Local News in Brief : Laguna Beach : Emerald Bay Zoning Plan OKd by Planners

The County Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a zoning plan for Emerald Bay, an unincorporated beach community; the plan has been stalled for years because it does not provide public access to the beach.

Emerald Bay in Laguna Beach has about 500 homes that were largely developed in the 1930s and '40s, sealing a stretch of beach off to the public. The community's beachfront is between two rocky points that also makes it inaccessible from adjacent beaches.

Because of the 1976 Coastal Act, the community was forced to prepare a Local Coastal Program that was rejected in 1983 by the state Coastal Commission because it did not include public access. The community association, joined by the county, subsequently filed suit against the Coastal Commission.

The suit expired last year without reaching trial, partly because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricted the Coastal Commission's ability to require developments to provide public beach access.

The community association complained that the only public access would be through their private roads and that the traffic it would generate could cause hazards on North Coast Highway.

The Local Coastal Program for Emerald Bay still must be approved by both the County Board of Supervisors and the Coastal Commission.

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