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A Laguna Beach snow globe

A Laguna Beach snowglobe SNL 12.26

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Photo by Bob Heitel

A double rainbow brightens an otherwise overcast Laguna day

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Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Get ready…this week is the calm before next week’s debut of the new “Stu News” redesign

TJ headshot AugThis week, we’re dimming the lights in the Stu News newsroom to allow staff to be with family and friends over the holidays. It’s also a chance that allows them to rest, relax and recharge the old batteries as we prepare to kick off 2024.

And what a year it’s going to be right out of the gate with our first issue of the year. For months, we’ve been fine tuning a product redesign. It will debut in what we’re hoping is its new splendor come Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.

Here’s what you can expect. A much cleaner page set-up. Gone will be what we internally call the “right gutter.” It’s the single column that runs down the right side of the page and what many times competes with stories or photos, or both, that run down the middle.

So, expect stories to be presented in a clearer design running completely across the page; as, too, will ads. It should make for an easier read all the way around.

And trust me, a redesign is not something we take with a grain of salt. They are few and far between and completed after much thought.

But, we also realize that we’re not the judge and jury. You, our readers are, so let us know what you think after you spend a little time with it next Tuesday.

We also realize change is always difficult and some people, quite frankly, just don’t like it. So, disappointment is anticipated from some, but hopefully it will be few and far between.

We’re also hoping that the new design will make for a better home for advertisers to share their messaging with our growing number of readers.

Local news products are also not as commonplace any longer as the latest national statistics bear out, with many more failing and going out of business than beginning. Fortunately, we’ve been on the good side of that effort.

Still, we honestly could use more support. Not a week goes by when we don’t think of new things we’d like to add to our coverage, and we’re only limited by the funds to continually reinvest in our business.

Should you have a business, big or small, for profit or not for profit, we have a program that should work with your budget.

So, if you’d like to find out more, send me an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll collectively figure it out.

I remind you again that this week will be softer than a “normal” week, but we won’t just pass on any news stories that need to be told. We’re on it, even during the holidays.

So, Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2024 together.

• • •

The City of Laguna Beach has scheduled a Strategic Planning Session for City Council on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024 at 8:30 a.m. at Susi Q Community Center. The community is welcome.

A working agenda can be found here.

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Providence Mission Hospital receives numerous National Awards for clinical excellence

Providence Mission Hospital has received nine 2024 Women’s Choice Awards® for the best hospital for breast care, cancer care, heart care, mammogram imaging, minimally invasive surgery, obstetrics, outpatient experience, stroke and women’s services.

Providence Mission Hospital has also been named a best hospital for maternity care by U.S. News & World Report and is on its High Performing Hospitals 2024 list.

providence mission building

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Courtesy of Providence Mission Hospital

Providence Mission Hospital awarded nine 2024 Women’s Choice Awards®

The Women’s Choice Award® analyzes patient satisfaction, clinical performance and accreditations from almost 5,000 hospitals to make their selections. For a decade, the Women’s Choice Award® has developed objective criteria to help women decide the best hospitals for themselves and their families.

U.S. News & World Report assesses outcomes and experience, key programs, conditions and quality of care patients received during treatment to assess hospital quality.

“This prestigious recognition is a testament to the dedication of our caregivers and physician partners, and their commitment to provide the highest level of excellence and compassion to our community,” said Seth Teigen, chief executive of Providence Mission Hospital.

In addition to high quality maternity care, U.S. News & World Report ranks Providence Mission Hospital as the 16th best hospital in California and ranked the hospital’s orthopedic institute as 23rd in the country. The hospital has also received high-performance scores across multiple specialties including neurology and pulmonology.

Providence Mission Hospital is a state-of-the-art, 504-bed acute care regional medical center in Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach, Calif. As one of the busiest designated adult and pediatric Level II Trauma Centers in the state of California, Providence Mission Hospital provides a full range of reputable specialty health care services with highly skilled teams treating a multitude of complex conditions.

Services include a full range of expertise in cardiovascular, neuroscience and spine, orthopedics, cancer care, women’s services, mental health and wellness, head and neck, and a variety of other specialty services.

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Stu News Best in Photos 2023

Stu News Laguna has two wonderful photographers who regularly contribute their photos to accompany and add to many of our stories. The year-end assignment to both of them was to submit their five favorite photographs from 2023, and tell us why.

We realized with photographers that in many ways they’re like parents to their photos, not being able to necessarily have a favorite of one over the other.

Still, they tried.

Today and Friday, we will present to you a sampling of their favorites. Mary Hurlbut’s will be accompanied by the requested explanation of why it’s a favorite.

Scott Brashier, on the other hand, said, “As the saying goes ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’…which is an adage in multiple languages meaning that complex and sometimes multiple ideas can be conveyed by a single still image, which conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a mere verbal description. My thoughts exactly.”

