Laguna Canyon Residents vs. Developers

Laguna Canyon Residents Take On Developers With No Help From City Council

A huge victory for Laguna Canyon residents who fought the city staff, planning commission and City Council to uphold our existing governing document of Laguna Canyon Area Annexation Area Specific Plan~

It should be noted this massive size & scale urban development project was approved by CIty Staff, Planning Commission and appealed to City Council who then voted to approve a large scale development project despite canyon resident objections!

Excerpts condensed version taken from the 21 page public court document.

Civil Complex Center 751 W. Santa Ana Blvd Santa Ana, CA 92701
SHORT TITLE: Friends of the Canyon vs. California Coastal Commission

Pg 13
Significantly, the Coastal Commission, like the City Council before it, never determined whether it was proper to leave Laguna Canyon Creek off the MWDC Map. Just as the Coastal Commission determined the City Council’s finding on this point was inadequate, this court determines no substantial evidence supports the Coastal Commission’s identical finding.

Without question, Laguna Canyon Creek is a “Blue-line stream” and a “significant watercourse” in Laguna Canyon. Nothing in the Administrative Record suggests any Blue-line stream or significant watercourse in Laguna Canyon has ever been omitted from the MWDC Map.

Pg 15 The Coastal Commission, like the City Council before it, did not determine whether Laguna Canyon Creek was in fact on the map or omitted from the map. In any event, the Coastal Commission’s finding that Laguna Canyon Creek is “not identifiable” on the MWDC Map, besides being irrelevant as an incorrect standard, is not supported by substantial evidence.

Pg 17
2. Does substantial evidence support the finding that the Project is rural and small-scale? No.
The Laguna Canyon Annexation Area Specific Plan Policies (LCAASP) identify a series of “goals” to “[p]reserve and enhance the rural character of the Laguna Canyon Properties area.” (AR 1099-1100.)

Policy 10 requires “that any development be of small-scale in order to maintain the rural character of the Canyon. The Project is not consistent with this policy.

This court takes judicial notice that there are 43,560 square feet in one acre. At 36,750 square feet, the Project site equals .84 of an acre. With 30 residential units, plus work space, plus retail space, plus a 47-stall parking garage, all on a parcel smaller than one acre, the Project does not qualify as small-scale or rural. It would be a stretch to label the Project suburban, but easy to label it urban.

It is of no moment the words “rural” and “small scale” are not defined in any document in the Administrative Record. The words “rural” and “small scale” are not generally considered terms of art; they have common meanings. In any event, the Administrative Record universally acknowledges the Project is neither rural nor small- scale. (See, e.g., AR 168, 171, 2979.)

Yes, rustic architecture and landscaping contribute to rural character, but aesthetics do not override the Project’s size, scale, and density. A project with a housing density of more than 30 units per acre simply does not qualify as rural or small- scale. There are 47 parking spaces for the 30 planned residential units, more than many suburban condo developments. It should also be remembered that although this is a two-story project, the housing elements are to be elevated at least five feet above grade, making the 36400t height more in line with a three-story building — again, not a rural structure.

There is no evidence, much less substantial evidence, to support the commission’s conclusion that the Project is rural and small-scale.

Pg 21 If there were nothing else, the violation of Public Resources Code section 30328 would entitle petitioner to a writ of mandate “requiring the commission to revoke its action and rehear the matter.” However, a rehearing would appear to be an idle act in this instance; the Commission’s finding that the Project is consistent with the applicable LCP is not supported by substantial evidence as to the setback and rural/small-scale issues. For the foregoing reasons, the petition for writ of administrative mandate is granted.