It’s official: balloons outlawed in Laguna Beach, at least in public spaces

Kids playing water balloons ready for battle.
Laguna Beach residents and businesses have only until the end of this year before an ordinance goes into place that will prohibit presence of balloons on public property.
(Onfokus / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Feb. 22. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events for you.

Those of you who live or own a business in Laguna Beach and find yourselves festively minded on occasion, take notice: If balloons are your party accessory of choice, you have only until the end of this year before an ordinance goes into place that will prohibit their presence on public property. Additionally, they’ll be banned from being released into the air and from being disposed of, except where they are contained with a lid.

Also, Laguna Beach merchants that currently stock the party staple will not be allowed to sell them within city limits once the law goes into effect.

Yes, the clock is ticking on the life of balloons in Laguna Beach, our colleague Andrew Turner writes, after the City Council, on its second reading Tuesday night, continued to support unanimously the new ordinance they approved in late January.

Violations of these restrictions can result in fines of up to $100 for a first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for each successive violation within one year, Turner reports. The ordinance allows for the city manager to revoke the business license of any recalcitrant retailer who commits four or more party balloon violations within a year.

The City Council’s decision on the matter has the solid endorsement of environmentalists.

“We shouldn’t utilize artificial stuff like single-use plastic balloons,” Turner quotes Hoiyin Ip, co-chair of the Sierra Club California zero waste committee as telling the City Council. “This is horrible in terms of the impact to wildlife and biodiversity. I hope this will change the way people think.”


U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers are investigating a boat that washed ashore Monday night in Huntington Beach.
(James Trager)

— U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers are investigating an incident that occurred in Huntington Beach Monday night, when a 23-foot pleasure craft carrying 11 passengers washed ashore near Lifeguard Tower 14, according to this story by our colleague Sara Cardine. Among the passengers were two adult Mexican women and nine adult men, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Jaime Ruiz told Cardine Tuesday, but by the time enforcement officials arrived at the scene five had fled the area.

— The city of Huntington Beach and the state of California are preparing to be in a race of lawsuits filed against each other over housing issues. City Atty. Michael Gates said at a press conference last week that his office is preparing a lawsuit against the state, challenging the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation number of 13,368 units for the current cycle. The lack of compliance with state law has opened the city up to “builder’s remedy” applications, which can be used to circumvent local zoning laws. The Planning Commission approved an amendment to the “builder’s remedy,” prompting the state to prepare a lawsuit against the city. State Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta issued a warning letter last week to Gates, saying the move violated the state’s Housing Accountability Act by hampering affordable housing projects.

— University of California officials are ramping up efforts to crowdsource funding to keep at-risk Afghan scholars fleeing the Taliban at their campuses. Four Afghan scholars have come to UC Irvine since December 2021, finding interim housing and work. But as conditions in Afghanistan continue to deteriorate, and public interest shifts to other crises, their fate is uncertain.

— Sarah Roberts and Joan Ashley were named Ocean View School District Teachers of the Year for 2022-23. Roberts is a history teacher at Mesa View Middle School, while Ashley teaches fifth grade at Circle View Elementary. Both teachers were honored on campus with a surprise visit from district personnel including Supt. Michael Conroy and Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer.

— Newport-Mesa Unified officials have gotten a glimpse of the final designs for Estancia High School’s performing arts complex in its new location. Designs for the $42-million theater were submitted to the Division of the State Architect in late January. The 20,000-square-foot theater was shifted to the northeast corner of the Costa Mesa campus and will be situated in relation to a nearby gym, athletic fields and the main school entrance.

Loved ones honored Laguna Beach doctor Michael Mammone during a memorial service held Thursday at the grounds of the Festival of Arts. Friends, relatives and colleagues said the emergency physician saved lives on practically a daily basis and taught many others to do the same. Mammone is survived by his wife and two sons, one of whom serves in the Marines.


 HSI Los Angeles's El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force seize a Lamborghini from an Orange County businessman.
This photo provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows special agents with HSI Los Angeles’s El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force seize a Lamborghini from an Orange County businessman on April 6, 2021, in Irvine. Mustafa Qadiri, 38, was sentenced Friday to 4½ years in prison for a scheme in which he obtained $5 million in federal coronavirus-relief loans for phony businesses and then used the money for lavish vacations and to buy a Ferrari, Bentley and Lamborghini.
(Uncredited / Associated Press)

— Mustafa Qadiri, 42, of Irvine, who fraudulently obtained $5 million in pandemic relief loans and then spent the money on lavish vacations, luxury sports cars and his own personal expenses was sentenced Friday to 4½ years in prison, according to a report in the L.A. Times. Qadiri filed the applications in May and June 2020 on behalf of four separate Newport Beach companies, none of which were actually in operation at the time, federal prosecutors said. Among other deceptions, he lied about the companies’ employee numbers, falsified bank balances and created fake tax returns, officials said.

