Mailbag: Support the community, buy local

Several weeks ago we had a fire adjacent to where I live.

Thanks to the quick and professional work of the Laguna Beach Fire Department, no houses burned and no one was hurt. To all the firemen who worked long hours until the fire was extinguished, thank you. To all the police officers, electrical workers and everyone who helped keep us safe, thank you. It was amazing to watch these courageous people working together with fluidity and rhythm as they fought the fire — absolutely top notch. With the electricity out, all the neighbors gathered and watched in gratitude. Not the best of circumstances, but it was reassuring to see everyone come together.

Which reminds me of more thanks due. I had the privilege of working with many amazing artists at our incredible Laguna Beach art shows this summer and I would like to thank each and every one of them. It's not easy being an artist, particularly in this economic climate, and yet artists continue to be the most generous and giving souls on earth. Almost every fundraiser from Laguna and surrounding communities asks artists for donations for their events. Artists always say yes. At a minimum, we get six to 10 requests. We were even asked to donate for a young man who was ill. Every single artist said, "Someone needs help, count me in."

Local artists really support this town and work harder than you can imagine, providing fun art venues that attract thousands of visitors to Laguna, boosting our local revenues. I hope you have all graced the walls of your homes with paintings of local artists; and not just paintings, but also ceramics, jewelry, glass, clothing and so much more.

I make it a point to do as much business and shopping as I can here in Laguna. It not only saves me a lot in gas, but also helps support our wonderful merchants. I needed a seamstress in an emergency and a friend recommended someone in Corona del Mar. I knew I could find the perfect tailor shop here in Laguna, and I did. In less than 24 hours I had my dress ready to wear. If you are in need of anything for your home, business, life in general, you can find it here — even for the upcoming holidays. This is a time for all of us to come together, support each other and keep Laguna Beach one of the most artful and beautiful places to live and visit.

September McGee

Laguna Beach


Voice concerns about tree heights at meeting

I am one of many residents in our town who have lost an ocean view because of somebody's trees. This also adversely impacts my home's market value. I understand there is a 36-foot height restriction on new building, and that all new plans must pass tests and inspections through our Design Review Board. Yet anyone can grow a tree or hedge as high as they wish, without regard for another's view.

This wording comes from the city's Design Review Process:

"View Preservation: The city's geography creates unique ocean views from many sites and areas. These views are special and cherished by all who share them. As a result, the preservation of views from adjacent properties is an important consideration in designing your project. A viewshed analysis should be developed to assure maximum preservation of neighboring views while maximizing views from your own project." And, "The intent is to equitably retain existing views, while providing for your own view enjoyment and yet satisfy the functional and aesthetic requirements of the project."

I am dealing with a number of neighbors who refuse to even allow me to pay for trimming their trees, and the process of going to the city is long and arduous, although there are ordinances in place. The onus is still on the homeowner whose view is impacted to prove her case. Palos Verdes has ordinances that are rigidly enforced to protect views and I would like to see Laguna follow suit. Why does a tree have to be three stories taller than the house it belongs too? I hope anyone reading this will take the time to show up at the next City Council meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to address this issue. I don't see the difference between a stucco wall or a green leafy one. They both destroy the ocean views we live here to enjoy.

Marsha Bianchi

Laguna Beach


Giving continues despite difficult times

This time of year seems to highlight one of the many qualities that make Laguna Beach such a magical place. Generous residents left boxes of food curbside for our Waste Management friends to deliver to the Laguna Food Pantry. Then representatives from the Hearts of Montage brought us carloads of food donated by the Montage's wonderful employees.

As if that weren't bounty enough, all of Laguna's schools are having food drives that again, with the help of Waste Management, will supply the pantry with months of non-perishables. And last, but not least, my favorite gym, the Art of Fitness, collected boxes of canned goods for our shelves.

From all of our volunteers and from our neighbors working hard to survive these difficult times, thank you all for your kindness.

Andy Siegenfeld

Laguna Beach

Editor's note: The author is the director for the Laguna Food Pantry.


Reducing underage drinking part of 'healthy development of young people'

What is best for young people?

I think everyone can agree that we all want what is best for young people. I don't know of anyone who would claim otherwise. It is great to see so many people who sincerely care, investing their time, energy and resources in what they believe will brighten the future. As Franklin Roosevelt said, "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future."

The impetus and intention of the social host ordinance is not to infringe on anyone's rights. It is to protect and send a clear message that as a community, we care about our young people's futures and that we won't stand idly by or condone their use of substances that can stifle their potential. This is a very complex problem being addressed by a variety of dynamic strategies.

Evidence-based approaches like the 40 Developmental Assets are being used throughout the community on the preventive end to help children build resiliency, exercise their critical thinking and discover intrinsic self-value. The same holds true with classes and professional expertise being offered that parents can count on for guidance and support, giving them proven tools to solidify and deepen their family relationships.

The effort to pass a social host ordinance came after learning that multiple studies found the most common place where teens gain access to alcohol is their own homes, or the homes of friends. The logic is that reducing access to alcohol will reduce underage drinking. Reducing underage drinking will increase the healthy development of young people. When our community comes together, shares high expectations and holds itself accountable, we'll set a bar of care, respect, trust and service that will be reflected in the future.

Pamela Estes

Laguna Beach

Editor's note: The author is executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

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