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Letters to the Editor

Steps to beach need repair prior to the city’s acquisition

I doubt any of the city engineers have walked the steps from the bridge at Aliso Circle down to the beach. Prior to the purchase of the beach, city engineers would be advised to walk the steps with OC Parks and identify the repairs that need to be made. 

This includes the bottom of the steps which were washed away and damaged during winter storms (now covered back up by sand). 

My older brother, Ron Sizemore (turning 78 on Oct. 8th), still walks the steps to the beach for daily swims. Many old timers in Laguna will recognize Ron’s name as the “Iron Man of Brooks St.,” for a number of surfing trophies he has won at the contest. 

Ron is a Vietnam veteran having served with the 9th Infantry in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam and exposed to Agent Orange. He now suffers neuropathy in his feet, so (now) hikes down the steps with a hiking stick.

With the current disrepair of the steps by the county and by the City of Laguna not requiring the county to repair the steps, the City of Laguna (taxpayers) will bear the burden of any injuries incurred walking down. (Yes, it is public access to walk the steps and cross over the bridge. True local Laguna knowledge of S. Laguna locals.)

As I mentioned prior regarding storm damage to the steps, I sent numerous pictures and emails to OC Beaches & Parks with a cc: copy to Kelly Boyd who was still on City Council at the time. Kelly and I had virtually no success in getting the county to repair the steps...other than OC Beaches & Parks sweeping them off!

Mr. Tracy Sizemore

(former Laguna Beach Lifeguard)

Laguna Beach

Let’s restore Council so that character, morals and ethics count

Just drive through Laguna and you’ll see Peter Blake’s campaign signs plastered on almost every vacant store front in the city – a true testament to what he has NOT accomplished in his past three years on City Council. Sadly, there are more vacant retail stores and offices in this city than ever before. 

But rather than list what Peter Blake hasn’t accomplished, I’d rather focus on his successes. Peter Blake has succeeded in derailing almost every City Council meeting with his lack of civility, divisiveness, arrogance and a total disrespect for the process and his fellow members on CC. He has succeeded in insulting, intimidating and demeaning anyone who doesn’t agree with his point of view. And now he would like you to vote him into office for another three years of verbal and emotional abuse? 

I fear that there are many Laguna residents who have gone about their daily lives with little or no exposure to Peter Blake’s foul mouth and bully tactics. To you, I say, ask around. Do some research. Let’s restore City Council to a collaborative, productive group of dedicated individuals who respect the process and the city’s residents.

Character, morals and ethics count!

Terry Meurer

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Tom Johnson just isn’t listening

I guess we now have a publisher who loves controversy. Despite all letters of disapproval of him headlining his opinions, he doesn’t care. He was the moderator of the candidates forum and yet instead of remaining neutral, he has to plug a candidate. 

Peter Blake has been a disruption to the city council since he took office. His outbursts have been censored and his behavior has been embarrassing and demeaning. When Tom said, “except for one little muffled outburst” he was on point. Is this equivalent to “one minor little assault otherwise he’s a good citizen?”

Tom, keep your personal opinions to the editorial page where they belong. 

Marcia Sanserino

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

It’s been done before and worked, so we should do it again

May I provide perspective on the Laguna Beach City Council consultant’s report claiming any number of dire consequences if the Laguna Residents First initiative passes? I have a unique perspective because I live part time in both cities and I was part of the group that worked to pass Newport Beach’s smart growth Greenlight Initiative in 2000. 

The Newport Beach City Council also made all sorts of grim predictions if Greenlight was approved. We were told that we would have multiple elections every year, that the economy would die, that businesses would never stay in Newport and even that single family homes would be impacted by the initiative. That last statement was a bold-faced lie, but the City Council and their developer friends were desperate to say anything that would make people vote against Greenlight. 

We won that election with 66% of the vote because the residents realized that the City Council was in bed with developers and would never support the residents’ desire to stop overdevelopment.

Fast forward to 2022 and guess what? Newport Beach has a strong economy, businesses didn’t leave and the world as we know it didn’t end. We have had a grand total of three Greenlight elections in 22 years. It turns out that developers know how to read and figured out the requirements of the new law and they just planned developments that stayed within those boundaries. We have plenty of redeveloped buildings that are thriving and plenty of new development that is reasonably sized and economically sound.

Without Greenlight, Newport Beach would look a lot like Marina del Rey. Without the Laguna Residents First initiative, I’m concerned that Laguna Beach will begin to look like Newport. I hope Laguna residents will see that this is a good initiative that will protect Laguna’s charm and character and is deserving of their support. 

Susan Skinner

Newport Beach/Laguna Beach

Thanks to Russell for the Laguna Canyon Foundation piece

Many thanks for the wonderful December 28 article about the Laguna Canyon Foundation hikes. I have been hiking for several years with John Foley and thank you for giving him credit for the incredible photos he takes on all hikes he leads. I was very pleased that on the January 4 hike, which followed Dianne’s article, there were two new couples in the group, both of whom became aware of and interested in joining the hike because of the article.

Keep up the good work! 

Deborah Joyce

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Connection to Tommy Chambers makes me happy for Ruby Samson and what’s potentially to come

In this unprecedented time of turmoil here at home and abroad, I was happy to read about LBHS student Ruby Samson and her award-winning work [Thom Chambers Award] on behalf of SEA Your Future.

While I don’t know Ruby, I did know the late Thom (Tommy) Chambers. We first met in the late 1970s, when he and his good friend, Fred Stodder, rented a small pottery studio below my home on Jasmine Street. It was clear to me those two teenagers had many life goals in mind, just as I’m sure Ruby does now.

As a 70-something senior, I worry about the world my two grandchildren will inherit when they are in high school. If Ruby’s vision and commitment is any indication of things to come, I’m confident my two little ones will want to follow in her footsteps.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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Letters to the Editor

Remembering Barbara Metzger

Barbara Metzger’s recent passing has left a hole in the hearts of many.

Barbara loved Laguna and showed it by giving her time and energy to help maintain its village atmosphere. She served on the Heritage Committee, Design Review Board and the Planning Commission.

One of her charitable works for years was feeding the homeless every month at the Alternative Sleeping Location together with Verna Rollinger and Charlotte Masarik.

She was a Village Laguna board member for over 30 years, serving as corresponding secretary for decades and publishing the monthly newsletter through October of this year. Barbara enthusiastically supported our annual Charm House Tour and was famous for making the world’s best lemon bars.

Barbara was a member of the Ladies Who Lunch group that started in the mid 1970s by women who made a difference. Founding members were Phyllis Sweeney, Sally Bellarue, Verna Rollinger and Hortense Miller, among others.

She was a great editor and worked on the book Celebrating A Treasured Historic American Landscape, as well as documents and brochures for Village Laguna and others.

In addition to her many talents, she played in a group of instrumental recorders.

Barbara had a strong passion for Laguna’s historical landmarks and very much wanted to see the digester restored as agreed to by city council several years ago. She didn’t live to see it happen, but it would be a great way to honor her if that project is started this coming year.

Anne Caenn, President

Village Laguna

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In Memoriam

Herb Nolan

IN MEMORIAM HERB NOLAN

Photo by Doug Miller

Herb Nolan, 1984

Herb Nolan peacefully passed away on November 22, 2023, at his beloved home in Ketchum, Idaho.

Herb moved with his single mother, Helen, and three siblings, Ben, Dick and Mary from Michigan to Laguna Beach in 1946. Although the Nolans lacked resources, Herb felt enriched growing up in Laguna. He thrived at diving, surfing, racing hotrods and other mischief with his Sultan “gang,” and finding inspiration from Coach Guyer. Herb graduated LBHS in 1952 and then from Orange Coast College in 1954. After spending the winter surfing Oahu’s north shore big waves and summers lifeguarding in Laguna, Herb enlisted in the USMC to become a pilot. He graduated top of his class and was stationed at El Toro, flying in the F8 fighter wing. While on a summer training flight, Herb regretfully gave a low-level flyby to his buddies at Oak Street Beach that caused numerous Laguna windows to blowout when he hit his afterburner and pulled straight up. The Marines reprimanded Herb to the East Coast where his adventures continued, including ejecting from a mid-air collision during an aerial dogfight. The Marines allowed Herb to return to Laguna for his brother Dick’s memorial from a crash at the Coast Highway and Emerald Bay dip.

After completing his USMC duty, Captain Nolan flew commercial for a year out of Chicago, but found this type of flying too routine. He quickly picked up the thrill of skiing and while on the ski patrol at Alta Utah found his future wife, Diana “Josh,” crashing down the mountain. The newlyweds spent their winters at the Peruvian Lodge in Alta and summers commercially diving for abalone at San Clemente Island with Josh tending the compressor on the surface, while Herb searched for abs in his metal helmet and boots on the bottom.

