Our Laguna: 2012 was a year of change

The top 10 stories of 2011 included limitations on skateboarders; an arrest for alleged rapes and sexual assaults; flood recovery; Marine Life Protection Act implementation delay in Laguna; the Heisler Park renovation; the Resource Center pulling out from daytime services at the Alternative Sleeping Location; Laguna Terrace Park residents' attempts to buy the land under their mobile homes which remains unresolved; Bluebird Park residents' split on the fate of five eucalypti Edison wanted to remove; approval of the Mozambique's Quiet Zone; and the reopening of the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.

City Manager John Pietig was the Newsmaker of the Year.

So what changed in 2012?

Still in the news: Laguna Terrace Park — the residents' bid was refused; the City Council upped the ante for breaking city skateboarding regulations with new penalties and approved the removal of 11 eucalyptus trees in Bluebird Canyon, more than twice the number discussed in 2011.

A murder-suicide was reported in 2012, the first murder in Laguna since Hotel Laguna catering manager Damon Nicholson was killed in 2009, according to Capt. Jason Kravetz.

Other newcomers to the list included the start of construction of the Lifeguard Headquarters and new restrooms on Main Beach, with the blessings of the California Coastal Commission; the 2012 election and its nasty aftertaste; and the loss of two iconic eateries — The Cottage and Royal Hawaiian.

The council closed out the year with a narrow 3-2 approval of a social host ordinance — making Laguna the fourth city in Orange County to enact such a, which penalizes adults who knowingly supply minors with booze.

Newly elected council members Robert Whalen and Steven Dicterow were named Newsmakers of the Year.

Other stories that made headlines, culled from the pages of the Coastline Pilot in 2012:

Jan. 6: An innovative test for HIV that reduces the diagnostic time was introduced at the Laguna Beach Community Clinic.

Sirous & Sons Rug Gallery was closed in the wake of the accusations that the store manager had raped or sexually assaulted 11 women in 2010 and 2011. A total of five rapes were reported in 2010, six in 2011 and six in 2012, as of noon Dec. 31, Kravetz said.

Jan. 13: City and Laguna Beach Police Department employees agreed to terms in a memorandum of understanding, in which new hires would contribute more toward their retirement benefits than department veterans — saving the city a bundle.

Laguna Beach artist David S. Palmer exhibited his portraits of famous people killed by bullets, using bullet casings as his medium.

Jan. 20: The Department of Fish and Game returned 47 spiny lobsters to the water off of Laguna Beach and cited a man for poaching, in what authorities called the first major violation of the Marine Protection Act.

"The Lonesome Traveler" gala at the Laguna Playhouse was anything but. A sold-out audience raved about the show. "So fun," Kathy Conway said.

Traffic slowed to a trickle while crews from the Laguna Beach County Water District stopped a leak at South Coast Highway and Forest Avenue.

Jan. 27: Pietig reported that the city had more money to spend and bank than expected in the fiscal year. "Fortunately, during this past year the [economic] recovery brought higher-than-expected revenue in property taxes, sales taxes, bed taxes and community development fees," Pietig said in his mid-year budget update.

Feb. 3: Lisette Chel announced her candidacy for city clerk. She had served as deputy since 2008 to City Clerk Martha Anderson who planned to retire at the end of her term in November.

The Chamber of Commerce named Mission Hospital as its Business of the Year at the annual Spirit of Laguna Awards and board installation dinner. Tivoli Terrace and Tivoli Too owner June Neptune was named Citizen of the Year.

Longtime Laguna Art Museum Director Bolton Colburn took over as executive director of the Surfing Heritage Foundation.

The Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau was awarded a Shop America Alliance award for its Dinning Tourism program. "It's exciting to have such a vast array of culinary experiences in our small quaint town," said bureau President and CEO Judy Bijlani.

Feb. 10: A ban on plastic bags was approved, scheduled to begin Tuesday.

The council approved a $450-a-year allowance for each of them to attend community events. The allowance was opposed by the Laguna Beach Taxpayers Assn. "City Council participation at community events is important," said Councilman Kelly Boyd. "Unfortunately, these events can become costly — especially if they bring a guest to the event."

Bluebird Park resident Andrew Solis claimed the right to perform Native American rituals in his backyard, which included a sweat lodge.

