A winding public pathway leading to the ocean was formally dedicated
in North Laguna Tuesday, the culmination of years of wrangling.
"Nothing is easy in Laguna," Mayor Toni Iseman said. "I thank
everyone who made sure we did this right."
The linear park adjacent to the gated Smithcliffs homes was
required as a condition of development by the county and the
California Coastal Commission. At some point it was blocked off from
the public, raising the hackles of a group of residents who worked to
get it reopened.
"This is really wonderful," said Ann Weisbrod at the dedication.
Weisbrod was the first to bring the blocked access to the
attention of the City Council, and she served on the Smithcliffs
Citizen Advisory Committee, which worked out a settlement with the
Smithcliffs homeowners to reopen and preserve the park.
The mayor, Councilman Wayne Baglin, City Manager Ken Frank,
planner Kathy Lottes, and Parks and Building Manager Vic Hillstead
represented the city.
Eric Jessen, chief of Harbors Beaches and Parks spoke on behalf of
the county, giving a brief history of the 10-acre estate next to the
park and Pancho Barnes, the colorful stunt-flying granddaughter of
the Smiths for whom the estate was named.
Paige Ramos, 9, was the youngest person in the crowd. She is the
granddaughter of Ulla Hengstebeck.
Hengstebeck was among the residents who attended City Council
meetings with Weisbrod to prod action on the shuttered little park.
"We are so happy the park is open to the public," Hengstebeck
"I come here to the lovely place to meditate," Margo Harrod said.
"I am so pleased that my friend Ann [Weisbrod] told me about it."
The small bluff-top viewpoint and an access path was carved out of
the old Smithcliffs estate when the 10.4-acre site was approved for
development in 1991. Acquisition by the city in April 2002 conformed
to the city's general plan, the Planning Commission determined.
Exactly when Smithcliffs residents blocked the path to the public is
The residents said that the gate to the pathway was welded shut
and the pathway partially removed to prevent loitering, littering and
Weisbrod, a longtime supporter of environmental causes, including
public access to beaches, felt betrayed and angry when she discovered
"Can you imagine how [Greenbelt founder] Jim Dilley would feel
about this?" Weisbrod asked. "It is wrong to close off public access
to the place where the seals are so close you can see their faces and
Weisbrod's complaints to the council led to the formation of a
citizen's committee that hammered out an agreement with the
Smithcliffs homeowners to restore and maintain the meandering pathway
and plantings along its sides, designed by Robert Mueting, who
attended the dedication.
The park is closed at dark by police and opened in the mornings by
the Public Works Department.