Key grant funding to help O.C. youths avoid juvenile hall comes to an end

 The entrance to the old visiting room in a bungalow at the Orange County Juvenile Hall.
Grant funding for a program that serves as an alternative to incarceration for young first-time offenders of minor crimes in Costa Mesa, Irvine, Newport Beach, Westminster, Tustin, Orange and La Habra ended Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, March 1. 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.

A Youth Reinvestment Grant that offers an alternative to jail time for young first-time offenders of minor crimes in Costa Mesa, Westminster, Newport Beach, Orange, Tustin and La Habra has ended, according to a report by our Daily Pilot colleague Eric Licas.

The funding allowed the cities to contract with nonprofit Waymakers for the past 3½ years. The organization runs initiatives to benefit victims of crimes and other campaigns in addition to youth diversion programs.

The program helped younger kids and teens who had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, vandalism, simple assault, theft or drug/alcohol use avoid stints in Juvenile Hall, Licas learned from Hether Benjamin, Waymakers’ chief program officer for youth development.

“Almost every youth that we work with doesn’t understand the impact of their crime, the negative impact their crime has on that person, that local business, that community,” Benjamin told the reporter.

“Waymakers’ approach [in its diversion program] is based on the concept of restorative justice and getting at the root of what might be causing a young person to turn to unlawful behavior,” Licas reports. “Most are taken to a ‘peer court’ where an actual judge presides over a jury of other teens who will go on to sentence an offender to counseling, community service or some other form of retribution and rehabilitation.”

There is an economic benefit to employing a diversion program, according to the article.

“Benjamin noted that it can cost a family around $300,000 a year to have a child go through court, incarceration or probation,” Licas reports. “She said a full-time diversion team costs around $150,000 annually to fund.”

Further, Benjamin said research shows kids who have been locked up are more likely to perform another crime in the future.

With the grant funding evaporating, Waymakers has been in communication with the Costa Mesa and Westminster police departments about continuing the service, according to Licas’ report.

“We believe strongly in positive juvenile diversion programs that foster healthy, fair and balanced opportunities for juvenile offenders to discover a better path in life,” Costa Mesa Police Chief Ron Lawrence told the reporter. “We value all of our youth and strive to help them find a bright future.”

Youths currently enrolled in the program will be able to complete it even after the funding dries up, officials said.

More information about Waymakers can be found here.


The mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest as seen from a view at Alta Laguna Park in Laguna Beach on Monday.
After clearing storms in Southern California, the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest are illuminated by blankets of heavy snowfall, top to bottom and across the whole range, as seen from a view at Alta Laguna Park in Laguna Beach on Monday.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— No major incidents were reported in the most recent spate of storms, the latest of which is expected to drop rain on O.C. today. With SoCal mountains still blanketed in snow, temperatures will remain chilly, with daytime highs reaching into the low-to-mid 50s, so keep your jackets handy.

— The city of Laguna Beach, which executed a cooperative transfer agreement with Orange County in November, officially assumes control of South Laguna beaches today. The county agreed to pay $22 million to the city for the assumption of capital improvement, maintenance and operations costs related to properties and services in South Laguna. Hours of operation will remain consistent with the prior determinations of the county.

— To the expressed relief of several parents, Ocean View School District Board of Trustees President Patricia Singer announced during a meeting last week the district will pause the proposed closing of Circle View, Village View and Golden View elementary schools, and the repurposing of Spring View Middle School, for the 2023-24 school year. The proposal, sparked by continued declining enrollment numbers, was introduced on Feb. 14 by District Supt. Michael Conroy. Parents offered ways to address the enrollment decline, such as moving sixth-graders to elementary schools and urging the district to market itself more effectively to drive students away from attending private or charter schools.

— Cannabis retailers hoping to operate in Costa Mesa and spending thousands to do so, only to be put on lengthy waiting lists, will be able to get refunds from the city to those who want to withdraw their applications. Out of 63 retail cannabis applications submitted in 2021, 14 have been approved. To help clear a backlog, Costa Mesa is offering to refund up to $900,000 in unprocessed application fees. In other related action, the City Council granted an appeal filed by South Coast Safe Access to open a cannabis dispensary for a site at 2001 Harbor Blvd., close to where drug addiction counseling services are offered.

