Letter: Coast Highway Redesign

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At its meeting of Nov. 4, we participated in the Planning Commission review of the Caltrans concept for a proposed 4-foot-wide sidewalk along the ocean side of the Coast Highway from Ruby Street to 7th Avenue. The South Laguna Civic Association, which has spent decades seeking better pedestrian access, safety improvements, and beautification along the highway, is pleased that progress is being made. Nonetheless, we see multiple problems with the proposed design from the point of view of both safety and aesthetics. We are grateful that the Commission formed a subcommittee to study the design, but it is very important that its meetings be made public so that we and other interested citizens may participate.

The total cost of the project, which extends for 5.1 miles, from Ledroit Street to 7th Avenue, is $50 million, which works out to nearly $10 million per mile, and it seems to us that for that price we should expect more than a four-foot wide sidewalk, especially since it appears Caltrans is doing minimal right-of-way acquisition. The City originally agreed to contribute an additional $10 million to the project for safety and landscape improvements, but during the hearing we were told that the City had withdrawn this funding. Since then we have learned that our city staff did not want that funding to be used for a large retaining wall south of Aliso Creek and withdrew funding for that reason. We agree that such a wall would be an inappropriate use of the city funds that were intended to provide safety and aesthetic, not structural improvements. We recommend that the funding be re-instated so that “betterments” like enhanced pedestrian crossings, planted medians, street trees and improved detailing can be incorporated into the design.

Please provide for public meetings with Caltrans and the subcommittee and direct staff to direct Caltrans to provide for the betterments listed above with the City funding allocation. 

This project represents the first time in a generation that any significant improvements to the Coast Highway have been considered, and we strongly urge you to take advantage of the opportunity to improve our most important arterial street and to incorporate the public into that process.

Greg O’Loughlin, Laguna Beach

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