O.C. land transfer offers healing opportunity for descendants of indigenous people

 Dustin Murphey and Tina Calderon stand on coastal land that has been returned to indigenous tribes.
Dustin Murphey, who is Acjachemen, and Tina Calderon, who is Tongva, stand on coastal land that has been returned to indigenous tribes whose people have lived and acted as land and water stewards as far back as 9,000 years.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Dec. 13. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.

Media outlets last month reported that title to a modest 6.2 acres on the Bolsa Chica Mesa has recently been transferred to the nonprofit Acjachemen Tongva Land Conservancy, also known as ATLC. The ATLC, according to a news release issued Nov. 13, was created by, and includes representation from, multiple Acjachemen and Tongva tribes whose ancestors lived in Orange County. They became the stewards of the property via a 2016 legal settlement negotiated between the Coastal Commission, the city of Huntington Beach and developer Signal Landmark.

Following up on the announcement, Los Angeles Times reporter Tyrone Beason took this deep dive into the background of the land transfer and what it means to Indigenous Californians. If you missed it, I urge you to spend some time reading it. I can hardly give it justice in this newsletter, only a very brief glimpse of it.

Beason relates the history of the coastal area overlooking the Pacific Ocean where “the Acjachemen and Tongva people hunted, fished and foraged for nuts and berries” at Bolsa Chica Mesa as far back as 9,000 years ago. Now that it has been returned, their descendants can practice traditions there that have great meaning to them.

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The reporter interviewed two tribal leaders who will lead restoration efforts at the site, Dustin Murphey, who is Acjachemen, and Tina Calderon, who is of Tongva as well as Chumash, Mexican and Yoeme descent.

Private property “is a foreign concept for our people,” Calderon, whose Tongva tribe has roughly 3,000 members, told Beason. “We didn’t own land.”

They believe the ground beneath your feet has a soul, Beason reports. “It’s your kin. It doesn’t belong to you as an individual, but you belong to it.”

Now holding the title to a portion of the Bolsa Chica Mesa on the border of Huntington Beach, Calderon said, is “a huge thing.”

Beason reports the tribes plan to hold ceremonial gatherings on the property. They’ll also restore the land “as a habitat for native flora and wildlife that can be sustained even as climate change and sea-level rise imperil vulnerable ecosystems such as these coastal lowlands,” he writes.

“Imagine being able to harvest our medicines here and know that they’re safe and nobody’s spraying them,” Calderon said.

Murphey, president of the ATLC and a Costa Mesa resident, said he feels thankful for the hard work that successive generations of Acjachemen and Tongva people have done to raise awareness of the need for land returns.

“This happened because of them,” he says of earlier advocates. “We are standing on their shoulders.”

MORE NEWS

Adaptive surfer Kumaka Jensen rolls out on the first Mobi-Mat in Huntington Beach on  May 5, 2021.
Adaptive surfer Kumaka Jensen rolls out on the first Mobi-Mat in Huntington Beach on May 5, 2021. OC Coastkeeper and the California State Coastal Conservancy have announced a new program that will provide funds to municipalities and other entities to acquire such accessibility equipment.
(Daily Pilot File Photo)

OC Coastkeeper and the California State Coastal Conservancy have announced a new Beach and Coast Accessibility Program. According to my colleague Lilly Nguyen, OC Coastkeeper confirmed Thursday the grant program will provide up to $30,000 to local jurisdictions, nonprofits and indigenous groups for the acquisition of accessibility equipment. That would include items such as beach wheelchairs, walkers, mats and other equipment.

The Costa Mesa City Council has dropped its fight against the state to put a regional emergency operations center on a portion of land occupied by the Fairview Developmental Center. The decision came, according to this story by my colleague Sara Cardine, after Mayor John Stevens and City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison traveled to Sacramento early last week with state Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris to meet with state department heads. Stephens told Cardine afterward that any concerns he had about ongoing, disruptive activity happening at the proposed emergency center were allayed by the visit. “My temperature went way down when I understood what the reality of the functioning of the emergency operations center will be,” he said.