Nearly 600 people jammed into the Laguna Art Museum Feb. 4 for the annual art auction and after party, an attendance record.

Feb. 17: The council voted 4-1 to send a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency asking that public concerns be resolved before San Onofre's operating license was extended beyond its expiration date of 2022.

LaVida Laguna owner Billy Fried unveiled a map of safe bicycle routes in town drawn by Jesse Miller and available to the public at 673 North Coast Highway or at hotels.

Feb. 24: Two groups of St. Francis American Catholic Church vied for control. The daughter of the ailing bishop contended the property belonged to her father, raising the hackles of other parishioners. A new bishop was named.

March 2: The council approved a $ 15,000 grant to the Cross Cultural Council, without which the Day Labor Hiring Area on Laguna Canyon Road would have closed.

DNA collection drives were set to help longtime Laguna Beach resident Lesley Domiano find a bone marrow donor, without which doctors gave her only months to live.

March 9: The 46th annual Patriots Day Parade included more than 100 entries. The theme was "Never Forget." Honorees included Patriot of the Year Louise Buckley and Citizens of the Year, Betsy and Dr. Gary Jenkins.

The council had 11 candidates from which to choose seven members of the revamped Environmental Committee that had imploded the previous year and been disbanded, when no one applied for a seat. "I was so impressed to see so many new faces with impressive resumes," said Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson.

City buses began stopping in front of the Third Street Centers. Laguna Beach Seniors Inc. Executive Director Nadia Babayi encouraged seniors to use the service to show the need for the service during the year-long pilot program.

March 16: Whalen announced his candidacy for City Council.

Laguna Greenbelt President Elisabeth Brown advised the City Council that the FBI wanted to use a parcel on the long-planned wildlife corridor between Laguna's open space and the Cleveland National Forest for a regional anti-terrorism training facility.

Laguna Beach a la Carte was a tasty wine and food fest hosted by the Visitors Bureau to promote the city as a "foodie" destination.

The Laguna Beach Assistance League was honored by the City Council for its 50 years of service to Laguna.

March 23: A Laguna Beach woman was threatened with criminal charges if she didn't trim her hedge as ordered by city officials.

SchoolPower raised $300,000 at the annual dinner dance, co-chaired by Kim Ressler and Patience Shutts.

March 30: Eva's Caribbean Kitchen was back in business after being closed since mid-February for repairs to damage from a fire.

Village Laguna founder Arnold Hano celebrated his 90th birthday with a few hundred friends at Tivoli Terace

Environmental activist Carolyn Wood was honored by the City Council for her contributions to the city. "You are one of the reasons Laguna Beach is what it is today," said Mayor Jane Egly.

Pacific Marine Mammal Center crews participated in the untangling of a gray whale, from a gill net and rope wrapped around its fluke.

April 6: Supervisor Pat Bates reported on the state of the county at the Laguna Canyon Conservancy dinner meeting.

Author Dean Koontz captivated the Laguna Playhouse audience that had come to hear him talk about his work and his life and to get his autograph — some lugging in as many as 25 books for him to sign.

Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts honored Laguna Art Museum's Robert Hayden and sculptor Jorg Dubin, among others at the annual Art Stars Awards at Seven Degrees.

April 13: The caretaker of a Laguna Beach home was arrested on suspicion of stealing almost $200,000 in jewelry that belonged to a friend of the homeowner.

State Assembly candidate Robert Rush, state Senate candidate Steve Young and House of Representatives candidate Ron Varasteh, all Democrats, presented their platforms to an audience of about 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, hosted by the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.

April 20: Angel Golden Glove right-fielder Tori Hunter visited El Morro Elementary School, telling the kids that hard work and good grades can lead to success in school and life.

The Laguna Dance Festival, which drew rave reviews, was kicked off by UC Irvine dance students with a performance at the Laguna Art Museum.

Dicterow launched his bid for a fourth term on the City Council, six years after his last term ended.

The Smithsonian Magazine included Laguna in its list of the best small towns in the country.

April 27: Work was allowed to resume on the Halliburton House, which had been red-tagged because of incomplete internal construction plans.

"What happened here is the fault of the system," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who voted against the resumption of work without more rigorous review. "Let's get together and fix the process."

Coastline Pilot editor Cindy Frazier read one of her poems at the L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC. But it wasn't the poem that Coastline Pilot columnist Cherill Doty admired as much as Frazier's determination to be there to read it, while battling pancreatic cancer.

