The last stretch of undeveloped coastline in Orange County, a 9,432-acre tract between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, is a step closer to development after approval by the California Coastal Commission.
Thursday's action by the commission, which was not unexpected, opened the way for the Irvine Co.'s Irvine Coast resort complex, including 2,600 high-priced residences, four resort hotels, two 18-acre golf courses and upscale shopping areas.
Approval by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which is also expected, could come as early as the Dec. 2 meeting. The county Planning Commission has already agreed to the project.
The Irvine Co. has planned to develop the area, which surrounds Crystal Cove State Park, for more than 20 years. At various times these plans have called for 21,500 homes, 200,000 square feet of office space, 12 million square feet of resort facilities and homes on ridge lines next to the park.
Two environmental groups, Friends of the Irvine Coast and Stop Polluting Our Newport, opposed the project. In the face of their opposition, some of the more ambitious aspects of the project were scaled down. The company agreed to dedicate 2,650 acres for public use, drop the plans for office space and to cluster housing, increasing open space from 61% to 74%.
But the company also increased the number of hotel rooms from 1,750 to 2,150, increased the housing units from 2,000 to 2,600 and increased the commercial-retail space from 50,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet.
Plans for roads to increase access to the area, a key to the development, are already proceeding.
The Irvine Co. has announced plans for a $15-million, 6.5-mile stretch of Pelican Hill Road linking Coast Highway and Bonita Canyon Road. Construction on the link may begin this spring, the company said. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved plans for construction of the San Joaquin Transportation Corridor, linking the Corona del Mar Freeway with Laguna Canyon Road, as a toll road.
Completion of these two projects is expected to greatly reduce travel time from Irvine Coast to John Wayne Airport and Los Angeles, bypassing congested sections of the San Diego Freeway. At the same time, it will funnel visitors and residents of the development to the Irvine Co.'s prestigious Fashion Island Shopping Center in Newport Beach.
Still to be determined is the municipal affiliation, if any, of Irvine Coast, which is in an unincorporated area of the county. Under state law, while the land is unoccupied, the Irvine Co. may agree to annexation with either Irvine or Newport, both of which border on the project.