Village Matters: Don’t Ask How Much

By Ann Christoph

By Ann Christoph

My first remembrance of Arnold Hano is of standing in the kitchen of the Lamont Langworthy-designed house he and Bonnie had built in Bluebird Canyon.  It was the mid-1970s and Fred Lang was advising on the Hanos’ landscaping. I was tagging along, taking notes. I knew from Fred’s tone on the way up to the property that I was about to meet someone well-respected and important!

Arnold was just recovering from heart surgery.  He was the first person I knew who had had that bypass procedure and to me it seemed overwhelmingly life-threatening. I expressed sympathy and worry for him.  “Oh, he’ll be all right,” his wife Bonnie said nonchalantly, with a wave of her hand.  I was not so sure, because Arnold didn’t look all that robust. Now here it is almost 40 years later and Arnold still looks pretty much the same now as then–only now he is 91. As usual, Bonnie was right.

After South Laguna was annexed in 1987 I ran for Laguna Beach city council for the first time. The Hanos invited this neophyte to their home for a campaign “coffee.”  They were not at all sure that this girl who had been drafting for Fred Lang was up to such a challenging job. At the end of the session, after I had done my best to answer questions from the neighbors they had assembled, Arnold pulled me aside, “You’d better get a copy of the city budget and really study it,” he advised.  I did, and eventually, in 1990, I was elected to the city council.

Shortly afterwards, Bonnie and Arnold left town to serve in Costa Rica as Peace Corps volunteers.  They were back in town though in 1998 as a plan for a resort hotel, houses and condominiums on the Treasure Island property was being brought forward.  A referendum on the plan proposed “a better Treasure Island resort,” one with less density, and more park. Arnold was an experienced hand at all this.  After all, he and several other Lagunans had led the anti-high rise initiative in 1971 that established the 36-foot height limit that still applies throughout Laguna Beach.

So there we found Arnold at the Lumberyard with former mayor and fellow octogenarian Charlie Boyd charming referendum signatures from customers as they stood in line at the post office.

Decade after decade his activism and insight into the community continues. In 2003-04, he was writing “The Village Character” column for the Independent, penning some of the over 200 columns he’s written in our various local papers since 1961, appreciating how we as a village “march to our own cacophony” and urging us on.

When Arnold decided to forgo his Independent column, I was invited to write for that slot. His advice: “Do an introductory column about yourself so people know about you personally and then don’t try to write a certain way. Write the way you write.  People ask me about my writing style and how I do it;I don’t have a style.  I just write the way I write. I write what I think.”

This past Sunday during the Charm House Tour Arnold sat under the shade of an umbrella at the South Laguna Community Garden autographing his latest book, “It Takes a Villager,” a selection of his greatest columns.

The people coming through loved the garden, but the same questions came up over and over, “How much for a garden plot?”  “How much is the owner asking for the garden land?”  “How much is the owner of the “Floating Glass House” selling his house for? …”

It made me think there is too much asking, “How much?” and not enough appreciating and initiating.

Instead we could ask, “What can I do to make things better?’  Arnold asked this latter question and has answered with his insight and leadership.

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