heads above water and help them get to shore,” Capt Bond said. “He was able to take them to the beach. Once he got to the beach, the lifeguards provided medical care.”

Capt Bond explained that Gavin, 15, is one of the graduates of Marine Safety’s Surfers Awareness and Lifeguard Training in lifeguard techniques. It’s called SALT, an acronym.

“He actually just took that class from Laguna Beach High School because we have the Laguna Beach High School surf team come down to our department and take a class. He saved two lives because he had the understanding of what to do when an event like that occurs,” Capt Bond said.

Capt Bond said his older brother Gordon Pike happened to be an outstanding lifeguard for their department. 

“But Gavin, 15 years old, not a lifeguard just yet, did everything he learned in the program and was able to save the life of a mother and her young child.”

-By Suzie Harrison


Woman’s Club to host annual Holiday Luncheon

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach will hold its annual Holiday Luncheon on Friday.

Chef Alessandro Pirozzi, owner of Alessa’s on Forest Avenue, is catering the buffet luncheon.

Melinda Salem is chair of the event. Nancy Shurtleff, Kathleen Reedy, and club President Kitty Malcom are on the committee.

The event will also include a Holiday Gift Draw and a Paddle Raise to support the club’s Adopt-A-Family program.

“Any money over the amount committed to Adopt-A-Family will fund other club programs,” said Malcolm.

Funds are also raised by renting the facility at 286 St. Ann’s Drive for weddings, other organization’s fundraisers, etc.

Woman's Club group

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Photo by Angela Vinci

(L-R) Julia Savea, Cathy Gardner, Cookie Lee, Ann Christoph, and Kitty Malcolm at last year’s Holiday Luncheon

The mission of the Club is to provide an environment for the enrichment of women through friendship, community service, education, and inclusiveness.

The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, founded in 1890. It is one of the world’s largest and oldest non-partisan, non-denominational women’s volunteer service organizations.

Federation members have a long history of philanthropy, social and political advocacy, and community leadership. There are over 100,000 members in affiliate clubs across the nation and internationally that strive in their communities to encourage civic involvement, advance education, support the arts, and much more.


LBPD Promotion Ceremony does the town proud, showcasing the achievements of four fine officers

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

At the recent LBPD Promotion Ceremony, Chief of Police Laura Farinella had a succinct and emphatic response when asked the single most important quality to be found in a police officer: “That they care. That’s what drives you to be the best – caring about what you do.”

And the achievements of the four men who were promoted at the ceremony Wednesday morning clearly demonstrate that each is deeply committed to his work and to the community of Laguna Beach.

Capt Jeff Calvert opened the ceremony by praising the foursome, Cpl Randy Bitonti, Cpl Shar Hariri, Sgt Darrel Short, and Sgt Jason Farris. 

LBPD promotion group

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(L-R) Cpl Randy Bitonti, Cpl Shar Hariri, Sgt Darrel Short, and Sgt Jason Farris

“Each of you has demonstrated your worthiness to be promoted through your passion, your character, and your performance,” he said. “We look for the highest level of commitment from our officers. We want problem-solvers and forward-thinkers like you. Most of all, we want our officers dedicated to keeping our community safe.”

Capt Calvert added that the newly promoted officers would soon learn the highs and lows of stepping into supervisory roles. “But I am confident that you will represent the City and the Police Department in an excellent manner.”

The standing-room-only crowd at the dignified and touching ceremony included dozens of fellow officers and family members, as well as representatives from the City’s human resources, finance, and fire departments.

The Honor Guard presented the colors. Then the audience watched a snazzy, upbeat video introducing the men, cleverly put together by Officer Mike Short to the tune of “Whatever It Takes.”

LBPD promotion Calvert

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Capt Jeff Calvert praises the four officers

Corporal Randy Bitonti was the first to be honored. “Randy has a total of five years in law enforcement, three years as a deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and two years as a police officer with Laguna Beach PD,” Calvert said. “Prior to that, Randy worked for the Los Angeles County Fire Department for seven years.” 

A beach-lover, Randy enjoys serving on the Maritime Team as well as being a Drone Team Pilot and Media Team member. 

His mother, Suzie, pinned his badge.

Next up was Corporal Shar Hariri, who has spent two-and-a-half years in the LBPD after serving for 12 years in the San Diego Community College district.

In addition to being a Field Training Officer, he was a member of the Business Liaison Unit, a Drug Recognition Expert, Social Media Team Member, and a Citizens Academy Coordinator.

“Shar is to be admired for coming up with the idea that there should be designated areas for rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber, in order to avoid congestion on Coast Highway,” Calvert said. “Passengers are directed on their cellphones to the pick-up areas. His initiative made us only the second city on the West Coast to adopt this technology, which keeps everyone safe.”

Shar is a car enthusiast. His cousin Jonathan, a firefighter for Encinitas, pinned his badge. 

LBPD promotion Cornelius

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The Promotion Ceremony was well-attended and Cpl Cornelius Ashton was one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders

Sgt Darrel Short, who has served 12 years with the LBPD, coincidentally has an incredible 12 ancillary duties – too long to list here – but they include being a member of the Crisis Negotiations Team as well as a Terrorism Liaison Officer and a prior assignment of being the Department’s Administrative Training Officer.

Darrel’s wife Bethany and kids Kinsey and Cole pinned his badge.

Sgt Jason Farris has worked for the Laguna Beach Police Department for over 17 years. His goal, he says, is “just to be the best police officer I can be.”

“Jason began working with LBPD as a dispatcher and then became an officer,” Calvert said. “He holds a Bachelor’s degree in both Criminal Justice and Spanish from Weber State University.”

Jason’s ancillary duties include being the department’s first Community Outreach Officer, Crisis Negotiator, Peer Support Coordinator, and a member of the Honor Guard. He is also a Recruit Training Officer (RTO) at the Golden West Police Academy and an instructor at CSU Long Beach Criminal Justice Center.

“Jason has connected literally hundreds of homeless people with programs and wraparound services,” Calvert noted. “He is much to be admired for his work in that area.”

A devoted family man, Jason has been married for 26 years and gets his greatest pleasure spending time with his wife and four children, Kira, Karter, Chase, and Jason Jr.

His wife, Christy, and mother, Suzee, pinned his badge.

A beaming Sgt Jim Cota congratulated the officers, and there were handshakes and jollity all around.

“Today was a very special day for the Laguna Beach Police Department,” he said. “All four of these officers are incredible individuals and represent the best of our PD,” Sgt Cota said. “I am honored to work with each of them and very confident they will excel in their assignments. Each of them are such positive individuals, day in and day out, that you question if they ever have a bad day. I am so happy for each of them and wish them only the best going forward.”


Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

In this 1945 World War II photo, a group of Marines are enjoying a weenie roast on Main Beach. It is a special photo in that it shows three things you will likely never see again.

1. An actual weenie roast on the beach. Hot dogs were first invented in America in the late 19th century. Soon, a nickname for them was wieners, which was shortened to weenie. They were originally served on small towels to prevent customers’ hands from burning. But when the towels were not returned the idea came up to put the wiener on a small roll, which created the hot dog as we know it today.

Hot dogs became very popular during World War I especially in the Coney Island area. The concept of a weenie roast on the beach became popular after a 1931 black and white cartoon by Disney nemesis Charles Mintz, starring Krazy Kat.

Laguna Beach A Look Back 2 11 20

A group of Marines enjoy a weenie roast on Main Beach, circa 1945

Weenie roasts were very popular through the depression to the 60s. However, as beach towns added restrictive ordinances they became rare, and today almost extinct.

2. An open fire on the beach. Fairly commonplace from the 20s to the 70s, many beachside communities outlawed them citing pollution and safety concerns. Laguna Beach was no exception.

3. Temporary shelters on our beach. If you look in the back of the photo, you’ll see what appears to be a temporary structure built on the sand. Toward the end of the 20th century, safety codes rendered these obsolete.

This photo is a reminder that our service men, in this case Marines, were stationed here in town during World War II. Many returned after the war to become local residents.

Now if you have a sudden urge to go to Penguin for a hotdog to-go and eat it on the sand in Main Beach, no one will blame you.

• • •

Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit www.lagunabeachhistory.org.


Removal of trees on lower Forest Avenue in limbo

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Passionate lovers of trees averted at least temporarily funding for what they call the Chainsaw Massacre.

In response to the public outcry, the council removed at Tuesday’s meeting the words lower Forest Avenue from the proposed mid-year budget $1,600,000 appropriation for the Downtown Action Plan, at least until after the Planning Commission reviews the plan and makes recommendations. The funding for the lower Forest Avenue project was proposed by City Manager John Pietig. It included, but did not specify, the amount of money for the removal of the tall eucalypti on the block between South Coast Highway and the Glenneyre Street intersection.

Unanimous council approval was given to the mid-year budget update, which had better-than-expected available funds. The council approved recommended appropriations, including $31,000 for existing holiday lighting and added appropriations of $100,000 toward the Aliso Creek Estuary Restoration Project, $20,000 for the Lean Six Sigma program, $25,000 to the Chamber of Commerce, and $5,000 for the dues owed the Orange County Housing Finance Trust; adopted resolutions to ratify compensation for city employees and reduced the request for a $45,000 allocation for a pool pump to $4,500. 

Removal of trees 1

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Tuesday’s mid-year budget update included the approval of funds for various community programs; however, the focus with speakers was on the proposed removal of downtown trees

Only three of the 21 speakers from the audience voiced opinions on proposed funding, other than for the Forest Avenue project, and none of them supported the removal of trees.

“There are forces at City Hall that want to get rid of big trees,” said former Mayor Ann Christoph. “They want an upscale look to Laguna Beach and that is not Laguna Beach.”

Christoph said she became aware of the threat to the trees when she discovered all of them had yellow tags – a signal for removal. She contacted tree advocates who showed up at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“In a time where carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is being touted as the main cause of climate change, we should not be cutting down mature tree and replacing them with smaller landscaping,” said Jessica deStephano, creator and caretaker of the garden along the front and side of the Laguna Beach Library. “Two mature trees can provide oxygen for a family of four.”

Attorney Jennifer Zeiter said the removal of the tall trees would change the look and feel of downtown Laguna Beach. 

“Turkeys get pardoned on Thanksgiving,” said Tom Joliet. “Arbor Day is coming up. Let’s pardon the trees.”

Former City Clerk and Councilwoman Verna Rollinger said the cost to remove and replace the trees was too high for the council to do something nobody wants. 

“We are not a planned community, starting from scratch,” said Lizanne Witte. “We are not rising from fresh dirt.

“We cannot lose what precious urban canopy and shade we have left. Our mature trees should be incorporated into the design, not eliminated.”

No one is more impassioned about keeping Laguna a Tree City that truly celebrates Arbor Day than Barbara MacGillivray. She and her husband, Greg, have established a $50,000 fund for the purchase of new trees. She implored the council to wait until the Downtown Action Plan is vetted before deciding to remove the trees.

The recommendation by the City Manager was based on the advice from SWA, the city’s consultants on the plan.

Removal of trees 2

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

City Manager John Pietig says the removal of downtown trees is meant to support a healthier and more sustainable urban forest

“I understand that there are concerns related to the removal of mature trees along Forest Avenue and Broadway,” wrote Pietig in an email. “However, there also needs to be an understanding that it is not realistic to expect that the existing trees can be healthy and sustained in their current, undersized tree wells that are located too close to buildings, do not have adequate subsurface areas for roots to grow, and lack irrigation.

“For years, many in the community have requested that these deficiencies be remedied. As a result, the City embarked on a study to develop a plan to address the deficiencies and to provide a healthy and sustainable urban forest. 

“The problem now is that in order to provide adequate tree wells, irrigation, root growth areas, and appropriate proximity to buildings, the SWA Team is proposing to install a new tree well system known as ‘structural soil cell system’ beneath the trees on both streets and to move the trees further from the buildings along Forest Avenue. These cells will improve the health and longevity of the proposed urban forest by supporting the pavement above and preventing planting soil compaction and allowing greater air and water permeability. Their installation requires demolition of the existing tree wells and replacement of trees.

Since the sidewalks, parking spaces, and related areas need to be cut into or excavated, it provides an opportunity to refresh them with better materials, designs, lighting, and the flexibility to use public spaces in multiple ways. There is no question that this matter will be hotly debated in the coming weeks, but consideration must also be given to the current conditions for existing trees and any desires to refresh the downtown.”

The Planning Commission is scheduled to begin its review of the Downtown Action Plan on March 4. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.


Rouda supports emergency bill to address coronavirus issues

Wednesday, March 4, Congressman Harley Rouda (Laguna Beach) voted to pass an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fully address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The lower chamber approved the measure by a vote of 415-2, while the Senate passed it by a vote of 96-1 on Thursday. President Trump is expected to sign it through today (Friday).

“I’m proud to support this bipartisan supplemental bill that empowers state and local health agencies, accelerates the development of a vaccine, and provides low-interest loans for small businesses suffering COVID-19 related financial losses,” Rouda said. “Last week, I led nearly three dozen new members of Congress in calling for this funding, which provides the resources needed for an effective, coordinated, and comprehensive government-wide response to this public health threat.”

The supplemental bill, H.R. 6074, includes more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness, and response, $950 million of which is to support state and local health agencies; nearly $1 billion for procurement of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to support healthcare preparedness and community health centers, and to improve medical surge capacity; $61 million to facilitate the development and review of medical countermeasures, devices, therapies, and vaccines, and to help mitigate potential supply chain interruptions; $1.25 billion to address the coronavirus abroad to help keep Americans safe here at home; and allows for an estimated $7 billion in low-interest loans to affected small businesses, to help cushion the economic blow of this public health emergency.


Letter to the community from Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen

Dear Laguna Beach Residents, 

I want to update you on several items regarding the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, my heartfelt thanks go out to our residents for the great job that you are doing in respecting the Governor’s statewide stay-at-home order! As the Governor said again in his news conference today, the most potent step that each of us can take to overcome this pandemic is to be vigilant in practicing social distancing. Please keep up the great effort that you are making. It will save lives.