The end result is, just enjoy them!

Stu News Best photos photo 1

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mary said, “I like this candid shot taken during the Brooks Street Surf Classic because of the repetition of the straw-colored hats and umbrellas.”

Stu News Best in Photos photo 2

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A dog enjoying a walk on a wonderful winter day

Stu News Best in Photos 2023 photo 3

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mary said, “I love this ‘storytelling’ portrait of Mayor Bob Whalen taken last January, because of the unique view of the council chambers. Bob looks great, the bounced flash lit his face perfectly and background is nicely blurred.”

Stu News Best in Photos 2023 photo 4

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A photog capturing a photog taking a photo of a pelican

Stu News Best in Photos 2023 photo 5

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mary said, “I know black dogs (and cats) photograph best in soft light –bright sunshine is too harsh. This was the perfect spot to capture Cooper’s beautiful coat AND the background lights are the same color as his eyes! March at the Lumberyard mall.”

Stu News Best in Photos 2023 photo 6

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Artist Jim McVicker at the LPAPA Plein Air Invitational All-Member “Welcome” Paint Out

Don’t forget to check back Friday for more of the Stu News Best in Photos 2023.

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The storm before the calm

The storm before the calm

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Photo by Bob Heitel

After Friday’s rain, emerging that evening was a beautiful sunset

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The Laguna we love is lost

By Jude Lifeset

Laguna Beach, a beautiful small town, is a destination known for its charming coves and many art galleries. The community also contains terrific stores and restaurants that have become favorites to locals and tourists. Today, those local gems are struggling after decades of flourishing in business. The town’s losses have devastated the community, taking family favorites away. No one knew that the summer of 2023 would be one of the last times we could enjoy a chicken taco from Taco Loco or avocado rolls from San Shi Go. This leaves the town wondering, what is the reason we are losing such beloved businesses?

The Laguna Vertigo Home

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Photo by Martin Ulrich

Vertigo Home Goods

Vertigo Home Goods, a local company that has been thriving since 2009, is located at 1550 South Coast Highway. The pleasant store has been a favorite of Laguna’s because of its full-of-life atmosphere and vibrant color display. Chris Oswalt and his partner, Martin Ulrich, are the faces behind it. However, along with others, they have made the challenging decision to say goodbye to their Laguna Beach store in October 2023. Other stores are struggling with skyrocketing rent or the lack of attracting high spenders, but for Vertigo, their decision to close is due to the reason of lack of employees.

“Owners are operating their own businesses to the point of burnout,” said Oswalt. He emphasizes the absence of youth employment, and how much the community needs the younger community (to be involved). Another significant aspect of businesses struggling is that there isn’t consistent support from the local community. He expanded on this: “We have to cater to more than just the tourists; we have to have businesses that cater to the locals.” It’s easy to go online and find what you need at the click of a button, and that’s why we have created the “local first” movement. Retail stores and restaurants need to gain more support from the residents of Laguna.

So what can Laguna do to help out? Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most famous highways in the country. Almost every business on Pacific Coast Highway has an oceanfront view, but some of those businesses that could thrive are getting taken over by offices. The city of Laguna Beach shouldn’t allow offices or studios to take the place of where a retail business could be. This has driven locals and tourists away from neighboring companies, making for smaller and smaller neighborhoods. Oswalt mentions the more younger people can be involved with struggling businesses, the less struggle they will have. The youth can bring new and fresh ideas, catering to more people.

San Shi Go, The Stand, Vertigo Home Goods and Taco Loco, which have all been in business for more than a decade, are only a few businesses that have closed this year. “I don’t think you can predict that,” Oswalt said, devastated about these businesses. Laguna can lean on each other for support, but businesses need to be able to provide locals with what they want. New and fresh ideas from the youth can help support everyone who is struggling. Next time you’re hungry, go support a local business. Next time you need a summer job, go support a local business. Next time you need a new shirt, go support a local business. We want our hometown to continue to blossom and shine brighter than ever.

Jude Lifeset is a news reporter for Laguna Beach High School’s “Brush & Palette.”

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What’s your City done for you lately? Well, let’s look back at 2023

This is Part 1 in a two-part series.

What's your City done City Hall building

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

CITY COUNCIL POLICY INITIATIVES

Marine Safety Operations in South Laguna

On March 1, 2023, the City of Laguna Beach assumed control of the beaches in South Laguna. Marine Safety operations were extended into South Laguna, providing the same level of service as the rest of the city. The additional area required recruiting, hiring, training and the deployment of more than 60 lifeguards.

During peak (summer) operations at South Laguna Beaches from June 10, 2023 to September 4, 2023, the lifeguard team conducted:

–1,953 rescues

–1,572 medical aids

–208,328 public contacts

–42,159 ordinance enforcement contacts

–109,520 preventive actions (Advising individuals of dangerous behavior that could lead to injury.)

