Mailbag: Good e-cigs are powerful anti-smoking tool

I am a Laguna Beach resident and the owner of E-Cig City in Laguna Beach. I have read David Hansen's column for years and was in complete shock when I was bombarded by many people in regard to his Sept. 20 column in the Coastline Pilot.

I am sorry about his experience with a person blowing vapor in his face. This is not right. I am very careful to explain to my customers that they should not force vaping on people and should be very cautious when vaping around non-smokers.

I smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day for more than 38 years. I tried to quit too many times to remember. I tried patches, gum, hypnotism, cold turkey, even Chantix.

I have to say of all these smoking-cessation tools, Chantix was the absolute worst. The side effects of this drug were so terrible that my family asked me to start smoking again.

I tried my first electronic cigarette in 2010. It was a scam I saw on television for a free electronic cigarette, and I really didn't believe it would work, but I thought I would give it a shot.

Well, $285 later I realized that it actually didn't work consistently, but I thought, wow, if this would just work it could actually get me off cigarettes. So I started researching everything I could find on electronic cigarettes. I bought every single model available. I tried every flavor, most of which I could not stand. I tried every gadget, atomizer and cartomizer and found many terrible products but some really great ones.

I quit smoking. It really worked. I thought every single smoker should at least try one of these. If only someone could help people weed through all the scams and technology, really understand the individual needs of each person's particular situation to help them identify what works for them, this would be a wonderful alternative to smoking cigarettes.

That is when I came up with the idea to start a store. I want to get people off tobacco, apreventable cause of death in the United States.

I opened the store in February of 2011 and supply only the best of everything the industry has to offer at reasonable prices, better than you can find online. I patiently explain to each customer the pros and cons of every item and how to properly use and maintain the devices. I save customers money every chance I get even though electronic cigarettes are only a fraction of the monetary cost of smoking.

I have had customers come into my shop telling me their doctors, or dentist, sent them to me and told them they have to quit smoking. To date over 17,000 cigarette and cigar smokers have completely quit because of E-Cig City in Laguna Beach. Many, me included, enjoy the ritual of the hand-to-mouth of vaping and or the use of nicotine.

I do not sell to minors.

Jason Shaeffer

Laguna Beach


Food Pantry grateful for the Volunteers

In the past, I've expressed gratitude to local markets, organizations and individuals who have supported the Laguna Food Pantry. Because of them, our nonprofit has been able to provide free groceries to many people dealing with economic hardship.

But today I'd like to thank another group, the dedicated volunteers who work so hard to keep our refrigerators and shelves filled for friends, neighbors and strangers. Seven days a week, they are either picking up and delivering food in their own vehicles or unloading, cleaning, sorting and stocking the tons of donations our friends at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Pavilions give us.

All the while, they are gracious to our visitors, treating them with the warmth and dignity they deserve.

Some of the volunteers are shoppers who offered to stay to help. Others are our homeless neighbors, grateful for an opportunity to feel useful and give back. And quite a few are donors and residents who simply wanted to participate in a worthwhile cause. However they found their way to our door, we are deeply thankful they did.

Andy Siegenfeld

Chairman, Laguna Food Pantry


North Laguna residents want a vote

The board of directors of the Laguna North Neighborhood Organization opposes proceeding with the Village Entrance Project without a mandate from the voters.  

Little or no effort has been made to convince residents who live here and pay the bills that the benefits outweigh the substantial costs.  The three out of five council members who favor the project do so in the face of overwhelming opposition from the community. 

We live in a beautiful place, and share it with others who are similarly attracted to its many charms. Visitors have made our community world-famous and contribute to the financial health of our local businesses and cultural institutions. For this, we are grateful.

However, over the years the Laguna Beach experience has deteriorated for residents and visitors. The cause is not difficult to determine — too many cars in a central area of beaches, shops, galleries, restaurants, festivals, theatres and a museum. We genuinely welcome the people who visit our town, but not their vehicles.