The Nolans decided they needed a safer profession to raise a family in Laguna, so Herb started working for Peggy Taylor as a real estate agent in 1962 and then opened his own office, Nolan Real Estate. Herb hired his first agent in 1968 and built a team of young professional agents with many remaining active in the community today. Soon Nolan Real Estate was the most productive office in Laguna with 40 agents.

The Nolans had become a family of four with Steve arriving in 1963 and Daniel in 1966. Herb became an active dad with countless trips to San Onofre with the VW bus packed with neighborhood kids and surfboards. There were also surf camping trips to Baja with other Laguna families, where Herb taught the kids the skills to enjoy the rewards of nature. Herb also continued his love of flying by taking family ski trips across the West and landings on Baja beaches in the family’s plane.

After an amicable divorce, Herb sold Nolan Real Estate and retired at 45. He set off trekking the Himalayas and then was reintroduced to Collen/ “Gail” who he originally met while lifeguarding in Laguna. Gail and Herb moved to New Zealand for a year to oversee the building of their 50’ catamaran. They spent the next four years sailing the South Pacific to Alaska and then back to Laguna.

In 1999, now married, the Nolans moved to Ketchum, Idaho and built their dream home with a beautiful view of Sun Valley ski resort. In 2010, Herb’s love, Gail, succumbed to stomach cancer. Herb’s need for thrills never stopped, he skied competitively until he was 87 in slalom and GS events in Sun Valley, and traveled to events with the Masters race team.  Herb joked that he usually won his age group, since everyone else was gone or too smart to be pushing the envelope while flying down the mountain.

Herb is survived by his two sons and five grandchildren. Herb did not want any fuss when he passed, but hoped that those he touched would give him a nod when they turn their adventure dreams into action. His ashes will be spread by his family next to Gail’s overlooking the mountains.

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In Loving Memory

Bob “Huff” Huffman

In Loving Memory Bob and Chris Huffman

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Barbara MacGillivray

Bob and Chris Huffman in 1980, excited about the birth of Shaun MacGillivray

Bob “Huff” Huffman, 88, was the owner and witty proprietor of The Forest Market, now leased to the fantastic 230 Restaurant. Perhaps the funniest man to ever live in Laguna, Huff passed on to the quiet side this past week in beautiful Point Arena, Calif. Known for his friendly Tuesday poker games in the back of the market, the best sandwiches ever in town, and the drollest comebacks to any greeting, Huff was a true Laguna iconoclast. He supported the rights of the poor, and with his membership in Village Laguna, fought for the wild canyons and the clean ocean. He was a liberal in politics, a lover of all humans and a caretaker of any kinetic thing – including lost golf balls at Ben Brown’s. He would have loved what Mark Christy has done with the Aliso Canyon that he treasured.

Huff began his wild Laguna ride with a bikini company called Strawberries in the ‘70s with his first wife, Pickles. When she died from cancer suddenly, he bought The Forest Market in the late ‘70s, with his second wife, Chris, and they transformed it into the town gathering spot, with healthy fresh squeezed fruit drinks, whole wheat sandwiches and fair prices. Every employee Downtown ate lunch there daily, and grew healthier in the process. One day, when Huff had to attend a family event, Greg MacGillivray took over the cash register for lunch for only four hours and became a stuttering fool – what a demanding, stressful job. Huff and Chris must have had a special tolerance gene made for that task. They made the Market the highlight of our Downtown.

Huff had thousands of friends, some attracted by his creative antics. He invented the fine art of streaking a party to make it even more spirited. He loved controversy and the absurd. On some July Fourths, he literally became an exploding naked attraction, holding lit spinning pinwheels between his legs and sparklers in his hands. Yet he had no shortcomings. As his friend Mark Dawson has said: “Huff had a kind heart. He always had positive and fun things to say to the people he encountered, things meant to lift a person’s spirit or boost their self-esteem. He had an unusual and special desire to lift people up. I can’t help but think how much better our world would be if we had more Huffs.”

His wife, Chris Fidler, has called out affectionately: “I am the lucky woman who fell in love with Huff. He introduced me to a life rich with good friends and a loving family. He had a heart of gold and the personality to make sure that everyone around him felt loved and special. We were a great team to host the Forest Market and embrace the community. Loving Huff has been one of the best experiences of my life.”

