The City Council unanimously agreed to take over one of the four pedestrian easements in South Laguna that the county will consider abandoning in April.
The easement is identified as BE74M-105, which runs between Pedro and Monterey streets.
Used by South Laguna residents for years as a way to get around without having to cross streets, the hillside easement would revert to the neighboring property owners if abandoned by the county and not accepted by the city.
“The fourth time is the charm,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly, who previously voted in the minority to accept all of the easements, rather than lose them to private ownership.
A council majority and City Manager Ken Frank opposed the acceptance in the past because of concerns about liability and the cost of refurbishing the dilapidated easements and removal of encroachments constructed by neighboring property owners.
City Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman provided the tipping point, when she asked what would happen if the encroachments stayed in place and Frank said that would reduce city liability.
“If the neighborhood is willing to accept the easement as is, I am willing to accept it as is,” Kinsman said, giving city jurisdiction the third vote it wasn’t able to muster in previous hearings, which led to the unanimous approval.
Greg O’Laughlin, speaking on behalf of the South Laguna Civic Association, told the council to leave the encroachments and take the easement.
“To let it go, takes it away from the public,” O’Laughlin said.
South Laguna resident David LaMontagne offered to donate his back and his money if it meant keeping the easement open to the public.
“I am willing to go out there with a shovel to make it more passable,” LaMontagne said. “Kids constantly are going up and down, up and down. To me it is a resource and an asset.”
Acceptance of the easement had to be approved before the county held its hearing in April, Frank said.
“This easement has clearly been used by pedestrians for many years and deserves to remain a pedestrian access way,” Mayor Toni Iseman said.