A new neighborhood association has been created to steer the course of
the Driftwood development proposed for South Laguna.
“The goal of the Aliso-Hobo Canyons Neighborhood Assn. is to prevent
or seriously modify the development on 200 acres of open space above
Driftwood Drive,” Jeanie Bernstein said Monday at the Laguna Canyon
Conservancy monthly dinner meeting. “We want each of you to be there
whether you make comments or not. We need the bodies as a measure of the
importance of the development to the community.”
An environmental report for the proposed 18-lot project, which is
limited to less than 20 acres, is scheduled for a first hearing at the
Planning Commission meeting Wednesday. The hearing is expected to be
limited to process and scheduling of future hearings.
Bernstein said one of the opponents’ objections to the project is the
likely destruction of plants that grow nowhere else. Big-leaved crown
beard plants have been found living there.
“It is very rare,” said Ann Larson, senior city planner.
“What’s interesting is that it is growing really, really thick on the
remainder acres [not included in the project],” she added. “But there are
a few growing in the fuel modification area, which the developer has
agreed to keep in place.”
An 8.8-acre open lot is proposed to compensate for the loss of
chaparral and coastal sage scrub.
The property, which is owned by the Esslinger Family Trust, is zoned
R-1, meaning single-family homes only, unless changes are made.
“We also fear ‘mansionization’ -- houses that would just loom over
us,” said Bernstein, a resident of Driftwood Drive. “The houses around
here are of a nice size, mostly one-story, with good setbacks.
“And additional noise and traffic is always a concern. We don’t have
big, wide streets.”
The project is subject to the city’s subdivision ordinance.
The proposal encompasses 19.4 acres: 4.7 acres for single-family
homes, 1.6 acres for streets and 13.1 acres for open space, including the
open-space lot and a one-half-acre public view park. Nothing is proposed
for the remaining 208 acres of the parcel.
Grading has been done -- neighbors say illegally. However, architect
Morris Skendarian has shown city officials aerial photographs reportedly
taken in the 1970s showing the site as graded.
“We think it may have been graded in the 1960s, but there is no
documentation of how it was done or whether it meets today’s standards,”
“However, the applicant’s consultant has recommended that the soil be
dug up from two feet to 20 feet and re-compacted. The city’s geologists
have reviewed the geo-technical report and found it acceptable.”
The city’s planning department has taken no position on the project.
“It is too early,” Larson said. “The [environmental review] process
hasn’t even been completed yet.”
An environmental report was circulated for public comment for 45 days,
ending Dec. 1. It also was submitted to state and federal agencies for
The city received about 50 letters. Those comments were reviewed by
the applicant’s environmental consultant and responses were prepared.
“The responses are almost as thick as the environmental report],”
Trouble spots include a mapped water course in the project area, which
High Point Developers proposes to develop. And a variance might be
required to provide secondary access through an easement.
“This is going to be a long process,” said Planning Commissioner Anne
Johnson. “The project probably will be the most scrutinized development
since Treasure Island.”