To address lingering safety concerns after the 1993 firestorm, the City Council has endorsed a plan to build a cul-de-sac near the end of Canyon Acres Drive so that emergency vehicles can more easily exit the rustic community, which lost two-thirds of its homes in the 1993 blaze.
Construction of the turnaround is to begin in early September and to be completed in about three weeks, City Engineer Steve May said Wednesday. The project will cost the city $75,000, he said.
“This will, I think, give a lot of peace of mind to some residents who live up there who have since the fire felt isolated and unprotected,” May said. “You’ve got a lot of interest shown by many of the residents and continual requests for the city to move forward with this and get it completed.”
Canyon Acres Drive is the only street leading into and out of the neighborhood, which is against a hillside. Without the addition to the road, large emergency vehicles must either back out or try to make a three-point turn, May said.
Carl Klass, a city fireman who lives in the neighborhood, agreed that most in the community support the cul-de-sac’s construction.
“The turnaround was a priority for the canyon residents who are now returning after a three-year absence,” Klass said. “It affects the whole canyon and the way the Fire Department thinks about entering a boxed canyon.”
Firefighters have said there was little that could be done to save homes in the tiny community during the 1993 blaze because flames moved so quickly, tearing through the canyon and then shooting up the hillside behind it.
Sixty of the community’s 90 homes were burned. In all, the fire damaged or destroyed 441 homes in and around Laguna Beach.
Many Canyon Acres residents signed petitions urging the city to proceed with the turnaround. A few also raised concerns about whether the city had selected the best location for the cul-de-sac, though, and the city’s Design Review Board rejected the proposal last month.
The city’s Municipal Services Department appealed to the City Council, which overturned the board’s decision with a unanimous vote this week.