Second, I am most proud of the efforts that our first responders and City staff are making every day to enforce social distancing rules and respond to resident needs. One week ago, the City of Laguna Beach became the first City in Southern California to close beaches and our trailheads. Later last week the City of San Diego, the County of Los Angeles, and others followed and closed their beaches. Our Marine Safety and Public Works personnel and our Police Department stepped up and did an outstanding job of closing our beaches and trailheads within 24 hours and in educating the public regarding the need for the closures. I extend my personal thanks to all of our employees who are working so hard to enforce these closures and to respond to other calls for service.   

The City Council understands the sacrifice that the closures require of our residents but, again, we believe these actions will save lives. Right now we are in the early stages of this health crisis and need to maximize public safety. All of us on the City Council thank you for your patience and understanding. 

For the past week, the City Manager and I have been working with the County of Orange to obtain information regarding the specific number of COVID-19 cases in our community. Today we received the first local figures and 22 positive cases have been reported in Laguna Beach. 

What should we take away from these figures? First, I urge everyone not to overreact to the numbers. We knew we would have COVID-19 cases in our city and know that the number of reported cases will rise for some period of time. To me, these numbers reinforce that the aggressive actions that the City Council took a week ago to close the beaches, trailheads, pool, and sport courts were appropriate and necessary. Next, it further underscores the importance of social distancing and avoiding contact with others to the maximum extent possible. By practicing social distancing, avoiding contact with others as much as possible, and washing hands frequently, the vast majority of us are going to be fine.

We have received input from you about social distancing concerns at grocery stores. The Business Liaison Unit of our Police Department has been in contact with each of our major grocery stores over the weekend to ensure that social distancing is enforced at those stores. The stores have been willing to comply and we appreciate their cooperation.

We have also received input from you about concerns that residential construction is continuing in the City. Under the Governor’s order, residential construction is an essential activity that may continue. Our Community Development Department is working hard to ensure that contractors respect neighbors and minimize impacts.

We appreciate the support, input and suggestions from everyone in the community regarding our COVID-19 efforts and will continue to respond to issues raised by our residents. I am confident that we as a City are taking the right steps to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in Laguna Beach and we will continue to put the safety, health and well-being of our community first. 

Finally, I encourage all of you to stay in touch with family and friends in this most difficult time and to please reach out if you need assistance. As we have shown in the past, we are a resilient community and we will come through this together. 

Bob Whalen

Mayor

City of Laguna Beach


Laguna’s city-owned beaches will open Saturday from 6 - 10 a.m. for active recreation

In a Community Update released yesterday, May 7, the City of Laguna Beach announced that city-owned beaches would be open tomorrow, Saturday, May 9, from 6 to 10 a.m. for active recreation.

“We appreciate the community adhering to guidelines on social distancing and active recreation requirements on the beach this week! Because of great community cooperation with these efforts, the City of Laguna Beach will extend the opportunity to use the beach this Saturday, May 9, for active recreation use from 6 - 10 a.m.,” the City stated.

“Opening beaches on Sunday from 6 - 10 a.m. will depend on the outcome of Saturday’s beach use, and will be determined at a later time.”

Laguna's city owned local skim boarder

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Local skim boarder enjoying access to Laguna’s beaches this week

Active recreation permitted beach activities include:

--Walking/running/jogging

--Dog walking is permitted; all dogs must be on a leash at all times

--Ocean recreation: swimming, paddle boarding, surfing, bodyboarding, skim boarding, kayaking

Non-permitted beach activities include:

--Gatherings

--Beach towels, blankets, easy-ups, tents, umbrellas, etc. – items used for settling in place

--Sitting or lying on the beach

--Setting up chairs and staying in place

--Picnics/coolers/tables

According to the release, Laguna Beach City beaches are open weekdays and on Saturday, May 9 from 6 to 10 a.m. for active recreation only. Each weekday the City beaches and ocean water will close promptly at 10 a.m. and Laguna Beach public safety staff will be present on beaches to enforce the closures.

Anyone who requires special ADA accommodations regarding beach access for active recreation may contact the Laguna Beach Department of Marine Safety at (949) 494-6572.


Happy Juneteenth

Juneteenth, the combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” has been a day of celebration for more than 150 years. The day commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union army General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas with federal orders proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free.

According to Wikipedia, “Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier and the American Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.”

Happy Juneenth

T. Mychael Rambo, Emmy Award winning actor, vocalist, arts educator, and community organizer, says, “It’s important to have opportunities for us to celebrate our oneness, our wholeness, our completeness, our dynamic cells. It’s vital for African American people to have an opportunity, a date, that heralds the importance of who we are as a people and what we’ve been through as a people.”

Stu News celebrates Juneteenth and would like to share the following video with its readers, published by Minnesota History: https://youtu.be/JOOguH71--E.


Independent bookstore Sleepless in Laguna opens with a twist – romance novels & more

If one is looking for a romance novel, Sleepless in Laguna, an independent bookstore newly opened in Laguna on South Coast Hwy at Bluebird Canyon Dr, is the place to find it. 

Romance novels are part of a one billion dollar business that drives not only the historical and contemporary subjects of traditional romance books but also of many accepted romance subgenres such as inspirational, suspense, western, and even paranormal. 

Sleepless in Laguna primarily sells books of the romance genre but also brings these subgenres, as well as other mass market love stories, to the public in the form of a cozy boutique bookstore and gift shop. 

The owners, Lisa Ann Reed and Joe Anzenberger, believe their bookstore is a place for the reader community to experience the feeling of a heartfelt environment stocked with heartwarming stories. 

Reed holds a PhD in Holistic Life Counseling and Anzenberger is a published author with a BA in Literature and a Master of Science in Publishing. They are partners in Anzenberger Media, LLC, as well as partners in life.

Independent bookstore exterior

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Submitted photo

The place to shop for romance novels and subgenres

They had a specific plan for picking this particular spot for their business. 

“The criteria we set for ourselves in choosing a location included being directly on PCH, being on or near a trolley stop, being in a location that easily serves both local and tourist customers, and being in a place that has parking relatively available for author and other book events. The Bluebird Centre offered a location that has all of those advantages.

“We originally had plans to open March 21. However, retail operations across the state were ordered to close just before that, which meant we had a fully stocked store with no chance of opening. We had good online sales through Bookshop.org, but it wasn’t until we could fully open that we saw ‘people’ business. We were very disappointed, however, to hear the trolley would be shut down for the year. We’re afraid that’s going to drastically cut down on the foot traffic we were counting on.”

However, they point out that a good love story is a welcome respite from today’s life stressors, and they have created a space where romance lovers can gather inside a store dedicated to their reading passion instead of being relegated to a small section in a traditional book store. 

Independent bookstore interior

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Submitted photo

Sleepless in Laguna provides a comfortable and safe environment

On the gift shop side, Reed has put together a variety of personal comfort and beauty items as well as apothecary potions to entice visitors with holistically-balanced choices to keep their immune system strong and anxiety at bay. 

They have plans in the works for in-person events when it’s appropriate.

“We have infrastructure in place to hold virtual events and to have in-person events when it’s safe. The plan to is to hold an author signing every Saturday, and to host discussions, book clubs, and classes during the week. We have a Local Author section that we want to expand in order to make readers aware of the Orange County community of writers.” 

As for hosting a book club, they say, “Not one that we originate, however, we are fully supportive of the local community and are receptive to helping any book club we can.

“We believe that a bookstore should be a community gathering place so we created a comfortable, safe environment that just so happens to specialize in love stories, and we sincerely hope it’s a welcome addition to the Laguna Beach vibe.” 

Sleepless in Laguna is located at 1590 S Coast Hwy, #4.

For more information, go to www.sleepless.love or call (949) 549-4190.


Comet Neowise

Comet Neowise star

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Photo by Senthil Kumar

Senthil Kumar shot the Comet Neowise soaring through the sky from Top of the World. C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), or Comet NEOWISE, is a retrograde comet discovered on March 27, 2020, by astronomers using the NEOWISE space telescope.


Daisy Mae Messer honored

Daisy Mae Bartlett

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The Orange County Board of Supervisors honored Daisy Mae Messer, who passed on June 21, with a special commemoration plaque at the Sawdust Festival on Thursday. Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett presents the plaque to Daisy’s longtime friend and pastor Jay Grant. 

Daisy Mae cat

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Photo by Doug Miller

Daisy Mae with her longtime furry companion “Sir Winston” in 1989. Pastor Grant says, “For years, you would see her everywhere in town, one of her beloved dogs at her side and often a cat riding in her lap.”   

Daisy Mae plaque

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Known as the “Flower Lady,” Daisy Mae Messer is described by her friends as the darling of the neighborhood, fiercely independent, a hero, unbelievably courageous, and to all who knew her, a Laguna legend. For 50 years, she was a fixture in the community.


COVID-19: 1,199 new cases and 3 new deaths reported in OC, 5 new cases in Laguna Beach

Orange County has experienced a three-day spike of 3,458 new cases of COVID-19, including 17 newly reported cases in Laguna Beach in that time. OC Health Care Agency reports that there have been 73,152 cumulative cases of COVID-19, with 1,199 new cases reported today (November 25), 837 new cases reported yesterday, and 1,422 new cases reported on Monday.

Sadly, the county reports that 1,559 people have died due to COVID-19 in Orange County, including three new deaths reported today. There have been “less than five deaths” of Laguna Beach residents to date.

The county reports that there have been 310 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Laguna Beach to date, an increase of five cases today, 17 cases in the last three days, and 32 cases since last Wednesday’s report.

The county reports that 30 percent of ICU beds and 64 percent of ventilators are currently available countywide.

The county reports that 479 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 (+16 since yesterday – includes ICU); 115 are in ICU (-1 since yesterday).

The county estimates 58,608 “recovered cases” according to its data criteria.

For questions about the data presented by the county, call (714) 834-2000 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To view the data dashboard, click here.

Numbers are updated daily by Stu News Laguna and reported on our social media pages @StuNewsLaguna.

COVID 19 County 11 25 20 1

COVID 19 County 11 25 20 2

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Courtesy of OC Health Care Agency

Orange County COVID-19 case data as of November 25, as reported by the county; click here to visit page that is updated daily


Ghostlight 2020: Until Further Notice documents impact of pandemic on live music industry

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Historically, a ghost light is a single bulb left burning on the stage whenever a theatre is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. It was the image of ghost lights on stages around the world that inspired David Talbot to begin a project that became the documentary Ghostlight 2020: Until Further Notice.

Talbot – artist, photographer, and construction foreman at Pageant of the Masters (POM) – didn’t become a filmmaker by design. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic pulled the plug on live entertainment and the lights went out on venues, he felt compelled to document its impact on the live music industry.

“In March, I was furloughed from Pageant of the Masters, and found out I wasn’t coming back until March of 2021,” says Talbot. “It was shocking, but it was also shocking that nothing live in the world was going to be happening.

“The festival closure had such an effect on the community, and I couldn’t help but feel for the struggling artists.”

Talbot is a first-time director and producer. “I never made a film,” he says. “The closest thing to it I’d ever done was editing safety videos for POM.”

Evidently, he’s a fast learner. Ghostlight 2020: Until Further Notice, is in post-production and set to launch with PBS SoCal the second week of December. 

Ghostlight 2020 David

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

David Talbot

Even though Talbot had no previous experience in filmmaking, he did have experience in the theater arts. In college, he majored in business and theater arts and worked at the Laguna Playhouse before taking a position at POM. 

He confesses that he always wanted to open a music venue. “I don’t play an instrument, so I paint and photograph them.” His favorite subjects are vintage musical instruments.

“As a music lover and someone who has been at POM for 11 years and a part of the live entertainment industry for 20 years, I felt I had to record this time in history.”

However, it wasn’t that simple. It was a question of whether he’d dive into it or go find work. 

Talbot says, “I’ve done it with the approval and support of my wife who is working two jobs to supplement our income. I pulled money out of my own pocket to make the film. I haven’t looked for funds yet. Thankfully, there have been so many people who gave to the production volunteering their time and equipment.” 

Talbot lives in San Clemente with his wife Jennifer, 13-year-old son, Kai, and seven-year-old daughter, Maya.

Even with others generously offering their time and assistance, Talbot has been working 50-60 hours a week on the film.

At the start of the project, his brother-in-law Mike, who works in production, brought in a professional crew and equipment. He also secured Jan Michalik, an award-winning cinematographer, who did four main video shots, “which were amazing,” Talbot says.

Childhood friend Diana Hunt also came to his aid by getting all the necessary permits. 

Ghostlight 2020 Salty Suites

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Submitted photo 

Salty Suites (before pandemic) – (L-R) Scott Gates, Chuck Hailes, and Chelsea Williams

Soon the project snowballed into learning about direction, production, sound editing, and filmmaking as a medium.

Talbot admits he initially had an outline but scrapped it early in the process.

“There were a lot of closed doors and a lot of open doors. It went in a certain direction and spawned legs, and it was important to let it unfold organically.”

Although the film started on a much larger scale, Talbot ended up focusing on the local music scene and three Orange County bands – The Salty Suites, the Kalama Brothers, and Darden – and how they have been affected and transformed by the pandemic. To get as many perspectives as possible, he interviewed venue owners and promoters – the people who are helping concerts stay alive with drive-in concerts and innovative events

“All of these bands have stakes in community, and all sing beautiful harmonies,” says Talbot.

Be it vintage instruments or the origins of music, roots are important to Talbot. “It’s all about the roots. If the roots of a tree hit a rock, they continue to grow around it. The lockdown has affected the music industry in a positive way. Musicians are going back to their foundations creatively. When you have a band play acoustically, with no retakes, you are hearing the raw form of expression. It’s so beautiful. We’ve grown from the roots being diverted.”

Ghostlight 2020 Kalama Bros

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Kalama Bros, Ryan and Kai, with David at the Coach House 

The Salty Suites are a high-energy pop-bluegrass trio that has performed all over town – at concerts and the Sawdust Festival’s Outdoor Marketplace. Reviews describe them as occupying the world of live acoustic music, sharing a passion for bluegrass, as well as traditional mountain music. The Salty Suites consists of Scott Gates (mandolin), Chelsea Williams (guitar), and Chuck Hailes (bass).

To highlight Chelsea’s solo career, she was interviewed at the Coach House, where Talbot was treated to endless stories from the owner Gary Folgner, who typically doesn’t give interviews. 

The Kalama Brothers, Ryan and Kai, grew up in Southern California playing and singing a variety of music and have played all around Laguna. Their talents go far beyond their voices, as they play a variety of instruments to recreate cover songs that work with all ages. They also love to create their own originals, with music that suits the ears and lyrics that bring the story home. 

Composed of siblings, Darden features Clarah, the guitarist; Havi on mandolin; and Tabbi, the bassist. All are vocalists in the group, focusing on harmonies and musical blends. They have recently been joined by brother Josiah on the drums. Everyone in the group is a songwriter and each plays several instruments. Leaning towards an alternative, modern Americana feel, Darden presents an experience of crystal-clear harmonies, angelic melodies, and modern versions of classic songs and styles. 

Ghostlight 2020 Darden band

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Submitted photo

Darden – (L-R) Clarah, Havilah, Josiah, and Tabithah   

“Darden rented a flatbed truck and drove through Fullerton performing pop-up concerts sponsored by the city,” says Talbot.

During the summer, Laguna had a similar musical experience with “Bands on the Bus,” which was something the community of Laguna desperately needed, according to Talbot. “It brought music back into our lives, and it was brought to us safely and at a distance.”

When Talbot asked the Kalama Brothers and The Salty Suites what they most look forward to in the future, they answered, “Playing in Laguna. It’s our home away from home. And Darden has always wanted to play here,” he says.

To help musicians in these challenging times, Damian Brawner – surfboard and SUP builder, talent buyer, and band manager – has expanded his shop in San Clemente to include the space next door. He created Rhythm and Resin, a platform to do live streaming to support unsigned musicians. He’s worked with some of the most celebrated musicians in rock history.

“His perspective is that the music industry needed a cleansing,” says Talbot. He says we’ve lost the soul of music, and this is the restart of it.” 

Ghostlight camera and board

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

It’s a wrap

Talbot is now in the editing process in which he’ll fit the pieces together for the finished project Ghostlight 2020: Until Further Notice

“Ultimately, even though stages could be dark, I want the film to be uplifting to viewers and leave them with a sense of peace and encouragement even in the midst of this horrific state of the world,” he says. “It’s given musicians time to fine tune their craft and come back with a newfound appreciation for live music.” 

It’s certainly given those of us who love live music a new appreciation for it.

“My goal is to help support independent musicians, many of whom aren’t signed by labels, and small musical venues that are threatened,” Talbot says. “I want to shed light on the importance of that – how music brings community together and how it encourages creativity. 

“At the launch of the film, we will be doing a live event in multiple locations that will include an abbreviated version of the documentary to introduce each band’s live performance in a safely distanced setting. It will be hybrid, of course, making sure people are in safe environment and we’re not irresponsible.”

In a few weeks, Talbot will be temporarily back at FOA as technical director when they film their virtual gala on stage. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work at the Festival,” Talbot says. “I love it there.”

And he can’t thank everyone enough for all their help and encouragement during the filming.

After post-production, Ghostlight 2020 will have a website, but for the time being, go to the Facebook and Instagram pages @ghostlight2020.


Laguna Food Pantry awarded 2020 Nonprofit of the Year

Laguna Food Pantry has been selected by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris as the 2020 Nonprofit of the Year for the City of Laguna Beach in Assembly District 74. 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to recognize the work of the Laguna Food Pantry,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. “For over 25 years, the Laguna Food Pantry has served thousands of our neighbors in need. Their focus on nutrition has eliminated a daily challenge for so many and provided a vital lifeline for families across Orange County.”

Laguna Food outside

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Submitted photo

(L-R) Cynthia Carson, Board Member/Operations Chair, Anne Belyea, Executive Director, Lesli Henderson, Board Vice-Chair/Volunteer Coordinator, and Susan Thomas, Board Chair

“We are thrilled that Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris selected Laguna Food Pantry as the 2020 Nonprofit of the Year for the City of Laguna Beach. While food insecurity has always been a struggle for many, this unprecedented time of COVID-19 has made the need for healthy, sustainable food of paramount significance. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 began, the Pantry has not missed a day in providing groceries to several thousand families regularly throughout the crisis. 

We adapted our operations to serve our community safely, both for those able to visit the Pantry and those confined to home, by transitioning into a drive-through curbside service in our parking lot. 

Children who would typically receive breakfast and lunch at school are now relying on their parents, many struggling with employment and childcare responsibilities themselves, for those extra meals every week. Seniors confined to their homes are delivered easy-to-prepare and healthy foods through our partnership with Sally’s Fund. In collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs, home-bound veterans receive groceries weekly.

The demand for food will continue, and Laguna Food Pantry is prepared to serve anyone in need. We are thankful to Assemblywoman Cottie and the rest of our community for this honor and recognizing the need as we work together to relieve food insecurity,” states Anne B. Belyea. 

To watch a recording of the virtual award ceremony, click here

The Laguna Food Pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. and now operating with a drive-through curbside distribution system. Anyone in need is welcome to visit the site once a week.

The Laguna Food Pantry is always in need of donations. To support the Laguna Food Pantry, visit www.lagunafoodpantry.org.


The perfect sunset

The perfect sunset

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Photo by Scott Brashier

It’s sunset season in Laguna Beach


Local girls start business and donate to PMMC; Laguna Beach PEA matches amount and more 

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Scott Brashier

Two nine-year-old entrepreneurs, Mila Leamy and Grace Puffer, recently started M + G, a line of personalized mask-necklaces on Esty and, as a result of their creative endeavor, just donated $300 to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC).

On Tuesday afternoon, the girls – who are fourth-graders at Top of the World Elementary – and their mothers, Jenna Leamy and Katrina Puffer, visited PMMC to complete the paperwork for the donation.

PMMC Executive Director Peter Chang said, “Mila & Grace reflect hope, promise, and everything that is good. We, here at PMMC, are so humbled that they choose to partner with us for this venture. After meeting them in person, I’m convinced that they are going to be future changemakers. On top of this, to have the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association jump in to match the girls’ donation…this means so much given the challenging year that we continue to have.”

The girls chose PMMC to help because they wanted to donate to “a place that had something to do with the ocean.”

Speaking simultaneously Grace and Mila said, “We’re happy to donate to charities and help the animals.” 

“I’ve been coming here my whole life – it’s really fun to see the sea lions play,” Grace said.

Local girls with necklaces

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Mila Leamy (on left) and Grace Puffer with their mask necklaces

Laguna Beach PEA

To add icing to the cake – or to the point, more fish for PMMC residents – the girls got a visit from Officer Brian Griep, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association (PEA), who matched and then increased the total donation to $1,000. 

To translate the amount of the donation into food for the residents – one pound of fish equals $1, $6 feeds a harbor seal for one day, $50 feeds a sea lion for one week – so that’s a lot of meals for the marine life housed there.

That afternoon, everyone present was all-in for PMMC, even Griep’s daughter Giselle was wearing a PMMC T-shirt and had made an impressive notebook about the seals and sea lions.

Officer Griep praised the girls, “I’m so impressed with your efforts to raise money for PMMC and to get your surfboards – you’re both doing good work.”

In addition to the sizable donation to PMMC, Mila and Grace just bought their own surfboards from the business proceeds. 

“We want to recognize the community effort from young people, and we want to help and encourage them,” Griep said. “Their work is an example of the accomplishments of the community working together.”

All in attendance had nothing but praise for Mila and Grace.

School Resource Officer Fred Yeilding congratulated the girls on their hard work, “You did a great job. You guys are awesome.”

Local girls group

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(L-R) PMMC Community Education Program Manager Amanda Walters, Executive Director Peter Chang, Officer Ashley Krotine, Officer J. Kennedy, Mila and Grace, School Resource Officer Fred Yeilding, PEA President Officer Brian Griep, Corporal Darin Germaine, and PMMC Individual Group Manager Selina Anderson

Corporal Darin Germaine said, “I considered it a privilege to attend the event and congratulate Mila and Grace on their accomplishment. It is so good to see young people achieving their goals, while also making community contributions. I expect these girls will grow up to be splendid members of society and we definitely need more of those. Also, I salute their parents for raising them to see the value in what they are doing.”

Best friends collaborate

Although Mila and Grace have only know each other since February, they quickly made a connection. Mila – who had just moved from Connecticut and away from her closest friend, and Grace whose best friend just moved to Australia – bonded immediately. 

Evidently, the two girls run back and forth from each other’s homes all day long. To increase productivity, they both have supplies necessary to make the necklaces and sometimes work in between online classes at TOW.

Shared longing for surfboards

According to their mothers, both had been begging for their own surfboards all summer. 

When they purchased the two surfboards from the proceeds of their business, Ryan Croteau, the owner of a surf school in Laguna – California Surf Experience – donated surf lessons to them. 

Their business M + G started with a lost mask. After Grace lost one, her mother Katrina said, “I attached a piece of leather to keep the new one around her neck when she wasn’t wearing it. Then Mila made a fancier one and then they came up with the idea of beading and personalization.” 

Local girls seals

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A visit with the PMMC residents

Grace said, “Started with a simple braid, then went on to beads, they look cooler.” 

No doubt everyone has spotted lost masks on our sidewalks and beaches. 

Environmentally friendly, Grace says, “The necklaces keep masks out of the ocean.”

Mila’s mother Jenna, says, “Mila and Grace came up with the idea to sell mask necklaces in hopes of making wearing a mask more stylish and easy as well as to earn enough money for surfboards. They didn’t realize what a hit the necklaces would be! They’ve even hired their younger siblings Penelope and Max, to help with making the necklaces.”

Penelope is Mila’s six-year-old sister, and Max is Grace’s six-year-old brother. 

Jenna has been teaching Mila the financial side of running a business such as the cost of material versus price and profit.

LocalsForLagunaBeach connection

Mila and Grace came to the attention of LocalsForLagunaBeach and appeared on their Instagram page. 

Jason Garza, founder of LocalsForLagunaBeach, says, ”Jenna is new to town from Connecticut. I introduced her around town to the other ladies that live by her and asked what she did for a living. She is a yoga instructor, so I connected her to Art of Fitness.” 

Local girls staff

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(L-R) Selina Anderson, Amanda Walters, Mila, Grace, PMMC volunteer, and Peter Chang

“She said her daughter and friend started a little business, and I explained that LocalsForLagunaBeach is about shining light on others charitable efforts and businesses and helping. She was a big fan already and had bought hats and shirts online. I asked her to please send the girls’ pictures, links, and a bio so that I could post on our site and Instagram. It went viral from there and everyone else joined in from there – the Laguna Beach PEA, California Surf Adventures, and other businesses.” 

Spirit of Laguna Beach

Garza says, “Mila and Grace are the essence and sounding board of the spirit of Laguna Beach right now. As the younger generations observe and embrace what we as a town do in these times, so shall our community become moving forward. LocalsForLagunaBeach is beyond stoked to be able to shed a little light and focus on these amazing girls and show what you can create with some passion, goals, and artistic inspiration. LocalsForLagunaBeach was created with the kids in mind, in the hopes that they take over eventually and keep the grassroots efforts going and its spirit intact.”

Local girls yeilding

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School Resource Officer Fred Yeilding with the girls

Jenna and Katrina, say, “We are just so proud of Mila and Grace. They are working really hard to accomplish their goals but more importantly they are driven by the best intentions. Their desire to give back to the Laguna Beach community has only grown stronger since seeing the impact their donation to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center has made. A big thank you to the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association for matching their donation. We are all touched by the community’s response. It is an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and joy to see our girls give back to the community.” 

Mila and Grace hope to continue making and selling their necklaces so that they can contribute to other meaningful, local foundations.

“We surf a lot, but what if someone doesn’t have enough money to take a lesson?  We’d like to donate lessons. We’d also like to donate food and money, and we’re going to contribute to TOW,” says Mila.

The sky is the limit for these two up-and-coming entrepreneurs. There is no doubt that many nonprofits will benefit from their ingenuity, efforts, and passion for helping others wherever they can.

To purchase M + G mask necklaces, go to www.etsy.com/shop/MilaAndGrace.


Political notebook banner

Stu News and KX 93.5 host sellout forum

Story by BARBARA DIAMOND

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

More than 200 folks forked over $20 on Tuesday to attend the Stu News and KX 93.5 Candidate Forum that resembled none of the previous forums in 2018 or in local history for that matter. The event, which raised money to fund nonprofit local radio station KX 93.5’s voter registration/turnout campaign “Tune In, Drop Out, and Vote,” was held at the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach.

From beginning to end the forum differed from others in style, format and presentation. Audience participation was encouraged with the distribution of clappers, more often encountered at sporting events than local election forums. 

 “You can cheer; you can clap with the clappers,” said KX 93-5 founder Tyler Russell. “It’s going to be pretty loud. That’s the idea.”

Stu News clappers

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Clappers highlighted Tuesday’s forum

Stu News publisher Shaena Stabler, who devised the format, said cheering would be fine, but not booing.

“That’s just not the vibe we are trying to create here,” Stabler told the capacity crowd. “We’re neighbors today. We’re going to wake up neighbors tomorrow and on November 7th.

“Let’s keep in mind that we all care about Laguna, that’s why we’re here. Every candidate here cares about Laguna; I will vouch for that. And I think all of you [the audience] care deeply as well. With that in mind, we’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to make this a lively event.”

The forum was broadcast live on KX 93.5 and on Facebook – the first and only forum this year to provide voters with these options – and to date, taken advantage of by more than 4,100 viewers.

Stu News group

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(L-R) Jorg Dubin, Judie Mancuso, Peter Blake, Toni Iseman, Sue Kempf, Allison Mathews, Cheryl Kinsman, Paul Merritt, Lorene Laguna and Ann Christoph

Each question had a time limit – some were two minutes, some one-minute and some were 45 seconds. Candidates were given a 15-second warning of elapsed time, and then were cut off by a tambourine.

There were two Rapid Fire Rounds, for which candidates were given 15 seconds to respond – also a first for any forum this year.

Members of the audience were invited, when they arrived, to submit questions, which were placed in a bowl, two of which were later selected and asked of candidates.

Candidates’ direct responses to questions posed at the forum will be published in Tuesday’s edition of Stu News.

Stu News residents look on

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(L-R) Mark Orgill, Ashley Johnson, Karyn Philippsen and Mo Honarkar look on with interest on Tuesday

The forum lasted two hours and forty-five minutes, including a 15-minute break, with a reception beforehand at 5 p.m. hosted by Cox Communications and catered by Kitchen in the Canyon chef Jenny Messing, Dora Wexell and Hasty Honarkar. Marilyn Wilson of Laguna Baguettes provided baguettes and tart bites. 

Other sponsors for the event included: RWM Home Loans and CBE Office Solutions (both title sponsors along with Cox Communications and Kitchen in the Canyon), as well as Dave Csira, Julie Laughton, The Ballesteros Group and AG Vision.

See below for the forum video, which is posted on Facebook:


First day of lifeguard training 

Photos by Scott Brashier 

First day line forms

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130 initial applicants for lifeguard positions, 45 candidates at first training day on March 23, currently down to 43

First day waiting

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Marine Safety Captain Kai Bond says, “I’d like to note that the lifeguard academy involves 100 hours of training. We pride ourselves in putting the best lifeguards out in the towers, and we expect high quality employees.”

First day checking in

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Let the training begin


Assistance League of Laguna Beach participates in Diaper Day, a Chapters for Children event 

On March 28, Assistance League of Laguna Beach (ALLB) joined representatives from the Capo Valley Assistance League to participate in Diaper Day, which is a Chapters for Children event. Diaper Day is held two times each year at Camp Pendleton and is open to Military Families. 

Assistance League kids

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Submitted photo

Diaper Day is held twice a year at Camp Pendleton

Diaper Day focuses on providing clothing, supplies, toys, and books to babies and toddlers from Military Families. Assistance League of Laguna Beach gave diapers, baby wipes, books, and activity boxes to babies and toddlers who attended the event. Other organizations provided knit hats, quilts, toys, and clothing. The items are new and are provided at no cost to the Military Families.

Families received huge bags – one for each baby or toddler. Knit hats, quilts, toys, books, diapers, baby wipes, and clothing were displayed in stations, which families moved amongst to “shop” for items to fill the bags. Each parent went home with a bag filled with goodies and supplies for their little ones. 

Assistance League volunteers

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Submitted photo

Assistance League volunteers

Kathy Pawluk of the Assistance League says, “This was a wonderful day as you can see from the joy on the face of the baby choosing his book and the smiles on the faces of the ALLB members standing in front of the diaper station. Chapters for Children events give ALLB a chance to thank Military Families for their service, and we helped more than 400 babies and toddlers go home with fun new items on this March 28 Diaper Day!”

For more information on the ALLB, go to www.allagunabeach.org.


Unexpected elegance

Photos by Maggie Siegel

Unexpected elegance close up

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Retaining wall on Coast Highway just before The Ranch

Unexpected elegance sign

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Slow down and enjoy the view, but don’t stop to smell the flowers


Laguna Beach is currently in 2nd place behind Laurel, MD in “Most Water Wise City” challenge

Mayor Bob Whalen is calling on residents to take part in the annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation in hopes of regaining the city’s “Most Water Wise City” title that was surrendered to Gallup, New Mexico last year. “It’s a matter of civic pride,” stated Whalen. “Despite a valiant effort, Laguna Beach took third place in its population category last year. It’s time to take back the title.”

The annual challenge, which runs from April 1- 30, is a nonprofit national community service campaign that encourages leaders to inspire their residents to make a series of simple pledges at www.mywaterpledge.com to use water more efficiently, reduce pollution, and save energy. In return, residents can win $3,000 toward their Home Utility Payments, water saving fixtures, and hundreds of other prizes. Plus, one lucky charity will receive a 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid to serve the community.

Laguna Beach is currently in second place in this year’s challenge behind Laurel, Maryland for cities with a population between 5,000 and 29,999 residents.

Laguna Beach rain

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Make pledge online at www.mywaterpledge.com to help Laguna Beach regain its title as “Most Water Wise City”

 “For the first time in eight years, California is drought free. Although water restrictions are no longer in place, all Californians must continue to work together to use water wisely,” stated Whalen. “In our drought-prone state, the next dry period could be right around the corner. Laguna Beach proudly supports the Wyland Mayor’s Challenge and its mission to raise awareness of our most precious resource, water.”

Last year, residents from over 3,800 cities in all 50 US states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by three billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 79.9 million pounds, and prevent more than 177,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds. The Challenge goes beyond recent drought issues and looks at the ways our water use will affect the future of our communities – from how we grow food to reducing polluted runoff. 

Laguna Beach Mayor Whalen

Submitted photo

Mayor Whalen is asking Laguna to band together to regain our “Most Water Wise City” title

While Californians have seen record rainfall this past winter, Laguna Beach residents remain committed to saving water. Due to the state’s history of drought, water conservation has become part of the Laguna lifestyle. 

“Our residents understand that they must continue to save water during periods of heavy rain to get us through the dry periods that are inevitable in California,” stated Renae Hinchey, general manager of the Laguna Beach County Water District. “This ongoing effort is important for long-term water reliability.” 

To participate, residents should go to www.mywaterpledge.com and then make a series of online pledges to conserve water on behalf of Laguna Beach. Cities compete in the following population categories: 5,000 - 29,999 residents, 30,000 - 99,999 residents, 100,000 - 299,999 residents, 300,000 - 599,999 residents, and 600,000+ residents. 

Participants earn a chance to win $3,000 toward their Home Utility Bills, and hundreds more eco-friendly prizes including Toro Irrigation Smart Controllers, ECOS home cleaning products, and home water fixture retrofits from EcoSystems Inc. In addition, residents can nominate a deserving charity from their city to receive a 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Students and teachers are encouraged to take part, as well.

Laguna Beach tent

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Annual Smartscape Expo – Residents learn ways to conserve water

The 8th National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation is presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota, with support from the U.S EPA WaterSense, The Toro Company, National League of Cities, Conserva Irrigation, EcoSystems Inc., and Earth Friendly Products (makers of ECOS).

Laguna Beach County Water District provides water service to 22,000 residents within an 8.5 square mile area of Laguna Beach. The District’s mission is to furnish a high quality, reliable water supply in a financially responsible manner, while promoting water-use efficiency. 

The Wyland Foundation was founded in 1993 by environmental artist Wyland (best known for his series of 100 monumental marine life murals) as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, and preserving the world’s ocean, waterways, and marine life. The foundation encourages environmental awareness through community events, education programs, and public art projects.


Where’s Maggi – the answers!

There were quite a few good guesses, but only a sharp-eyed few knew where Maggi shot this photo.

Mark Porterfield knew it was the door to Main Street Bar. So did Bernadette Murphy and Andrew Graff. Thanks to everyone who checked in!   

Keep searching for Maggi and send in your answers. 

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Front door, entrance to Main Street Bar


Where’s Maggi – the answers!

The delightful cherub fountain was identified by several of our sharp-eyed Stu News readers. 

Where is it? It’s in the Art Center. Oui, oui – in front of Huit.

Who knew it? Rick Jorgenson, Linda Potichke, Laurie Kirkland, Charlie Ferrazzi, Barb Bowler, Lori Kahn, and Cathy Bosko.

Thanks to everyone who checked in with answers.   

Keep searching for Maggi! 

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Fountain at the Art Center – Coast Hwy at Calliope


Susi Q celebrates 10th anniversary in style

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Susi Q Jane

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Former Mayor Jane Egly and friends

Susi Q band

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Four Stringerz with Tom Joliet on ukulele played for the crowd enjoying the sunshine

Susi Q food

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Breakfast spread for attendees, who mingled and listened to the music

Susi Q belly dancer

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Who doesn’t need a belly dancer at a celebration? Susi Q offers belly dancing classes by J.J. & the Habibis


Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School presents 16th Annual Masters’ Pageant Show on May 31

In a tribute to Laguna Beach’s heritage, each spring for the past sixteen years, Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School performs a Masters’ Pageant Show and offers a student art exhibit. For one evening, the school by the sea transforms itself into a gallery of live art and talent beyond compare. 

All are invited to join in celebrating the amazing art and creativity of the students and marvel in their recreation of famous paintings. This year’s show takes place on, Friday, May 31, with the exhibit opening at 6 p.m. and the curtain call at 7 p.m.

Saint Catherines whips

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Courtesy St. Catherine of Siena

“Snap the Whip” – 2018 pageant

St. Catherine Board Development Chair Kelley Renezeder says, “The artwork is chosen by our art director, Christine Thomas, and based on well-known paintings and artists. All students are welcome to participate and many help build and paint the sets. The best part of the students’ engagement is developing their recognition and love for the arts. This is noted every year when students come back from school break and tell stories of how they were able to recognize famous paintings in museums and monuments because of their involvement in the Masters’ Pageant.” 

Parent volunteers also continue to enrich the lives of students. Their time and talent includes creation of the initial canvas, to lighting, costumes, makeup, and set design. 

Saint Catherines peanuts

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Courtesy St. Catherine of Siena

2018 recreation

Before the Pageant, visitors are welcome to a student art exhibit, showcasing the top artistic talent of the school. The event is free and donations are accepted at the door. Refreshments will be available for purchase. 

Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Catholic elementary (TK-8) school. The school offers a faith-based high school preparatory curriculum in a unique small school environment.

Saint Catherines ballet

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Courtesy St. Catherine of Siena

From 2018 pageant – “La Classe de Dance”

Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School is located at 30516 S. Coast Hwy.

Parking is available at the Gelson’s/Wesley parking structure, with complimentary trolley service from 5 to 9 p.m.

VIP Parking available by calling the office at (949) 494-7339.


Where’s Maggi – the answers!

The aliens have landed – on Flora Street. Only a couple of our readers knew of them, including Jeffrey Hobson and Lisa Farber. This one was pretty far out! 

Thanks for sending in your answers, and guessing at Maggi’s whereabouts.    

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Aliens have landed on Flora Street


Ocean Institute hosts sold-out talk with ocean advocate Dee Caffari

Dee Caffari, MBE, yachtswoman, and ocean advocate flew in from London to give an exclusive, sold-out talk at the Ocean Institute about her sailing around the world experiences and research on microplastics. 

Caffari is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions and the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world a total of three times. 

Caffari talked about how eye opening and freeing it was to learn to sail at 27 and the struggle of days on the boat with no wind and nowhere to hide from the sun. Regarding microplastics, she shared that there are only three areas in the ocean with no microplastics present and the vital importance of reducing our dependence on plastics.

Ocean Institute boat

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Submitted photo

Dee Caffari, MBE with the Women’s Sailing Association of Orange County, and Ocean Institute CEO & President Dan Pingaro

The Ocean Institute wishes Dee good luck on her most recent sailing competition down the Pacific Coast this month on the Wahaca boat. 

The Nicholas Endowment Distinguished Speaker Series is an inaugural education and cultural program hosted in the Samueli Conference Center. This series accentuates the core concepts of Ocean Institute’s strategic plan: research, education, conservation, and organizational excellence. 

As a rising global leader in the use of the ocean as our classroom, Ocean Institute is proud to welcome experts in these fields to its Southern California campus and our community, so they may share their knowledge and stimulate our thoughts and actions as informed citizens and stewards of a precious natural world.

For more information on Dee Caffari, visit www.deecaffari.co.uk

To learn more on the Ocean Institute, visit www.ocean-institute.org.


Laguna’s hot potatoes on Assemblywoman’s front burner

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris dealt nimbly on Saturday with a couple of Laguna’s hot potatoes.

She hosted a coffee gathering from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Fire Station One to exchange ideas about fire safety, coupled with an unexpected appearance by about 80 opponents to a state Senate bill dealing with immunizations. After which, she hot-footed over to Wells Fargo Bank to meet with a group that wants action taken to improve the homeless situation in Laguna.

Councilman Peter Blake welcomed Petrie-Norris, who spoke for a few minutes and then invited questions, which led to a dialogue. 

“Along with you, I view the homeless as one of the county’s most critical challenges,” Petrie-Norris said. “Last year progress was made. Emergency housing has increased. Construction is underway on permanent housing.

“But not all cities are doing their fair share. Laguna Beach is the only [city] to do anything in this area. They all need to come to the table.” 

She was preaching to the choir. 

“I was hoping I would go to Sacramento and some city in Central California would say ‘Here’s our model and its working,’” said Petrie Norris, who was elected to the assembly in November.

“Didn’t happen. 

“There is a ton of money; there are a ton of good ideas; there are a ton of people trying to solve this problem.” 

But progress is slower than she would like – another chorus in tune with Laguna.

Petrie-Norris said her priority is spending money on things that work and making sure Laguna Beach gets its fair share of state money – $650 million – 

investing in programs that work and in organizations that are transforming lives. 

“The other thing is that this has to be collaboration at every level,” said Petrie-Norris. “There is no easy solution.” 

Laguna Beach Planning Commissioner Jorg Dubin proposed a solution he had articulated as a write-in candidate for City Council in 2018: rehabbing empty buildings in the Great Park. 

“They are big buildings and could serve a lot of small communities,” said Dubin. 

He estimated there was room for 1,000 or more beds. And they aren’t in anyone’s backyard.

Councilwoman Sue Kempf advised the group that Laguna’s City Council recently voted to participate in the Orange County Housing Trust. 

“The goal of the Housing Trust is to do a regional facility that would mitigate impacts on communities,” said Petrie-Norris.

Other suggestions were voiced. 

Laguna Beach Unified School District employee Margaret Warder suggested a year ago that defunct hospitals could be converted to homeless housing.

Heisler Building owner Sam Goldstein named Fairview Hospital as an example.

“It was built for the developmentally disabled,” said Goldstein. “It has 4,000 beds. The site is being evaluated.”

Petrie-Norris said she would like to see Fairview as part of the solution and still have surrounding community participation satisfied. 

She said differences in the sub-groups of the homeless have to be considered: categorizing them as the working homeless, veterans, those with metal health issues, substance abusers and the service resistant – who do not want a roof over their heads or interference with their preferred habits. 

Councilman Peter Blake said he is laser focused on what happens in Laguna, declaring himself an unapologetic NIMBY.

“I have a small backyard and I don’t want to share it with criminal transients,” said Blake. “I appreciate that Cottie took the time to meet with us on the issues. It is important to understand how the state assembly is treating the situation.

“These talks [Saturday mornings] are bi-partisan and meant to educate people. If they leave here with a better understanding, we have been successful.”


City needs to be better prepared for disasters, committee advises

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council approved at the June 18 meeting the 2019-2020 work plan proposed by the Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee to improve public safety.

Committee Chair Matt Lawson presented four proposals for council consideration. 

--Support key priorities of the City Council’s Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Subcommittee, the Emergency Operations Coordinator [Jordan Villwock] and the Laguna Beach Community Response Team leadership. 

--Work with city staff to develop recommendations to enhance local alert and warning capabilities, as well as emergency voice and data communications throughout the city. The primary objective is to improve emergency communication coverage and resilience for professional responders, volunteer responders and residents during and immediately following likely disaster scenarios.

“Jason is all over this,” said Sonny Myers, director of CERT and a board member of the Emergency/Disaster Preparedness Committee. 

--Collaborate with city staff to improve earthquake resilience in Laguna Beach, including identification of “best practices” implemented by other local agencies. Develop recommendations for the city council by 2010. 

--Consult with city staff to develop a plan to improve emergency circulation in impaired-access neighborhoods, such as Diamond Crestview and box canyons like Bluebird Canyon. 

In response to Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow’s question on how to best educate the public about what the committee is doing to move towards a safer city, Lawson responded that residents need to be reminded of the high fire risk of living in Laguna Beach. City staff is communicating the importance of emergency management via social media, Lawson said. 

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the impaired access for emergency vehicles, said Bob Elster. 

Myers agreed with Elster about the significance of emergency vehicle access. However, he also said he has been working with staff to communicate to the public the importance of modifying homes to make them safer against earthquakes.

Architect Marshall Ininns in 2017 hosted a Chamber of Commerce “Open for Construction” meeting to which he brought in experts on earthquake retrofitting and engineered hardware. Only a handful of folks attended. Residents and city staff missed an opportunity to learn what some experts had to say.

“The experts identified soft story construction – basically what is going to collapse in an earthquake,” said Ininns, who is currently working on a 17-unit building. 

Laguna has been called the poster child of disaster. Besides earthquakes, hazards past and present include fire, floods and landslides.

“Preparedness is never popular until it’s too late,” according to the committee’s report.

Great progress has been made in recent years to protect residents and property, but much is still to be done, the committee reported.


Turnabout Shop half-price sale ends Friday

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The half-price sale will end Friday at the Turnabout Thrift Shop, which will then close for its annual August hiatus.

Proceeds from all sales at the shop fund the nonprofit Assistance League’s philanthropic projects. The league has been a compassionate source of philanthropy in Laguna Beach for 67 years. 

The local chapter started with 14 friends in 1952, calling themselves Las Amigas, determined to use their energy and skills to meet some of the needs of the community. 

Since then, the group became the 29th chapter of the national Assistance League, organizing and funding programs the founders could never have imagined. 

The Early Intervention Program for special needs and developmentally delayed babies is first in the hearts of many of the league members.

“New members are always welcome,” said Carrie Joyce, chapter president. 

Chapter volunteers and medical professionals work with the babies and their parents at no charge to the families. The program was founded in 1976.

Other philanthropies include helping military families, and supporting Waymakers Youth Shelter, Laguna Beach Playhouse, therapeutic horseback riding programs for children with disabilities at the Shea Center and funding college scholarships for Laguna Beach High School graduates.

Turnabout shop marine

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Courtesy of Assistance League

Assistance League volunteers at Camp Pendleton on March 28

The league has always stepped up in major disasters. The chapter donated $1,000 to the 1993 Fire Relief Fund and made space in the Chapter House on Catalina Street for the distribution of clothing and household items to the survivors of the firestorm.

In 2005, the chapter made a $10,000 donation to the Bluebird Landslide recovery effort.

But donations are not limited to disasters.

The league provided $2,000 for Laguna’s first canine police officer, Gero, in 1991.

In 2000, the chapter supported the Boys & Girls Club Even Start program with a $30,000 donation, paid out over three years. The donation covered the cost of the room and equipment used in the program.

The chapter has donated books, musical instruments and a television set to El Morro Elementary School and provided housekeeping services for the elderly; reading programs for the young; clothing for abused women and children; and assault survivor kits for South Coast Medical Center.

Members have been trained to teach English as a second language, present career seminars for high school students, and supply Hug-A-Bears to the Fire Department and the Community Clinic to give to children in traumatic situations.

The Chapter also offers high school girls and boys the opportunity to earn community service hours toward their high school graduation requirement by membership in the Assisteens, who contribute volunteer time to the community. 

But all these programs cost money.

Funds are raised by sales at the thrift shop, which sells used and new or gently used items at the Turnabout Shop.

Donations of money to support programs are welcomed.

The Assistance League Beach is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. All contributions are tax deductible.

For more information about donations, membership or shop hours, visit https://allagunabeach.org/ or call (949) 494-5977.


Where’s Maggi?

Where was she this time? Let us know if you’ve spied this spot, too.

Send your answers in to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The location will be revealed in Tuesday’s edition, and we’ll let you know who got it right.

Wheres Maggi 8 16 19

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Another Laguna masterpiece

Another Laguna masterpiece

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Photo by Scott Brashier

“Never turn your back to the sunset, because you owe the sun a thanking for lighting you all day!” –Mehmet Murat ildan


Community and LBFD celebrate christening of Wildland Engine at Fire Station 2 on Saturday

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Scotty Wise

Local residents, Emergency Operations personnel, and City Councilmembers were on hand at Fire Station 2 on Saturday morning to christen the Laguna Beach Fire Department’s new Wildland Fire Engine and witness the retirement of the old engine. 

Emergency Operations Coordinator Jordan Villwock was on hand to pass out evacuation route maps for each neighborhood and Director of Laguna Beach CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Sonny Myers was in attendance. Emergency packs were available for purchase. 

Matt Lawson, one of the original members of CERT, commented on the acquisition of the Wildland Engine: “It’s another important milestone in the city’s effort to improve fire safety.” 

Community and new engline

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New Wildland Engine

This was the first official engine christening LBFD has held, and Engineer/Paramedic Pat Cary explained that the ceremony was based on a procedure in the 1800s when steam pumper fire engines were used and had to be pushed into the barn when they returned from a fire. “They unclipped the horses, and when the pumpers cooled down, the firefighters would push it inside.” 

It was quite a sight to see a group of firefighters and councilmembers push the new 2018 engine into the station. 

Community and more pushing distance

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Firefighters and Councilmembers Peter Blake and Sue Kempf, and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow push the new engine into the station

Fire Chief Api Weinert, who has been with LBFD since 1988, said, “We’re celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the LBFD this year. The purchase of the new engine was a collaboration between the Firefighters Association, firefighters, and City Councilmembers for this long term investment.”

The new engine is a HME Ahrens Fox, a 2018 model 34E Type 3 Wildland. It has a 15-foot wheel base, is 9 feet, 7 inches high, and 10 feet, 4 inches wide. 

Chief Weinert went on to describe the hardworking engine purchased in 1999 that was being retired. “For 20 years, it has been in service across the state in countless fires.”

Community and Chief

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Fire Chief Api Weinert

He mentioned just a few – 2005 Burbank fire, 2007 San Diego fire, three large fires in 2011. In 2013, the engine went across the state and was also at the 2018 Mendocino fire, one of the largest in the nation. It, along with the firefighters, were gone up to two weeks at a time. Firefighters have been training diligently on the new engine, which is vastly different from the 1999 engine.

To officially retire the 1999 E302 engine, Adam Fugate drove it out of the station with the lights on.

Both the pushing of the new engine into the barn and the retirement of the old engine were preceded by a broadcast dispatch.

Community and Sande

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Sande St. John and friends

Councilwoman Sue Kempf said, “We sat in the old engine. The discomfort beats the firefighters up as they deal with firefighting on a daily basis.”

In July, LBFD Captain Crissy Teichmann said, “The new engine has all the latest and greatest technology and safety systems such as back up cameras, interior cab fire shelters, electronic sensors and alerting, and creature comforts like working air conditioning and some reclining seats. The AC is a very important part for our firefighters as most often the weather is very hot where we go, and the work is very arduous. The ability to cool off after a typical assignment of punching in a couple thousand feet of hose on a steep hill or cutting line is critical for rehabbing firefighters.”

As the Neighborhood Specific plan was kicked off with maps for each area, Villwock said, “Evacuation is the responsibility of the city but it is also a personal responsibility.”

For questions about the Neighborhood Specific plan, go to www.cityoflagunabeach.net.


Barbara’s Column

Who says there is nothing to do in Laguna?

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Anyone who complains there is nothing to do in Laguna except to go out to dinner isn’t reading Stu News.

Events last weekend alone ranged from the Opening Night of the 2019 Lagunatics on Friday, followed by Congressman Harley Rouda’s presentation about the homeless on Saturday morning under the auspices of the Laguna Residents Alliance. Saturday was all about art. The Laguna Art Museum previewed three new exhibitions and the Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational Gala was held at the Festival of Arts grounds.

Spoiler Alert

If you don’t like laughing, don’t go see “Shticks and Shtones,” No Square Theatre’s annual poke at the folks and foibles of Laguna Beach. 

Bring your sense of humor because it is likely that someone or something you know and maybe love will get roasted in the show.   

Who says Mo

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mo Honarkar and friends taking it in stride

The opening number of Act Two was “Mo Town,” which had the developer laughing, his daughter Hasty and Heidi Miller in stitches. There were some zingers, but it was done in fun.

“The Last Number,” written and sung by Lagunatics founder Bree Burgess Rosen, said it all. 

“Pick on ev’ry one

All of it’s true

Most of it was dumb, 

Anyway, it’s just a bit of fun”

The message is that a difference of opinion doesn’t have to get down and dirty. 

“Make your point 

Just be nice

Left or right 

That’s our pitch 

Share the world

Life’s a b---h

That’s not hard to believe

That’s the hitch 

Why not sing about trees

Rediscover

What’s funny to you, to one another.

You can always do something nice!”

The audience gave the cast a standing ovation, starting during the finale.

Who says Motown

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

“Motown” fun

Among them: Kirsten and Mayor Bob Whalen, Anne and Bob McGraw, Rosaura and Larry Ulvestad, Dora and Mark Orgill, Karyn Phillipson, Gayle Waite – and yes, the Honarkars.

As of Thursday, tickets were nearly sold out, with a few remaining for the October 25, 26 and 27 shows, as well as on October 24, which was just added due to demand.

Homelessness

Laguna’s Congressman Harley Rouda was the guest speaker Saturday at a meeting on homelessness, held at the Susi Q.

Rouda said the issue was near and dear to him and his wife. When they were in their 20s, they read an article about a breadwinner who lost his job, lost his home, and moved into a hotel. Then he moved into his car. 

“He died in a shelter,” Rouda said.

Who says Rouda

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Congressman Harley Rouda 

The story prompted the Roudas and others to build a shelter.

Rouda mostly confined his talk to federal measures taken or underway, rather than state or local measures. 

He did recommend that Laguna should provide quality health care like Anaheim does. 

“I don’t want to be involved with anything outside of Laguna,” said Councilman Peter Blake, who has sponsored the series of meetings on the homeless as a private citizen.

One thing that has been accomplished, Blake said, was achieving a full-time deputy district attorney to deal with Laguna’s repeat offenders.

Who says Blake

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Peter and Stephanie Blake

“We will be able to call the DA and say (this person) has been arrested 18 times for drug abuse and shows signs of violence,” said Blake. 

He also announced that the meeting would be the last in the series.

“I said I would keep doing them as long as I kept learning,” said Blake. “I am not learning any more. 

“I am going back to why I ran for office. I ran as a NIMBY and I am still a NIMBY.”

Saturday Night Art Events

The 21st Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational concluded Saturday Night with a Gala Dinner and presentation of awards – and would someone please explain the logic in spelling Plein the French way and Air the English way?

Oil painter Jane Hunt was selected by Laguna’s Plein Air Association to receive the $10,000 Best in Show Award.

Seawind Properties presented Aaron Schuerr with the $5,000 Award of Excellence. Schuerr also won the $1,000 Dr. Ed H. Boseker Award. 

Who says McVicker

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Courtesy of Reflective Images

Jim McVicker – “Bob Francis in Heisler Park”

Jim McVicker took home the $2,500 Jean Stern Award, given by the association and the $1,000 Spirit of Laguna Award, funded by Kinsman & Kinsman.

The Kinsman Family Foundation was represented at the Gala by former Mayor Cheryl Kinsman and her sons, Nickolas and Josh, who presented the foundation award to Michele Usibelli for her Resplendent oil painting. 

Michael Obermeyer, who recently donated a painting to the South Laguna Garden fundraiser, also collected two awards: the Artist Choice and Collectors Choice, each worth $1,000. 

The Laguna Board of Realtors presented the $1,000 Architectural Award to Katie Odom

Suzi Baker was the recipient of the $1,000 Ovation award, sponsored by Lynn and David Rahn.

Who says Usibelli

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Courtesy of Reflective Images

UCI Institute & Museum of California Art Award winning painting “Coast Highway” by Michele Usibelli

He was one of the founders of the Invitational Awards Gala. 

John Cosby had contact with the artists; I had the money,” said Rahn, master of ceremonies for the gala.

 The Swimm Family chose Terry Miura’s oil Between the Palms for the Directors Award. 

Rosemary Swimm is the director of LPAPA. Her husband, Tom, is a Festival of Arts exhibitor.

In all, 21 awards were presented to the participating artists and three scholarships to Laguna College of Art and Design students: Taylor Olivas, Opal LaFey, and Melanie La May.

LCAD President Jonathan Burke was at the gala to applaud the scholarship winners. 

Melanie Froysaa deserves an award for the centerpieces that graced the tables.

