One week after a neighboring city approved plans for a controversial hilltop development, the Laguna Beach City Council will hold a special meeting tonight to respond to the building plan, which has been fiercely opposed by some residents.
Homeowners at the south end of Laguna Beach, below the development site, have for years objected to the plans of landowner and Las Vegas casino owner Jack Binion, saying the development would cause flooding and landslides.
In recent months, opposition to the 22-home project in Laguna Niguel has widened in Laguna Beach and environmental groups have stepped forward to help raise money to block the project. City leaders have also expressed their concern about the development to leaders in Laguna Niguel.
However, the Laguna Niguel City Council approved the plan last week on a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Patricia C. Bates abstaining.
As a result, Laguna Beach officials scheduled the meeting at 6 tonight.
"This is an opportunity for the City Council to hear from the cross-section of people who I think really are concerned," Laguna Beach Mayor Kathleen Blackburn said.
Blackburn said the city is concerned about possible future flooding or landslides.
"Clearly, the main issue of concern is public safety," she said. "And if the city doesn't do as much as we can to protect the downhill property owners . . . we would be remiss in our duties."
Michael Beanan, a member of the South Laguna Civic Assn., which has vowed to fight the development in court if necessary, said the association wants the city's official backing.
"We feel we're 20% of the community, we should get the city's support," he said. "We want them to know the threats to health and safety" from the development.
The association hopes to find a way to buy the property, he said.
Project manager Philip Bettencourt said last week that "the door is always open" to offers to buy the land. However, he also said the project is moving forward.
He could not be reached Monday for comment.