In later years, Huff traveled with his dear, steadfast and caring friends, Lorelei and Tim Brooks, to live a quiet, beautiful life in glorious Point Arena, Calif. He’d tell MacGillivray, “It’s small and personal, like Laguna was in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Recently, Laguna Beach filmmaker Robin D. Williams traveled to Scotland with Huff: “Huff enjoyed chatting with the locals, who all had a thick Scottish brogue, and it was fun to see him pretend to understand every word they spoke. He did not know it, but soon he was picking up the Scottish accent, and unfortunately, I could no longer understand him,” shared MacGillivray.

“One of the smartest men I’ve ever met, Barbara (MacGillivray) and I give our Thanksgiving thanks to have known and enjoyed this true Lagunatic: Bob Huffman, one of the best humans to ever love Laguna,” said MacGillivray.

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Letters to the Editor

We should do everything we can to protect our ocean quality, not less

On Wednesday, Nov. 29, approximately 95,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled out along our coastline areas from Laguna Avenue to Blue Lagoon. With the area polluted by our very own human waste, I couldn’t help but think about our fragile ecosystem and what effect this will have, both short term and long term, for our aquatic life, not to mention the quality-of-life issues for the folks who live along the beach and the many businesses that rely on it. I can’t stop asking myself, how could we let this happen?

When Amplify Energy spilled thousands of gallons of oil in our ocean, killing land and marine life and closing businesses, we were all rightly outraged. What happens in our state and federal waters is out of our control. We rely on the good actors, or in Amplify’s case the bad actors, to maintain their infrastructure and to sound the alarms immediately in the event of a failure, in order to minimize the impact. But in this case, the spill of raw sewage now polluting our shores and water is our fault. We have no one to blame but ourselves. And it’s not the first time. As recently as November 2019, one million gallons of sewage spilled into the ocean near Aliso Beach. Some have suggested this November timeframe has to do with the city’s strategy for managing runoff in the winter.

Recently, David Shissler, a civil engineer with many years of experience in building and maintaining sewer facilities and training employees, retired as the city’s Director of the Water Quality Department. Under his management, the department was divided into two divisions, one handling sewers and the other handling storm water infrastructure. The city has since rolled these divisions into the Department of Public Works and Utilities. Instead of finding and hiring the top candidate to focus on our water quality, the city eliminated Shissler’s position. To me, this seems to indicate that water quality and public health and safety are less of a priority.

I would think bringing on an experienced engineer and ensuring we have the latest and greatest technology and infrastructure and staff would be among the city’s top priorities. Instead, we chose to have a void in leadership by eliminating positions, all while having old and failing infrastructure. In a town where ocean water quality is a public priority, how should we interpret this coastal city eliminating the department with that sole responsibility?

Judie Mancuso

Laguna Beach

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In Loving Memory

Jean Rogers Hall

June 4, 1941 – October 31, 2023

In Loving Memory Jean Hall

Submitted photo

Jean Rogers Hall

Jean Rogers Hall died on Tuesday, Oct. 31 after a long period of declining health. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Jean’s memory. She was the most attentive listener, the best reader, a constant friend, a dedicated professor and a loving wife to her husband James Hall for, according to Jim’s calculations, 59.184 years (!).

Jean was born June 4, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, in Wilmington, Calif. at the Port of Los Angeles, where her father Ray Rogers worked as a chemist for Union Oil. Ray, Jean and her mother Dorothy Katherine Conroe Rogers, moved to Fullerton, Calif. in 1951, and it is there that Jean attended high school, finding her niche in the speech squad. As Jean was always modest about her considerable academic and professional achievements; even close friends might not know that Jean won the California state competition in Oratory, and in Impromptu Speaking. Jean once grudgingly admitted to a cousin, “In those remote days, I was a star.”

While attending Pomona College from 1959-1963 as an English major, Jean met her future husband, James Hall, a fellow student who worked in the dining hall. When they took a philosophy course together, Jim was flabbergasted by Jean’s intellect. Romance ensued. After graduating from Pomona, Jean worked briefly as a legal secretary in Los Angeles. On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, Jean ran down the hall to watch Walter Cronkite on the only television in the building. That TV was in an office belonging to the famously flamboyant Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. It is hard to imagine a more unlikely duo than Jean Rogers Hall and Hedda Hopper watching that broadcast together.

