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Three Arch Bay pays for privacy

Gated community required to put money down on improvements at a public beach in order to get its beach stairs repaired.

August 30, 2007|By Barbara Diamond

The California Coastal Commission has put a price on the privacy of the beach at Three Arch Bay.

Three Arch Bay Homeowners Assn. will pay $50,000 — or possibly $70,000 — toward the renovation of the city Brooks Street stairs in lieu of providing public access to the beach in the gated community. The levy was a condition of commission approval of a coastal development permit to repair the stairs to the Three Arch Bay beach.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” City Manager Ken Frank said. “The Coastal Commission gave Three Arch Bay the permit to redo their stairs to the beach. They [Three Arch Bay association] don’t want to allow public access to their beach so the commission put a condition on to help us rebuild our stairs at Brooks Street, because we are underfunded for that project.”

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Association Executive Director Drew Harper made no comment. Three Arch Bay is located in South Laguna, several miles south of Brooks Street beach.

Three Arch Bay’s project, which was begun, according to a commission staff report, without a required coastal development permit, includes the reconstruction of two staircases down a coastal bluff face, and replacement of more than 50% of decayed wood and deteriorated concrete.

The southernmost stairs were originally built in the late 1940s. The northern stairs were constructed a decade or so later. Their locations will not be changed.

Under ordinary circumstances the commission would require public access to the beach from the nearest public road paralleling the beach — in this case, Pacific Coast Highway — before approving a project either new or a replacement of more than 50% of a structure.

The commission could not force public access because the stairs connect to a pre-Coastal Act gated community, one of four areas in the city that was “white holed.” White holed areas were designated for deferred certification when the commission approved Laguna’s Local Coastal Plan in July 1992 that gave the city the jurisdiction to issue coastal development permits.

However, the commission did refer in its approval to Section 30212 of the Coastal Act that requires nearby alternative public beach access.

1000 Steps Beach, about one-half mile north of Three Arch Bay, is the nearest public vertical access to the gated community’ beach. It is a county beach.

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