She was a member of the Invitational Committee, along with Celeste Gilles, Toni Kellenberg, Ludo Leideritz, Rahn, Linda Stern, Traci Sullivan, Madeline Swinden, Kathy Winton, and Swimm. 

Who says back bay

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Courtesy of  Reflective Images

Best in Show Award Winning painting “Back Bay Evening” by Jane Hunt 

LPAPA’s mission is to build on and promote the renowned landscape painting heritage of Laguna Beach. The association serves its members regionally, nationally, and internationally through events, programs, and education.

You don’t have to be an artist to be a member of LPAPA. There is a Support Membership, which helps support LAPA’s community education and outreach programs, as well as preserving the legacy of landscape painting that gave Laguna the designation of Art Colony.

Donations are gratefully accepted.

The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which means your gift is fully tax deductible as allowed by law. LPAPA is grateful for all of the support it receives and gratefully accepts donations in any amount.

Laguna Art Museum members previewed three new shows Saturday night.

The Thomas Hunt show will feature 50 paintings by the California modernist. The museum described his style as distinguished by broad brushstrokes, bold effects, light, and reflection. He is best known for his coastal and harbor scenes.

Etchings by Mildred Bryant Brooks were selected for a show from LAM’s collection of her works. Active in the 1930s and early 40s, she is known for landscape etchings, in particular trees – always a topic of interest in Laguna.

Newport Beach-based photographer Laurie Brown documents humankind’s relationship to the not always hospitable environment. The works in the show are from the 1970s to the present.     

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. Contributions are welcomed.

For more Lagunatics photos by Mary Hurlbut, see the slideshow below


LBFD knocks down house fire on Wilson Street

On Monday, Oct 21, at 12:20 a.m., multiple calls for smell of smoke came in from Laguna residents in the area of Cleo Street and Glenneyre Street.

LBFD responded to investigate, with firefighters trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from.

According to LBFD Engineer/Paramedic Pat Cary, “Engine 1 arrived on scene first in the 700 block of Wilson Street and saw what was a three-story single-family home with smoke and fire showing on the second floor.”

Cary said, “We made a quick offensive attack on the fire, extinguishing it in approximately 20-25 minutes. We had a total of 34 firefighters on scene, all Laguna Beach engines.”

The fire was encapsulated in the interior – on the second floor – with venting on the top of the roof. 

Nearby residents reported to Stu News hearing chainsaws during the fire and they were correct.

“Yes, we used chainsaws on top of the roof, trying to create holes to allow the smoke and superheated gases to better ventilate and help us put the fire out,” Cary explained.

LBFD knocks down

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Photo by Steven Cassill

LBFD knocks down house fire on Wilson Street on Monday

“We did an interior fire attack – this is where we take hose lines inside and we find the scene of the fire, and that’s when we extinguish it. And then, in conjunction with that, we do primary and secondary searches to make sure the structure is clear from any people or pets because our priorities are life, property, the environment, and incident stabilization,” Cary said.

Cary was happy to report there were no injuries – civilian or firefighters. Nobody was home at the time and there were no pets inside either. No other structures were threatened.

LBFD also worked hard “salvaging” the homeowners’ special belongings.

“This is where we go and take pictures off the wall, cover up or remove memorabilia, personal belongings – so that we can try to minimize the damage from water and fire to these things,” Cary said.

Cary commended Orange County Fire Authority and Newport Beach Fire Department for their help as well.

“When we have fires like this, we rely on our surrounding agencies to help out. We had a strong support from our fellow agencies through our automatic aid agreements and our city was backfilled, so there was no lapses in 911 calls,” Cary said.

The cause of the fire is currently being investigated by Laguna Beach Fire Investigators. Due to the extent of the damage, the residence was deemed uninhabitable and red-tagged.


Unanimous community support shown for city’s trolley service

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Two options were offered to the City Council Tuesday night for the future of the trolley service to neighborhoods: kill it or improve and market it better to improve ridership.

From Top of the World to Woods Cove and beyond, from North to South Laguna, from seniors to students, the public came out in support of the trolleys. Thirty-four residents addressed the council and thirty-four of them said keep the service, just make it better.

“The city should be improving and creating, not eliminating the opportunities for resident to use public transportation,” said Robin Hall. 

Top of the World Neighborhood Association gave its support to Option Two, which cancelled the North and South Routes, added a weekday coastal route, and modified the hours of the neighborhood weekday and Saturday routes, all to run 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Option Two also directed city staff to conduct an extensive outreach and marketing program with a new app and the goal of bumping readership up to 10 passengers an hour on each route by October 2020. 

Finally, the council directed staff to report next October on the ridership numbers, and on-time and app performances.

Unanimous community trolley

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Public came out in support of trolleys

A 24 percent decline in ridership in the last three years and a seven percent increase in costs prompted staff to propose eliminating the weekday and Saturday neighborhood services as an option. 

The community didn’t go along for the ride.

“Neighborhood trolleys serve the community,” said Laguna Beach artist Elizabeth McGhee, who submitted petitions signed by about 500 supporters of the trolleys. 

“Residents use them to get to school, to go to the Senior Center, to the library, to commute to work, and do necessary shopping. 

“The trolleys mean fewer cars on the road, fewer parking spaces taken in town, and are critical to students and the elderly.”

Students of Laguna Beach High School would be adversely impacted, said Miles Riehle, a junior at the school.

“If the system is killed, what is the solution for students like me or anyone within the 12 to 17 age range who can’t drive?” Riehle asked.

He cited the big jump in ridership from Thurston Middle School students as a reason to keep the trolley service on track. 

“Students make up about 20 percent of the ridership,” Riehle said. 

Thurston student Jude Young told the council that he and his fellow students need the trolley to get down the hill and back up from the beach when parents are not available. The alternative is a school bus pass, which cost more than $300 a year. 

“I work,” said Young’s mother, Kimberly. “A bus pass is expensive. I pray Option One won’t pass.” 

Her prayer was answered – at least until October 2020.


Historical Society to present Marriner Family story

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The Laguna Beach Historical Society will present a program on the Marriner Family and the store that bore their name at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 7 at the Susi Q.

Two members of the Marriner Family will share the story of how their ancestors came to Laguna and founded Marriner’s Stationers and Booksellers. 

Mike and Harry Marriner will present family stories and memorabilia. Mike is the grandson of Richard “Tip” Marriner, the store’s founder. Harry Marriner is the son of Ed Marriner, Tip’s younger brother. 

Tip Marriner was born in 1899 in Nebraska. He was the second eldest of four boys and the most adventuresome.

He followed in his father’s footsteps, taking up a career as a reporter. In his 20s, he hopped a freight train and headed for California. 

Tip held jobs at various newspapers, finally ending up in 1925 as editor of Laguna Life, the forerunner of the Laguna News Post.

A couple of years later, he sold a vacant lot and sunk his money into an existing store.

The store was moved from its original site to 378 South Coast Hwy around 1929 and expanded again in 1951 when it was moved to 225 Forest Ave. 

Aerial photographs and postcards produced by Tip will be displayed. 

The audience will be encouraged to contribute their own memories of the Marriner Family and the store that was never replaced and is still missed, on a par with Sprouse-Reitz. 

The Susi Q is located at 380 Third St.


Barbara’s Column

Fourteen properties approved for Mills Act contracts: reduced property taxes a major incentive

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Fourteen Laguna Beach properties were approved Tuesday night for Mills Act contracts. 

The Mills Act is a state program that reduces property taxes as an incentive for owners to preserve historic structures. Laguna Beach has participated in the program since 1993. The city had approved 88 contracts prior to Tuesday. 

“If more property owners understood the Mills Act, we’d have more people applying for it,” said Councilwoman Toni Iseman

The act reduces property taxes by 40 to 60 percent annually, according to the California Office of Historic Preservation. In return for the reduction, property owners are expected to maintain or rehabilitate the structure, using the savings. Applications for the contract must include proposed projects, when they will happen, and how much they will cost. City staff makes periodic checks to ensure compliance with the contracts – after all, the object is to preserve historical structures, and it costs the city a substantial amount of money.

It is estimated that the city will lose approximately $345,000 in property tax revenue this year on the 88 properties previously under contract. The projected loss from the 14 additions is $67,500 a year.

Until 2006, contracts were limited to owners of E-rated structures. At that time the council amended the criteria to include K-rated structures.

E-rated stands for excellent condition and unique architecture. K-rated homes are good examples of historic architecture that have retained their original integrity. The city identifies C-rated structures as contributors to the character of a neighborhood, but not eligible for Mills Act contracts. 

“The Planning Commission recommended revising the rating from letter ratings to the state’s numerical system,” said Commission Chair Ken Sadler

However, the revised ordinance has yet to go into effect.

Since 2012, the city Heritage Committee has been charged with reviewing all applications for Mills Act contracts and submitting them to the council in one package in November, rather than piecemeal throughout the year.

 “The city takes the names of applicants at the beginning of the year,” said architect Linda Morgenlander and longtime member of the committee. “We review them, and a historical consultant also thoroughly reviews the applications. It is a fabulous program.”

Fourteen properties cathedral

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

The Cathedral at St. Francis by-the-Sea Catholic Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988

The committee also takes into account city staff input and conducts meeting on all applications before recommending approval to the council, according to Planning Manager Scott Drapkin. The council has the final say.

By contract, the owner is obliged to preserve, maintain and, where necessary, restore or rehabilitate the property and its character-defining features, notably the general architecture, style, materials, design, scale, proportions, placement of windows, doors and other openings, texture, details, mass, roofline, porch, and other aspects of the appearance of the exterior to the satisfaction of the city.

Not to mention the red tape. 

All changes must comply with the terms of the agreement and conform to the rules and regulations of the Office of Historic Preservation of the State Department of Parks and Recreation; the United States Secretary of Interior Standards and Guidelines for Historic Preservation Projects, including without limit rehabilitation; and the State Historical Building Code and is subject to the approval of the city’s Community Development Director.

Owners must notify the city of changes to the character-defining exterior features of the property prior to beginning any alteration, including but not limited to major landscaping projects, exterior door replacement, or exterior alterations, whether or not a building permit is required. 

Demolition is prohibited and the owners had better keep the property neat –no junk lying around.

It costs applicants $245 to apply for the contract, and a $3,000 deposit for a required historical assessment. 

Morgenlander said folks who buy homes in today’s market benefit significantly because of the tax base. 

“Original property owners’ taxes are normally limited to an annual two percent increase, but homes that are sold get reevaluated,” said Gavin Curran, city director of Finance and ITT.

The more recent the sale, in general, the higher the evaluation. 

But the savings for the owners are noteworthy, to say the least, and are not dependent on the rating. 

Twelve of the 14 contracts approved Tuesday were for K-rated homes. Two were E’s.

“In the scheme of things, K’s are becoming much more important,” said Morgenlander. 

Contracts are for 10 years. Each year on the anniversary of the date, the city approves the contract, and another year is tacked onto the initial term unless a written notice of non-renewal is presented by the property owner to the city at least 90 days prior to the renewal date or by the city to the owner at least 60 days before the anniversary. The term of the original contract stays intact.

But first come the applications. They must include a list of the projects proposed to be funded by the tax savings, a timeline, and the cost of required maintenance or rehab plans.

Fourteen properties Rockledge

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Villa Rockledge (on far right) was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1984

2019 Contracts 

With estimated number and costs of projects 

--1390 Glenneyre St, K-rated one-story clapboard cottage, with an attached carport, 15-item maintenance plan, $147,500 

--1430 Carmelita St, K-rated one-story clapboard cottage, 18-item maintenance plan, $88,750 

--671 Virginia Park Drive, K-rated one-story, single-family cottage built over a garage, 18-item maintenance plan, $108,500 

--160 McAuley Place, K-rated two-story beach bungalow, 12-item maintenance plan, $82,000. 

--1155 Catalina St, K-rated two-story Spanish Colonial with an attached garage, 13-item maintenance plan, $119,000 

--370 Jasmine St, K-rated Pueblo Revival duplex, 23-item maintenance plan, $75,300 

--241 St. Ann’s Drive, K-rated Colonial Revival cottage, 19-item maintenance plan, $144,900 

--251 St. Ann’s Drive, K-rated Pueblo Revival, 12-item maintenance plan, $85,000 

--895 Manzinita Drive, K-rated one-story “Storybook” cottage, 14-item maintenance plan, $92,200, up to $4,161 tax loss

--721 Manzanita Drive, K-rated two-story clapboard single-family residence,

12-item maintenance plan, $53,000 

--2760 Queda Way, K-rated three-story clapboard frame single-family home, 19-item maintenance plan, $181,000 

Virginia Park Drive and 2191 Ocean Way were the two E-rated structures approved Tuesday.

The structure on Virginia Park Drive is a two-and-a-half-story Normandy Revival single-family residence. The 10-year maintenance plan includes 13 items, to be completed at an estimated cost of $45,200.

A two-and-a-half-story Ocean Way home with a detached garage/studio is known as The Ark, due to its resemblance to a large boat. Maintenance includes 26 items, at an estimated cost by the property owner of $308,870. 

For more information about the Mills Act, click here. For more information on the 14 approved contracts, the planned improvements, and cost estimates, refer to Tuesday’s agenda on the city’s website.    

Mea Culpa

American Legion Post 222 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5868 and Legion Auxiliary member Sandi Werthe were misidentified in the story on the DAR commemoration of Legion Hall, published Monday in Stu News

My apologies to all.

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading StuNewsLaguna.com. Contributions are welcomed.


Colors of the rainbow 

Colors of over ocean

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Photo by Scott Brashier

There’s no such thing as an ordinary rainbow


Both mayor and mayor pro tem will serve a second consecutive term

By BARBARA DIAMOND

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously reelected Bob Whalen for a second consecutive term as mayor of Laguna Beach.

Whalen, who was nominated by 2019 Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow, received a standing ovation which made him blush.

“This is an honor,” Whalen said, trying to still the applause. 

Both mayor whalen

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mayor Bob Whalen with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow

Councilman Peter Blake questioned Dicterow if he too would be willing to serve a second consecutive term. Receiving an affirmative answer and reassured it was permissible for him to make the nomination, the councilman so moved.

