75 acres of land gifted to city

Driftwood Properties, LLC has dedicated 75 acres of land in South Laguna to the city of Laguna Beach, including land earmarked for a hotly contested proposed housing project.

The dedication was made at the Dec. 16 California Coastal Commission hearing in San Francisco by John Mansour, vice president of The Athens Group on behalf of Driftwood Properties, according to a news release issued Dec. 17.

"The ownership of Driftwood Properties is very pleased to announce a gift of 75 acres of land to the city of Laguna Beach for the public's enjoyment in perpetuity," said Mansour. "The land dedication is the result of a concerted effort between the property owners, California Coastal Commission, California Coastal Conservancy and Laguna Canyon Foundation."

The dedication sets aside more than 20% of Driftwood Properties' 235-acre holdings in South Laguna. The 75-acre property is adjacent to a 90-acre parcel that was recently dedicated to the city and will open new public access to connect to the Aliso and Woods Canyons Wilderness Park, according to the news statement.

"The property is a major part of the trail system that has been on private property," according to Ken Frank, former Laguna Beach city manager.

Located adjacent to Laguna Terrace Mobile Home Park, the property also includes Driftwood Estates, a six-acre graded parcel at the end of Driftwood Drive. Neighborhood activists have fought the development project, adjacent to wilderness areas, for years.

In addition to dedicating 75 acres to the city of Laguna Beach, Driftwood Properties has granted the Coastal Conservancy a preemptive purchase right agreement, or the right to be first to purchase an additional 80 acres to the north and northeast of the property, according to the press statement from Athens Group.

This is the second time Athens Group has pulled back from development plans in Laguna Beach.

In 2009, Athens, which built the Montage Resort in South Laguna, dropped plans for a major redevelopment of the Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course, citing a faltering economy. This year, the restaurant at the site was closed to the public, but the golf course and other facilities remain in operation.

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