Around Town: UC Irvine to host a virtual celebration Monday to ring in the Year of the Ox

Chinese Indonesian residents
Chinese Indonesian residents light sticks of incense as they pray in a temple in Jakarta, Indonesia during Year of the Ox celebration in 2009. UC Irvine will host a special virtual celebration of the Lunar New Year at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
(Adi Weda / EPA)

The Lunar New Year will be welcomed Monday afternoon when UC Irvine hosts a special virtual celebration of the Year of the Ox.

The festivities are free and open to the public and are expected to include a dragon dance and “feeding” of the lion in addition to performances from artist Abigail Washburn and world-famous guzheng musician Wu Fei.

There will also be a virtual wishing tree and guests will be able to make a wish for prosperity, happiness and longevity by writing a wish on a red wishing card and taking a selfie with it. Wishing cards and more details on the event can be read at

Registration is required to attend and the event will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 8.

The Lunar New Year is on Feb. 12.

Laguna Beach has begun the recruiting process in search of the seaside community’s next city manager.

John Pietig, the presiding city manager of Laguna Beach, announced the first week of January that he plans to retire in June. His service to the city has spanned 20 years.

The Laguna Beach City Council, which makes the appointment for the position of city manager, has hired the recruiting firm Bob Murray & Associates to carry out a search for candidates to serve as the city’s top executive. City officials said the estimated cost for the executive recruiting firm’s services is less than $30,000.

“This is one of the most important positions in the city, and hiring the recruiting firm will allow us to thoroughly evaluate both internal and external candidates for the City Manager position,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement.

Pietig began his run with Laguna as assistant city manager, and he has served as city manager for the last decade. According to Whalen, the City Council aims to name his replacement in May.

Laguna Beach Dems to host OC Supervisor race talk

Attorney Ashleigh Aitken will address the 6:30 p.m. Feb. 10 meeting of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club, a Zoom meeting that is open to the public. The event’s topic is the upcoming Orange County Board of Supervisors’ election, what role the board plays in running the county and how it allocates its $7.5 billion budget.

“We should all be informed about and weigh in on how our tax dollars are being allocated by the Board of Supervisors,” Gwen McNallan, president of the club, stated in a news release.

To learn more about the club, or to register for Wednesday’s Zoom meeting, visit

O.C. emergency rental assistance program accepting applications

The County of Orange is accepting applications through the month of February for an Emergency Rental Assistance program for eligible renters struggling with unpaid rent or utilities bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched this week and funded by a $65.5 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Treasury, the program aims to provide financial assistance to those whose combined household income is at or below 80% of the county’s average median income.

In Orange County, the median income is approximately $71,750 for an individual, $82,000 for a two-member household, $92,250 for three people and $102,450 for a four-person household. For more information on household size, visit

Residents of Anaheim, Santa Ana and Irvine may not participate in Orange County’s assistance program, as those cities have population sizes over 200,000 and maintain their own local city programs, according to a release issued last week by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The Emergency Rental Assistance program does not apply to homeowners with past-due mortgage payments, utilities or energy costs. Funds may only be granted to renters.

Applicants will need to provide a photo ID, a copy of their lease agreement, proof of income affected by COVID-19, such as an unemployment letter or a letter from an employment detailing reduced hours or pay and proof of unpaid rent or utilities, such as documentation from a landlord or utility company stating an amount owed or overdue.

To learn how to apply, call 2-1-1 to receive assistance in multiple languages, visit or text ERA to 898211.

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation accepting applications through March 2

A range of college scholarships are available to children or stepchildren of a Marine or Navy corpsmen, chaplain or religious programs specialist attached to a Marine unit who have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 (on an unweighted 4.0 scale) and whose family has an adjusted gross income of $106,000 or less for 2021-22.

Scholarships are available for those pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, attending or planning to attend a college or career training school listed on the National Center for Education Statistic’s College Navigator website during the 2021-22 academic year.

Career and technical education scholarships are also available for students planning to attend a non-degree certificate program or vocational training 12 months or less at a community college or private career school listed on the College Navigator website.

