Rebuilding Laguna Beach after major disasters

Editor's note: City Manager Ken Frank is retiring in December after 30 years with the city. In this column, he shares what he sees as the "top 10" most significant accomplishments of the city administration during the past three decades.

No. 4 on the list of City accomplishments over the last 30 years is: Rebuilding Laguna Beach after Major Disasters.

While we are fortunate to reside in Laguna Beach, one downside is the community's vulnerability to natural disasters, including landslides, fires, flooding and mudslides.

My predecessor and the City Council had already embarked on the rebuilding of Bluebird Canyon after the first landslide in 1977. Construction was in full swing and Oriole Drive, Meadowlark Drive and Meadowlark Lane were back in place. Unfortunately, since then, other smaller landslides have occurred at Del Mar in Arch Beach Heights, on Dunning/Cerritos in Rim Rock Canyon, on Mystic Way and below Las Brisas.

Then in 2005, the second Bluebird Canyon landslide occurred destroying 12 homes and obliterating several city streets, water lines, sewer conduits, and drainage facilities. Several years later, the hillside has been reconstructed and all the public facilities have been replaced. Homes are being rebuilt and several are already occupied.

Flooding has occurred several times in the downtown and in Laguna Canyon, although since new storm facilities were constructed in Laguna Canyon and in Canyon Acres, those areas have not flooded again.

In the 1997-98 winter, Laguna Beach suffered through record rainfall, resulting in pernicious mudslides throughout the community. Two people were killed in those earth flows, several houses were destroyed and Laguna Canyon Road was inundated by mud for two days.

Finally, the community endured the firestorm in October of 1993. That conflagration virtually vaporized 170 homes in town. But with a fantastic community support, coupled with federal and state disaster assistance and generally good cooperation from private insurance companies, the damaged neighborhoods — Canyon Acres, Mystic Hills and lower Temple Hills — have been resurrected into attractive neighborhoods.

Ken Frank is the city manager.

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