Decided along party lines, Huntington Beach’s first Latina mayor, Gracey Van Der Mark, was sworn in after 4-3 vote last week. The conservative majority on the H.B. City Council held sway, placing her colleague, Councilman Pat Burns, in the mayor pro tem seat, going against established policy to do so. Outgoing Mayor Tony Strickland led the proceedings by moving the council set aside Resolution 6320, established in 1991, which calls for the most senior council member who has not served as mayor in the past four years to be selected to the pro tem seat.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian renovated the old South Coast Theater in Laguna Beach and welcomed the public to it last week. A crowd turned out to view the combined showroom and theater, which will serve as an event space. The property opened as the New Lynn Theater in 1935. After acquiring it for $10.7 million in April 2021, Rivian restored features of the original structure, including the auditorium, balcony, marquee, proscenium arch, ticket booth and the original 129-seat theater area. The venue joined the National Register of Historic Places in March.

An annual report on the health of Orange County’s children showed substantial progress in some areas but raised other issues. Among the findings there were “positive improvements in health insurance access, early prenatal care and a reduction in child poverty and high school dropout rates,” according to the report, and the percentage of O.C. high school graduates considered ready for college increased. But chronic school absenteeism was up, fewer third-graders were meeting standards and more 11th-graders were reporting depression. Most disturbingly, suicide was found to be the leading cause of death in 10- to 14-year-olds.

PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS

Pastor Paul Capetz shows where a man damaged the stained-glass door at Christ Church by the Sea.
Pastor Paul Capetz shows where a man damaged the stained-glass window in a door at Christ Church by the Sea, Newport Beach on April 16. Nicolas Alexandro Briones pleaded guilty Monday to the vandalism.
(Daily Pilot File Photo)

A man pleaded guilty Monday to shattering stained glass windows at a Newport Beach church in April. Nicolas Alexandro Briones, 27, of San Dimas was immediately sentenced to 16 months in jail for the incident that caused $100,000 in damages at Christ Church by the Sea.

Former La Habra Police Chief Alan Hostetter received an 11-year sentence for his role in the Jan. 6 riots. Hostetter, a prominent COVID-19 restrictions critic and activist, was sentenced Thursday in Washington, D.C. The 59-year-old yoga instructor used to live in San Clemente but has since moved to Texas. He was found guilty in July by in a bench trial of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, City News Service reports.

A 12-year-old boy was detained Monday on a Westminster school campus for taking a knife to school. City News Service reported Warner Middle School staff detained the boy for bringing the “kitchen-type knife” to the campus. The boy was released to his parents, police said. The case was also sent to the Orange County district attorney’s office to consider criminal charges.

LIFE & LEISURE

A dry bowl of hu tieu nam vang at Grandpa’s Kitchen - Grill Bar 168.
A dry bowl of hu tieu nam vang at Grandpa’s Kitchen - Grill Bar 168 with noodles, slices of roast pork and shrimp.
(Edwin Goei)

Food writer Edwin Goei serves up tips on where to find the best hu tieu nam vang. In “Where to hu tieu: Introducing a dish that might become your new favorite,” published in Sunday’s print edition of the Daily Pilot & TimesOC, Goie suggests readers taste the offerings at Trieu Chau in Santa Ana, Hu Tieu De Nhat in Garden Grove and Grandpa’s Kitchen - Grill Bar 168, also in Garden Grove.

Groups of siblings get a picture with Santa at South Coast Plaza's Carousel Court on Dec. 7.
Groups of siblings get a picture with Santa during the Orange Coast and Saddleback Mothers of Multiples Clubs breakfast and visit with Santa at South Coast Plaza’s Carousel Court on Dec. 7.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

• Twins and triplets were treated to special night at South Coast Plaza last week. Droves of twins and triplets were afforded with a special visit with St. Nick just in time for the holidays. Members of the Orange Coast Mothers of Multiples and the Saddleback Mothers of Multiples joined together to take their children to Thursday’s event.

Asher Avital, of Newport Beach, lights the menorah for the start of Hanukkah.
Asher Avital, of Newport Beach, lights the menorah for the start of Hanukkah during a Festival of Lights public Menorah-lighting ceremony hosted by Chabad Center for Jewish Life at the Atrium Garden Court at Fashion Island in Newport Beach on Dec. 7.
(James Carbone)

Celebrants marked the first night of Hanukkah at Fashion Island on Thursday. A menorah lighting took place in the retail center’s atrium garden court, with the first candle lit by a family member of a hostage in the Israel-Hamas war, according to the Daily Pilot’s coverage of the ceremony. The event was hosted by Chabad Center for Jewish Life.

