Laguna Hills Still Looking at Options, Studying Cityhood

Times Staff Writer

Laguna Hills community leaders representing several citizens' groups said Monday that they are still working on options for local government, including plans for a possible third incorporation election in 1990.

Laguna Hills voters narrowly rejected a proposal for cityhood in the June 6 election this year. Last year, the area residents overwhelmingly opposed incorporation as a part of a city covering a greater portion of the Saddleback Valley.

"The Laguna Hills Community Assn. has a committee studying all aspects" of local government for the area, said Mary Anderson, president of the association.

Anderson said another bid for cityhood is one proposal being studied. But, she said, she believes that a "cooling-off period" is needed because the June election was so close. "If there were to be another election for cityhood, I think ideally it would be in November, 1990," she said.

"Right now we're doing what the county and LAFCO (the county Local Agency Formation Commission) advised, and we're waiting and seeing what happens in Laguna Niguel in November."

Nov. 7 Ballot

Laguna Niguel, immediately south of Laguna Hills, has an incorporation proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. If the cityhood measure fails in Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills could then have options to expand its proposed borders to the south. Polls and political sentiment, however, tend to indicate that there is a strong pro-cityhood sentiment in Laguna Niguel.

Ellen Martin, co-chair of the pro-incorporation Citizens to Save Laguna Hills, said she believes that Laguna Niguel will, indeed, vote to incorporate. She said she also worries that Laguna Hills itself could become a tempting annexation target to the cities around it.

"I'm afraid we could lose our community identity," Martin said. "That's the danger in delaying the process--you set yourself up for areas that are already incorporated. So something has to be done."

Martin said her group, therefore, is still working for incorporation. "But this time we'd be proposing a city without Leisure World in it," she said. She added that her group has not drawn exact boundaries for a new city of Laguna Hills.

The Laguna Hills Community Assn., meanwhile, although officially neutral on cityhood, has instructed its Government Relations Committee to study all possibilities. Jim Dukette, who heads the seven-member committee, said Monday that the options include, rather than pursuing cityhood again, forming an interim government unit called a community services district.

'Prime Option'

Dukette, however, said that he senses strong pro-cityhood sentiment among most committee members. "Cityhood seems to be the prime option," he said. "We'll be making a recommendation in the near future to the association about our findings. I think the recommendation will be given in about 60 to 90 days."

Dukette said that if his committee recommends a new bid for incorporation, the recommendation might be for a city with different boundaries from the one in the proposal that narrowly failed in June. Dukette said his committee has not ruled out inclusion of Leisure World into a new cityhood effort.

"We're going to be meeting with Leisure World (representatives) and seeing whether or not they want to pursue" cityhood again, Dukette said.

In the June 6 election, an overwhelming number of the approximately 21,500 Leisure World residents voted no, killing the Laguna Hills cityhood proposal. (About 44% of Leisure World residents voted in favor of cityhood.)

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