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The top 10 stories in Laguna Beach for 2013

December 26, 2013|By Bryce Alderton
  • Pallbearers prepare to move Laguna Beach motorcycle Officer Jon Coutchie's casket into Mariners Church in Irvine in September.
Pallbearers prepare to move Laguna Beach motorcycle… (KEVIN CHANG, Coastline…)

Laguna Beach had its share of tragedies and challenges in 2013, from the death of police officer Jon Coutchie in September to Mayor Kelly Boyd announcing in February that he has cancer.

Two men driving to work were killed when another car hit them head-on on Laguna Canyon Road in April. Hundreds of malnourished sea lion pups inundated the Pacific Marine Mammal Center — scientists are still trying to figure out why so many pups washed up on county beaches.

A debate on whether school should start before Labor Day riled some parents, who argued successfully for the calendar to stay the way it is. The Planning Commission approved part of a project to revitalize and shore up a 2-mile underground tunnel that houses a sewer line in South Laguna, and newly appointed Mayor Elizabeth Pearson made a stirring announcement in November that she would not favor a parking structure as part of the Village Entrance project.

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Here are the top 10 news stories for 2013.

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1) Village Entrance

Nearly two decades in the making, the Village Entrance Project continued to garner much debate in 2013.

At one stage, the development project at Forest Avenue and Laguna Canyon Road called for a pedestrian park and a four-level parking structure to the tune of $42 million, including $29 million from borrowed funds. Opponents claimed it would entice more visitors from surrounding communities to drive to Laguna, adding to the city's traffic challenges.

Then-Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson announced at a November workshop that she would not favor a structure. The council agreed and the current proposal tentatively calls for a landscaped walkway, no structure and, according to the city, no debt.

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2) Police Officer Jon Coutchie's death

Laguna Beach police Officer Jon Coutchie was en route to assist another officer while riding his motorcycle late Sept. 21 when he struck a pickup truck turning left from South Coast Highway onto Cleo Street.

Coutchie, who started with the Laguna Beach Police Department in 2009, died at the scene — the first Laguna officer to die on duty since 1953, when a prisoner trying to escape the police station shot and killed Officer Gordon French.

Mourners placed flowers at a memorial shrine on the sidewalk near the intersection, and hundreds of law enforcement personnel paid tribute to Coutchie at Mariners Church in Irvine.

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