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Mailbag: Laguna streets not living up to ‘progressive’ history

I moved to Laguna Beach when I was 25. That was in 1962. I have pedaled its streets ever since then, including the 37 years I worked at Laguna Beach High School when I lived in upper Bluebird Canyon.

Four years ago I volunteered to serve on the City Council-appointed Complete Streets Task Force. I was anxious to make a difference in how our town would encourage alternative means of transportation, given what I thought was always a forward-looking and environmentally-positive city philosophy, as well as a place that was becoming glutted by automobiles. I was wrong.

I am completely frustrated by the lack of positive action not taken by our City Council majority (Kelly Boyd, Toni Iseman and Elizabeth Pearson) regarding Complete Streets legislation during the last four years, which would be the practical implementation of Complete Streets that would encourage our residents to walk and cycle more for health, environmental, and budgetary reasons.

Certain council members always refer to our town as too dangerous (along Coast Highway), or too hilly. There are answers to both, of course.


As I now live on Cress Street, when I go to Arch Beach Heights or Top of the World, I put my bike on the almost always available blue bus to ascend the hills and then cycle down. If I have errands in town or in cities nearby, I cycle, or walk, as my car rarely moves.

Secondly, why reference Coast Highway? It is the council’s job to designate the safest bike route through town from north to south and it is not Coast Highway. After more than three years, the city finally painted sharrows on Monterrey Street in north Laguna. So why not finish the job? Get cyclists to Nyes Place via Glenneyre or Catalina streets. Then deal with Coast Highway before and after those town entrance and exit points. It’s not difficult. Our neighbors to the north (Corona del Mar) and south (Dana Point) have accomplished this much, why not Laguna Beach? An out of touch council.

The excuse was always liability. Now it is reversed. By not providing a safe route through — and about — town, despite repeated requests, we are more at risk, rather than the opposite.

The most recent AARP bulletin stated that out of 17 industrialized counties, the U.S. ranks 16th in life expectancy. Why? One reason is “our dependence on cars gets special attention for helping create neighborhoods that discourage walking and contribute to obesity”, according to the article.


Sad, but it sounds like I am describing our lovely and once progressive town. The first step in the right direction is to create a north to south bike route through Laguna Beach — and then make plans to implement a Complete Streets master plan.

Art Wahl

Laguna Beach


Meeting about parking, Village Entrance March 26

Is there a need for more parking in downtown Laguna?

As a concept plan for a Village Entrance nears completion, naysayers are starting their drumbeat against a need for more parking. I offer some initial first thoughts to make a case that there is a need.

1. A citywide poll of Laguna residents in 2012 conducted by a reputable national pollster concluded that the No. 1 concern of residents is parking, traffic and circulation.


2. No parking study(ies) completed to date by the city have taken into account the 3,000 homes and apartments being opened by the Irvine Co. (located on the south side of 405 Freeway) or the 4,000 to 10,000 houses as part of the city of Irvine’s Five Points houses to be built — all with access to and egress from — Laguna Canyon Road. The good news is all those residents will shop and be entertained in Laguna all year round. The scary news is that we’re the closest beach for them. Where will they park if they are headed for our downtown?

How can we alleviate downtown congestion? I can argue that, if the destination of visitors is downtown Laguna, we need to “park” them before they enter the city center (but not too far away from our restaurants and retailers) in a garage just on the edge of town — across from the Festival of Arts grounds: the Village Entrance.

3. If the Festival of the Arts and Laguna Playhouse were to make greater use of their venues with year-round entertainment, presentations and events, wouldn’t more parking, close-by, be advantageous to them?

After 18 years of planning and studies for a Village Entrance project — at an expense of $650,000 (not including staff and volunteer time) — isn’t it time to actually “get something done” and gain a beautiful entryway, park and a garage that creates up to 200 more spaces at the edge of the downtown?

If you’d like to see more parking in the downtown, let your voice be heard and join us for a presentation of the Village Entrance concept at 5 p.m. March 26 at the Laguna Beach City Hall. The public is invited.

Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson

Laguna Beach



Counties should vote on San Onofre

There is a simple and direct way to resolve the debate about San Onofre. The issue needs to be put to a vote in Orange and San Diego counties on the same day.

The county counsels in the two regions need to draft identical ballot measures that simply ask for a thumbs up or thumbs down vote on reopening the nuclear power plant. This way, the 6 million people living closest to San Onofre, which is operated by Southern California Edison (SCE), will have their say in the matter.

I’m guessing those evacuated from Fukushima two years ago in Japan might like to have that option as a do-over. Today, their former homes, schools, shops and parks are shuttered in a veritable 20-kilometer “dead zone” which, some experts predict, could last as long as 10,000 years.

Last September, the Friends of the Earth reported that 58% of SCE customers polled living within the San Onofre service area opposed the reopening of the power plant. The only trouble was that figure represented a mere 406 out of 700 people questioned. Hardly an overwhelming groundswell of opposition in my opinion.

To counter those findings, SCE said, “Any survey of its customers’ opinions should ‘accurately describe the role San Onofre plays’ both in power generation and reliability and grid support.” Not exactly the most comforting of words if you ask me.

A simultaneous special election in Orange and San Diego counties will allow millions of people the opportunity to voice their opinion on this contentious issue. After all, if San Onofre blows one day, where will everyone go? There simply aren’t enough condos in Palm Springs to accommodate us all.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach