After trying nearly every other approach to save pristine Laguna Canyon from development, a Laguna Beach environmental group finally went Hollywood on Thursday.
The Laguna Canyon Conservancy took out full-page ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter appealing for help from the Hollywood celebrities who frequent picturesque Laguna Beach.
"Where are you Hollywood?" read the ads. "Do you care?"
The ads specifically appeal to such Hollywood stars as Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Kirk and Michael Douglas, Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John, Willie Nelson, Kenny Williams and Robin Williams.
The conservancy is a nonprofit citizens group of some 150 active members who organized to block plans by the California Department of Transportation to widen two-lane Laguna Canyon Road.
Caltrans officials say the road widening is necessary to reduce the high number of accidents on the winding road. Conservancy members say the accident rate is exaggerated, and they fear that the widening would lure development to the rural, brush-covered hills that line the canyon.
A California Coastal Commission hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Marina del Rey to decide whether the state can go ahead with its $14-million plan.
Hoping to block that plan and all other development projects proposed for Laguna Canyon, members of the conservancy in recent weeks have gathered petitions on Laguna's Main Beach, appeared before Laguna Beach City Council meetings and inundated the coastal commission with some 20,000 flyers protesting the road widening.
Officials from the conservancy, a separate Save the Canyon group and the City of Laguna Beach put up a sign on Laguna Canyon Road on Thursday to protest proposed highway and housing projects in the area.
Laguna Beach Councilwoman Lida Campbell Lenney said the sign is meant to raise motorists' awareness of efforts to protect the rural canyon.
Scenic Laguna Canyon Road banks through the coastal canyon from the San Diego Freeway in Irvine to Coast Highway in Laguna Beach.
The sign depicts a deer, representing the canyon wildlife, proclaims "Save the Canyon" and provides a phone number, (714) 859-HELP.
The City Council approved the sign, which was designed and built by volunteers.
The conservancy is trying to raise money to buy canyon property from the Irvine Co.
The group also seeks to have the canyon included in a national park.
The new sign replaces one declaring the city's opposition to the San Joaquin Hills highway, first planned as a new freeway but now likely to be a toll-restricted turnpike.
After advertising space in the Hollywood publications was donated by a sportswear company, the conservancy decided to enlist the help of the various Hollywood notables who are known to frequent Laguna Beach, which is home to athletic great O. J. Simpson and former home to actress Bette Davis.
According to the ad, Davis first drove down the Coast Highway in the 1920s, stopped and made Laguna her second home.
"Now, thousands of acres of unspoiled beauty, the last natural passage to the Pacific, are threatened," the ad says. "Your influence, Hollywood, is needed at the California Coastal Commission hearing."
Conservancy coordinator Paul Tatum said he hoped the ads would draw a big response, since they appeared in the heavily read Oscar-nomination issues of Variety and Hollywood Reporter.
"We're just organizing in whatever way we can," Tatum said.