Village Matters

It’s all connected


By Ann Christoph

To reassure the reader who was concerned about the fate of the our late neighbor Paul Pflueger’s chickens mentioned in my last column, I am told they have been taken to their new home in Santa Barbara.  The coop has been dissembled.  Our neighborhood is quieter and more somber.  We miss seeing the chickens, and just knowing they were there.  Still, Paul’s dog Mocha, will be walking our streets as usual–with her new family, the Jenetts. “We’re honored,” Molly writes.


The South Laguna Community Garden is preparing for a Spring Fling potluck on Sunday afternoon, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Join in!  There will be music, Captain Diz (Eugene D’Isabella) and the Laguna Beach antique fire truck, good food and garden tips.  The most popular tip at the moment is, “Use chicken manure.”  Look at Myron Wacholder’s plot!


The garden will receive some special plantings, flowering native shrubs donated in memory of dedicated peace and environmental advocate, Jeanie Bernstein.  When the South Laguna Civic Association honored her on her 80th birthday, Jeanie, ever the activist, turned the focus from her achievements to the pressing issues at hand. “I appreciate the award, but the best thing would be for everyone here to take action.  We have so many problems in our world—from the war in Iraq to a war on the environment.  I hope I’ll see you at the peace vigil next Saturday from 11 to 1 p.m.”  Jeanie’s memorial service is this Saturday, appropriately just after the weekly peace vigil demonstration at Main Beach.  She’d want us to go there first!


With Jeanie’s event and Arnold Hano’s 90th birthday, we have a weekend dedicated to activists. Arnold has been involved in environmental and social issues in Laguna Beach for over 50 years, but the height-limit initiative was a defining moment for our city.  Yes, he still remembers the exact date the win was announced, Aug. 4, 1971. It not only stopped high-rise development, but the citizen-generated measure empowered Lagunans who would go on to accomplish the impossible, like saving the open space of the Laguna Greenbelt.


Arnold is known to say, “The limit is 36 feet and not an inch more.”  Yet at the Planning Commission this week, commissioners could not agree on limiting the height for a zone in Laguna Canyon. Commissioners Norm Grossman and Rob Zur Schmiede supported the current 36’ limit, but Commissioner Anne Johnson did not agree.  Commissioner Linda Dietrich even suggested allowing buildings up to 48-foot high.  The resulting 2-2 vote (Commissioner Bob Whalen was absent) means the matter will go to the council for a decision. I have the feeling Arnold will be there to remind us of the importance of holding the height line right where it is.


Sometimes we can remind and remind, but the three Council votes needed are not there.

Such was the case with our proposal that the Guy Skidmore house, Stonehenge, be rehabilitated instead of being demolished. The possibility that our kids will experience the Laguna Beach that has captured our hearts over generations, diminishes with every historic preservation case our council vetoes.


Our kids continue to astound us with their talent.  Their parents must be so proud, but we non-parents can sometimes share in their enthusiasm.  Now is the time.  The “Sound of Music” by the Laguna Beach High School’s Park Avenue Players amazes.  Not only with the voices, the live orchestra accompaniment, the quality of the production, and the lovable actors, but with how we are transported beyond seeing school children on a small town stage to being absorbed in the feelings and dilemmas of the characters.


It all ties together—loss and change, chickens to chicken manure making better gardens, gardens providing a forum for activists, activists working to preserve values for future generations. And the future generations, right now, showing us how inspiring they can be.


Landscape architect Ann Christoph is a former council member.







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