The Planning Commission approved a sidewalk extension along a portion of the Laguna Canyon's frontage road despite opposition from some commissioners and residents during its meeting Wednesday night inside City Council chambers.

The commission voted 3 to 2 to remove an existing curb, gutter and four trees and install a new curb, gutter, pedestrian access ramp and sidewalk from Woodland Drive south along Laguna Canyon Frontage Road to connect with an existing sidewalk.

The sidewalk would narrow the existing roadway by about 2 1/2 feet, to 15 1/2 feet once completed. The Boys & Girls Club and Sawdust Art Festival sit along the road. Planning Commission Chairman Norm Grossman reminded the public that they have 10 business days to appeal to the City Council if they wish.

Angled parking spots would be changed to straight-on spots, resulting in 10 less parking spaces, assistant city engineer Mark Trestik told the audience.

Commissioners Anne Johnson, Linda Dietrich and Ken Sadler voted for the project while Grossman and Commissioner Robert Zur Schmiede opposed.

Zur Schmiede summed up some residents' concerns about what removing trees would do to the area.

"This neighborhood is one of Laguna's unique neighborhoods," Zur Schmiede told colleagues and residents.

Safety was on the minds of canyon residents who said drivers will often turn off from Laguna Canyon Road to take a shortcut along the parallel frontage road.

"The traffic is so bad that everyone … races down the frontage road," longtime canyon resident Sharon Risley told those in attendance. "People pass me on the right. We need a sidewalk there. The issue is safety."

Others questioned why a one-way road should be narrowed further to accommodate a sidewalk that leads to nowhere and suggested improving the existing walkway along the frontage road instead. I

Commissioner Anne Johnson said a sidewalk provides a safe place to move out of the way of cars backing out onto the road.

The Capital Improvement Fund has $40,000 budgeted for the project, which originated in March 2010, Trestik wrote in an email. At the time City Council members and several members of the public expressed support for the sidewalk during a council meeting, Trestik said.

If no appeals are made, the City Council would consider awarding a construction contract, Trestik said.


Project along Mermaid Street

The commission voted 5-0 to seek the Arts Commission's input for a proposed wall and railing replacement along Mermaid Street. The city's public works department wants to remove an existing retaining wall and replace it with a textured block wall. Commissioners agreed the wall needed repair but differed in terms of quality and how quickly a new wall could be put in place.

Zur Schmiede said due diligence should be exercised to place the best possible material that will last and also have aesthetic appeal.

"Could we put a veneer, stone?" Zur Schmiede asked Trestik.

"Yes, but it comes down to cost," Trestik said.

A textured block wall is being proposed instead of a concrete wall. The proposed wall is light brown and split-faced. It has been used at other locations in the city such as 1476 Coast Hwy. and 2626 Glenneyre St. Due to limited right-of-way access, a wall made of steel posts and wood is not being considered.