May 4: The Rotary Club of Laguna presented its most successful Grapes for Grads, which raises money for scholarships. "We had more wineries, more food and way more people," said Steve Dotorotus, event co-chair with Jeff Redeker.

Alice Harmon announced her intension to raise funds to preserve "Cathexis," a weather-beaten sculpture by her late son, Steven, which sat at the entry of Riddle Field until removed by the city as a danger to the public.

May 11: Egly kicked off her reelection campaign.

Zpizza was given a reprieve, allowed to stay open even though its lease in its Aliso Creek Shopping Center location was not to be renewed.

Animal Crackers was also told its lease would not be renewed, to the displeasure of loyal customers, and supporters of the pet rescue foundation, funded by the store.

The Laguna Beach Citizens Academy graduated 22 participants in the program Police Capt. Darin Lenyi designed to give community members a better understanding of the police department and how law enforcement works. Andrew Landsiedel, son of Laguna Beach Unified District school board member Bill Landsiedel, started a Facebook Group that opined that the kids had a better solution to underage drinking than the supporters of the proposed social host ordinance supported by school district officials and the PTA.

Coastline Pilot Columnist David Hansen lamented the lack of a popular music festival in Laguna Beach, citing comments by Rick Conkey, founder of HelpBlueWater.com. Conkey was quoted as saying, "Music is a controversial part of the arts scene. It's never been recognized."

May 18: Laguna Beach residents gave the city a good grade in a citizen survey conducted by the National Research Center. All city services received high marks and 97% of the 405 respondents to the survey rated the overall quality of as excellent or good.

Laguna Beach Republicans opened their election headquarters, with a precinct walk followed by a no-host cocktail reception at French 75.

May 25: Mercury Disposal Systems announced it had picked up 2,300 pounds of batteries and 2,100 pounds of fluorescent lamps and compact bulbs between July 1, 2011 and March 30, 2012. Waste Management announced that 9,021 pounds of household hazardous waste had been collected from 140 homes between June 1, 2011 and April 30.

June 1: Members of the Laguna Beach Police and Fire departments participated in a Torch run along Coast Highway to benefit the Special Olympics.

Federal Judge David O. Carter gave a memorable Memorial Day speech at Monument Point, a hero who didn't speak of his own heroics, but of those who have met the challenges to our freedoms since the country was founded, moving many in the audience to tears. "I was a warrior once — a combat Marine who has grown older, but who would enlist to fight again for our country," Carter said.

Laguna Beach High School's production of "Into the Woods" and cast member Elan Kramer won top honors at the 2012 Macy Awards, the Oscars of high school musicals.

June 8: The council voted 4-1 to close Skyline Drive to skateboarders, with Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger opposed.

Anne Wood was honored by the Laguna Beach Woman's Club for her volunteerism.

The council raised sewer fees without a single grumble from the audience.

June 15: Laguna Beach was better prepared for disasters after the graduation of 31 members from Laguna's first Community Emergency Response Team training program, which prepares participants to support first responders and give immediate assistance to victims at a disaster site.

The Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Foundation awarded $283,000 to graduating seniors. Water Polo Olympian Annika Dries spoke about how much the scholarships had meant to her. "Not only did I have the opportunity to attend Stanford, as a scholar-athlete, but also to walk on campus with the support of this community for my academic success," Dries said.

Laguna Beach resident Anne Earhart was named 42nd on the list of the top 50 California political donors during the past decade. Earhart is credited with donations of $1.4 million.

June 22: The City Council approved a $66.2 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. The hearing was sparsely attended by the public. "I guess it is a vote of confidence that the public is happy with the way we are spending their money," Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson said.

Laguna College of Art & Design raised $200,000 at the 23rd annual Collectors Choice Fine Art Event and Auction. The funds benefited student programs and scholarships.

June 29: Animal Crackers Pet Rescue Foundation supporters raised $22,000 to help find a new location, preferably in Laguna, for the pet supply and grooming shop that supports the foundation.

Bluebird Canyon residents met with Public Works Director Steve May and the city's consulting arborist to discuss the recommended removal of 11 city-owned eucalypti from the heavily wooded neighborhood. "Some residents don't want to see any of the trees removed; others want to see them all removed," May said.

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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