The California Coastal Commission will vote this week on permit applications for three mini-parks in Laguna Beach, including one that would block access to a planned 108-unit development on adjacent county territory.
The park, which measures less than an acre, would be situated at the end of Alta Laguna Boulevard on The Knoll, a scrubby hilltop that affords a spectacular 360-degree view of Orange County and the Pacific Ocean.
The developer, Carma-Sandling, wants to build 108 houses on 28 acres of land in unincorporated area atop The Knoll and dedicate another 440 acres it owns to open space. But the subdivision would be accessible only if Laguna Beach extends Alta Laguna a few hundred feet out to the city limits.
The city, worried that the development would add traffic to already crowded Park Avenue, has said it would extend the street only if Carma-Sandling scaled the development down to 70 units--a number that company officials say would not be profitable.
Negotiations had brought the two sides closer together--"they were up to 75, and we were down below 100," said Carma-Sandling Vice President Larry Lynch. But the talks broke off a couple of months ago, he said.
The company sued the city last July over the proposed mini-park--which would consist of a few benches and picnic tables--saying it would block the "only legal, practical and available means of access" to its project, known as Laguna Heights. That suit is still pending.
County officials have approved the 108-unit plan and, if negotiation and legal action fail to resolve the issue, the county could condemn the park area and force Laguna Beach to provide access.
Laguna Beach officials say the park is in keeping with the city's policy of putting small parks with views at the end of cul-de-sacs, and was not intended to be a barrier to the Laguna Heights project.
The other two parks up for Coastal Commission approval are at the ends of Fernando and Pacific avenues.
Voting on the park permits is scheduled for Thursday. The Coastal Commission staff will recommend that the agency approve all three parks but that it grant only a temporary permit for the Alta Laguna park "until the access question is resolved," commission staff attorney Mary Hudson said.