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2008: Year of change, accomplishment in Laguna Hills

Posted Monday, December 29, 2008 by OC Register

2008: Year of change, accomplishment in Laguna Hills

A year of new laws, new businesses and a championship football team.

The Orange County Register


LAGUNA HILLS From new development to new laws to an election year and a high school championship, Laguna Hills had its share of news in 2008. Here is a look at some of the news that made headlines.

New laws

In November, Laguna Hills became the second city in Orange County that will make adults accountable for underage drinking. The City Council adopted the social host law that could fine adults as much as $1,000 if their teens drink in their homes and/or up to six months in jail.

Under the new law, it would be a misdemeanor for a person responsible for a party, gathering, or event on private property attended by three or more young people who are underage to knowingly permit an underage youth to consume or possess an alcoholic beverage.

Also, a new residential noise disturbance ordinance adopted in October can bill a homeowner or party host up to $1,000 for responding a second time to a noisy residence.

Animal control

The city decided to continue contracting for animal control services with the county – angering some advocates for a local and pro-humane animal shelter.

According to the city manager's year-end report, at this point, the only viable service provider for the city is the county. Animal services through the county include regional patrols, shelter services, stray animal impounds, barking dog complaint services and more.


Incumbents Joel Lautenschleger and L. Allan Songstad won re-election in November for two open seats in the Laguna Hills City Council.

Five candidates sought two open seats in the five-member City Council, in its seventh election since the city incorporated in 1991.

The candidates included challengers Ellie Michaels-Smith, Kathy Burrow-Byrneand Riley Clark.

Lautenschleger was appointed mayor for 2009 by his fellow council members.


In January, a new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Community Outpatient Clinic opened in Laguna Hills.

Its South County location is vital considering that just in Laguna Woods, there are nearly 2,000 veterans, said Richard Beam, director of public and community affairs for the VA Long Beach Healthcare System. Orange County, based on U.S. Census Bureau information, has at least 250,000 veterans, Beam said.

The Florence Sylvester Memorial Senior Center in November announced that due to the economic downturn and lack of donations, it was suffering its highest deficit ever – nearly $100,000.

South County Senior Services, which runs the center, sought financial support from Laguna Hills, where the center is located. Later that month, the city approved grant fund applications for senior services. The city had never financially supported the senior center.

Senior care

In August, a family sued the Villa Valencia assisted living unit in Laguna Hills. Luveda Kessler died after falling in her assisted living apartment. Her family blamed the facility.

The Virginia-based company – which runs 445 senior centers internationally – has garnered criticism in two other lawsuits in 2008 over care of residents at Villa Valencia's adjacent nursing home unit.

Social issues

On June 17, the first day California counties were able to issue same-sex marriage licenses, dozens of gay couples wed at the Clerk-Recorder's Office in Laguna Hills.

The California Supreme Court had cleared the way for the same-sex wedding ceremonies in a ruling it issued in May. The ruling struck down a provision of state law that defined marriages only as between a man and a woman.


The Nordstrom's Rack in Laguna Hills, spanning 35,000 feet, opened in September and occupied the building formerly called "Wow" and once filled by Tower Records and The Good Guys, which both filed for bankruptcy. The building had been vacant for more than a year.


To culminate the year, Laguna Hills High football took the CIF-SS Southern Division title in front of 7,500 at Cerritos College. This is the team's third championship and first since 1997. They went 13-0.

"This is a team of destiny," said Hawks coach Bruce Ingalls. "We knew this was going to be hard fought. It's just an unbelievable feeling to win a game like this."


Contact the writer: amolina@ocregister.com or 949-45-7360

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