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Disputed Coast Strip Placed in Dana Point for Cityhood Ballot

Times Staff Writer

The county’s Local Agency Formation Commission voted Wednesday to include the Laguna Niguel coastal strip within the boundaries of the proposed city of Dana Point/Capistrano Beach, amid some confusion about whether a previous vote precluded such action.

Residents from Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and coastal Laguna Niguel applauded the decision of the commission, a county agency that recommends cityhood proposals to the Board of Supervisors and settles boundary disputes.

But Laguna Niguel cityhood proponents were conspicuously absent--unlike on Nov. 18, when nearly 400 boisterous residents appeared before the county commission to voice their desire to keep the coast as part of Laguna Niguel’s own proposed cityhood plan.

‘Doing Our Homework’

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Inland Laguna Niguel residents apparently thought a previous action by the commission precluded the panel from taking any action on the coastal strip, a spokesman for the group said later Wednesday.

“No one here is authorized to speak for Laguna Niguel because we’re all home doing our homework,” one flustered Laguna Niguel resident told commissioners during the meeting.

Commissioners, themselves, appeared to be confused Wednesday about whether they could act on the Laguna Niguel coastal strip, especially since the commissioners voted Nov. 18 to postpone action on boundaries for the inland cityhood plan until May, 1988, pending study of the proposed city without the strip.

Commissioner Evelyn R. Hart said some people were interpreting the previous action to mean that LAFCO would have to delay any decision on the disputed strip until May, as well.

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“But I heard the commissioners say (on Nov. 18) that they were going to be standing behind the advisory vote,” Hart said, referring to a Nov. 3 advisory election, in which 61% of the coastal strip residents indicated their preference to become part of a proposed city of Dana Point.

The commission’s attorney told LAFCO members that the issue of Dana Point’s incorporation was separate from that of Laguna Niguel, so commissioners were free to add the coastal strip area to the Dana Point plan boundaries.

‘Some Commitment’

Three commissioners voted Wednesday to uphold the Nov. 3 advisory vote of residents in 13 subdivisions and gated communities of coastal Laguna Niguel, while Orange County Supervisors Roger R. Stanton and Gaddi H. Vasquez abstained.

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Stanton abstained from the commission’s vote, stating that he couldn’t support the motion to include the coastal strip with Dana Point because the commission’s Nov. 18 action had given “some commitment” to inland Laguna Niguel residents.

“If we hadn’t had that other motion I could support this . . . I’ll abstain for non-financial reasons,” he said. “That’s called a punt.”

Vasquez said he abstained because he wasn’t at previous meetings regarding Laguna Niguel and Dana Point.

By Wednesday night, word was getting around Laguna Niguel that it had lost its coastal strip to Dana Point for the ballot.

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“We thought the coast was at least in limbo until May,” Bruce Rasner, co-chairman of the Citizens for a United Laguna Niguel, said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “This is a slap in the face to hundreds of people who showed up two weeks ago and understood that motion.”

Rasner said that by losing its coast, Laguna Niguel loses its identity as “sea country,” a phrase long used by developers and real estate agents to promote Laguna Niguel as a seaside community.

“Nothing that commission does surprises me any more. . . . Instead of acting with caution and with wisdom, they acted precipitously,” Rasner said, adding that the committee will appeal the action to the Board of Supervisors.

Rasner said inland Laguna Niguel residents would have been at Wednesday’s meeting if they had known the commission was going to discuss Laguna Niguel’s coastal strip, which represents $2.5 million in tax revenues.

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Michael Eggers, one of Dana Point’s incorporation petitioners, told the commission that it was time to allow Dana Point to go ahead with an incorporation election. He said Dana Point had maintained “a professional, low-profile image” since filing for incorporation one year ago.

“However,” Eggers said, “I don’t want LAFCO to get the false impression that just because we don’t wave flags and banners and sing that we don’t feel very strongly about our proposed city along the coast. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Eggers was referring to the Nov. 18 meeting, when nearly 400 Laguna Niguel residents showed up carrying red, white and blue signs and balloons, and applauded and cheered throughout the hearing.

By its action, LAFCO is recommending that the Board of Supervisors schedule an election for June, 1988, for residents in Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and coastal Laguna Niguel to vote on incorporating as one city.

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The next step is for supervisors to hold a protest hearing on the incorporation proposal. Richard Turner, executive officer for LAFCO, said supervisors would have to act by the end of January for the cityhood measure to be on the June ballot.

Rasner, who promised a large turnout at the next hearing, said he hoped that the supervisors would “be more responsive” at that meeting.


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