A bill extending the life of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to July, 1990, passed both houses of the Legislature last week and went to the governor's office for final approval.
Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), the bill's sponsor, said that a top aide to Gov. George Deukmejian has told him that the governor will support the extension.
The aide, Davis said, was noncommittal on another of the bill's provisions that would provide $3 million in state funds to help buy 1,000 acres in Lower Zuma Canyon in Malibu.
Spokesmen for the governor's office were not available for comment last week. Last year, Deukmejian's office threatened to veto an earlier Davis attempt to extend the life of the agency. Davis withdrew his bill at the time. Without the extension, the agency will go out of business next July.
Davis said that the conservancy, formed in 1979 to acquire public lands in the Santa Monica Mountains, needs more time to do its job. The agency has bought about 4,000 acres and plans to buy another 8,000.
"The conservancy," Davis said, "is the only agency standing between the magnificent mountains and the bulldozer. It should not be put out of business until it has completed the job of setting aside parklands for future generations."
Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, said that the agency's budget for fiscal 1985-86 will be at least $9.3 million, $12.3 million if the governor approves $3 million for the Lower Zuma Canyon project.
The $3-million appropriation will depend on the availability of money in a $60-million special account financed by state oil revenues. The conservancy will compete for a share of the funds with several other projects including a Los Angeles prison, a state day-care program and the Stringfellow Acid Disposal Pits in Riverside.
If the $3 million is available, the conservancy will add another $3 million from its own budget to purchase the Lower Zuma Canyon.
Edmiston said that the conservancy is concentrating on the acquisition of smaller properties in the mountains "because there are no large parcels left to buy.
"That is why we were created in the first place. None of the other park agencies are interested in buying basically small, locally oriented properties for park sites. And we have to accomplish our task now because the price of land continues to rise."
He said that there are about 350,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, only 42,000 of which are are set aside as parks or protected wilderness areas. The Santa Monica Mountains extend from Griffith Park to the edge of Camarillo and from Pacific Coast Highway to Simi Valley.
About 40% of the mountain range is in unincorporated Los Angeles County territory, 30% in Ventura County, 20% in the city of Los Angeles and the rest in other jurisdictions, including Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley.