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Budget Excludes Money for Land to Expand Park

January 16, 1986|THERESA WALKER | Times Staff Writer

Unless Gov. George Deukmejian can be persuaded to change his proposed state budget, there will be no state funds to buy 40 acres of privately owned land planned for inclusion in La Canada Flintridge's Cherry Canyon natural preserve.

The governor excluded from his $36.7-billion spending blueprint the entire operational budget submitted by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency dedicated to buying parkland for preservation.

In its funding request, the conservancy had earmarked $450,000 to help acquire a parcel of undeveloped land next to Cherry Canyon preserve, just south of Descanso Gardens. The land is owned by USC.

$1.3-Million Grant

In a separate action last year, the conservancy granted about $1.2 million toward the purchase of 55 acres of unspoiled land in Cherry Canyon. To meet the $1.5-million cost of the land, La Canada Flintridge used $1 million of the conservancy grant and added another $500,000 from its general fund.

Part of that parcel is to be included in the Rim of the Valley Trail Corridor, a system of hiking and equestrian trails that it is hoped will one day ring the San Fernando and La Crescenta valleys.

The 40 acres owned by USC are next to the original 55, which the city bought in September from a Pasadena attorney.

"We were looking at it as a two-phase acquisition. Now Phase 2 has been cut out," said Don Otterman, La Canada Flintridge city manager.

Otterman said the city will fight to have the $450,000 for acquiring the USC property restored to the proposed state budget. He said he will bring discuss the funding when he meets this week in Sacramento with Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) and Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale).

Joseph Edmiston, the conservancy's executive director, said he also would lobby for the money.

"We're not going to give up on this," Edmiston said. "A very good case can be made for this."

Appraised at $725,000

Otterman said the property has been appraised at $725,000. He said he was prepared to recommend that the La Canada Flintridge City Council appropriate $75,000 to supplement the proposed conservancy grant, as it did in the previous purchase of Cherry Canyon property. The remaining $200,000 could be the money left over from the initial Cherry Canyon grant, Edmiston said.

USC had expressed willingness to discuss sale of the property for the appraised value.

"We were just going to begin negotiations . . . when we heard about this," Otterman said. "We're going to continue negotiations anyway in the hopes that we can either get the conservancy's budget reinstated or get a separate budget allocation."

The conservancy had submitted a $5-million budget to Deukmejian, who last year reluctantly signed legislation extending the 6-year-old agency for three years beyond its intended 1985 expiration date.

The conservancy received about $19 million in state park bond funds and tideland oil revenues to buy land last year. The agency has spent all its bond funds and the Administration has no tidelands funds to give to the conservancy, a state Finance Department analyst said.

The Finance Department is proposing that the conservancy use its own funds, obtained through buying and selling land, to continue its day-to-day operation.

In addition to granting money to La Canada Flintridge last year, the conservancy awarded Glendale $125,000 to buy a 100-acre parcel of undeveloped land between the Burbank border and Brand Park. That land is also to be part of the Rim of the Valley corridor.

Buying the USC parcel for preservation would be a logical step in enhancing the Rim of the Valley corridor, Otterman said, because the parcel is surrounded by land that has been set aside for conservation and recreation.

It would connect La Canada Flintridge's Cherry Canyon property with another 150 to 160 acres of undeveloped land owned by Glendale. That land stretches from the Glendale Freeway to the USC parcel and is designated for conservation and recreation.

"It just makes sense to include that in the open-space preservation," Otterman said.

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