Hansen: A school, a road and a lost city

June 16, 2011|By David Hansen

There is a Garden of Eden in Laguna Beach with peacocks, swans, turtle doves, pomegranate trees and angelic children.

And right outside is hell: suffocating traffic, angry drivers and mind-boggling bureaucracy.

It's the Annaliese School on Laguna Canyon Road, where the state of California, county of Orange and city of Laguna Beach meet in a Bermuda Triangle of frustration.

The good news? The school — and Laguna drivers — might be getting some relief.

Right after Labor Day in September, the county will start a six-month road widening project at that vital intersection, adding a second lane leaving town and other improvements. The project is the outcome of the large, new housing development (aka "Laguna Altura") under construction up the road in Irvine.


The result is supposed to improve traffic flow.

"I think it will help a lot," said Steve May, Laguna Beach city engineer.

Whether it does remains to be seen. The fact is, for a variety of reasons, Laguna Canyon Road will never truly accommodate the traffic we get.

So we grin and bear it.

The thing I find ironic in this case is Annaliese, which has tried for years to work with the city and other agencies to improve the flow of traffic. It is a perfect dichotomy of Laguna's famed-yet-nebulous "quality of life." In other words, we pride ourselves on our sublime environment, yet sometimes shy away from sustaining it.

Corinne Manetto, director of marketing at Annaliese, calls the school a "magical oasis."

"I'm director of marketing but haven't had to do any marketing this year because we don't need it," she said.

But she worries about the continuing traffic and was surprised to hear about the upcoming construction. She said the school received no notice of the project.

Mark my words: When the work starts in front of Annaliese, some people will complain that evil forces are widening the canyon and turning it into a freeway.

Others will say it's a Band-Aid approach that is too little, too late.

Two people can look at the same road and see two different things.

Laguna Beach is clearly hamstrung with its traffic options. There are serious geographic constraints. There are more government agencies than there are fishermen.

Amid this turmoil, one has to wonder if we have lost our vision.

Lee Miklosy, chairman of the Complete Streets Task Force, had an astute observation in a letter to the editor last week.

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