In response to this congestion problem, the City Council has voted to proceed with the construction of a centrally located, massive parking garage to be designated as the Village Entrance. This is equivalent to serving a glass of water to a drowning man.  

The congestion arises from too many cars trying to get into and out of town. Welcoming more cars into the center of the action on over-burdened roads will only make the problem worse, particularly given the central location of the proposed garage.

Not only is the proposed Village Entrance project the wrong answer to the problem, the current and next generation of village residents will pay a steep price for it — $50 million to $65 million over many years. While some funds will be generated from the project itself, it is undisputed that precious resources will be used that would otherwise be available for other, more reliably beneficial purposes. It is no wonder that the public's blood is boiling and passions are running high against this development.

Given what's at stake, the voice of the people should be heard in a referendum on the issue.

Lester J. Savit

president, Laguna Beach North Neighborhood Organization


Leaders should be looking forward

It has been very amusing to read letters from the proponents of the parking structure when they use descriptive words such as "visionary" and "new" and describe opponents as "fearful."

Many cities around the world are seeking genuinely new, exciting, visionary and creative solutions to address automobile traffic and parking issues, and I am saddened that the best we can come up with is outdated, 1960s-era thinking and pass it off as forward-looking.

If Laguna votes to build such a concrete dinosaur, which will be used merely 2 ½ months a year, then at least it ought to be built in Act V.

That, along with improved tram/trolley service, an improved walking corridor and new landscaping around the existing parking lot and village entrance might get tourists out of their cars, solve some parking and traffic problems and improve the area's appearance.

Mark and Cheryl Michelon

Laguna Beach


Still too many questions about project

Two realities have become clear in regard to the parking structure and other improvements proposed for the Village Entrance: (1) This is a landmark project, and (2) no broad consensus exists.

The project will impact Laguna Beach for decades to come — aesthetically, environmentally and financially. However, despite untold numbers of public hearings, no from-the-ground-up analysis has been undertaken for the project, ever.

Even the 1995-1996 broad-based task force did not have the authority to examine what would be best for the site: The group worked under a mandate from the City Council stating that any project considered must include a parking garage containing at least 350 spaces.

Serious questions exist. Is this the right site for an enormous garage? What will be the effects on traffic, congestion, air quality and the Act V parking/ tram program if the planned garage is built?

Will the garage be a half-full white elephant during most of the year? Aren't we offering an old solution for a New World problem? Can more effective, less costly solutions be found? Should we be raiding our sewer and capital improvement funds to use for this project rather than improving the rest of our infrastructure and upgrading our sewers?

We have been told that council members will be taking an in-depth look at the project and listening to the public on Oct. 1. Unfortunately, I don't have much faith that the October meeting will be anything more than window dressing for decisions they've already made.

After all, in discussions about hiring a consultant to analyze the parking/traffic/congestion issues, as well as the aesthetic and economic ones along the entire length of Broadway/Laguna Canyon Road, individual council members have said the Village Entrance site should be left out of any such analysis.

We deserve better. We need a complete re-evaluation of the project and the right to vote on the proposal once that analysis is completed.

Kay Becknell Jones

Laguna Beach


Leave something for tourists to flock to

Concerning the Village Entrance project: Why? Former Mayor Neil Fitzpatrick succinctly said it all at a meeting last month when he said he'd thought we'd driven a stake through the heart of that idea.

The argument that we should get off the dime and finally pass this thing is specious — a bad idea remains a bad idea. Why should we pay better-spent megabucks on an ugly addition that will further clog an already congested area of town?

To my mind, this less-than-attractive part of Laguna could definitely use some landscaping improvement, but no matter how carefully disguised, a hugely expensive parking structure will subtract, not add, to our visual appeal.

As far as adding parking places, we have a number of alternatives which should be substituted for this centralized plan, not added to it. (And really, $325,000 per additional parking spot!?)

We will never be able to add enough parking for all the visitors who might want to visit unless we pave over the whole town, and then what's to visit? Any plan involving a parking structure in this downtown location should be jettisoned. Drive a stake through it.