Public Works & Utilities updated all South Laguna beach signage and provided approximately 150 new trash and recycling receptacles for the public.

Mobile Mental Health Services

On April 18, 2023, the City Council approved a two-year service agreement with Mind OC (Be Well OC) to provide mobile mental health and substance abuse services to the community. The program launched in Laguna Beach on August 1, 2023, and is available to the public seven days per week between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks should be given to Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris for securing $1.5 million of state funding to support operating expenses during the initial two-year trial program.

Police Department Addresses Loud Vehicle Noise in the Community

The Laguna Beach Police Department collaborated with agencies throughout Orange County to host four joint operations addressing the issue of loud exhaust.

Police Department’s Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) Implemented to Address Quality of Life Issues

Since the inception of the NET in May 2022, the team has continued to expand and establish itself throughout the community:

–Traffic Bureau – The traffic team was increased from two motor officers to four motor officers to address ongoing traffic safety issues. In addition, the City Council approved a staffing increase to add a dedicated traffic sergeant to provide team leadership.

–Park Rangers – Seven of the eight full-time positions are filled, and one person is now in the hiring process. Park Rangers are responsible for enforcing quality of life issues and crime within our beaches and parks.

Homeless Liaison Officer (HLO) – HLOs conduct necessary enforcement of individuals who are refusing assistance. The HLO was successful reuniting 14 individuals with their homes outside the city through the city-funded Operation Homecoming program.

Community Services Officer (CSO) – CSO Nicole Rice held many community education programs such as the Road Safety Expo, Citizens Academy, Ice Cream Social, Coffee with a Cop, Pizza with a Park Ranger and Know-Your-Limits program, hosted the city’s first annual National Night Out at Main Beach.

K-9 Program – The Police Department welcomed K-9 Officer Bear. Corporal Priscilla Angeloni was selected as his handler. The police department now has canine support seven days a week provided by two apprehension K-9s. Corporal McGuire and K-9 Rudy cover the other half of the week.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Police

Department Reorganization

Command staff completed a comprehensive restructuring of the police department to improve communication, decrease the supervisory span of control, increase efficiency and aid in succession planning to develop future leadership.

Executive Team Promotions

Promoted three new members to the Executive Team. Mike Peters joined the Laguna Beach Police Department as its newest Captain after serving 26 years at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Sergeants Jesse Schmidt and Jason Farris were both promoted to Lieutenant.

Training

Enhanced training opportunities for Police Department staff, with an emphasis on leadership.

Axon Body Worn Cameras (BWC) and In-Car Video

The Police Department is upgrading its legacy BWC system to the Axon Body Worn Camera and In-Car Video Platforms. This upgrade will enhance transparency and accountability between police personnel and citizens and document evidence that can be easily retrieved.

Dell Mobile Data Computers (MDC)

Replaced outdated Mobile Data Computers with new Dell computers. The new computers will empower police officers and professional staff to work remotely within the city, promoting greater flexibility and responsiveness.

Cellular Phones

Equipped each Laguna Beach Police Department employee with a department-issued cellular phone for on-duty use. This strategic initiative ensures that their personnel have directories, resources and essential tools that are pre-loaded into the phone at their fingertips. Adding these personalized mobile devices not only fosters seamless communication and collaboration among team members, but also significantly enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of daily operations. Officers can access critical information on the go, enabling faster decision-making and response times.

New Insight Application

Launched the new Insight mobile application for police officers, allowing officers to send digital resources directly to residents via the application. Police officers now have immediate access to emergency management resources, public resources, forms and scheduling information anywhere they have a cellular signal.

Click open story button to continue reading…

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Meet Pet of the Week Shane

Shane, a long-hair tabby, is our Pet of the Week. The domestic cat is 2 1/2 years old and is super affectionate. Shane will be a wonderful addition to your home, especially if there are other cats as he gets along well with other animals. He is neutered. Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, is hoping to have Shane adopted as soon as possible.

Pet of the Week Shane

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Courtesy of the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter

Meet Shane, a fun-loving active companion

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, their return rate is 5% as compared to the national return rate of 50%.

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road. Call 949.497.3552, or go to the website for information on adoption procedures, www.puplagunabeach.org/our-pets.php.

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Fair Game

By TOM JOHNSON

Legal action related to the Hotel Laguna differences slowly works its way through the courts

TJ headshot AugThis week I was forwarded multiple legal files that included pages and pages and more pages of legal mumbo jumbo on the court action between Mo Honarkar, MOM and Continuum.

