On December 5, 2022, the Laguna Niguel City Council approved the ‘Cove at El Niguel’ townhouse development by a 3-2 vote over the objections of the surrounding communities and following hundreds of opposition requests. As highlighted throughout this website, the project is on the site of the most devastating landslide in Orange County history where seven active landslide faults still remain.
The terms of two of the three Councilmembers who approved this project expire at the end of 2024, with an election for their seats on November 5, 2024. (One of the three who approved it was termed out.) Mark your calendars.
Council Member Kelly Jennings
Term expires November 2024
Voted to Develop the Landslide Area
Mayor Sandy Rains
Voted to Develop the Landslide Area
Our safety is more important than the developer’s profits.
After three contentious public meetings, the condo project is on the verge of being approved. Yet not one resident of the Laguna Niguel spoke in support of the project at any of the Planning Commission or City Council meetings. The community has made its views known loud and clear – this is a clearly a bad idea.
The County’s most devastating slope failure occurred in the same place in 1998, where nine homes crashed down the hill on Via Estoril and 41 apartments were destroyed due to the landslide. Developer Barry Hon then settled a lawsuit in 1999 with residents who lost their homes.
Residents spoke eloquently and with conviction for several hours at the Commission and full City Council meetings, with overwhelming opposition which focused on:
- News coverage at the time of the 1988 landslide noted that the developer ‘…was warned a decade ago about building on unstable ancient landslides but produced their own geological reports that persuaded county officials to let the project proceed.’ (Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1998).
Then, as now, the developer covers the costs of these commissioned geo-technical reports through a reimbursement mechanism with the City for consultant expenses. News reports from 1998 indicate that developers/builders ‘shop around’ to find the engineering consultants producing the results they want. (Attorney Thomas E. Miller quoted in Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1999)
As Niguel Summit HOA’s attorneys at Rutan & Tucker, LLP noted, the City’s CEQA review process (which includes the Draft environmental review) which was managed by the City was ‘Legally deficient and factually flawed.’
These ancient landslides have not gone away; any stability issues with the land still remain and construction in the area could reactivate these faults, leading to more potential devastation for nearby homeowners and their homes.
The earthen berm (‘buttress’) which was engineered and constructed specifically to mitigate land movement, hold up the hill and protect the neighborhood must remain fully intact. Any effort to cut off the base of this complex buttress to squeeze in these condos threatens not only the integrity of the buttress but impacts all residents surrounding the site.
Building in this location could trigger legal liability upon Niguel Summit HOA and its residents, including possible HOA costs or dues increases.
The potential for another devastating landslide remains the paramount concern for local homeowners who oppose ‘The Cove at El Niguel.’
Take These Actions Now
- E-mail the Council: Tell them to oppose the Cove at El Niguel: ([email protected])
- Tell your neighbors and friends in other areas of Laguna Niguel how the City is ignoring the residents and preparing to approve building in a landslide zone. Encourage residents from all parts of the city to attend the City Council meeting to demand that the City keeps us safe.
- WE MUST STAY VOCAL AND INSIST THAT RESIDENT SAFETY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEVELOPER’S PROFITS
- Visit this site to find out the latest update, including the date for the City Council meeting.
What's the Backstory?
Laguna Niguel Properties, Inc. has submitted a proposal to the City for 22 condos along Crown Valley called ‘The Cove at El Niguel.’ This is the same developer who built the original Niguel Summit neighborhood.
This proposed project is located directly below where the slope collapsed in 1998; 51 homes (including several on Via Estoril and apartments below) fell down or had to be destroyed.
What is the Community Response?
Niguel Summit HOA has joined forces with neighboring HOAs to oppose the project.The safety of our communities is paramount. We are concerned that, if approved by the City, construction in this area will impact existing homes and condos. Further effects of concern include traffic, environmental damage, increased noise, and reduced property values and quality of life. The HOA has already taken aggressive steps to protect our community and demand the safety of this site for current and future residents.
- The HOA is strenuously challenging this project at City Hall.
- The law firm of Rutan & Tucker, LLP was hired to respond to the City’s Draft Environmental Impact Report and to pursue legal options to ensure that Niguel Summit’s homes remain stable and safe, and to defeat this proposal.
- HOA leaders and several residents met with the LA Times reporter to bring attention to this story. We will continue to communicate our safety messages though additional television and print media outlets.
- Read Rutan Comment Letter on Cove at El Niguel EIR as Prepared by the Law Firm Rutan & Tucker, LLP.