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Council to review Driftwood access

Barbara Diamond

The City Council will pick up a piece of Driftwood at the Aug. 13


Councilwoman Toni Iseman has appealed the Planning Commission


determination that a variance is required for indirect access to the

proposed Driftwood Estates project. It’s not that Iseman doesn’t

agree with the commission, she said she just believes that the

council should take a close look at the interpretation.


City staff took the position in May of 2000 that a variance would

be required and has not wavered from that position. The Planning

Commission concurred at the July 24 meeting.

“The variance is the key to the project and will determine the

ultimate design,” said Planning Commissioner Norm Grossman.

High Pointe Communities, developer of the project and architect

Morris Skendarian dispute the commission’s interpretation of the

access issue.


“We asked for the commission to interpret the city codes and

policies that a variance was not needed,” said Todd Skendarian,

project manager.

In a letter dated June 11, attorney Jerrold Block asserted that

proposed construction over a 50-foot easement that is not owned by

the applicant, but crosses the property line does not need a

variance; that the minimum standard for secondary access may be an

easement and indirect access is a definition, not a development



Staff refuted all points made by Block.

The next commission meeting, the first at which specifics of the

project will discussed, is scheduled for Aug. 21. On the agenda:

changes to the proposal by the developer, including a request to

remove a portion of a mapped water course from the General Plan and

Coastal Environmentally Sensitive Areas plans.

The request is based on consultants’ reports that the watercourse

no longer exists. It was graded away about 40 years ago, according to

attorney Block. The developer proposes to build a debris basin above

the questioned portion of the watercourse, which in theory would

replace its function.

Changes to the plans have to be made because no where does it

stipulate that the water course must exist, it simply states that

development is prohibited in a watercourse.

“The biggest change is the reduction of grading down from 32,800

cubic yards of dirt to be exported to 8,000 cubic yards,” said senior

planner Ann Larson, who is assigned to the project.

Also all lots and roads have been moved out of the very high

habitat area. However, the biggest bone of contention remains the

number of lots to be permitted in the sub-division and that will be

determined by the decision on the variance request for indirect


“Approval could result in 15 lots,” project manager Skendarian

said. “Denial would result in seven lots. Seven lots and the project

is dead.”

The developer has lowered the proposal from 18 lots to 15. City

planners have consistently recommended seven lots.

Staff has recommended that the commission approve a resolution

directing the applicant to prepare a plan for a seven-lot development

or a resolution denying the project.

* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.