Applications may be submitted through March 2. For more information, visit

Laguna Beach Festival of Arts 2021 grant applications due March 5

Nonprofit organizations with programs promoting fine arts in and around the city of Laguna Beach are welcome to apply for a series of art grants through the Festival of Arts Foundation beginning Feb. 8.

The Foundation, established in 1989 to preserve and promote fine arts and other artistic endeavors in the area, will be accepting applications through March 5.

“The FOA Foundation is proud to be able to assist local nonprofit art organizations during these challenging times,” Foundation President Bob Earl said in a statement. “We hope that these funds will help to continue the programs that educate our community on the importance of art and cultural experiences.”

Applications can be submitted online at For information on eligibility, grant awards and the application process, contact Bob Earl at (949) 494-4132.

Laguna Beach school board appoints Michael Conlon to assistant superintendent

The Laguna Beach Unified School District has named Michael Conlon its assistant superintendent of human resources and public communications, according to district officials.

Conlon, who was serving as the director of human resources for the district, was appointed to the role at the board meeting on Jan. 28, at which the board considered reorganizing into a format with three assistant superintendents.

A statement from the district said that the decision would not result in an increase in staff. Jeff Dixon is the assistant superintendent of business services, and the district plans to hire an assistant superintendent of instructional services.

“Michael [Conlon] has continued to demonstrate his focus on continuous improvement for himself and our community,” District Supt. Jason Viloria said in the release. “He is committed to developing positive relationships with staff and problem-solving conflicts when they occur. He has proven to be an effective human resources leader and administrator whose work is characterized by a genuine concern for the entire school community.”

Back Bay products Mo Kenney, Tanner Pulice earn men’s water polo honors

Newport Harbor High alumnus Mo Kenney earned Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week honors this week, while Corona del Mar High product Tanner Pulice was named the MPSF Newcomer of the Week.

Both Kenney and Pulice are freshmen for the UCLA men’s water polo team.

In his collegiate debut, Kenney scored a game-high five goals on Jan. 30 to lead the No. 2-ranked Bruins to a 15-9 home win over No. 5 Pepperdine. Four of the goals were even strength, and one came on the power play. He needed just six shots to score the five goals.

Pulice had two goals and two assists in the victory, also winning a sprint and drawing an exclusion.

Edison alum Michael Saffell is Pac-12 Football Scholar Athlete of the Year

Cal senior football player Michael Saffell, an Edison High alumnus, has been named the Pac-12 Football Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Saffell, a center, started on the offensive line for the Golden Bears each of the last three years, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in 2020. He began his career at guard before moving to center as a junior.

Due to COVID-19, he is eligible for a fifth year of competition, and he has opted to return in 2021.

Saffell earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal’s Haas School of Business in three-and-a-half years, graduating in December with a 3.62 undergraduate GPA. He was accepted into the university’s Master of Information and Data Science program, which he began in January.

Orange County SC shirt sales to benefit OC Educational Arts Academy

The Orange County Soccer Club has started the “JuntosMásFuertes” campaign, hoping to combine the community’s passion for soccer and the arts to support diverse nonprofit organizations.

A custom shirt has been created in collaboration with a local artist, and all net proceeds from its sale will go to the Orange County Educational Arts Academy.

Located in Santa Ana, the institution serves about 630 students, ranging from transitional kindergarten to eighth grade.

Hugo Cesar Chavarria was the Southern Californian artist called upon to create the design for the shirt, which depicts action in an Orange County Soccer Club game with landmarks like the Santa Ana Water Tower and the Great Park Balloon in Irvine in the background.

The shirts are limited edition and will be on sale through February. The cost is $20 per shirt, and they can be purchased at the following link:

Sage Hill School accepting applications for 2021-22 school year through Feb. 15

Sage Hill School, a nonprofit, non-denominational independent high school is accepting applications for students in grades 9-12 for the 2021-22 school year through Feb. 15.

Having reopened its doors to students in September five days a week, Sage Hill offered classes virtually or in-person during the 2020-21 school year.

For more information on programs, or to apply online, visit and click on the “Admission” tab. For all candidates who apply by the Feb. 15 deadline, first-round decisions will be announced the last week of February.

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