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Mailbag: Public must speak up about Rockledge access

August 11, 2011

Many of you have signed the petition and/or seen the posters around town about restoring a public coastal access to Rockledge. It's the longest stretch of public shoreline in Laguna Beach that doesn't have a public stairway. Kayakers and paddle boarders can get there easily, but the rest of us have to climb on the cliffs and rocks that separate it from Victoria Beach and Moss Cove. Even lifeguards must swim or paddleboard a great distance to get there. And despite illegal plucking of tidepool creatures, the Marine Refuge enforcement officer can't get there at all.

Ever since the Old Coast Road was built, Laguna residents could go to Rockledge and see and enjoy the tide pools, cliffs and sunsets. Today, the cliff top is filled with homes, and public access has disappeared. Twelve private stairways remain, making the public Rockledge shoreline almost the exclusive domain of the people who live there.

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Here are the facts:

•The California Coastal Act of 1976 says, "Public access from the nearest public roadway to the shoreline and along the coast shall be provided in new development projects," including "highly scenic … rocky coastal areas." This is especially the case where no public access exists.

•Replacing an existing house with a new one is exempt from the access requirement, unless the new house is 10% larger or more. The city has approved a new home at 2425 S. Coast Hwy. that is almost five times larger than the existing one.

•There is a long history of the public walking through this property to get to Rockledge, just like people crossed over private land before public stairways were built from Crescent Bay to Thousand Steps. Legal affidavits have been obtained from numerous people to prove this.

•People who get into Rockledge can get trapped at high tide and have to cross over private property to get out onto Coast Highway. The solution is to provide a safe public stairway.

•Some are concerned with potential damage to coastal resources. The access will be managed according to a beach-access maintenance program.

It's time to give voice to the 3,000 people who signed the petition in support of Rockledge public access. I urge you to come to the City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday and speak up under public comments at the beginning of the meeting.

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