Hansen: Hot sauce added to top 2014 Laguna stories

Everyone loves Top 10 lists this time of year. Even better is a Top 10 list with hot sauce.

Last week there was a good, well-rounded list of Laguna Beach stories to watch in 2014 ("Top issues to follow in Laguna in 2014, Jan. 3).

But here is the rest of the story.

10) Common Core rollout: Students will take tests that are supposed to provide key insights into how well everyone grasps the retooled curriculum. The emphasis will be on critical thinking, writing and interpretation. Hot sauce: Sorry, I just fell asleep in class. The rollout of new school programs happens about as often as hockey playoffs. We love our teachers. Education is all good. But why is it that education reform is endless?

9) Possible permanent low-income housing: Friendship Shelter officials are eyeing the land near the Alternative Sleeping Location in Laguna Canyon to permanently house the mentally ill. Hot sauce: This is good news but it will be interesting to see the public's response. The time is right for a better solution. Let's hope calm, rational minds prevail.

8) Undergrounding: The undergrounding of utility poles in the canyon is continuing, but the city is also looking into a comprehensive plan throughout Laguna Beach. Two companies have offered proposals, but the details have not been made public yet. Hot sauce: Whenever I hear "comprehensive plan" and "Laguna Beach" in the same sentence, I know the project will never get done. The inimitable Arnold Hano first wrote about undergrounding in Laguna Beach in 1961. Need I say more?

7) Hiring an urban planner: A committee is looking into hiring an urban planner and trying to figure out what the person should focus on. High on the list are parking and traffic circulation. Hot sauce: I have enjoyed talking to every urban planner I've met, and there have been a few over the years. They are always smart, pragmatic, visionary and creative. Unfortunately, in Laguna, we suck the life out of all those characteristics. Furthermore, we can't hire an "urban" planner. It needs to be a "village" planner.

6) Aliso Creek restoration: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to make Aliso Creek more stable and less harmful to the native habitat. Hot sauce: Stinky creek is still stinky. If this is a last-mile fix, it won't help. There are 18 miles above it. The reality is this is another fecal legacy that goes back more than 50 years. Call me if the Navy Seals parachute in instead of the Army.

5) November election: We will have three City Council openings in the fall: Council members Elizabeth Pearson, Toni Iseman and Kelly Boyd are up for reelection. No word yet on whether they will run again. Hot sauce: This will be a very interesting race. We saw surprising defeats last time that shifted certain balances of power within the city. While not a partisan election, it kinda is. Stay tuned on this one.

4) Murder trial: Jacob Quintanilla, 25, of Lake Forest is scheduled for a pretrial hearing this week in the Oct. 23, 2009, killing of Hotel Laguna catering manager Damon Nicholson, 40. Hot sauce: There is no sauce here, just sadness.

3) Village Entrance Project: The tentative plan now is to landscape a walkway near the Forest Avenue and Lumberyard parking lots. With the parking structure off the table, the city is looking at parking efficiency and traffic circulation throughout town. Hot sauce: I hope the city plants roses in this expensive garden so we can all smell better about ourselves.

2) Double fatality on Laguna Canyon Road: Robert McFarland Pettis, accused of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and driving on the wrong side of the road, is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 27. Pettis allegedly hit a Honda Accord head-on, killing two men early in the morning on April 2 last year. Hot sauce: There is more to this story than we may ever know. Pettis, an ear, nose and throat doctor, is being accused of speeding in his Tesla Model S. He allegedly told police dispatchers that he had been cut off by a white Mercedes. What we do know is Alberto Casique, 47, and Armando Gonzalez, 38, died while going to their landscaping jobs. Casique had a wife and four children.

1) Proposed artist live-work project: The live-work project by sculptor Louis Longi continues to work its way through the system. Longi hopes to build housing for 30 artists in Laguna Canyon. Some neighbors object to the plan, saying it is too big and clashes with the area's rustic character. Hot sauce: If this is our top story in 2014, then life is good. Let him build.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at davidhansen@yahoo.com.

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