The Laguna Beach City Council approved abandonment of three of four pedestrian pathways in the Temple Hills neighborhood at its meeting Tuesday night.
In abandoning the pathways, the council determined they were unnecessary for present or future public use.
The future of the fourth path is still up in the air after the council decided to consider it again in three months.
Abandonment of public rights of way typically reverts the areas to adjacent private property owners to the center line of the pathways. An exception in this case would be what the city calls Pathway No. 1 between Temple Hills Drive and Bayview Place, which city staff said is owned by the Laguna Beach County Water District. “The abandonment for this location would only result in the vacation of pedestrian access rights,” according to a staff report.
The four approximately 5-foot-wide paths discussed Tuesday were designated as part of subdivisions approved by Orange County supervisors and the City Council between 1925 and 1941. They were intended to provide “abbreviated public pedestrian access” in Temple Hills, according to a staff report.
The pathways have never been developed.
Residents spoke in favor of preserving the pathways, with several saying they make it safer for people to travel away from traffic.
Council members largely debated the safety and historical use of the paths and discussed their use as possible fire escape routes.
Much of the council’s conversation focused on the fourth pathway, which connects Temple Hills Drive to Coast View Drive.
Council members Peter Blake and Sue Kempf said they favored abandonment, raising concerns about the paths’ safety given the steep incline.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman, the lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote for abandonment of the three paths, said removing alternative pathways could endanger residents in an area with relatively narrow surface streets.
“Anything we do that allows people to escape other than the traditional way, such as a road — put one firetruck on any one of these streets and it’s blocked. No cars will get in,” Iseman said. “There you are. Where do you go? It’s an alternative. It makes no sense to close an alternative.”
Mayor Bob Whalen said he felt differently about the fourth pathway than the others because it historically has had significant use. He said he was willing to “either leave the status quo or see if there’s a minimal improvement. ... I would want to have more information as to whether it could be developed into a narrow pathway with stairs on the public part and not on private property.”
Recent talk about abandoning the walkways began in July when residents raised concerns about the paths when trying to sell their properties, including privacy. The council directed staff to expedite the process to abandon three of the four pathways.
But discussions of the pathways aren’t new. In fact, one of the paths discussed Tuesday — staff named it Pathway No. 2, which stretches between Bayview Place and Canyon View Drive — had been abandoned in a resolution by the City Council in October 2015 and was considered private property. But staff said the applicants would not comply with some of the stipulations, and the abandonment never took effect.
Property owners also have rejected city efforts to upgrade the pathways and have them developed for general public access.