— A man identified as a suspect in a hit-and-run collision that injured five people in Seal Beach on Feb. 11 turned himself in to police on Sunday. Two women and three 17-year-old-girls in the vehicle that was struck were taken to a hospital. But the driver of the Mercedes Benz that struck them fled on foot. Investigators reviewed surveillance footage and identified Jahson Imgrund, 23, of Lake Forest, as the driver of the Mercedes Benz in the crash. He submitted himself into the custody of Seal Beach police but was free as of Tuesday, pending a decision by the Orange County district attorney’s office as to what charges he would face.

Proceedings against the man accused of killing Dr. Michael Mammone have been put on hold pending an evaluation of the defendant by mental health experts and a hearing to determine whether he is fit to stand trial scheduled for today (Feb. 22). Vanroy Evan Smith, 39, of Long Beach, faces one count of murder in connection with the death of the 58-year-old Laguna Beach doctor. One of Smith’s relatives told the Los Angeles Times he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and that his mental health had been unstable in recent years.

— The Laguna Beach Police and Community Foundation has offered a reward of no less than $5,000 for information leading to an arrest following an act of vandalism at City Manager Shohreh Dupuis’ house. City officials reported the vandalism, described by police as feces or sewage smeared on and around the home, on Feb. 10. The substance was found on the house, frontyard, mailbox, planters, stairs and path leading up to the property. Those with information can contact Laguna Beach police at (949) 497-0701.

— Laguna Beach police are investigating a stabbing that occurred in South Laguna last Wednesday. Police said the victim is expected to survive. Authorities said that witnesses reported a male and a female fled from the incident in a red sedan. Anyone with information about the incident can contact Det. Mike Lee at (949) 497-0371 or via email at

— The death of a woman who fell to the ground Saturday from the Mickey & Friends parking structure at Disneyland is being investigated as a suicide, police said Monday. The woman was found just before 7 p.m. and taken to a hospital where she died, according to Anaheim police. At least four other individuals since 2010 have taken fatal jumps from the parking structure, which opened in 2000, according to the L.A. Times report on the most recent incident there.

— The latest action to honor the late Huntington Beach Police Officer Nicholas Vella, who died a year ago this week in a helicopter crash, took place Sunday morning in Newport Beach, when hundreds gathered for the unveiling of a memorial plaque in his honor. The plaque was installed on the seawall at Marina Park on the Balboa Peninsula. The plaque dedication came two weeks after a 3-mile stretch of Beach Boulevard was designated as the Officer Nicholas Vella Memorial Highway.


Cast members gather, backs to camera, in the parking lot. A sword sheath reads "FIGHT 4 FAIRNESS" across one's back.
Cast members of the Buena Park Medieval Times castle gather in the parking lot for their strike in front of the restaurant and performance space on Monday.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

— Newly unionized cast members of the Buena Park location of Medieval Times are on strike, calling for increased wages, better workplace conditions and less hostility from management. The strike, which began Feb. 11, was inspired by unsuccessful wage negotiations along with the deletion of hundreds of supposedly pro-union comments on social media and an October lawsuit that alleged trademark infringement on the union’s part. In December, the performers said they learned many of their counterparts throughout the country would be given raises in 2023, while their requests for hourly wage increases were, in some cases, largely ignored.

— The discount home-goods retailer Tuesday Morning has announced that its stores in Fountain Valley and Orange are among several locations nationwide that will be permanently shuttered. As reported by, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 14, the second such filing in three years. According to the Tuesday Morning website listing all the locations that are being closed, shoppers are invited to “Save big on our original low prices” at the soon-to-be closed stores.

— The recently formed Nouri/Shaver Automotive Group, which in December purchased a Buick-GMC-Cadillac dealership in Costa Mesa, is the new owner of Worthington Ford in Long Beach, known for its TV commercials featuring Cal Worthington and a variety of animals — including a gorilla — that he always referred to as his “dog Spot.” Longtime auto dealers Bob Nouri and Pete Shaver joined forces in their new venture.