— Despite repeated warnings from the California attorney general and Department of Housing and Community Development, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to challenge SB 9, SB 10 and state laws expanding accessory dwelling units, often referred to as “granny flats.” Councilman Pat Burns introduced the agenda item that passed, 4-3, with Councilman Casey McKeon adding that “it’s a matter of local control.” Prior to the meeting, state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office and the Department of Housing and Community Development sent separate letters urging the council to reject the item. It was the second time in two weeks that Bonta criticized the city’s actions, following the Planning Commission vote to recommend an ordinance that would ban “builder’s remedy” applications.


A boarded up window at the Neiman Marcus in Newport Beach's Fashion Island.
A boarded up window can be seen at the entrances of the Neiman Marcus store in Newport Beach’s Fashion Island. Burglars drove two different cars into entrances early Monday and allegedly stole approximately $100,000 in mostly high-end handbags before taking off in a third vehicle.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Two burglary suspects were arrested Monday, and two more remain at large, after allegedly crashing two vehicles into the Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton stores at Newport Beach’s Fashion Island and stealing more than $100,000 in merchandise at around 3:45 a.m. When officers arrived on the scene, the suspects got into a third vehicle and fled the scene, engaging officers in a pursuit through a portion of Newport Beach and onto the 73 Freeway. During the chase, suspects were seen throwing the stolen merchandise from the vehicle as it traveled from Orange County toward Los Angeles County. The two detained were being held in Orange County jail on $200,000 bail as of Tuesday.

— A high school safety officer in Santa Ana was arrested last week on suspicion of child molestation, officials say. Santa Ana police began investigating David Escobar, 44, of Santa Ana, after a woman reported that he sexually molested her on multiple occasions when she was 4 years old. The investigation led to another woman who told police that Escobar sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager, Santa Ana police said. Escobar is a district safety officer at Saddleback High School and was arrested while on campus. He has been placed on administrative leave, said the district. Escobar is being held at the Theo Lacy jail in lieu of $1-million bail.

— The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning acts of bullying, harassment and vandalism against any individual following an act of vandalism at the home of City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. On Feb. 9, Laguna Beach police found what appeared to be feces or sewage smeared on the house, frontyard, planters, stairs and the path leading up to the home. The Laguna Beach Police and Community Foundation has since offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction related to the incident.

— Two Costa Mesa residents researched the city’s requirement for residents to register their bicycles. They found the 1977 law was more enforced on the west side of the city than any other part of town. Their findings prompted the state to pass a bill to prohibit the practice, and, as a result, the Costa Mesa City Council last week quietly abolished the requirement, bringing the city into compliance with the new state law. Figures show only 85 people registered bicycles with the city in 2020, and 42 were issued citations by the police that same year.

— A 37-year-old math teacher at Beckman High School in Irvine, Siu Kong Sit, was arrested Monday on suspicion of hiding recording devices in a bathroom at the school. He was arrested on suspicion of possession of or manufacturing child pornography, burglary and two misdemeanor charges and was booked at the Orange County Jail, Irvine Police Department Lt. Cathy Scherer told City News Service. A contracted maintenance worker found the devices inside a restroom near a pool at the school and turned them over to the school’s administrative staff, who then called the police department.

— Orange County firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze Tuesday at an electric bike company on the 23000 block of Alcalde Drive in Laguna Hills for five hours before getting it under control, according to CNS. The blaze broke out around 1:15 a.m. and was brought under control at about 6:08 a.m., Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi told CNS. The fire was fueled by cardboard boxes containing the bikes, Concialdi said.

— Also on Tuesday, an inmate at the Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana tried to make a break for it dressed in civilian clothes, but deputies recognized the man before he exited the building via an area where visitors come and go. He was returned to custody, apparently without incident.


