Our Laguna: Taking a look at the last half of the year

Same song, second verse. Here are some highlights of 2012, culled from the pages of Coastline Pilot in the second half of the year. Refresh your memories.

July. 6: Principal Planner Carolyn Martin was named project manager for the proposed overhaul of the Downtown Specific Plan. Her appointment eased concerns that an outsider with less local expertise would be chosen to head up the evaluation of a document revered by many as the savior of the distinctive character of downtown Laguna. Keeping the appointment in-house also saved the city thousands of dollars.

South Coast Water District adopted resolutions of necessity, including one that would allow it to move forward with eminent domain proceedings against property owners in the path of the five-year, $50 million rehabilitation of the tunnel that houses a sewer line.

The Sawdust Festival, Art-a-Fair and the Festival of Arts opened, with the granddaddy celebrating its 80th anniversary.

No Square Theatre presented "George Gershwin and his Lovely Wife, Ira," the third in the company's American Songbook" productions.

Fred Karger ended his run for the presidency.

Americans for the Arts reported that Laguna Beach nonprofit arts and cultural activities pumped more than $49 million into the local economy in 2010 — the most recent figures.

July 13: UC Irvine announced it would honor Laguna Beach residents Bill and Sue Gross with the UCI Medal in recognition of their $10 million donation to the university to create a stem cell research center. He is a cofounder of Pacific Investments Management Co., familiarly known as PIMCO.

VIPS previewed the Pageant of the Masters prior to the public opening.

The first of two mini parks designed by landscape architect Bob Borthwick opened on Frontage Road; the second soon to open on Park Avenue.

July 20: Coast Sotheby's closed unexpectedly. No explanation was offered. The Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau, which shared the ground floor of the building with the real estate office was forced to look for a new location.

The City Council approved construction contracts for the new lifeguard headquarters and restrooms at Main Beach, budgeted for $8.1 million, but expected to cost about $1 million less — if all goes well.

July 27: The community responded with financial contributions and moral support to the news that Michael and Sabrina McMurray's 11-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Bali Thorn retired after 30 years on the staff of the Boys and Girls Club.

Peony and Sushi Corner restaurant on Broadway drew raves for its succulent shrimp that surprised Coastline Pilot food columnists. The restaurant had recently upgraded from primarily take-out and delivery to larger quarters with a pleasant dining area, serving light and healthy food.

Aug. 3: City Council candidates who had raised at least $1,000 filed financial reports. Political action committees and other fundraising committees also were required to file reports. Incumbents Jane Egly and Verna Rollinger filed their nominating petitions, the signatures of which were verified by the County Registrar of Voters.

Aug. 10: The council decided the cost and terrain were too steep to convert an existing easement into a safe pathway connecting Top of the World to Arch Beach Heights. Staff was directed to look for an alternative.

Senior Animal Control Officer Joy Falk lectured owners of small pets on coyote "hazing." The goal of hazing is to maintain the coyote's fear of humans and get them out of neighborhood backyards and play areas, and to protect vulnerable pets from the predators, Falk said. The meeting was held at the home of Mona Roberts, whose prize-winning Lhasa Apso was snatched and killed by a coyote.

Aug. 17: "The dreaded Thurston Middle School cafeteria is a lottery of food failures, flavorless mediocrities and ill-conceived 'balanced' nutrition," posted student Noah Rosen. No comment from school administrators, but he was advised to remove the critique.

The Planning Commission approved a permit to operate radio station KX 93.5 FM, beginning in October under the direction of Program Manager Tyler Russell, 23.

Aug. 24: The Festival of Arts presented the annual Runway Fashion Show featuring exhibitors' designs created from recycled, reclaimed or reused materials, including trash bags. "Nothing trashing about this," said Pat Kollenda, festival board member and fashionista.

Forty Laguna College of Art & Design first-year students moved into newly remodeled digs on the South Campus.

PIMCO Foundation presented medals to 42 young artists, out of the 300 exhibitors juried into the Junior Art Exhibit at the Festival of Arts.

Aug. 31: The Laguna Beach Police Employees Assn. endorsed City Council candidates Robert Whalen and Verna Rollinger.

"Uncle" Frank Ricchiazzi was named an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

Sept. 7: Olympic Gold Medalists Annika Dries was feted by her hometown.

Local Democrats opened their 2012 Election headquarters.

The City Council gave its blessings to the adoption by the Laguna Beach Sister Cities Assn. of San Jose del Cabo as its new sibling.