MOM and Continuum, it should be noted, were two related groups that provided capital to Honarkar as he attempted to operate and restore the Hotel Laguna while apparently suffering some financial stress. Then, as a result of those financial loans, claims of apparent shortfalls in paybacks, further disagreements between all parties and then lots of finger pointing, they have ended up in court arguing everything and anything against each other.

These days, MOM and Continuum operate the hotel and have the responsibility until a court rules differently.

I should also probably clarify that “mumbo jumbo” is not a broadly used legal term and not necessarily fair to Mo, simply because he has so much on the line in his legal battle with his so-called partners. So Mo, bear with me.

But first off, you have to understand, sending that many documents to me, with my undiagnosed ADD, is not necessarily a match made in heaven.

Still, here’s the gist of what those documents seem to imply. MOM and Continuum it would appear have been called to task by the court for falling short in sharing proper operating documents with Honarkar along the way, particularly since he was removed months back from the day-to-day operations.

It would have to be considered a win of sorts for Mo, although there’s still a lot of court time for all parties in their future before any final, permanent resolution is decided.

In the meantime, MOM, my sources tell me, has apparently submitted complete plans to the city for the continued, ongoing restoration of Hotel Laguna. They did so, I’m told, with preservation of all historical details of the property intact.

And on one other item that took me somewhat by surprise was when someone called to report a “For Lease” sign up at the hotel. Not to worry, it’s not for the hotel itself, but for retail shops inside.

• • •

Elsewhere around town, this in from Dane Pflueger, an alternate on the city’s Environmental Sustainability Committee.

“I would like to bring to your attention that, in a rare show of overlapping support, the Parking, Transportation and Circulation Committee and the Environment and Sustainability Committee in Laguna Beach both recently passed the same ambitious recommendations regarding investments in walking and biking infrastructure.

“Both committees proposed a series of initiatives to the city that, if undertaken, would represent a major and long overdue change in the city. This area has long been neglected by the council, and it may be relevant to inform your readers of the widespread calls for change that the actions of the committees represent,” said Pflueger. (Consider it done.)

Included in what Pflueger is talking about are an extension of existing cycle route paths, upgrades to the visibility of cycle routes, and other needed support for bicyclists, including racks, lockers, charging stations and more.

It’s a great step to get more bikes on the roads and more cars off them, which I think is the ultimate goal.

• • •

And, before we turn the computer off and get on with the Christmas holiday celebration, allowing you to get to your family and us to ours, a couple of other things.

Thank you to you, our readers who give our words, photos and pages life twice each week. We’d be nothing without you.

Thank you to the advertisers that support our mission and make us stronger, which in turn allows us to provide even more.

We also owe a thanks to ALL of our city’s elected officials, those employees inside City Hall, the nonprofits in town that add to the city’s character and make-up, and to groups such as Village Laguna that contribute unique important voices of their own, all combining to make our city better.

And, thank you to those at Stu News Laguna, including our columnists/writers/photographers, who make our product better with their many contributions and seemingly undying commitment, including Dianne Russell, Sara Hall, Marrie Stone, Theresa Keegan, Mary Hurlbut, Scott Brashier, Suzie Harrison, Dennis McTighe, Michael Sterling, and to our Editor Lana Johnson, whose resolve to late nights and early mornings twice each week give Laguna Beach the best local community newspaper possible.

Finally, thanks to our CEO Shaena Stabler who has been the backbone of this operation for years and is the towering influence over everything we do.

Thank you all!

Happy Holidays!

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Home safety tips while you are on your holiday trips

By Nicole Rice, Community Services Officer, Crime Prevention, LBPD

Report all suspicious activity to Laguna Beach Police Department at 949.497.0701 or call 911 for an emergency or a crime in progress.

Home Safety tips poster

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Courtesy of LBPD

Prevent crime in your neighborhood

Follow these tips for home safety to prevent crime from happening in your neighborhood:

–Installing security cameras around your home.

–Lock up your doors and windows when you leave on vacation.

–Have a trusted family member or neighbor check on your home while you are out of town. You can also apply for a “Vacation House Check” on the city’s website: www.lagunabeachcity.net and search “vacation house check” to fill out the form.

–While on vacation, leave a light on inside and outside of your home.

–Keep your valuables in your garage, car and home out of sight.

–Keep your garage door closed and secured while you are out of town.

–Hold packages and mail at the post office. Apply on www.uspis.gov.

If you would like more information or have any questions on home security, reach out to CSO Crime Prevention Officer Nicole Rice at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Shaena Stabler, President & CEO - Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com

Lana Johnson, Editor - Lana@StuNewsLaguna.com

Tom Johnson, Publisher - Tom@StuNewsLaguna.com

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

Email: Editor@StuNewsLaguna.com with news releases, letters, etc.

949.212.1499

Email: Shaena@StuNewsLaguna.com for questions about advertising

949.315.0259

*The content and ads in this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the publisher.

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