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LAGUNA NIGUEL : Homeowners Ask to Privatize Community

Playing catch-up to numerous South County housing developments built with entrance gates, the El Niguel Heights Homeowners’ Assn. has petitioned the city to privatize the community’s streets and to allow guarded gates at its two entrances.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday will consider the proposal, which would turn over control and maintenance of 22 streets to the association while still allowing non-resident access to Seminole Park, a public park within El Niguel Heights.

Tempers have flared over the gate idea, with opponents accusing the plan’s backers of supporting segregation and gate advocates saying they want to keep their community safe.

“Most of us just want to see our kids grow to maturity and have families of their own and not be a victim of crime or a traffic casualty,” said Thomas Bois, the association president. He likes the idea of controlling access to the narrow cul-de-sacs and pricey homes between Niguel Road, Club House Drive and the El Niguel Golf Course.

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“Obviously, nothing can prevent crime, but with gates you can have a little control over it happening in your community,” he said.

Gates are proposed for Augusta Drive at Niguel Road and for Glen Abby Drive at Club House Drive. A guard would be posted at each gate for 14 hours a day.

El Niguel Heights resident James Davis said he believes raising monthly association dues by $50 to install the gates and maintain the streets won’t accomplish much, since the area is already safe and everyone wanting to use Seminole Park would have to be allowed through the gates during the day anyway.

“If I were a robber,” Davis said, “I would just say, ‘I’m coming in to use the park.’ ”

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According to the city ordinance that governs community entrance gates, 75% of the petitioning community must be in favor of the access controls. The El Niguel survey administered by the city showed 76% of the residents favored the plan. Davis and other privatization foes say they believe the balloting was tainted, because some “yes” votes were mailed on, rather than received by, the voting deadline and others were sent by fax machine.

Community Development Director Robert Lenard said, however, that the city accepted faxed votes and those bearing the deadline postmark because that was the procedure followed when 85% of Bear Brand residents approved privatization of their neighborhood. The City Council granted their petition.


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