Debate Continues Over Rockledge Access



 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 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.

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 Highway 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 so the public.

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 at 6 p.m. on Aug.  16 and speak up under public comments at the beginning of the meeting. Or you can email our Council members: Mayor Toni Iseman at [email protected], Vice Mayor, Jane Egly at [email protected], Kelly Boyd at [email protected], Elizabeth Pearson at [email protected], and Verna Rollinger at [email protected].

City manager, John Pietig at [email protected]. Email or write a letter to the California Coastal Commission as follows: Mary A. Shallenberger, Chair & Honorable Commissioners, c/o Peter Douglas, executive director at [email protected]; 45 Fremont St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, Calif., 94105.

 Just a simple message to them:  “Please help Save Rockledge Access”.


Fred Talarico, consultant

Share this:


  1. Dear Editor,

    My wife and I own the property that Talarico claims that there is a history of the public walking through our property from the highway to the beach. Talarico knows that it is a big lie. Over the past 5 months he has created a website, purchased advertising in your publication, and placed posters around Laguna Beach to promote the lie. Talarico is not doing this as an interested citizen, he is doing it at the paid bidding of our immediate neighbor to the north, Michael Wilson, at 2419 South Coast Highway, who does not like the house we want to build. Unable to convince the Design Review Board and the City Council that our design should be changed, Mr. Wilson has embarked upon a public campaign through paid henchmen, Fred Talarico and Eric Jessen, to pressure us into changing our design to his liking and giving up the driveway which fronts his property and has served our property since at least 1946. Mr. Wilson is one of the wealthiest people in Orange County and we had been told through Mr. Talarico that if we don’t change the design of our house we should expect this public campaign against us. Mr. Wilson has also initiated a lawsuit against the City of Laguna Beach and us to try and stop our project. We bought our property from the Bunkalls who had owned it since 1968. Members of that family have told Talarico and written to the City that no public access ever existed through our property. After 5 months of endless promotion, Talarico has nothing of substance to show. His “legal affidavits” are a joke. My wife and I have borne this slander of our title for months, believing that it must end at some point. But my neighbor and Talarico show no interest in the truth and ask others to lie for them as well. Talarico has asked people to appear at City Council on August 16. To those who know what a lie is being peddled, you should show up as well and support the City Council who already knows the truth.

    Mark E. Towfiq
    2425 South Coast Highway
    Laguna Beach

  2. I am glad to have this clarified from the other side. I’ve seen this campaign and it just does not make sense, asserting as it does that not even the marine life officer can access that particular area to catch the diabolical pluckers of sea life….who apparently can? That is only one aspect of this manufactured argument that doesn’t hold water. I have a feeling that other local residents don’t think this smells right and have stayed away from the bandwagon effect these “consultants” thought they were creating with their ads, petitions, and letters. Bottom line, neighbors have far too much power over other people’s property rights, when all rules have been followed and care has been taken to build something that takes everyone’s needs into account. It’s when the “wants” come into play that folks get greedy and unreasonable. We have a lot of curmudgeons in town who just don’t want anything built that might affect them in any way, and they create problems to slow up the process and deplete the financial and emotional resources of those who want to build. I wish you luck in building your home, Mr. Towfiq. You’re going to need it – and lots of cash and patience. And then, sadly, you have to live next door to these people.

  3. The Fred Talarico & Eric Jessen Rockledge Show Is Getting Old

    As a long time staunch defender of coastal access, I’m confused as to why our papers are finding space in their letters column for employees of a Rockledge home project opponent.
    This type of diatribe should be posted and charged appropriately for what it is, a paid advertisement.
    Mssrs. Fred Talarico and Eric Jessen continue to be compensated very well as consultants in this issue, they have a fiscal interest (maybe a hefty bonus?) in altering or affecting the home remodel adjacent to their client’s.
    Failing at every jurisdictional appellate level, they’re now the masterminds of a slick and very expensive City-wide PR and marketing campaign to disguise their involvement, to shroud it in altruistic motives.

