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Developer Defends Cutting Brush in Laguna Beach

November 05, 2005|Seema Mehta | Times Staff Writer

A developer under fire for clearing brush off a Laguna Beach hillside said the work did no long-term harm to sensitive flora and caused no erosion danger, according to a report it submitted to the city this week.

Responding to a city order, the Athens Group proposed monitoring the cleared area for five years, and doing restoration work if the vegetation failed to thrive.

The work, done in October without a permit on property known as Driftwood Estates, was intended to reduce the fire hazard from overgrown brush, but it destroyed rare big-leaved crownbeard and southern maritime chaparral. The damage angered residents already irked by the developer's Montage resort and its attempt, now abandoned, to build a golf course on county parkland.

Penny Elia, president of the Hobo Aliso Neighborhood Assn., said a quick look through the developer's report led her to believe that its monitoring plan was inadequate. Elia was among those who complained to the city about the brush clearing.

"It's not that we're opposed to fuel modification, but in this instance it was done without proper permitting or biological assessment," she said.

Elia added that because the developer failed to abide by state environmental law, it should restore the species it destroyed.

City officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

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