Mailbag: Downtown flooding problem could have a fix

As I see the flooding of downtown Laguna again I recall the countless times retired (now deceased) Civil Engineer Gary Alstot showed the City Council what the problem is and how to fix it only to be put off for a variety of reasons. The problem is that the main large channel that runs from the canyon down to Beach Street is suddenly forced to run through a much smaller channel under town for a long block to empty in the ocean.

Of course when heavy rains occur all of that water in the main channel that ends at Beach Street cannot pass through that narrow channel under town and floods up over Beach Street and down Broadway and all over downtown. Alstot proposed to make a full-sized channel under Broadway down to the ocean that would connect to the existing large channel at Beach Street. This would have cured most of the dramatic flooding that occurs every few years.

As I remember, the county and state engineers concurred with that proposed plan but the city officials and some of the Broadway merchants were concerned that downtown would lose some business if one side of Broadway was torn up to install the new under-the-road channel. As Alstot would have said: "Just wondering which costs the town the most: a one-time construction project or frequent flooding, street closures, and clean-ups?"

Dave Connell

Laguna Beach


Grateful for city's help after storm

On behalf of the homeless people who call the city of Laguna Beach's Alternative Sleeping Location home, I am writing to express our profound thanks for the quick work and caring approach that the city and the Red Cross took in ensuring appropriate shelter was available for our residents during the recent flooding.

The ASL was rendered inaccessible due to the storms and flooding overnight on Dec. 21. The city efficiently, effectively and safely evacuated all residents very early Wednesday morning to a Red Cross-operated shelter at the high school.

The Red Cross volunteers were helpful and accommodating to our residents and the city staff were effective in returning us safely to the ASL when it was safe to do so on Friday morning.

In a time of leadership transition for the city government, from our perspective all responses to the storm and its aftermath worked smoothly and effectively. Special thanks to city leaders, city staff and the Red Cross. We are grateful!

Dawn Price

Laguna Beach

Dawn Price is executive director of the Friendship Shelter.


Shelter damage went unreported

I am saddened to see that during the recent storms in Laguna Beach not one article or picture was of the Animal Shelter that was destroyed. Animals were killed (a rabbit, two chickens), dogs were swimming and found in shock. The heavy equipment, refrigerators and even storage containers were moved to the next building. Fencing gone. Water levels up to your chest. Not one story. Not one mention.

This is a shelter paid for by the city for the cities of Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods. I would like to see some information about the shelter and why it continues to be located in a fire/flood area, and how animals we entrust will be kept safe. Thank God it did not happen at a time with volunteers or employees, or we would have definitely had a loss of life.

Edye Snodgrass

Mission Viejo


Driftwood Estates gift is a 'miracle'

Great news for Laguna's Greenbelt: more land is donated for open space — 75 acres of Hobo Aliso Ridge, aka Driftwood Estates, (and the likely addition of an adjacent 80 acres) is now permanent open space scheduled for restoration.

This gift to the city by Driftwood LLC is nothing less than a unexpected and wonderful donation. Penny Elia deserves much credit for fighting hard to save, protect and restore this abused land. Penny showed the same resolve and commitment as was demonstrated by the Laguna Bluebelt members who fought for a city-wide MLPA Marine Reserve.

Thank you Penny, for quietly and tenaciously working behind the scenes throughout the past five years and finally securing this incredible treasure for us.

Thank you John Mansour/ Driftwood LLC/Athens Group, for your generous gift to Laguna Beach and the restoration and permanent protection of these environmentally sensitive lands.

Thank you Coastal Commission, for operating in an honest and transparent manner, working to secure the restoration and subsequent protection of our coastal lands forever.

Thank you to so many others in Laguna Beach for the hard work, landmark achievements and acquisitions they accomplished this year for the Greenbelt and the Bluebelt.

Let the green and blue bells ring in the New Year!

Charlotte and Alex Masarik

Laguna Beach


Clinic's end of year 'wish list'

An increasing number of residents and workers in our town are turning to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic at this time of year for help with both chronic and acute illnesses. This increase in requests for care has taxed the resources of our Clinic. Please consider a gift to fund all or a portion of these vital items or services to help our friends and neighbors during this holiday season and in the coming months.

Your gifts will provide the following:

$25 purchases 500 exam room gloves providing safety for both patients and staff.

$50 will provide 5,000 alcohol wipes to assure cleanliness.

$100 will provide one Rhogam injection to prevent blood type incompatibility in an expectant mother.

$100 will help administer childhood immunizations to 10 vulnerable children.

$100 will fund a "well baby" checkup for a newborn, insuring a good start in life.

$100 will cover the cost of a "well-woman" exam, including pap smear for early cancer detection.

$200 will provide free HIV tests for five people who might otherwise go untested.

$300 (or $25 per month for a year) will buy 30 tests for diabetes, a disease that increasingly impacts all ages.

$500 will cover the printing costs of one issue of the clinic newsletter, featuring your name (or business name) distributed to 2,500 homes and businesses.

$500 (or $42 per month for a year) buys a lightweight wheelchair for use in the clinic.

$1,000 will provide diabetes medications for five people for four months.

All of these items and services help keep our community healthy. Thank you for joining us in our mission to provide excellent healthcare regardless of a patient's ability to pay. Together, we are a prescription for health with a dose of dignity during these difficult financial times.