 Jim and Dave Robins, from left, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Theodore Robins Ford dealership in Costa Mesa.
Third generation brothers Jim and Dave Robins, from left, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Theodore Robins Ford dealership. The well known business signed a franchising agreement with the Ford Motor Co. and first opened a dealership on Balboa Peninsula that later moved to Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Jim and Dave Robins celebrated the 100th anniversary of Theodore Robins Ford in Costa Mesa in early February. More than 200 people turned out for the centennial celebration, including corporate officers from Ford Motor Co. who made the trip from Dearborn, Mich. Former World War I pilot Theodore Robins in 1923 inked a deal to open a dealership in Orange County. Today, Theodore Robins Ford is four generations strong. The family attributes their success to their father and grandfather’s belief that if you take care of your customers and employees, they will take care of your business.

— To keep up with changing housing needs, the state periodically requires all cities to zone for a specified number of dwelling units. The latest housing requirement for Orange County calls for 183,000 new units to be planned for, according to a story by our Los Angeles Times colleague Hannah Fry, who took a deep dive into how that requirement, combined with the drop in brick-and-mortar stores has O.C. mall owners rethinking their visions so as to incorporate apartments and other amenities into languishing properties.

Shake Shack has announced plans to open three Orange County locations, with the first coming to Irvine Spectrum in the summer. The eatery, known for elevated takes on American burgers and fries as well as hand-spun milkshakes, also plans to set up shops in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach, the latter on Brookhurst Street and Adams Avenue with a drive-through operation.


Laguna Beach resident Holly Morrell’s nonprofit Heartfelt Screenings is dedicated to saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest.
Laguna Beach resident Holly Morrell’s nonprofit Heartfelt Screenings is dedicated to saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest, through early detection, education and increased public awareness.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Holly Morrell is the founder and executive director of Heartfelt Screening, which has provided cardiac screenings to more than 55,000 children, student-athletes and adults. The Laguna Beach resident felt the need to offer such screenings after a 16-year-old Fountain Valley football player Steven “Scotty” Lang collapsed and died during practice in 1999. Morrell has a special interest in young student-athletes who remain at risk despite generally being in good shape. Heartfelt typically screens in school gymnasiums around the county or at community events. The next screening is on April 1 at Hills Church OC in Laguna Hills, with online preregistration recommended at

— A Huntington Beach man has broken the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive visits to Disneyland. Jeff Reitz, 50, has taken a trip to the Magic Kingdom 2,995 days in a row, or eight years, three months and 13 consecutive days — just shy of his initial goal of 3,000 straight visits. The trips started out as a way for Reitz to get out of the house, get some exercise and get a break from constantly searching for work when he was unemployed in 2012. He was gifted an annual pass, and the visits lifted his spirits on tough days. He said his experience taught him to look for the small details, park features that often go unseen by even the most frequent visitors.

— Trying to find the best Vietnamese coffee in and around Little Saigon? The L.A. Times has provided suggestions of where to find a delicious cup of cà phê sua dá, such as Phin Smith located in Garden Grove’s historic Main Street, Phuc Long Coffee and Tea and Café Bonjour, also in Garden Grove. Other highly recommended shops include Nep Cafe in Fountain Valley and BLK Dot, which has a number of locations in Irvine and one in Laguna Beach. Our colleagues also mapped out other locations to satisfy your fix.


Rocky Ciarelli, seen coaching for Newport Harbor against Huntington Beach on March 23, 2018, died at age 66.
Rocky Ciarelli, seen coaching for Newport Harbor against Huntington Beach on March 23, 2018, coached local high school volleyball programs for 32 years. He died at age 66 on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

Rocky Ciarelli, a Huntington Beach High alumnus who coached local high school volleyball teams for 32 years, died last Tuesday. Ciarelli spent 24 years at Huntington Beach (1985 to 2008), which he graduated from in 1974, and went on to teach social studies. The Oilers on Thursday held a moment of silence for the late coach prior to their home opener against Beckman, which they won in five sets. Ciarelli also coached Edison from 1982 to 1984 and later took charge of the Newport Harbor boys’ volleyball program in 2015. He led the Oilers boys’ volleyball program to CIF Southern Section titles in 1993 and 1994 and helped the girls’ team win the Division IIAA and State Division II titles in 1996. He also led the Sailors to a CIF Division 1 and CIF State Division I boys’ volleyball championship in 2019. Ciarelli was 66.