Rosemary Boyd

Laguna Beach


A vote is essential for Village Entrance

The Laguna Beach Democratic Club joins with and endorses Let Laguna Vote based on the following findings:

The $65 million Village Entrance project proposal is fiscally irresponsible and environmentally unsound, fails to serve the needs of the community and further deteriorates the serious congestion problems at Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road.

We are proud to stand with many other community groups as a coalition demanding a vote by the residents of Laguna Beach.

Dick Frank,

President The Laguna Beach Democratic Club



I understand that the council will now be giving a period of public input on the Village Entrance Project. Still, I believe that until this revenue bond project is rejected by the City Council, people will continue to express their opposition.

From my investigation of a revenue bond I found this definition, "A revenue bond is a special type of municipal bond distinguished by its guarantee of repayment solely from revenues generated by a specified revenue-generating entity associated with the purpose of the bonds, rather than from a tax."

To me that entity would be the parking structure itself, not the increased fees from parking everywhere in the city. I know that this definition could be finessed to include all parking fees, but I believe that this violates the intent of the revenue bond. Such bonds do not require a vote of the people because the repayment of the bond does not impact the citizens' interests.

In the current proposal the parking structure is expected to generate $300,000 a year, minus maintenance expenses, while the annual payment for the bond is expected to be around $2 million . The remaining $1.7 million annual payment will come from the increased parking fees outside the structure.

The revenue from these increased parking fees would otherwise be directed to city needs, such as more police, undergrounding utilities on the city's major arterials, and the development and implementation of a 21st-century mobility plan that would promote pedestrian and bicycle use and reduce traffic congestion in the downtown through peripheral parking and shuttle service.

Very relevant to the proposed city funding of a parking structure was Bill Moyers PBS program "Sports, Politics and Greed on Sept. 15. Part of the program dealt with corporate welfare for sports teams in which cities build stadiums at taxpayer expense yet it is the owners of the teams who benefit.

A taxpayer-funded stadium is currently being constructed in Detroit, despite the city being in bankruptcy. While watching this program I thought of our city's revenue bond plan for the parking structure. This bond, which uses the city general fund as collateral, represents city-funded welfare for nearby businesses. Not surprising, this project is supported primarily by nearby business interests. Other business owners worry that the proposed increased parking fees will negatively affect their businesses.

I urge the council to reject this revenue-bond project or allow a citizen vote on the bond. In Moyers' program then-Mayor of New Yorc City Rudy Giuliani was reported as saying that if he had allowed a referendum on the new taxpayer-funded Yankee stadium, he would have lost. I can only hope that the council will not take Giuliani's stance and instead will either reject the current revenue-bond project or allow a citizen vote.

Ginger Osborne

Laguna Beach



We need a vision of how beautiful the proposed conceptual plans for the intersection of Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon — the entry to Laguna Beach — can be.

How amazing it could look seeing a greenbelt park, verses a blighted corner parking lot. Feeling the rumbling of tires over enhanced paving signaling you have arrived at downtown Laguna Beach. Accessing improved intersections between Forest Avenue, Laguna Canyon and Ocean Avenue because the entrance of the parking structure will be across from the festival grounds leading many of the cars entering Laguna Beach straight into the new parking structure, not into the middle of downtown.

Finally, it will include the renovation of the long forgotten Spanish-style tank building; all these elements will help beautify downtown Laguna Beach. I agree with Larry Nokes and expect Elizabeth Pearson and the other City Council members to move. Let's get it designed and priced out and move ahead with finishing the planning for such a vision for the beautification of Laguna Beach.

Marshall Ininns

Downtown business owner


We need the parking for locals and visitors

I think the city will benefit tremendously from increased parking downtown, creek enhancement and restoration, and a beautiful pedestrian park between the village and the festivals. 

The addition of the park will also serve as a more beautiful village entrance — a big improvement over our current strip parking lot.

