Three areas of the Laguna coastline have been designated as protected areas by the Marine Life Protection Act. (FILE PHOTO, Coastline Pilot / December 29, 2011)

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following were chosen by the Coastline Pilot staff as the most important news stories of the past year in Laguna Beach.


After six months of sometimes raucous commentary, both pro and con, in the last half of 2010 the City Council in February took up the issue of speedboarding or skateboarding on city streets. Council chambers were packed when discussing the controversial issue.

In April, after months of study and comment, the council voted to ban skateboarding on eight precipitous streets and to require skateboarders to abide by various rules, including: requiring boarders never to sit or lie down, but only stand up; not to exceed 25 mph; never perform stunts; and obey all traffic signs.


2. Rug store manager accused in sex assaults

Downtown business owners and patrons were taken by surprise when a well-known businessman that ran Sirous & Sons Rug Gallery was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting eight women, with additional charges associated with three other women.

Saeid Boustanabadi Maralan, 53, of Laguna Niguel was arrested in September after Laguna Beach police responded to a report by a former 17-year-old intern, who alleged that Maralan had shown her pornographic images on his computer.

Police were able to examine the computer and find evidence, opening up an investigation that spanned more than three years and included felony counts of forcible rape, sexual battery, sexual penetration with a foreign object by force and assault with the intent to commit oral copulation; he also has misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and false imprisonment.

Victims had come forward prior to the minor's report, but they did not want to prosecute Maralan. After news of the arrest spread, more victims came forward, agreeing to testify.


3. Flood recovery

A major flood in December 2010 that inundated Laguna Canyon neighborhoods and downtown, causing more than $10 million in damages, proved to be a major challenge for citizens and city officials in 2011. In January, immediate needs were addressed through volunteers who donated money, clothing, goods and labor to get mud-soaked residents back into their homes, and businesses cleaned up.

City officials applied for FEMA funds to help defray emergency response costs, which finally came through in July, and the Small Business Administration responded with low-interest loans to help the afflicted. The City Council also began to look into the long term, appointing a task force in March that made a number of key recommendations to reduce the flood hazards and warn the community in the event of another deluge.

In September, the city fought to remove some properties from FEMA's flood plain map and save property owners from being required to purchase flood insurance.

After eight months of study, the Laguna Canyon Flood Task Force announced in November a proposal to reduce flooding by 30% by enlarging a portion of storm drain under the Coast Highway. That proposal would require approval of Caltrans.


4. Marine reserves delayed

The state Fish & Game Department announced June 29 that fishing would be off-limits in most of Laguna Beach's coastal areas as of Oct. 1, but then delayed implementing complex rules of the Marine Life Protection Act until Jan. 1, 2012.

Laguna Bluebelt Coalition, an activist group, swung into action early to begin monitoring the city's beaches and tidepools to provide a baseline for comparison when the new rules, designed to safeguard sea life and particularly "nurseries" for the young, go into effect.