Police reported arresting 15 drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers over the Labor Day weekend, four more than in 2011.

The Laguna Beach Dance Festival announced performances by Backhausdance, Alonso King LINES Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

Sept. 14: Supervisor Todd Spitzer was among the speakers at the ceremony conducted by Laguna Beach veterans in remembrance of 9/11. "We pray today that from the ashes will rise a new spirit of beauty and unity in America," said Laguna Beach Police Capt. Jason Kravetz.

Laguna Beach teen activist Taylor Capretz's proposal for a U.S. youth observer at the United Nations bore fruit. Although she initiated the position, she said she didn't plan to apply for it when she was eligible at 18.

Sept 21: Tibetan monks visited Andrew Soliz's Native American sweat lodge at his Bluebird Park home.

City staff estimated that about half of the $3.5 million in damages related to the 2010 storm could have been avoided if businesses in mapped flood hazard areas had installed and used flood gates.

Fire Chief Kris Head announced his retirement, effective Oct. 29. Head was promoted to chief in March of 2010, capping almost 28 years with the department.

Top of the World Elementary School staff member Margaret Warder was the recipient of the fifth annual district Spirit Award.

Laguna Beach High School announced a more lenient policy on cheating reports. Students caught cheating for the first time will now get a warning instead of having to "fess up" on the Common App, the online application used by 500 public and private schools. Second violations must be reported.

Sept. 28: The Gross Family Foundation donated $50,000 to the AIDS Services Foundation, a nonprofit founded in Laguna Beach that helps people affected by HIV-AIDS with transportation, food, housing, counseling and emergency financial assistance, as well as testing, prevention and educational programs.

Virginia Worthington, 80, of Laguna Beach died after being hit by a vehicle on High Drive.

Oct. 5: Complete Streets advocates won a partial victory when the City Council directed staff to prepare a modification to Glenneyre Street to test the efficacy of reducing traffic lanes to three, one of them a center turning lane, and adding bike lanes, but only from Thalia to Calliope streets. The modification was to go to the Planning Commission for review. Complete Streets are designed to accommodate motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

The City Council voted to remove 11 eucalyptuses in Bluebird Park, the culmination of a nearly year-long controversy between neighbors who wanted the trees saved for aesthetic reasons and those who wanted them gone for safety's sake.

Oct. 12: For just the third time in its 78-year history, the Marine Room Tavern changed hands. Chris Keller, who already operates three other restaurants in town, took over from Councilman Kelly Boyd, who was the leaseholder with his late brother Bo of the "Mar Bar" for 25 years. Boyd was instrumental in bringing restaurateur Keller to the table.

Rotary Club's annual Classic Car show was a classy affair. The club's been in town since 1931. Membership is by invitation.

Oct. 19: A 72-year-old Laguna Terrace Park resident reported that four armed men ransacked his home. He was in the home at the time and said he was hit with a gun when he followed the suspects from one room to another.

Pageant of the Masters script writer Dan Duling was the guest speaker at the annual Friends of the Library Membership Dinner.

Laguna's 36-foot building-height limit was restored to the municipal code, although language in other sections of the code already addressed the limit. The omission was viewed as an affront to the residents who had fought to get the limit in the 1970s.

Deputy Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse was named to succeed retiring Chief Head.

Oct. 26: Dana Rohrabacher, a candidate for the newly redrawn 48th Congressional District, was a no-show at the League of Women Voters forum in Laguna Beach. "Years ago, I participated in several forums by the League of Women Voters and found them to be dishonest and biased and I decided I would not ever be involved in the [league] again," Rohrabacher said.

Two U.S. Marines were arrested on suspicion of shooting BBs at local businesses and vehicles, one of them occupied.

The Laguna Beach Plein Air Painters Assn. Invitational has become one of the two top plein air events in Northern America, according to Greg Vail, president of the local association. The annual week-long event concluded with the Collectors' Soiree at the Laguna Art Museum where guests were wined and dined and offered the opportunity to buy works by participating artists.

The last of six City Council candidates forums was hosted by the Top of the World Neighborhood Assn. and the Temple Hills Community Assn.

Denial of a requested endorsement for incumbent candidate Egly by the Laguna Beach Democratic Club created something of a furor. "I did not renew my membership when I got wind that the club was not supporting all three Democratic candidates for the council," said Peggy Wolff. Rollinger was endorsed. Whalen, also a Democrat, did not request endorsement.

Nov. 2: A Laguna Beach couple and their dog were found dead. Police suspected a murder suicide. It was the first murder reported in Laguna since 2009.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a new deck, but split 3-2 on an exterior elevator proposed by Mozambique.