After marrying in 1964, both Jean and Jim went to graduate school at UC Riverside, where Jean received her Ph.D. in English Literature. In 1968, Jim who had been in ROTC at Pomona, was called up to active duty as a Captain in the U.S. Army and stationed at Picatinny Arsenal in Dover, N.J. Every weekend, he and Jean would go into New York City to enjoy the museums, the symphony and the theater. Soon, however, Jim was sent to Vietnam. Jean found a wrinkle in the regulations that could spring Jimmy from the war early if he had a job as a farmer or teacher. Clever Jean was able to secure him a job teaching chemistry at a parochial school, and thus get her husband the hell out of Vietnam, and the Army, in record time!

Jean moved to Laguna Beach and joined the faculty at California State University, Fullerton in 1970 and taught there until 2002. Tom Klammer, her friend and former chair of the Fullerton English department, remembers that Jean “represented the best qualities of an entire generation of university faculty, enthusiastically guiding her students to love and appreciate great literature and pursuing a life devoted to scholarship and teaching. Her colleagues remember her warmth, sense of humor and caring friendship, qualities that helped make her department into a supportive professional community.”

Professor Hall taught undergraduate courses in Romantic Poetry, Modern Poetry and Victorian Literature, along with graduate seminars in Victorian Poetry and Women’s Writing. She was an early advocate of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Study Away programs, having three times taught a semester-long program of study in London.

As a scholar of the English Romantic period, Jean published peer-reviewed articles, as well as two scholarly monographs: The Transforming Image: A Study of Shelley’s Major Poetry (University of Illinois Press, 1980) and A Mind that Feeds Upon Infinity: The Deep Self in English Romantic Poetry (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991).

Jean retired in 2002, primarily to care for her father, Ray. Over the next 21 years, Jim and Jean managed to travel the world with friends and colleagues, often visiting London for months at a time and traveling to New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Mexico, Alaska, Costa Rica, Antarctica, India, Africa, Egypt, Vienna, The Czech Republic, Berlin, Italy, Norway, France…well, you get the idea: every continent on the globe.

Jean eagerly devoured art, music, movies, theater and books, books, books! Her devotion to the written word was unparalleled. Moreover, she brought her intellect, warmth and emotional intelligence to all her many important friendships. Though she was herself an only child, she married into a loud and large family – Jim has five siblings. Her deep understanding of the dynamics of that family and her sympathetic observances of it, were uncanny and illustrative of a lifetime of sensitivity, generosity and kindness.

In the new year, a celebration of Jean’s life will be held. Until that time, in lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to Human Rights Watch (www.hrw.org).

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Letters to the Editor

What’s the rush?

There was a LBUSD board meeting on November 16 that received no media coverage; it should have. Ostensibly, the meeting was to provide an update to the Facilities Master Plan (FMP) including recommended sequencing of projects. The board will meet again on December 14 and approve a roughly $100M FMP.

The district boasts about the reduction from the original (ill-conceived) FMP but it’s still $100M for the smallest district in OC with declining enrollment. The $100M includes $50M at the high school campus, $21M at El Morro, $14M for new district staff offices and $15M of upgrades at TOW and Thurston.

The high school expenditures include replacing the current 25-meter shared high school/community pool with a 50-meter Olympic competition pool. The existing wading/kiddie pool is eliminated and the bathhouse is being demolished and rebuilt. Cost for the pool complex, approximately $16 million. There are viable options that cost millions less, fully address student/resident needs and are far less disruptive.

The district is planning a general obligation bond of $80-$100M that would likely come for a public vote in 2026. Interestingly, the timing in the plan showed spending for the pool starting in 2024 and ending in 2026...BEFORE the bond is presented to voters. Apparently the pool will be funded from “available funds” and is being fast tracked before the bond vote. Additionally, the city currently funds 70% of the pool costs and has not finalized their position on community pool options.

So what’s the rush on a project that has considerable resident opposition? Approving the project now avoids the transparency of a bond issue and attempts to force the city to participate in funding. The better approach is to delay approval of the pool and work cooperatively with the city on a solution that fully addresses the needs of residents and school athletes in an economical manner. This is a resident tax-funded project and should have resident visibility and support; it does not.

Gary Kasik

Laguna Beach

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