I am appalled by the conduct of some against this project. I resent the misleading signs quoting $65 million. I resent them passing out pamphlets at the farmer's market — completely inappropriate. And mostly, I resent their inability to wait and consider the proposal before jumping on the opposition bandwagon. 

Our town has agreed for years we need more parking. It has been identified as our biggest problem for as long as I have been around. I agree with those who want more parking in outlying lots and those who want additional bus/trolley service. 

But we also need more parking downtown for residents (and visitors). Many residents limit our downtown trips during the summer and during most weekends to the morning hours. I know I can find parking downtown before noon and so I limit my trips to that time. What a shame and a lost opportunity for local businesses and nonprofits. 

Leadership is painful and the Village Entrance is certainly proving that point. But City Councils and city staff over the years have persevered and delivered Main Beach, Montage and Treasure Island Park and so much more. Hang in there, City Council.

Mary Ferguson

Laguna Beach


Price is too high for 200 spaces

Three members of our City Council are trying to ram through construction of a 4.5 four and a half story, football-field-long, parking structure for 500 cars. This would, supposedly, replace the 300 existing spaces and gain an additional 200.

Recent information from the city indicates that 18 of the existing 300 would be eliminated to allow ingress and egress into the proposed structure leaving a net gain of only 182 spaces. Meaning the 182 spaces will, in effect, cost $65,800,000.

What are these three council members thinking …or are they?

A public park always sounds like a good idea, but at this proposed location, congested already by vehicles and pedestrians that would be increased 10-fold by the parking structure, is not at all safe.

The existing city lot adjacent to City Hall could be re-evaluated and extended into the proposed park thereby supplying the added 182 spaces. Bids would be required for double-decking on all or part of a two-story structure that would create a lower profile and a far less expensive alternative.

Public transportation might be further explored to reduce the number of vehicles entering this part of the city while increasing visitor activity.

In review:

* The proposed parking structure is not the best or only solution to Laguna's parking problem.

* A public park in that location is a bad and dangerous idea.

* Additional parking for 500 spaces can be done in a more cost-efficient way.

* Let's not mortgage Laguna's future for 182 spaces.

Annette Stephens

Laguna Beach


Time to let the people vote

The City Council of Laguna Beach needs to call for a vote on the parking structure plan by the residents.

Almost everyone likes the idea of a Village Entrance, believing even a sign would help. However, few residents favor a $55 million or $65 million parking structure and tiny park. The expense is too high, and a parking structure is hardly appropriate as an entrance to Laguna Beach. Council members need to ask for guidance of the people by calling for a vote. We voted them in as representatives, not as kings and queens.

I urge people of Laguna to click on the website for more information about the upcoming fundraiser that will increase public awareness of this plan.

Karen Dennis

Laguna Beach


Issue is important to residents

Since the Laguna Bbeach Ccity Ccouncil has thus far refused to let the residents citizens of the city laguna beach vote on the proposed Village Entrance project which three of them voted for — Steve Dicterow, Elizabeth Pearson and Bob Whalen — easy to imagine a very large crowd at the 6 p.m. Oct. 1 meeting at cCity hHall.

Dozens of letters to the editor have appeared in on-line and print news sources and I'm sure City Council members have receieved hundreds of emails. Tthis is the biggest uprising of the people of Laguna in recent years. At the last council meeting, numerous participants brought signs and placards displaying their feelings.

Roger Carter

Laguna Beach


Council members need to be heroes and say no

The time has come for the City Council to rescind its approval of the Village Entrance project. I know it can't do anything official until the council meets on Oct. 1, but in the interim it can begin the process of changing its mind. All it takes is one of the three who voted yes to say "I've reconsidered. I vote no." And become an instant hero.

In so doing he or she will join all those who have already said nNo, in long lines before the lectern at City Hall, in yard signs all over town, in overflow meetings, and in a torrent of letters to the local press.

The people have voted. The Village Entrance project is moribund. All that remains is a simple final act.

Just say no.

Arnold Hano

Laguna Beach



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