Emerald Bay seeks city support for traffic improvements

Emerald Bay representatives have asked Laguna Beach to support proposed improvements to the ingress and egress at the main entrance to the gated community that do not include a traffic signal, which the city is on record as opposing.

City Manager John Pietig informed the City Council at the Aug. 6 meeting that the request was made at a recent meeting that he and Mayor Kelly Boyd attended with representatives of CalTrans, the Emerald Bay Services District and the Main Gate Executive Committee.

"We made it clear that the city is not interested in a signal at this time or any time in the future and CalTrans made it clear that if that was our wish, (a signal) would not go in unless there was a big increase in deaths in the area," Boyd said. "So don't be killing anyone out there in front of Emerald Bay or they'll get a light."

The city also received a letter from an Emerald Bay traffic consultant asking the council to waive a requirement for a coastal development permit for the proposed project, which previously included relocating the guard house at the Main Gate and alterations to Coast Highway.

"City staff is evaluating the request," said public works director Steve May.

The City Council declined in 2011 to support the installation of the signal proposed by the Emerald Bay Special District Board of Directors, but suggested the board pursue improvements without the signal.

"Now they are looking at that and we will be bringing something to the council probably this fall," Pietig said.

City Councilwoman Toni Iseman suspects the new proposal might be an end run.

Emerald Bay resident and former community association board member Mark Disman said he received a letter from the Main Gate Committee listing proposed improvements that did not even mention the guard shack, which was the impetus for the improvement project.

"What was mentioned were about a half dozen bullet points that are in fact requirements for having a traffic light," Disman said. "Once the improvement's done, all that has to be done is to hang the traffic light.That is what will happen unless the city says we want to see what you guys are doing. Apply for a coastal development permit. I implore the City Council to see that that happens."

Emerald Bay resident Patty Collissson told the council that she had received correspondence from the board indicating that it was still pursuing installation of a signal at Coast Highway and Emerald Bay and that meetings had been held with Caltrans and the Laguna Beach City Council.

She expressed concern that negotiations would negate the requirement for Laguna to issue a coastal development permit or usurp the council's prerogatives.

"Before anything happens, it will come before the City Council for consideration," Pietig said.

Iseman said when the signal was first proposed, she received more email about it than about the Village Entrance project, mostly from those opposed.

"It didn't have anything to do with us not liking the snooty people in Emerald Bay, which we were accused of," Iseman said.

The council's opposition was a thoughtful, logical approach to the impact of a traffic signal there, she said.

"I just want the residents of Laguna to know this is back — like Freddy Kruger, it is back," Iseman said.

Disman said he would vote against the stoplight, except Emerald Bay residents have not been given that opportunity.

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