Huntington Beach High School's boys' volleyball team observes a moment of silence.
The Huntington Beach boys’ volleyball team observes a moment of silence in recognition of the loss of Rocky Ciarelli prior to a match on Thursday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— The Marina High girls’ soccer team and the Sage Hill High boys’ basketball team came up short in their bid for a CIF Southern Section championship over the weekend. The Vikings fell to Moorpark 2-1 in overtime in the Division 3 title game, while the Lightning were defeated by Long Beach Jordan 68-57 in the Division 4A final. The two were set to compete in the CIF State Southern California Regional Championships on Tuesday with first-round results pending as this newsletter was being compiled.

— Notice a little blue and white patch with the letters “FBM” on this year’s Angels uniforms? For the first time, Major League baseball is allowing teams to display sponsorships on jerseys and batting helmets, joining other sports leagues already participating in the venture. The letters stand for Foundation Building Materials, an Orange County-based construction materials and products company. The Angels were the fourth team to announce the deal since the league’s decision. However, the organization has declined to comment on the terms of its deal with FBM.

Newport Harbor High senior Ben Liechty is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Boys’ Water Polo Player of the Year.
Newport Harbor High senior Ben Liechty is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Boys’ Water Polo Player of the Year. Liechty, a left-hander bound for UCLA, helped the Sailors repeat as CIF Southern Section Open Division champions.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

— Newport Harbor High senior Ben Liechty is the Daily Pilot Dream Team Boys’ Water Polo Player of the Year once again. The left-hander, bound for UCLA, capped off his high school career with a pair of CIF Southern Section Open Division titles. The Sailors finished with a 30-3 overall record and captured their 14th CIF championship with a 10-9 victory over top-seeded Serra behind a team-best three goals from the senior. Liechty shared the Surf League MVP and CIF Open Division Player of the Year honors with teammate Peter Castillo.

— Friends of UC Irvine Rowing will be hosting the California Challenge Cup at Newport Beach’s Marina Park on Saturday, from 7:30 to 11 a.m. The competition invites the top collegiate rowing programs in California to a friendly rowing event. Local women’s and men’s crews from both UC Irvine and Orange Coast College will line up against crew from University of California, UC San Diego, UCLA, Santa Clara University, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State. Teams will line up for Henley style dual races along the bay in 5 minute intervals seeded into final cup races. Each crew races 3 times. Viewers can tune into the event with a livestream or come to the site to get a closeup experience of the rowing races.


The Dana Point Harbor 52nd annual Festival of Whales takes place this weekend.
(Courtesy of Dana Point Harbor Partners)

— The Dana Point Harbor 52nd Annual Festival of Whales takes place this Saturday and Sunday and includes a host of activities, so check out that link for all the details. The weekend celebration will be preceded at 4:45 p.m. on Friday with the Welcoming of the Whales Ceremony at the Ocean Institute. The Festival of Whales Magical Migration Parade takes place at 10 a.m. Saturday. The parade route starts at the Richard Henry Dana statue on the Island Way Bridge and proceeds over the bridge, then right on Dana Point Harbor Drive and continues until it ends at Golden Lantern. On Saturday night recording artists Sheena Easton and Taylor Dayne will perform in a special concert at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott. The rest of the festivities include whale excursions, the Whales, Tales & Ales street fair, a Dinghy Dash, and the Diamond Dig treasure hunt. Many of the events will benefit local nonprofits including Fish for Life, the Dana Point 5th Marines and the Rotary Club of Monarch Beach.

— The 56th annual Patriots Parade is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday in Laguna Beach. Its theme this year is “Volunteer Heroes,” and the grand marshal is Toni Iseman, a former longtime member of the City Council. The day’s other honorees are Erin Bevacqua, Ken Aubuchon, Kirra Moore, Chris Hemsley, Randy Morgan and the Laguna Beach Little League Intermediate All Stars. The parade begins at Park Avenue and Legion Street, proceeds down Park Avenue, turns right on Glenneyre Street, right on Forest Avenue and ends just past City Hall. More details are available here.

—The 15th annual OC Restaurant Week is March 5 through 11. No tickets or passes are required, just visit the website to learn which restaurants are participating and check out their offerings.


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