Cathy Jensen, left, and Karen Wilson stand with the toys for Marine families.
Cathy Jensen, left, and organization secretary Karen Wilson stand with the toys for Marine families during the Travelers of Gulliver’s Christmas party at Gulliver’s Restaurant in Irvine.
(Susan Hoffman)

Travelers of Gulliver’s recently hosted its annual Camp Pendleton Marine & Family Christmas Holiday party. The event was held at Gulliver’s restaurant in Irvine, where donated new toys were piled high. The six Marines who attended the event later transported the gifts for distribution to 350 Marines and their family members. Travelers of Gulliver’s is a nonprofit comprised of Orange County business and professional leaders.

SPORTS

Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers talks to the Angels' Shohei Ohtani during a July  2023 game.
Mookie Betts of the Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium on July 7. As a free agent, Ohtani has signed a $700-million deal to join the Dodgers.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

The Halos’ loss is L.A.’s gain: In case you are among the few who haven’t heard, Shohei Otani will be wearing Dodger blue. L.A. Times sportswriters are all over this. Check out their very comprehensive coverage (I counted a more than a dozen separate articles there) of the 10-year, $700-million deal.

Tim Reda poses for a picture in December.
Tim Reda poses for a picture in December. Reda, a surfing coach and instructor, has been making a comeback since being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
(Simone Staff / Seaster Media)

A local surfing instructor who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016 is hoping to one day win a world title. Tim Reda, who was cautioned by doctors to stay out of the water in order to avoid drowning from a seizure, was in Morro Bay over the weekend competing in a World Surf League event.

Huntington Beach setter Dani Sparks is the Daily Pilot Girls' Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year for 2023.
Huntington Beach setter Dani Sparks is the Daily Pilot Girls’ Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year for 2023. Sparks, who played four years on varsity, has signed with Cal Poly. She led the Oilers to the Surf League title.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Dani Sparks, a Huntington Beach High athlete, has been the Daily Pilot Girls’ Volleyball Dream Team Player of the Year. During her senior season, Sparks provided 1,483 assists, 246 digs and 36 service aces. To learn who else made the Dream Team, go here.

CALENDAR THIS

A small boat with a big Santa theme moves along the route during a Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade.
The 115th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade launches tonight and runs through Sunday. Above, a small boat with a big Santa theme moves along the route during the 111th parade.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

Tonight the 115th annual Newport Beach Boat Parade gets underway. This parade, which features boats sailing around a 14-mile course in Newport Harbor, begins at 6:30 p.m. every night through Sunday. There are more than 50 viewing locations on the waterfront: islands, Balboa Peninsula, parks and several restaurants offering special prix fixe boat parade menus. There are also nearly 20 boat charters and tours. Opening and closing nights include fireworks displays, and every night features a different grand marshal. For more information, visit the Christmas Boat Parade site.

The holiday festival Snoopy House will make its annual return to Costa Mesa City Hall on Friday, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This event features holiday light displays, free train rides and sledding, stage performances from Kids Imagine Nation, food vendors and more, and will run nightly through Dec. 22. Photos with Santa will be offered each night from 6 to 8 p.m. A special sensory-friendly event, with no lights, music, loud noises or animatronics will be offered on Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 3 to 5 p.m. with the regular programming starting at 5:30 p.m. For more information, including sledding requirements, visit costamesaca.gov/snoopyhouse or call (714) 754-5300 during regular business hours.

Especially for kids: An interactive story-time and art-making experience for children at Laguna Art Museum. Children are invited to visit the museum at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, for this special event. The day’s featured story is “What to Do With a Box,” by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban. In partnership with Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, children will use their creativity to think of inventive ways to use a box.
Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach.

KEEP IN TOUCH

Thank you for reading today’s newsletter. If you have a memory or story about Orange County, I would love to read and share it in this space. Please try to keep your submission to 100 words or less and include your name and current city of residence.

I appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com.