Many in the audience of No Square Theater's 2012 "Lagunatics," said it was the best show ever. No wonder: "Schlock and Awe" was stitched together from the "best" numbers since the show began 20 years ago.

Nov. 9: Whalen and Steve Dicterow were elected to the City Council. School board incumbents Jan Vickers and William Landsiedel were reelected. Newly elected City Clerk Lisette Chel and reelected City Treasurer Laura Parisi ran uncontested. Allan Mansoor was elected to represent the 74th state assembly district. Rohrabacher will return to Washington D. C. as the representative of the newly-created 48th Congressional District.

Nov. 16: The City Council voted 3-2 to deny a request by the South Laguna Civic Assn. for seed money to buy two parcels which local gardeners tilled for the past three years.

Emergency measures were approved to prevent the erosion of soil at the site of brush fire that denuded the hillside above Ruby's Diner.

Students contradicted School District Supt. Sherine Smith's statement that information is readily available on campus about an on-call program that provides rides home for free with a designate driver. "We are not allowed to have a club or advertise it at the school," said Kimmie Hackney, 18. School officials agreed to Mayor Egly's request to be more supportive of the Safe Rides program.

The Community Clinic hosted a brunch at Marshall and Joyce Linn's elegant hillside home to thank its supporters and present some of them with awards. Outgoing board President Dr. Pamela Lawrence was honored by the Orange County Community Foundation with the Power Pack Philanthropist Award.

Nov. 23: The Festival of Arts closed the books on another successful year. Treasurer Anita Mangels announced that the $9,401,344 grossed in 2012 exceeded projections. With expenses of roughly $8.3 million the festival netted $1,134,074, also better than projected and $139,000 better than the previous year. Moreover, the festival's permanent collection was enhanced by the donation from Realtor Michael Gosselin of a painting by Roy Ropp, the "father" of the Pageant of the Masters.

More than $100,000 was raised at the Laguna Playhouse California Dreamin' fundraiser held at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point.

Nov 30: South Laguna Civic Assn. officials announced they would host potlucks and other activities at the Community Garden to bring attention to their efforts to buy the land.

"I assume everyone in Laguna and Dana Point has seen the garden, but I am sure being in it would broaden interest and support," association President Bill Rihn said.

Laguna's downtown merchants stayed open late to dispense cheer to browsers and buyers who came to celebrate the annual Hospitality Night hosted by the city and the Chamber of Commerce. Santa Claus lighted the venerable pepper tree in front of City Hall. Community groups provided music and comestibles.

The historic Villa Rockledge was put on the auction block, bidding to start at $10.5 million. "It's a wrench to sell it," said owner Roger Jones. "But it is time." Construction started in 1918 as a summer home for Frank Miller, who also built the Mission Inn in Riverside.

Hurley's on Forest Avenue and the Cottage on North Coast Highway announced their closings. Animal Crackers in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center was given until Jan. 8 to find a new location.

Dec. 7: Boyd was elected mayor by the newly seated council. Elizabeth Pearson was elected mayor pro tem.

The controversial social host ordinance, which penalizes adults who knowingly allow minors access to alcoholic beverages, was approved, 3-2, with Boyd and Dicterow opposed.

Hobie Surf Shop unveiled sculptor Randy Morgan's "Waterman's Wall, a 40-foot-wide, 12-foot-tall bronze mural. More than 200 people gathered to celebrate unveiling.

The Laguna Beach Community Foundation distributed almost $95,000 in grants to 25 local nonprofits. "Look around you, this is the heart and soul of Laguna," foundation Chair Laura Tarbox told the audience at the Hotel Laguna.

Dec. 14: Landsiedel was selected to preside over the Laguna Beach School board. He takes office with the district on solid financial grounds.

Council members picked assignments as committee liaisons and representatives to outside groups.

Dec. 21: The Planning Commission voted 4-1 against the proposal to reduce Glenneyre Street between Thalia and Calliope streets to three lanes and add bike lanes, calling the approach piecemeal.

Residents and civic leaders attended a workshop to discuss how parking downtown could be improved by technology and alternative modes of transportation and they might be willing to pay more at the meters to fund improvements.

"Tarnished Treasures" was restored to the Laguna Beach Woman's Club after a year's hiatus. "I want to see everyone leave here with purses empty and arms full," said Kim Salter, who chaired the event that raises money for club projects by selling donated items.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (949) 302-1469 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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