City officials believe the cost and terrain is too steep to convert existing, unimproved easement into a safe pathway connecting Top of the World to Arch Beach Heights.
The City Council on Tuesday agreed to let staff investigate an alternative route that bypasses slopes of up to 34%, even steeper than the Third Street Hill. Staff was directed to meet with neighbors along the proposed easement to discuss the project and the location of a new pathway.
"As a physician and surgeon, a citizen of Laguna Beach and a resident of Top of the World, I have grave concerns and pledge to oppose the trail unless these concerns are properly and effectively addressed," said Jerry Sebag, whose property line is adjacent to the proposed trail.
Sebag was one of 10 speakers who addressed the council on the proposed trail. His concerns, echoed by others, included: an increase in trail use beyond the community's ability to handle it safely; trespassing; noise and loss of privacy from the use of the path; liability due to accidents; noncompliance with Americans with Disabilities Act, which could lead to lawsuits; and the $300,000 cost to build the pathway.
However, other speakers supported the trail, including the cost.
"Thank you for setting aside $300,000 in the city budget for 'Sidewalks, Complete Streets and Pathways' for our community," Carol S. Buss said.
"My neighbors, parents of schoolchildren and residents of Top of the World, Arch Beach Heights and Bluebird Canyon would love to see a new path to Moulton Meadows from Top of the World," she continued.
"A wide, safe path, possibly including a small bridge, would make access so much easier for students to go to school, for adults to walk with children, and as a possible fire escape when the usual streets are cut off because of fire, as in 1993," Buss said.
Informal discussions with staff and property owners have indicated that fencing along any easement would be necessary to protect their privacy, according to city Project Manager Wade Brown. Some neighbors even want a covered pathway.
They also expressed concern about public parking for those using the proposed pathway.
Brown presented a visual walking tour of the two pathways at the council meeting. Both alignments are available on the council's Aug. 3 agenda bill 16, posted on the city's website, http://www.lagunabeachcity.net.
The proposed new easement would be 10 feet wide, double the width of the current trail, with a slope of 20% that's similar to the slope of the Fire Road, which the pathway would join.
Steeper slopes and the 5-foot width of existing easement would make it more difficult to design a pathway that could safely be used by pedestrians, cyclists or parents with strollers. Asphalt and concrete would be suitable paving for grades up to 20%, but concrete stairs would most likely be used on the steeper slopes.
Stairs would require handrails that would reduce the 5-foot width of the path to about 4 feet, Brown said.
Staff was directed to return to the council in six months with an update on negotiations.