Council rejects Emerald Bay traffic light

Emerald Bay residents opposed to the installation of a traffic signal at the main entrance of the gated community went home happy Tuesday night.

The City Council declined to support the installation of the signal that would make it easier for drivers to turn left onto South Coast Highway, as proposed by the Emerald Bay Special District Board of Directors.

"Maybe there should not be left turns at all," Councilman Kelly Boyd said. "I think this affects the city's local coastal plan, and I think we have the right to appeal this to the California Coastal Commission."

The gated community is within the city limits but is not part of Laguna Beach, although it has the same ZIP code and its children are eligible to attend city schools.

Emerald Bay board President John Marconi said board support for the signal was unanimous, and board candidates who did not support it were not elected. It is also supported by Orange County 5th District Supervisor Pat Bates.

However, the majority of the 13 speakers at the council meeting did not favor the signal. They claimed there are other exits from Emerald Bay, and drivers who don't want to make a left-hand turn have other alternatives.

"I think it is wrong for the world to stop so one person can get out of Emerald Bay," said Randy Hunt, a 24-year resident.

Shannon Schaffner of CAA Planning, an environmental planning consulting firm, said no other remedies would solve the problem. She said a signal would be expected to reduce collisions and enhance stacking capability.

One of the problems is the lineup of workers' vehicles waiting to get into the main gate. It clogs the highway in the morning commute hours.

"Opponents haven't done traffic studies," said board member Phil Lewis. "Emerald Bay has done three."

Mayor Toni Iseman said that anyone who lives in Laguna Beach knows a lot about traffic.

The council voted 4 to 1 to relay the city's concerns to the Emerald Bay board, the county, California Department of Transportation and the Coastal Commission, with Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson dissenting.

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