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County Cracks Down on Santa Ana, Laguna : Settlement Reached on Flower Street Traffic; Beach City Faces Loss of $131,000 in Road Funds

Times Staff Writer

Santa Ana has agreed to drop many of its efforts to check the flow of cars past elegant homes on Flower Street after the county threatened to withhold $2.1 million in road improvement funds, traffic officials said Thursday.

But Laguna Beach, which has allowed slopes and retaining walls to be built in the path of a freeway the city opposes, will be temporarily cut off from $131,000 in road funds, under policies to be adopted by the Orange County Transportation Commission on Monday.

The new policies reflect the county’s attempts to crack down on cities that, because of a variety of local concerns, fail to comply with a plan for arterial streets and highways designed to guarantee a free flow of traffic from one end of the county to another.

Santa Ana, over the past year, has adopted a number of measures to reduce traffic on Flower Street--a thoroughfare of wide lawns and expensive homes and a favorite route between the Garden Grove Freeway and the Santa Ana Civic Center.

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Barriers Installed

When Flower Street residents complained of waiting 20 minutes to back out of their driveways in the morning, the city installed stop signs, traffic barriers and diverter signs. But county officials said the city failed to recognize its obligation to provide regional road links.

County officials were particularly angered when the city asked Caltrans to close the Flower Street off-ramp off the Garden Grove Freeway and downgraded the street’s official designation from a secondary arterial (a four-lane, divided highway) to a residential street.

“There are a lot of people from north Orange County who need to come to the Civic Center on business, and they have only a couple outlets,” said Tom Daly, aide to Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Ralph B. Clark. “What if Anaheim put a roadblock up on Harbor Boulevard as it crosses into Garden Grove?”

Recently, the county threatened to cut off street and highway improvement funds to Santa Ana totaling $2.1 million. In response, Dave Grosse, executive director of Santa Ana’s public services agency, said Thursday that the city will try to comply with the county’s conditions.

The city has dropped its request to Caltrans to close the Flower Street off-ramp. It also agreed to designate Flower as a “residential collector street” or “commuter arterial,” a category that essentially envisions the present level of about 8,000 cars per day using the street.

Court Decision

The settlement with the county may have been prompted, in part, by a court decision in February, based on a lawsuit filed by other city residents against the traffic control measures, which ordered the city to rescind the controls. But Grosse said the city is waiting for a written decision before proceeding with any response.

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Grosse said Santa Ana has done more than its share to accommodate regional traffic in view of its position as the county seat.

“We have eliminated parking from a number of arterials, we are one of the leaders in the county in coordinated traffic signal systems, we have created additional driving lanes in spaces where cities might not have done it . . . we have just done everything in good planning that could be done at this point.

“I think our disagreement is (that) we want to maintain Santa Ana as a good city to live in,” Grosse said. “That means we have to protect the residential neighborhoods from the business traffic.”

City Faces Loss

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Laguna Beach, meanwhile, faces the loss of $131,000 because it has allowed retaining walls and slopes from a residential development to encroach into the area planned for widening El Toro Road and construction of an on-ramp to the proposed San Joaquin Hills Freeway.

The city opposes both the freeway and the plans to widen El Toro Road from two lanes to six, but neither was a factor in allowing the encroachment, which was not discovered until grading for the residential project was nearly complete, City Manager Kenneth Frank said.

Frank said city officials hope to resolve the issue with the county within the next few years and eventually become eligible again for road improvement funds.

Widening of the road can still be accomplished if the county agrees to forgo a sidewalk and bicycle lane on one side, Frank said.

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