    I know of that which I speak of, Mr. Talarico was aware of my enviro-consultant credentials and tried to recruit me as an interventionist, as one of their gratis stalking horses and organizers months ago over the phone.
    This is one case where access would only result in more damage to our tidepools and marine habitats.
    This spot would be difficult if not impossible to monitor under the new MLPA restrictions, it is in a very pristine and fragile spot. It needs LESS, not MORE foot traffic

    I have lived in Laguna for 40 years, in Victoria Beach just a few hundred meters away from Rockledge the past 6 years. We have enough access already.
    This is a case of a private party, Mssrs. Talarico and Jessen’s very deep pocket client, wanting to leverage self-created, exaggerated protectionist alarms for personal gain.
    This campaign entices unsuspecting sympathetic locals to help with the heavy lifting.
    It’s not about gaining coastal access for the public, it’s about abuse, it’s about manipulating enviro-regulations and processes, it’s about hypocritical, self-centered greed.
    And no, Eric and Fred, unlike you I was NOT paid to write this. There’s an unwritten rule among consultants like us: Leave the PR, letter-writing campaigns, posters, etc. to PR/Marketing firms. We’re advisors, not flacks, you’ve lowered the industry bar by doing this.
    I was told that you 2 even hired young men to gather signatures of ignorant people at the US Open of Surfing, this is about as insidious as it gets.

  4. It is amazing what kind of crap can be manufactured by a wealthy and powerful person, Wilson, to stop someone from building their home. Wilson is the 23rd wealthiest person in OC according to the OC Business Journal and doesn’t want a new home built next door. There has never been beach access through the Towfiq property. Look at a goole aerial view of Wilson’s home (2419 S Coast Highway) – he has the most pugnacious home on the Laguna beach front. His home is practically balanced on the shore cliff and includes almost the entire lot area. It looks like a giant office building on the coast. This hyprocrite is trying to stop his neighbor from building their family home. Wilson is the poster child for abusive NIMBYism. Towfiq’s design is tasteful and blends in with the natural terrain of the property.

  5. Regarding “Debate Continues Over Rockledge Access,” please stop adding fuel to Michael Wilson’s personal crusade against the Towfiqs for simply trying to build a house next door. There is no debate, and there never was coastal access at 2425 Coast Highway. Any attempt by Mr. Wilson and his paid consultants to allege that the public has used this property for coastal access is simply a fabrication. Sadly, his consultants know this.

    For the last seven years, I have joined other like-minded ocean lovers in an unnamed event where we walk, rock-hop and swim the entire city limits of Laguna Beach. In seven years of this event, I have never walked the stretch of coast between Moss Point and Victoria Beach, preferring instead the safety of open water. Except under the very best of conditions, this stretch should not be walked. Once one realizes that the rocks are impassable, there is no safe entry into the ocean. Two years ago, a friend of mine was swept into a cave near Villa Rockledge, and fortunately was rescued by a participating Navy SEAL.

    The assertions made by Mr. Wilson’s consultants deserve scrutiny. Despite one consultant’s mention of “Rockledge Beach” at this month’s meeting of the Coastal Commission, there is no beach between Moss Point and Victoria Beach. Any local knows this. This same consultant alleges “illegal plucking of tidepool creatures” in this area, but goes on to state that lifeguards and the “marine refuge enforcement officer” can’t reach the area. How are poachers reaching an area that public safety and resource personnel can’t? Furthermore, any contention of historical public access is completely at odds with statements by the very family that lived at that location for forty years. In making these claims, Mr. Wilson and his consultants are saying that this family is either lying or mistaken. Which is it?

    Mr. Wilson is the 26th wealthiest person in Orange County, and perhaps the wealthiest to live in Laguna Beach. He was able to buy his property and build his home without interference from neighbors, the Coastal Commission, and the courts. The Towfiqs should be afforded a similar welcome to Laguna Beach. Yet Mr. Wilson now uses his vast personal wealth to frustrate the Towfiqs at every possible turn. He has filed suit against the City of Laguna Beach in its approval of the Towfiqs’ home, and sought and obtained an injunction to prevent the Towfiqs from demolishing the existing aging home. No amount of quoting the Coastal Act by paid consultants will disquise Mr. Wilson’s true motives.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here