By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
The Laguna Beach Planning Commission unanimously approved the city’s purchase of 10 undeveloped parcels in the Arch Beach Heights neighborhood on Wednesday to preserve open space for native habitat and double as defensible space for firefighters during a wildfire.
The properties’ owners are unable to build on these lots because of the rough topography. Seven of the parcels are owned by the Loh Investment Limited Partnership, which is controlled by San Diego physician Dr. Wellington Loh, Jr. The city also wants two lots owned by John Potulny and one lot owned byMichael Meyers.
Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson said the three property owners or their representatives contacted city staff to share their interest in selling the parcels.
“We mainly, right now have a reactive process,” Johnson said. “I am working with some of the groups in town to identify particular areas of interest where we can be more proactive.”
Generally, property owners have donated these unbuildable lots or sold them to the city at a very low cost, Johnson said. The city pays for these kinds of purchases with an open space acquisition fund that’s replenished by public and private grants. A total dollar amount for the acquisitions approved Wednesday was not immediately available.
Planning Commissioner Susan McLintock Whitin encouraged city staff to send a letter to the owners of the remaining unbuildable parcels to let them know the city will accept donations or purchase their land.
“At this point you’re getting a critical mass of them,” Whitin said. “It seems as though, I don’t know the percentage, but maybe half of these parcels are now city-owned and I think it would be better if we could go get them all.”
Johnson said this would be a good idea but highlighted that city staffers also work with environmental preservation groups to consider purchasing land that includes valuable habitat, considered for development, or adjacent to trailheads.
The addresses of the parcels approved for purchase include 931 and 943 Serra Avenue, 952 and 966 Bonnie Bra Avenue, 932 and 979 Palo Alto Street, 916 and 928 Noria Street, and 807 Tia Juana Street.