Huntington Christian School sixth-grader Miller Ruiz recently won a contest to name Caltrans’ new mascot.
Huntington Christian School sixth-grader Miller Ruiz recently won a contest to name Caltrans’ new mascot. His submission, Safety Sam, was one of more than 1,800.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— Huntington Beach Christian School sixth-grader Miller Ruiz, 11, won a contest to name California Department of Transportation’s new mascot, a giant traffic cone. His suggestion, Safety Sam, was selected from 1,800 entries. Ruiz was awarded $500, a laptop and $500 for his teacher to use in the classroom. His prizes will be distributed in a special presentation at the school, during which Safety Sam will make an appearance, and kids in his class will receive free T-shirts.

Safety Sam, a mascot created by Caltrans, will make appearances at public events and be an icon for traffic safety.
(Courtesy of the Office of Traffic Safety)

— From beginners to wizards, all are welcome to the International Flipper Pinball Assn.’s first sanctioned event in Newport Beach at Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill and Brewcades tomorrow (Thursday). The entry fee is $10, plus coins for each play, and funds the prize pool for the winners. First place takes 60% of the pot, second brings home 40%, and earning third or fourth wins a gift card to Cruisers.

— Paul Norris, who operates Surf Ready Fitness in Costa Mesa, has launched an app and equipment bundle for his clients. The app features workouts for both veteran surfers and beginners and costs $9.99 per month. The fitness kit comes with a 22-liter dry bag backpack that includes tools like a stability ball and pump, resistance bands, a speed rope and a TRX suspension trainer. It costs $249 plus tax and includes three free months on the app.

— Topanga Scherf is the new Miss Fountain Valley. The 19-year-old sophomore at Cal State Long Beach was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from the Fountain Valley Community Foundation and plans to use her platform to promote food allergy awareness. Scherf will represent Fountain Valley at the Miss California pageant on July 1 at the Visalia Convention Center.

— Composters, bike riders and home gardeners are being asked to depict how they care for the environment in their local community by participating in a photo contest hosted by Costa Mesa’s Parks and Community Services Department. Participants are urged to send in photos along with a brief explanation (under 30 words) to by March 29. Winners will be announced April 8.


Marina’s Samantha Esparza (20), Izzie Krysinski (4) and Riley Crosby (3) celebrate with Isabella Moawad, center.
Marina’s Samantha Esparza (20), Izzie Krysinski (4) and Riley Crosby (3) celebrate with Isabella Moawad, center, after scoring the Vikings’ second goal against Bishop Amat during a CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinal on Friday.
(Scott Smelzer / Daily Pilot)

— Two local high school teams will be fighting for a CIF Southern Section title this weekend. In boys’ basketball, the No. 4-seeded Sage Hill will face No. 2 Long Beach Jordan in the Division 4A title game at 4 p.m Saturday at Edison High School. The Lightning dispatched Littlerock, 55-49, in Friday’s semifinal game. Meanwhile, the Marina girls’ soccer team shut out La Puente Bishop Amat 2-0 to set up a championship showdown against No. 3 Moorpark at 11 a.m. Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach. The fifth-seeded Vikings are in their first title game since winning three straight championships from 1993 to 1995.

— A Laguna Beach High School athlete, Bella Rasmussen, who became the first girl in state history to score two touchdowns in a football game last October, was again in the spotlight when she was seen in an eye-catching Super Bowl commercial. According to this story reported in the L.A. Times, Rasmussen was asked by the NFL to participate in the ad promoting the growth of girls’ flag football and could be seen at the end of the spot running alongside Diana Flores, the quarterback of the Mexican national team.


Sherman Gardens gives visitors a look at nocturnal animals during "Creatures of the Night" Feb. 24 and 25, from 5 to 7 p.m.
(Courtesy of Sherman Library & Gardens)

— On Friday and Saturday evening visitors of Sherman Gardens can get up-close experiences with nocturnal animals when the Corona del Mar botanical garden hosts its “Creatures of the Night” event. Tickets cost $15 for members and $25 for nonmembers and must be purchased in advance by visiting or by calling (949) 673-2261. As of Tuesday afternoon it appeared Saturday’s event was sold out, but there might still be tickets available for Friday night. Sherman Library & Gardens is located at 2647 E. Coast Highway in Corona del Mar.

‘The Great Picture,’ a 31-foot-by-111-foot photograph of a control tower and twin runways at the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, is the subject of an exhibit at Palm Court Arts Complex in Irvine. The exhibit runs through May 7.

— The Col. William Cabell Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution in Newport Beach will host a Wreaths Across America Mobile Education Exhibit on Monday, Feb. 27, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. honoring veterans of the armed forces and their supporters. This event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the parking lot of Our Lady Queen of Angels, 2046 Mar Vista Drive, Newport Beach.


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