City officials concerned with flooding on Laguna Beach roads when
heavy rains pour down are hoping to build an additional storm drain.
Mayor Wayne Baglin met with Councilwoman Toni Iseman, City Manager Ken
Frank and officials from the California Department of Transportation last
week to discuss citywide projects such as storm drains and adding traffic
signals, Baglin said.
“I was pleased [with the meeting],” Baglin said.
The city wants to add a storm drain at 6th Avenue and Coast Highway,
which is expected to go before the city’s Design Review Board in May,
Frank estimates design and construction of the drain at 6th Avenue and
Coast Highway would cost $200,000. The city will go to bid if the Design
Review Board approves the project.
But one storm drain isn’t all that’s being talked about.
After the El Nino rains of 1998, Cal Trans and the city agreed that
each entity would build one storm drain, Frank said.
So as plans for a drain at 6th Avenue and Coast Highway go forward,
the site for the second drain remains up in the air.
Cal Trans officials said they have no knowledge of an agreement to
build the second storm drain at Thousand Steps Beach, where the city
would like to see a drain installed.
County officials have concerns with water quality and the potential
closing of a walkway leading to Thousand Steps Beach before any storm
drain is built there.
The county must approve the construction of a storm drain on the beach
because it owns that land.
“State law prohibits closing any public vertical access way to the
beach,” said Eric Jessen, chief of the county’s Harbors, Beaches and
The stairway leading down to the beach would have to be closed to
build the drain, Jessen added.
“It’s a challenging situation,” Jessen said. “Ordinarily a
construction project of this magnitude and amount of area needed would
require closing of an access way.”
Jessen also expressed concern about the quality of the water that
would discharge from the storm drain, and where the storm drain would
“Would the pipeline cut across the sand or end at the back of the
beach?” Jessen asked. “There’s potential obstructions in the sand. We’re
trying to avoid that for liability purposes.”
An alternative area near Coast Highway and 5th Avenue could be used to
build a storm drain to improve drainage off Coast Highway because public
access wouldn’t be a problem, he said.
As a Laguna Beach resident, Jessen knows the problems heavy rains can
bring to this coastal city.
“I do understand the objectives,” Jessen said. “There’s significant
‘poundage’ of water in front of the [South Coast Medical Center where the
city wants to install a storm drain] and it’s difficult for motorists to
The city’s master plan has called for installation of more storm
drains over the last 20 years, Frank said, with an added push to build
more drains following the El Nino storms of 1997 and 1998.
“Since 1998 we’ve tried to alleviate flooding on Coast Highway during
big rains,” Frank said.
When the rains come, these areas all too often receive their fare
share of floods, Baglin said.
“It’s a terrible problem, all the water concentrates on Coast Highway
near the South Coast Medical Center,” Baglin said.