Council compromises on sidewalk project

The Laguna Beach City Council gave up four parking spaces to save some trees that are in the way of an approved sidewalk on the east side of Laguna Canyon Frontage Road, still keeping the road wide enough to be safe.

Neighbors of Frontage Road objected to a recommendation by the Planning Commission and city staff to remove the trees in order to make room for an American Disabilities Act-compliant, 200-foot-long sidewalk south of Woodland Drive and adequate street width for the passage of emergency vehicles. But they still wanted the proposed sidewalk to protect pedestrians, particularly the children who live nearby or attend the Boys & Girls Club. They also threw in some requests for safety measures.

The council compromised by agreeing to convert four angled spaces — opposite the trees on the property at the north end of the road — into spaces limited to motorcycles and bicycles, as suggested by Mayor Kelly Boyd. Speed provisions, as requested by the residents and recommended by Councilwoman Toni Iseman, were also approved.

"Public safety is first," Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson said. "We need the sidewalk and I support speed humps or bumps and signage to slow the traffic."

Iseman, who had appealed the commission's recommendation, said Frontage Road is being used as a short cut.

"Serious traffic calming is as much in order as sidewalks," she said.

The vote on the revised project was unanimous.

"I came here convinced that there was no need for the sidewalk and I am still not sure, but the experience of the residents count, and they are overwhelmingly in favor of the sidewalks," Councilman Steven Dicterow said.

However, Dicterow had reservations about the revision without further study, citing unintended consequences. The council's decision is subject to change if it proves unworkable, he said.

Staff provided three alternatives for the project:

• Reduce the width of the sidewalk around three of the trees, which would not have met minimum requirements and would have left the sidewalk vulnerable to root damage. Staff did not recommend this alternative.

• Move the sidewalk 3 feet into the roadway, which would have required converting 15 angled parking spaces to six parallel spaces, a loss of nine spaces. The proposal would have necessitated removing and regrading the road to allow proper drainage at a cost of $40,000 to $60,000. Staff also did not recommend this alternative.

• Restrict the 15 spaces to compact cars, which has proved to be mostly unenforceable in other areas of town and if not complied with would leave the road too narrow for larger trucks, buses and emergency vehicles to pass. This alternative also was not recommended.

The original project proposed removing the landscaping to allow the construction of the sidewalk that would meet the minimum ADA requirements, as would the rest of the 200-foot extension. Staff had offered the property owner $1,000 to replace the landscaping.

Staff recommended approval of the original plan, estimated to cost between $40,000 and $60,000, with $6,300 already spent on design.

Based on construction bids, Public Works Director Steve May reported that an additional $8,000 would be needed to complete the project as originally designed, with funding available from surpluses in the Broadway streetscape project.

The council did not address the funding transfer.

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