Specify how you want your donation to be used and make checks out to the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and mail to 362 Third St., Laguna Beach, CA 92651. And thank you for remembering your friends and neighbors at this time.

Anne Johnson

Laguna Beach

Anne Johnson is a member of the Board of Directors, Laguna Beach Community Clinic.


No-take rule easier to enforce

Protection of our new Marine Reserves and enforcement of the Fish and Game regulations will be easier than people would think. Already, many of our residents are aware of the importance of restoring our marine habits. Likewise, tourists to Laguna share a desire to see our marine life rebound.

Not only is the public better educated and sensitive to the need to restore our fisheries due to precipitous declines, but Laguna has it's own resources that will be helpful. In addition to our Marine Protection Officer, we have lifeguards, animal control officers and even the police that can write tickets. We have substantial community resources to aid enforcement officials like Laguna Ocean Foundation's Tidewater docents and educators.

Finally, the general public can easily understand the meaning of "no take" and can alert enforcement officials when necessary. We no longer have to remember all the different fish you can or can't take and what size they have to be or whether it is the right season — it's simple, no-take of any species.

I look forward to the new Laguna State Marine Reserve and think it will bring restoration of the marine habitat and an increase in the local eco-tourism industry. Many thanks to our City Council and all the local groups and individuals who made this happen by writing letters and attending the numerous public meetings over the last two and half years. Thanks to the Fish and Game Commissioners for this Christmas gift to Laguna!

Sandy Dildine

Laguna Beach


Marine reserve will promote eco-tourism

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter was submitted Dec. 6 by the OC Green Chamber to the California Fish and Game Commission regarding support for the Laguna Beach Marine Reserve Proposal 3.


The mission of the Orange County Green Chamber is to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of Orange County. As a regional coastal economy, we believe a healthy ocean and marine life is central to a successful business climate.

Therefore, the OC Green Chamber supports the City of Laguna Beach in recommending the citywide Laguna State Marine Reserve (Proposal 3) as the best alternative for a successful marine life protection network in the Southern California region.

Coastal cities like Laguna Beach are regional hubs for the emerging ecotourism economy. According to The International Ecotourist Society (TIES), ecotourism is "responsible travel that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people".

The 16,000-acre Laguna Greenbelt serves as an international beacon of community efforts to protect and preserve California's incredible natural heritage and "green" traditions of low impact ecotourism. Likewise, the State Marine Reserve (locally known as the "Laguna Bluebelt") will equally be a state and national treasury of marine life reflecting community cultural green traditions and vital to the local economy of ecotourism through ocean-related art, film, and music festivals, photography, fashion, food and a number of ocean sports industries.

Ecotourism emerged from the environmental movement of the late 1970s. By the early 1990s, it was the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, expanding globally between 20% and 34% per year. In 2004, ecotourism and nature tourism were growing three times faster than the global tourism as a whole (UNWTO-World Tourism Organization). In 2002, LOHAS [Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability] found ecotourism was a $77 billion market in the U.S. alone. According to Travel Weekly, sustainable tourism could grow to 25% of the world's travel market by 2012, taking the value of the sector to $473 billion a year.

Beaches are one of the most popular travel activities. One in 10 person-trips (10%) includes going to a beach, equating to 109.5 million domestic person-trips taken in the U.S. in 2003. Long trips are popular with beach-goers as 36% of beach person-trips last a week or longer. Among household trips including beaches, 41% include children. (Source: Domestic Travel Market Report, 2004 Edition.)

Tourism is California's third largest employer and fifth largest contributor to the gross state product. Travel and tourism expenditures in 2003 amounted to an estimated $78.2 billion annually, provided employment for more than 900,000 Californians, and generated $5 billion in state and local tax revenue. Ecotourism has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry, growing annually by 10-15% worldwide (Miller, 2007).

For many countries and economies, ecotourism is not simply a marginal activity to finance protection of the environment as much as it is a major industry within the national economy. In Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nepal, Kenya, Madagascar and Antarctica, ecotourism represents a significant portion of the gross national product and economic activity. Estimates are more than five million ecotourists come from the United States with many others from Europe and Canada. Ecotourism is vital to today's shrinking national economy and domestic tourist dollars are best spent in local coastal economies here in California rather than abroad in distant countries.

While there may be some individuals inconvenienced in the short term by statewide efforts to protect and preserve California's local marine life, the long term benefits gained from a healthier ocean ecosystem of kelp, fish, shellfish and tidepool sea life will insure future gains of more fish and bigger fish in years to come for these same individuals and others. Larger fish and more robust fish populations in a Laguna State Marine Reserve will increase fisheries at Newport and Dana Point Harbors for a more sustainable regional commercial and recreational fishing economy.

Collaboration and mutual respect are the key to a successful network of marine life protected areas throughout California. The Orange County Green Chamber recognizes and supports the benefits and gains provided by "ecotourism" to create sustainable economies with green jobs for local prosperity. The Board therefore supports and endorses a "Citywide Laguna State Marine Reserve" consistent with Laguna Beach City Council Resolution No. 09.057 and commends the City Council and community for their dedication to a sustainable future.

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to marine life protection for the benefit of California's coastal ecotourism economy and support for a citywide Laguna State Marine Reserve.

Steve Bender

Newport Beach

Steve Bender is President of the Orange County Green Chamber.

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