OC Weekly's Year In Review 2013

Tacos and terrorists, chopped-off dicks in the desert, and drinking with Marines in Coachella cap off our year that was

4. Saddle Crest Development In Trabuco Canyon Overturned. In Orange County, we're in the business of McMansions and making everything look the same. But wouldn't you know it, some folks still value natural wilderness areas? The canyon lands east of Orange and north of Irvine feature miles of unadulterated open space and are among the few areas where people can hike, bike and camp. Yet it's been the mission of Rutter Development to build a new tract-home community along the canyon's two-lane highway since the early 2000s. Saddle Crest would have cut down more than 100 historic oaks and graded the pristine hillside, possibly starting a domino effect of development in the area. This kind of work was prohibited in the canyon because of environmental plans, but the Orange County Supervisors, who all received campaign funds from Rutter Santiago LP, ignored them. Thankfully, Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven L. Perk ruled against Saddle Crest in July and kept the fight going for the little squirrel.

5. Remembering George and Jack Culolias, Father and Son Who Tragically Passed Within Months of Each Other. News of a Brea Olinda High School student who went missing during his first year of college at Arizona State University made national headlines. Jack Culolias had been at a bar in Tempe, celebrating with his new fraternity brothers, when he was kicked out for underage drinking; he then vanished into the desert night. Three days later, while his brothers and mother, Grace, searched around the bar, a single red shoe was spotted near a water basin. Jack was found floating among the reeds. The story went quiet after that, but we caught up with the family. The boys' father, George, had passed only months before from cancer, and the eldest brother, Nick, said Jack was just trying to escape the pain. The boys' stepmother, Renae, now lives in a new house in Yorba Linda that she had hoped to share with the whole family. Instead, she points to the baby magnolia tree planted out front on the day of Jack's memorial and thinks of her two remaining sons. "This is just life, as sucky as it is," she says. "But there are good people in the world, and if anything, this tragedy will make them better men."

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MATT COKER'S Top Five UNREPORTED STORIES OF 2013

1. Predicting the Huntington Beach Riots? After the riots sparked by the U.S. Open of Surfing in July, there were interviews and press conferences and special Huntington Beach City Council meetings at which police, merchants, Surf City leaders and surf-contest reps at once demonized the vandals and vowed to work together to protect citizens and property next summer. But my quick check of social media—the same tool credited with helping to arrest rioters—revealed that several locals warned the city before the U.S. Open of looming mayhem. I even started to put together a collection of these, but, alas, I never completed the project.

2. The Sea Lion Pup Genocide That Wasn't. In April, it was reported that nearly 1,100 sea lions had been found ill and stranded on Southern California beaches for the year to date, rehabilitation facilities were full, and newly sick marine mammals had to be treated on the sand because of the overflow. The "stranding epidemic" began in January and showed no sign of ceasing, according to federal scientists who initially hypothesized the cause was "environmental factors that would limit prey availability for the pups." But Orange County saltwater fishermen countered it was just a natural cycle that, if left alone, would take care of itself. The worst strategy, according to the pole holders, was having humans unnaturally nurse pups back to health. I never got around to hunting down an egghead to tell me which side was correct.

3. The Girly Man-Fishes of Little Dana. Speaking of the deep-blue sea, scientists in February reported that the discovery in 2005 of feminized fish off our coast was erroneously based on samples accidentally contaminated by researchers. The initial research had received worldwide attention, and there was a suspected connection to the sewage outfalls off Orange and Los Angeles counties. But when the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project returned to the same locations to test several hundred more fish, it didn't find any egg-growing dudes. That took researchers back to the previous samples and pathology reports that indicated there were "stray eggs" from females that fell onto male fish tissues.

4. The Good Side of Bell. Corrupt former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo pleaded no contest in October to 69 charges brought against him for masterminding the corruption scheme that paid exorbitant salaries to city officials. That set the former Huntington Beach resident up for 12 years in prison, something I did report. (Ironically, as I type this, Rizzo's ex-assistant, Angela Spaccia, is being found guilty of multiple felonies by a jury.) My coverage brought a personal email from Doug Willmore, the current Bell city manager, who wanted to make me—and by extension, you, dear readers—aware of the many positive changes the city has made. Too much negative Orange County news prevented me from reporting positive Bell news.

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1 comments
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xij68875

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