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Kayak idea at resort sunk

Billy Fried won’t launch his kayaking business at Treasure Island Beach after considering the conditions imposed on the permit by the California Coastal Commission.

At the June 11 hearing, the commission sided with opponents of the project, who claimed the City Council’s terms of approval for the project conflicted with the Treasure Island Local Coastal Program, certified in 1999.

“We are going to pick up the permit, but we won’t be pursuing operations at Montage at this time,” Fried said. “We got crushed at the commission hearing. They [the opponents] all got up and said we like kayaking, but not in Laguna. That’s like saying we like chocolate but not in our mouths.”

Fried will continue to operate La Vida Laguna at Boat Canyon and if he can figure out how to make it work, he might be back at Treasure Island. In any case Aliso Beach is just down the road, he said.

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However, the South Laguna Civic Assn. was elated by the commission’s decision.

“After numerous city hearings on the matter and Councilwoman Toni Iseman’s surprising ongoing support of this precedent-setting commercial operation that violated important conditions of the Treasure Island LCP — which explicitly prohibits commercial operations in the Marine Reserve at Goff Island — and the city’s long standing ordinance regarding commercial activity on Laguna’s beaches, the commission’s decision was a welcome relief to the environmental community that had opposed this impactful concession in a marine reserve since June 2008,” said Bill Rihn, president of the South Laguna Civic Assn.

Fried proposed to stage, rent and launch kayaks, give kayaking lessons and tours, and collect fees on the beach in front of Montage Resort & Spa. He wanted signs to point the way to his business.

City planning commissioners recommended approval of a temporary use permit, but included conditions that Fried found unacceptable and he appealed to the council.

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Fried persuaded the council at the April 7 meeting to ignore Planning Commission prohibitions against any monetary exchanges on the beach or in the public Treasure Island Park, and signs, as well as Community Development Director John Montgomery’s warning that the operation was proposed in the Marine Reserve, where only passive activities are allowed.

“The Planning Commission did him a favor,” City Manager Ken Frank said April 7. “They tried to craft an approval that would avoid a [California] Coastal Commission appeal. The commission is just waiting to see what happens tonight.”

Fried’s project, as approved by the council, was opposed at the meeting by environmentalists and organizations such as Village Laguna, but they were outnumbered by support from the public and Iseman.

Iseman, who has favored approval of the business from the first hearing, said the council was only approving a temporary permit, not a conditional use permit, and argued for the elimination of the Planning Commission conditions that Fried appealed.

“I think the restrictions on the permit are onerous,” Iseman said.

The Coastal Commissioners’ request for a hearing on whether there were valid and substantial issues that necessitated an appeal hearing was filed April 24.

Once determined that substantial issues did exist, the appeal in which the South Laguna Civic Assn. participated was heard.

“The commission found substantial issue with the proposed commercial operation in a marine reserve, but did approve a permit for operation at Treasure Island Beach with conditions in a de novo hearing,” Rihn said. “Indeed the Coastal Commission’s conditions of approval were quite similar to those the Laguna Beach Planning Commission had once approved — but which were negated by the City Council.”

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