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Emerald Bay wants permit exemption

Residents seek a waiver from Laguna Beach so they can dive into making improvements to a dangerous intersection.

November 29, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

Emerald Bay residents hope the Laguna Beach City Council will decide they don't need a coastal development permit to make changes to an intersection near the gated community.

Having the permit waived would allow improvements — which supporters say would enhance traffic safety at an accident-prone intersection — to begin immediately.

The council will hold a public hearing Dec. 10 to discuss proposed alterations at North Coast Highway and Shamrock Road, known as the Main Gate locales.

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The hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in council chambers, 505 Forest Ave..

The "minor but important safety improvements" include adding a raised median on North Coast Highway, restriping the road and adding three street lights to improve nighttime visibility, according to a letter that the Main Gate Executive Committee, the Emerald Bay group overseeing the proposed project, sent to residents. Emerald Bay is unincorporated, but the exterior roads are in Laguna Beach.

At this time, the improvements do not include a traffic signal, the committee's letter said. The City Council requested during its May 15, 2012, meeting that any alterations not include a traffic signal.

"I'm disappointed, but we understand people don't like traffic lights," said Susan Thomas, Main Gate Executive Committee chairwoman.

The proposed improvements include restriping Shamrock Road to make two lanes into and out of Emerald Bay and elongating the southbound left-turn pocket from the road onto North Coast Highway as well as a northbound acceleration lane.

"It's very congested in the morning, making a left off of Shamrock," Thomas said. "This will make it safer for anyone turning in or out. It seems like a reasonable compromise. It will help slow traffic down."

The group has worked for the improvements since 2004, when 19-year-old motorcyclist Aron Negron was killed when a 72-year-old driver struck him while making a left from Shamrock onto North Coast Highway, according to a Los Angeles Times story written at the time.

The county approved all aspects of the project in 2011 and issued a coastal development permit, according to the Main Gate Executive Committee's letter.

For the city to exempt Emerald Bay from a permit, it would need to determine that the suggested improvements would not adversely affect coastal resources, coastal views, public access or any other matter governed by the state's Coastal Act, according to a city staff report.

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