Blake added that next year would be his and Councilwoman Sue Kempf’s turn. Both were elected in 2018, as was veteran Councilwoman Toni Iseman. 

While in general the mayor pro tem succeeds the mayor, it is not a rule. Dicterow, who was most recently mayor in 2016, publicly announced earlier this year he was not a candidate for the 2020 mayor. He declined to say why.

Whalen and Dicterow are both up for reelection this year.


Perry sues school board and district superintendent

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Attorneys for school board member Dee Perry filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming she has been circumvented from properly representing her constituents and her civil rights violated.

The lawsuit names Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jason Viloria, board members Jan Vickers, Peggy Wolff, Carol Normandin, and James Kelly, and Does 1-50 as defendants and requests four judgments against them.

Perry is asking for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from prohibiting her from speaking to constituents; from participating in board meetings, in open or closed session; from participating in district or school events and from obtaining information she requests as part of her job; and a mandate that she be notified of board events and issues to the same extent as the other board members.

The suit also asks the court to declare that the defendants have violated Perry’s civil rights and to award her legal expenses, attorney fees, costs, and any other relief the court deems reasonable and just.

Perry, who was first elected to the board in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, has been at odds with the defendants for more than a year. Some board meetings in 2019 have been rancorous, as Perry partisans vocally jousted with board members and Viloria.

The hostility became common knowledge when Viloria publicly disagreed with Perry’s investigation of audio and video equipment following a recording malfunction of the December 11, 2018 meeting.

It was at that meeting that Perry believes she ought to have been rotated in as board president after a year as board clerk, as recommended in the district bylaws. She was bypassed and the board voted to eliminate the bylaw.

In June, the board created a subcommittee to discuss confidential matters from which Perry was explicitly excluded. The board claimed she had breached confidentiality rules by revealing a message from the board’s attorney Mark Bresee.

When he said he would recuse himself from representing the district in court if a suit was filed, the district hired the powerhouse legal firm of Rutan & Tucker to defend against the threat of litigation by Perry. 

The 21-page lawsuit claims the board and administration retaliated by trying to prevent Perry from exercising her civil rights and full representation of the constituents who voted for her and in the equal participation in the proceedings and actions of the board.

Deputy Superintendent Leisa Winston emailed Stu News on Thursday in response to a request for comment that the district had not been served with the lawsuit and therefore could not issue any comment.

 “As is standard there is no comment on pending litigation,” stated Vickers by email.


Silent night, holy night

Silent night cross

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A sacred sky


Two lone runners 

Two lone girls

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Two joggers have the boardwalk to themselves on a crisp Christmas day


2019 Newsmaker: Dee Perry

By BARBARA DIAMOND

Dee Perry has been at odds with fellow members of the Laguna Beach School Board for a solid year – with headlines, news stories, and letters to the editor on the matter scattered throughout the year.

Perry was an employee of the district for more than 30 of her 68 years before running for a seat on the board in 2012.

“I ran because I saw issues that I thought needed to be addressed, which I couldn’t do as a teacher,” Perry said. “I lost and I didn’t intend to run again. But quite a few people urged me to run again and my issues still had not been addressed.”

She was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018.

Her top three priorities in the 2018 election according to Voter’s Edge were:

--Social and emotional health of students

--Creativity and the arts

--Community and district connections

Many of Perry’s supporters are parents of students she had taught at El Morro and Top of the World Elementary schools and Thurston Middle School or had worked with as a speech therapist at Laguna Beach High School.

The discord began in December 2018, when Perry expected to be named as 2019 president of the school board after serving the year before as clerk, a tradition recommended in the board’s bylaws. She was bypassed and when it became public in February that the board proposed to dump the pertinent bylaw at its March meeting, some members of the public objected.

2019 Newsmaker Photo 1

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Submitted photo

Board members Carol Normandin and Dee Perry taking the Oath of Office at December 11, 2018 board meeting in which Perry was bypassed as board president

Sheri Morgan expressed concern that dropping the recommended rotation might concentrate the power in a faction of the board and dilute the clout of district parents.

Jan Vickers, who was elected board president for 2019, contended that the president had no more power than the other members of the board.

“The president runs the meetings – that’s it,” she said. 

Perry’s was the lone vote against eliminating the bylaw near the tail end of the March agenda.

Laguna Beach Republicans President Emil Monda spoke against the action and others by the board.

“Have you no shame?” queried Monda. “As a board you have decided to attack and silence one of your members. And to do this you have rewritten bylaws to ensure that only the majority’s point of view is not only enforced through the voting process…but even worse, you are making it more difficult for the public to comment on what you have done.”

Vickers denied any attempt to curtail public input.

“Our practice for years has been to take public comment repeatedly,” Vickers wrote in an email. “As with the calendar meetings – people spoke at three meetings and stated the same position, and our position is better to spend the time and hear it again rather than have people feel they are not heard. 

“Being heard and having it go your way are different. We have many opportunities in each public meeting for public comment. It is asked for verbally and encouraged. We are very accommodating.”

There was a cooling off period for a couple of months. In May the agenda included the possibility that pricey live streaming of the meetings could be permanently discontinued to save money, unanimously opposed by the board, including Perry. The live streaming had been temporarily suspended due to ADA compliance issues.

“I am a bit torn about spending an extra $16,000 for live stream captioning but I want the public to have real time access,” said Perry. “At our last board meeting that was streamed, a citizen saw what was happening on the live stream and then grabbed her purse and rushed down to the meeting. Without live streaming this would not be possible.”

Live streaming has yet to be reinstated.

2019 Newsmaker Photo 2

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Submitted photo

Perry with Brandon Lee after Lee received the district’s Spirit of Laguna Award

The detente ended abruptly in June. The board voted 4-1 to create a new subcommittee that may exclude Perry on actions related to litigation, pending or anticipated, and personnel actions authorized to be taken in closed session.

Under the terms of the resolution, Perry was to be prohibited from serving on the subcommittee for reasons alleged in the resolution: making confidential information available to someone not authorized to receive it.

Formation of the subcommittee was advised by the school district’s attorney Mark Bresee, who had reported that Perry had shared a letter he had written that he said contained a confidential legal opinion. 

Perry fought back by hiring attorney Kathleen Loyer in July to represent her and the district was advised 60 days before filing as required by law that Perry intended to sue. Although the time limit on filing had lapsed, Loyer said in August that Perry hoped to reach a resolution outside of the courts, pending meetings with district leadership and the district’s attorney.

A couple of weeks later, the board hired legal powerhouse Rutan & Tucker to defend against a lawsuit not yet filed, at a cost of $50,000.

Perry finally filed in December, asking the court for a permanent order preventing the four other board members and the district superintendent from violating her civil rights and from fully representing the constituents who had voted for her, she alleged.

At virtually every board meeting from July on, Perry supporters spoke on her behalf. 

Stu News alone ran more than 10 stories on the turmoil, more than qualifying Perry as the Newsmaker of 2019.


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2020 Tipping Challenge: A great start to a precarious year

By Diane Armitage

My favorite mentor and client, Bob Proctor, always tells me that when things are looking particularly grim, the best response is to stop, mentally turn in the exact opposite direction, and look for an action you can take to counter-balance the grim.

Given the world’s news around us, it might be why the “2020 Tipping Challenge” is gaining such fast momentum. 

It started in the heartland

Rumor has it that it all started in the heart of the U.S. in a small town in Michigan, but it has since swept to all sides and corners of our country. 

A couple decided to do one kind thing last week when they tipped a server $2,020 on a $23 bill. While she hadn’t shared the details with her customers, the server had recently recovered from a year of homelessness and was in the process of rebuilding her life. 

The server took to social media with her gratitude, and then paid it forward with what she could afford – on her next restaurant bill, she tipped $20.20. 

New Kids on the Block musician Donnie Walberg got wind of the story and promptly tipped his IHOP server $2,020 on his pancakes the next day. 

It has since taken off like a rocket. 

Tip jars at coffee houses are overflowing with $20 bills. Restaurant receipts – depending on the total, of course, are boosting well over the 20 percent recommended tip with $20.20 or $120.20 and more. 

The key, it seems, is to keep the “2020” number rolling in some way, shape, or form. And, of course, if you’re the recipient of this fortune, hashtag #2020tippingchallenge as it’s becoming quite a national groundswell of peace, love, and all things groovy. 

Pay it forward, folks. Even in Laguna Beach. Or maybe because you’re in Laguna Beach. We lead fortunate lives in this magical town. I’m betting we can keep this rolling the whole, entire year. 

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com and follow on Instagram @BestOfLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face) and, now on @BestofDanaPoint, too!


Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

Last week, we looked back at an early Temple Hills neighborhood. This week, here is the same time frame (1930ish) at Bluebird Canyon.

Homes had much more land back then, and the simple clapboard style with a pitched roof was a standard of early Laguna. To add interest to this photo, this is the home and studio of famous Laguna artist Frank Cuprien.

Mr. Cuprien was born in Brooklyn and studied both art and music. It is sometimes forgotten he was an accomplished singer and classical piano master. After art training in New York and Philadelphia, he completed an 11-year residency in Europe. Returning to the states, he accepted a faculty position at Baylor in Texas, where he taught as a professor for five years. Years later he would often sign his paintings “Prof Frank Cuprien.”

In 1912, in love with seascapes and the plein air impressionist movement, he left Baylor to spend more time in the Southern California beach areas. He was especially charmed by Laguna Beach’s coves and sunsets. After briefly living in Catalina, he permanently moved to Laguna Beach.

He built his home and studio on a bluff with a commanding ocean view, naming the rustic studio “the Viking.” He would draw the ocean by day and host piano recitals by night from this home. 

Laguna Beach A Look Back 1 14 20

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Bluebird Canyon, circa 1930s – the home and studio of artist Frank Cuprien

Cuprien became one of the leaders in our growing art community through the 1920s. He was one of the founders of the Laguna Beach Art Association, and the first art gallery. 

“The Viking” was a vibrant bohemian site for his fellow artists to hang out and was a venue for frequent exhibitions and of course his famous piano recitals.

Known as the “dean of Laguna artists,” he passed of a stroke in “the Viking” in 1948 at age 76. He left his estate to the Laguna Beach Art Association, and requested he be buried in his blue painter’s smock. 

Cuprien Way, next to the corner of Wendt Drive and Thalia Street, is named in his honor but was not the site of “the Viking.” Viking Way, an oceanfront street at the base of Bluebird Canyon Drive, is said to have been named after the studio.

• • •

Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit www.lagunabeachhistory.org.


Laguna Beach – A Look Back

Courtesy of Laguna Beach Historical Society

In the first two decades on the 20th century, a number of artists from the Midwest and East Coast found their way to a sleepy beach town much as metal would be pulled to a magnet. Names such as Frank Cuprien (whose studio we featured last week), William Wendt, Edgar Payne, Anna Hills, and Norman St. Clair would begin a collaboration that would cement Laguna Beach as the main artist colony of the Southern California coast, a reputation we have proudly claimed for over a century.

Twenty-five artists banded together to build the Laguna Beach Art Gallery, opening on July 27,1918. Using funds they raised by selling their art, they took over an abandoned town pavilion, fireproofed it, and made it the centerpiece of art in the city. Over 300 guests signed in the first day, and over 2,000 visited in the first month alone. Keep in mind downtown barely existed, and the population of the town was barely 1,000 residents. 

Laguna Beach A Look Back 1 21 20

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The Laguna Beach Art Gallery, which opened in 1918

In this photo, free admission is advertised as well the proud announcement that the Gallery featured an “Exhibition of paintings by artists who have painted Laguna Beach.” The Gallery, next to what would become the Hotel Laguna on Coast Highway, exhibited oil and water paintings as well as some sculpture. Additionally, art classes became popular at the gathering place.

A month later, the same artists founded the Laguna Beach Art Association. Mr. Payne served as the main founder and president. The artists all shared a love of seascapes, rolling hills, sunsets, rustic cottages, and helped popularize the genre of plein air, inspired by the work of Homer Winslow on the East Coast in the late 19th century.

Not only were the artists forward thinking on their art, but they were also ahead of their time on the environment. Preaching conservation they helped protect their precious Laguna coastline and were integral in preventing development in what would become Heisler Park.

The Gallery eventually became the Laguna Art Museum, and Mr. Cuprien’s generous donation of his estate to the Association assisted in advancing their causes. We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneering artists in establishing our town as the art colony it proudly is today. 

• • •

Laguna Beach Historical Society is located at 278 Ocean Ave. They are open Friday - Sunday from 1 - 4 p.m. For more information, call (949) 497-6834 or visit www.lagunabeachhistory.org.


Dennis’ Tidbits 

By DENNIS McTIGHE 

January 28, 2020

June gloom in January 

Dennis 5On Sunday we lost a great human being and warrior. Rest in peace, Black Mamba.

We’re having a taste of June gloom in January today as a weak cold front is set to pass through here. There are two layers of clouds today, low stratus and altocumulus at about 16,000 feet. This front is mainly dry, as a weak high pressure ridge is shielding our area from incoming rain-laden storms from the Pacific. Up north, it’s a different story as heavy rains continue to relentlessly attack the soggy, depressing Pacific Northwest.

Our 2019-20 season’s rainfall is at 8.33 inches compared to a normal to date of 6.77 inches. Here comes February, which is normally our wettest month with an average of about 3.2 inches. Our wettest Februarys have been 15.02 inches in 1998, 13.68 inches in 1962, 12.75 inches in 1980, and 8.91 inches in 1978. We’ve had three rainless Februarys, in 1961, 1984, and 1997. Other dry Februarys have been 0.13 inches in 1972, 0.17 inches in 1977, and 0.25 inches in 2002.

More from McWeather’s glossary…

El Nino: Name given to the periodic warming of the ocean that occurs in the central and eastern tropical Pacific that can produce extreme weather in many locations of the world including our weather here in Southern California. Some of our wettest seasons here in Laguna have been the product of strong El Nino events. Our wettest season on record occurred during the mega El Nino of 1997-98 with 37.27 inches. The mega 1982-83 event brought us 32.25 inches. That’s when our warmest surface ocean temps occur off our coast. During El Nino events, we have really consistent surf. In Peru the El Nino is called the year of abundance. In the eastern Pacific tropics, there is increased formation of tropical storms and hurricanes while the Atlantic Basin and Caribbean see much less formation of significant tropical systems.

