OK of Emerald Bay Zoning Moves Dispute Closer to Solution

Times Staff Writer

Residents of Emerald Bay moved closer Wednesday to ending their 8-year battle to keep closed to the public the small strip of beach fronting their private community north of Laguna Beach.

The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday unanimously approved a zoning plan for the unincorporated beach community. The planning document now must be certified by the state Coastal Commission, which rejected a similar plan in 1983 because residents of the 500-home development refused to open their 5-acre sandy cove to the public.

But the Coastal Commission's ability to require developments to provide public beach access has been severely limited by a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

With that court decision to bolster its case, the Emerald Bay Community Assn. resubmitted its coastal plan, which was approved without comment by the supervisors Wednesday. The Coastal Commission is expected to consider the plan within 2 months, county officials said.

Coastal Commission officials could not be reached for comment about the plan. But Ken Winters, a county planning analyst, said he expects the commission to accept the plan. "It looks promising," Winters said.

Emerald Bay straddles Coast Highway between two areas of northern Laguna Beach, and homes are valued from $500,000 to more than $1 million. It was largely developed in the 1930s and 1940s, sealing off the cove that residents contend is already packed on warm days with residents and their guests.

County officials have supported Emerald Bay residents throughout their fight with the state. They contend that if access were granted, beach-goers would have to park on Coast Highway creating a safety hazard. Public access would also generate more traffic in the area, officials warned.

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