Laguna Beach receives donation for Pride lifeguard tower at West Street Beach

The city accepted a donation in support of putting a Pride-themed lifeguard tower at West Street Beach in Laguna Beach.
The city accepted a donation from Mark Porterfield and Steve Chadima in support of efforts to put a Pride-themed lifeguard tower at West Street Beach in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

When Laguna Beach reached an agreement to assume control of the beaches in South Laguna from the county of Orange, Laguna Beach Pride expressed interest in having a rainbow-decorated lifeguard tower stationed at West Street Beach.

Those plans received a boost Tuesday, as the City Council accepted a $10,000 donation from residents Steve Chadima and Mark Porterfield to go toward its installation.

“We just thought it was a very clever way to celebrate the fact that that beach has been a haven for LGBTQ people for a long time now,” Chadima said. “It just seemed like a great way to acknowledge that and celebrate it.”

Chadima and Porterfield, who have been together for 37 years, have contributed to other efforts around town, including an artist-designed bench at the end of Mountain Road commemorating what was once the Boom Boom Room, a gay bar with a dance scene where they met. The bar closed in 2007 and the “Boom Boom Bench,” a creation by sculptor Michael Stutz, was dedicated in 2018.

“Now, nobody gives a hoot about whether you’re gay or straight,” Chadima said. “When you go to any sort of a bar or restaurant, you can go anywhere you like. Therefore, there isn’t the need for gay-specific destinations, at least as much, any longer. We just felt this was another opportunity to celebrate that.”

City officials said previously the city would purchase towers for the transferred beaches, for which the city will begin marine safety operations in March. There was also support for community fundraising for the rainbow-art painting.

Craig Cooley, the president of Laguna Beach Pride, expressed his gratitude to the council for allowing for the symbol of recognition for the LGBTQ community. The lifeguard tower will be decorated in rainbow stripes resembling the Pride flag.

“It speaks loudly to all the hate that is out there and diversity being a good thing,” Cooley said of the tower, which is expected to be in place by the summer. “Embracing diversity is a way to counter the hate.”

Mayor Bob Whalen asked for an update on the city’s preparation to take over marine safety operations in South Laguna. Those new duties take effect in roughly five weeks.

“We just had another [lifeguards] tryout last weekend, and we were able to get another nine brave people trying out in the cold water,” Marine Safety Chief Kevin Snow said. “That brings our total hiring non-peak, which we’ve never done before, up close to 20 people. We’re doing well in our recruitment, and we are on target to meet our deadline.”

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