El Nino/Southern Oscillation (Enso): An episode of anomalously high sea surface temperatures in the equatorial tropical eastern Pacific Ocean causing the North Pacific storm track to shift much farther south than usual, sending Pacific storms to take aim more at California instead of the Pacific Northwest during the active winter months.

Extratropical Low: Any cyclone that is not a tropical system but was at one time, usually referring to the migratory frontal cyclones of middle and high latitudes.

Eye: The roughly circular area of calm or relatively light winds and comparatively fair weather at the center of a well-developed tropical system like a hurricane. A wall cloud marks the outer boundary of the eye. Once the eye passes over, the wind blows as fiercely but from the opposite direction. Historically the passage of this calm area has fooled many people into thinking the intense storm was over.

Fall Wind: A cold wind blowing downslope. Fall wind differs from foehn in that the air is initially cold enough to remain relatively cold despite compressional heating during descent.

First Gust: The leading edge of the spreading downdraft, plowing wind from an approaching thunderstorm. Also called a gust front. When a gust front is really strong, a heavy dust storm occurs. It happens a lot in Southern Arizona during the summer monsoon season especially in the areas around Phoenix. In the Middle East, these dust storms are known as haboobs. Sounds naughty but that’s what they’re called.

Foehn: A warm, dry downslope wind, the warmth and dryness being due to adiabatic compression upon descent, characteristic of mountainous regions. Also known as Chinooks, or in Southern California as Santanas, or as early Spanish settlers here called these winds, Vientos Diablos or Devil Winds. More next time. 

See y’all on Friday. ALOHA!


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Big fundraiser keeps getting bigger this Sunday for Adam and Rachel Bernstein

By Diane Armitage

Photos by Adam Bernstein

Three weeks ago on January 25, a GoFundMe page went live for well-loved, longtime Laguna Beach bartender Adam Bernstein and his wife, Rachel. The couple has been financially beleaguered since Rachel was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer last summer. 

GoFundMe raises nearly $40,000

The moment the link went live, it lit up the rails like a high-speed train. Now, three weeks later, and just shy of their $40,000 goal on GoFundMe, Adam and Rachel say they’ve been emotionally humbled by the overwhelmingly supportive community.

Big fundraiser Adam and Rachel 1

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Adam and Rachel

“Initially, it was humbling to see how generous our closest friends were,” said Adam from their home in Winchester. “But then all these people started showing up…people I’ve worked with and served for years…and people who’ve known Rachel or met her with me…even anonymous donors. We are literally blown away. The love from the community is absolutely incredible! 

“We have been on a long, rough road and our family, friends, and community have shown us how blessed we all are to have each other – family members, true friends, neighbors, even people we’ve met in passing – making such a lasting impression and showing care in our community. Everyone who has reached out to us – please know we are reaching back at you with open arms and the biggest hugs ever,” he said. 

Big fundraiser in San Clemente this Sunday

Well, it’s not over yet. 

This coming Sunday, Feb 23, in San Clemente at Salon Bleu’s sunny courtyard, friends and family have put an afternoon fundraising party together. The event runs from 1 - 5 p.m. What started as a $5 donation event with a few gracious participants has grown by sheer leaps. 

“We thought we’d do this small little local thing and it blossomed into this really giant thing. It’s so amazing,” said Adrienne, one of the fundraiser organizers and Adam’s twin sister. 

“We have friends playing live music with hula dancers coming in, a raffle and silent auction, plenty of food, and a tiki bar set up with beer and wine and kegs donated from Artifex, Docent Brewing, and Brewery X,” said Adrienne.

“And, of course, Adam had to create a special ‘love potion.’ You know mixologists. You can’t stop them if you try,” she added.

Big silent auction items

Silent auction items continue to roll in, including a full-day golfing package for four at Monarch Beach Golf Links valued at $5,000, Oats cashmere wonderfulness, high-end jewelry (including a $350 package from San Clemente’s Urba, one of my favorites), pottery and art, interior design consultations from esteemed decor queens, a $600 surf lesson package from our own Sli Dawg (Steven Chew), and more.

Superb food & drink

While Rocco’s, Vine, Active Culture, Cassano’s, and the Sapphire Culinary Group are providing plenty of great food and drinks, many more restaurants are donating to the silent auction, including The Cellar (with many bottles and a wine club membership), Antoine’s Cafe, Sancho’s Tacos, and Maison Cafe. 

Big fundraiser bartender

Click on photo for a larger image

Adam as bartender at Sapphire

“I think the greatest thing is that Russ (Bendel) from Vine and Chef Azmin from Sapphire are both participating at our event on Sunday, and they just announced the change in ownership between the two for the Sapphire restaurant in Laguna,” said Adam. 

“They’ve both been two of the most phenomenal individuals to work for, and Russ’s move into Sapphire couldn’ be a better fit. They’re class acts, through and through,” Adam concluded.

Chef Azmin: “It’s our duty to do whatever we can”

“No one should go through this sort of hardship,” said Chef Azmin Gharhreman of Sapphire Culinary Group. 

Big fundraiser Adam and Rachel 2

Click on photo for a larger image

Adam and Rachel Bernstein

“Adam is such a stand-up guy. I don’t think he ever called in sick in the 11 years he worked for me. When I was running a concept on Crystal Cruises, I had the pleasure of sending Adam on those cruises as our top mixologist, and he was such a beacon of our brand. 

“Adam has always been a man of his word – always supporting his wife and family – and it’s our duty to do whatever we can to make this easier and better for Adam and Rachel. 

“We’ll be there Sunday to support in service, wine, appetizers, and any auction item we can do,” continued Chef Azmin. 

“But Sunday isn’t just about eating food and drinking wine. It’s about gathering together in support of two really wonderful people and doing what we can against this son-of-a-gun cancer,” he added. 

“We want Adam to come out of it knowing that he has friends in the industry who will stick with him and Rachel no matter what. We are all big supporters of Adam Bernstein.”

Author’s note: While there isn’t a lot of room left for physical objects, silent auction gift cards, gift certificates, and restaurant gift cards/chefs’ dinners are still being happily accepted. Please get these items to Adrienne Bernstein no later than Thursday afternoon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laguna Beach restaurants and businesses are welcome to also contact me, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., with donation ideas or questions. 

Salon Bleu is a short block south of Avenida Del Mar on El Camino Real (next to Ollie’s Tavern), 207 S El Camino Real, San Clemente. The fundraising party is 1- 5 p.m.

Click here for the GoFundMe link for Adam and Rachel Bernstein.

For more from Diane Armitage, visit www.TheBestofLagunaBeach.com.


Dennis’ Tidbits

By DENNIS McTIGHE

February 21, 2020

Spring is in the air, kind of 

Dennis 5Two months down, one month to go until spring. The midday sun is getting higher in the sky each day and setting now at 5:40 p.m., nearly an hour later than the earliest sunset, and the sun comes up at 6:30 a.m. Daylight Savings Time returns on Sunday, March 8, only two weeks from this coming Sunday, so we’re finally leaving the Dark Ages behind.

After a good start to the 2019-20 rainy season, we have now fallen behind the curve. After New Year’s, the moisture-laden cold fronts just stopped coming. February has collected only about a quarter-inch of moisture so far. It’s feast or famine as February 2019 picked up over 6.2 inches, double the normal February output of about 3.13 inches. Up north in San Francisco, nary a drop has fallen so far this month. The only time there was a rainless February was way back in 1864 when Lincoln was in office! Their normal February output is about 3.8 inches, and their wettest February on record was 10.52 inches in 1958. 

Central and Southern California have been under the influence of a nearly stationary ridge of high pressure pretty much since the beginning of the year. There’s been some moisture in the northern third of the state, but most of it has been all about Oregon and Washington. The Sierra snowpack is way down from last year’s epic snowfall and California reservoirs depend on ample snowmelt when spring comes. 

Here in Laguna, as of February 21, our 2019-20 season sits at about 8.5 inches compared to a normal to date of 9.34 inches. After a great start, things just kind of shut down when 2020 started. We finished last season with nearly 20 inches at 19.94 inches, and up north the Sierra Nevada had an epic snow year coming in fourth on the all-time list. Now they’re running at only around 60 percent of normal. If we have a decent March, we can catch up since typically March receives about 2.55 inches. Our wettest March on record was a most bountiful 10.4 inches during the mega El Nino of 1982-83. Then April slows down with only about 1.2 inches and then the dry season starts in May. Let’s keep our fingers and our toes crossed for a productive March and April.

More from the Tidbits weather dictionary:

Macroburst: A downburst that affects a path longer than 2.5 miles.

Mammato Cumulus: A cumulonimbus cloud having hanging protuberances, like pouches, festoons, or udders, on the underside of a cloud. This kind of cloud is usually indicative of severe turbulence. Sometimes it almost looks like you could reach up and milk these clouds. Udderly disgusting! These cloud forms show up a lot when there are strong thunderstorms in the area.

Cumulonimbus: A cumuliform cloud type, which is heavy and dense, with considerable vertical extent in the form of massive towers, many times with tops in the shape of an anvil or massive plume. Under the base of cumulonimbus, which is often very dark, there frequently exists virga, precipitation, and low ragged clouds (scud) either merged with it or not. They are frequently accompanied by lightning, thunder, and sometimes hail, which can get as big as softballs in extreme cases. 

The really intense storms called super cells can produce tornadoes capable of producing winds from 85 to as much as 300 mph. The most violent cumulonimbus clouds have been known to have tops that have reached 60,000 ft. above the earth’s surface on a few occasions! That’s almost twice as high as most jet airliners! Here in Southern California, thundercloud tops usually get as high as 25,000 ft. or more, but in places like the Great Plains, super cell storms will reach 45-50,000 ft. on a regular basis. You can see the tallest clouds almost 100 miles away. The updrafts in some of these clouds can reach upward speeds of up to 125 mph. Around here, those updrafts seldom exceed 60 mph. 

When hail chunks form up there, they want to fall to earth riding the cloud’s downdraft. However, this updraft on steroids will forcefully shove that ice form way back up where the air is well below freezing and more layers of ice cling to this hail stone and it increases in size. Then this bigger stone will try to take advantage of gravity, but then this 125 mph updraft bullies the approaching downdraft and up goes the hail stone to add some more layers of ice. 

This procedure can repeat itself a half dozen times or more until the surrounding atmosphere can no longer support the weight of this monster that has swelled up to as much as five inches in diameter. Then the stone finally crashes into the earth while it’s attaining downward speeds up to 100 mph! I’ve witnessed firsthand baseball-size hail in the Texas Panhandle near a place called Amarillo, which lies at the southern zone known as Tornado Alley. Scary stuff indeed!

Mercurial Barometer: A barometer in which pressure is determined by balancing air pressure against the weight of a column of mercury in an evacuated glass tube. I also have one of these gizmos in my arsenal.

Monsoon: A wind that in summer blows from the ocean to a continental interior, bringing copious amounts of rain, and in winter blows from the interior to the ocean, resulting in sustained dry weather. Monsoon seasons around the globe usually last for several months. Here in the Southwest, we get our summer monsoons in the form of frequent showers and thundershowers from the beginning of July to about mid-September.

Had enough? Me too! Enjoy the weekend. Should be pretty decent. 

Until then, ALOHA!


Letter to the community from Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen

Dear Laguna Beach Residents, 

I want to update you on several items regarding the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, my heartfelt thanks go out to our residents for the great job that you are doing in respecting the Governor’s statewide stay-at-home order! As the Governor said again in his news conference today, the most potent step that each of us can take to overcome this pandemic is to be vigilant in practicing social distancing. Please keep up the great effort that you are making. It will save lives.

Second, I am most proud of the efforts that our first responders and City staff are making every day to enforce social distancing rules and respond to resident needs. One week ago, the City of Laguna Beach became the first City in Southern California to close beaches and our trailheads. Later last week the City of San Diego, the County of Los Angeles, and others followed and closed their beaches. Our Marine Safety and Public Works personnel and our Police Department stepped up and did an outstanding job of closing our beaches and trailheads within 24 hours and in educating the public regarding the need for the closures. I extend my personal thanks to all of our employees who are working so hard to enforce these closures and to respond to other calls for service.   

The City Council understands the sacrifice that the closures require of our residents but, again, we believe these actions will save lives. Right now we are in the early stages of this health crisis and need to maximize public safety. All of us on the City Council thank you for your patience and understanding. 

For the past week, the City Manager and I have been working with the County of Orange to obtain information regarding the specific number of COVID-19 cases in our community. [Yesterday, March 30] we received the first local figures and 22 positive cases have been reported in Laguna Beach. 

What should we take away from these figures? First, I urge everyone not to overreact to the numbers. We knew we would have COVID-19 cases in our city and know that the number of reported cases will rise for some period of time. To me, these numbers reinforce that the aggressive actions that the City Council took a week ago to close the beaches, trailheads, pool, and sport courts were appropriate and necessary. Next, it further underscores the importance of social distancing and avoiding contact with others to the maximum extent possible. By practicing social distancing, avoiding contact with others as much as possible, and washing hands frequently, the vast majority of us are going to be fine.

We have received input from you about social distancing concerns at grocery stores. The Business Liaison Unit of our Police Department has been in contact with each of our major grocery stores over the weekend to ensure that social distancing is enforced at those stores. The stores have been willing to comply and we appreciate their cooperation.

We have also received input from you about concerns that residential construction is continuing in the City. Under the Governor’s order, residential construction is an essential activity that may continue. Our Community Development Department is working hard to ensure that contractors respect neighbors and minimize impacts.

We appreciate the support, input and suggestions from everyone in the community regarding our COVID-19 efforts and will continue to respond to issues raised by our residents. I am confident that we as a City are taking the right steps to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in Laguna Beach and we will continue to put the safety, health and well-being of our community first. 

Finally, I encourage all of you to stay in touch with family and friends in this most difficult time and to please reach out if you need assistance. As we have shown in the past, we are a resilient community and we will come through this together.

Bob Whalen

Mayor

City of Laguna Beach