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Decision on Watts Agency's Malibu Park Proposal Delayed

June 05, 1986

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy again has postponed a decision on rescinding a $157,000 grant for a proposal by a prominent anti-poverty group to build overnight lodgings for inner-city handicapped people and senior citizens in Malibu Creek State Park.

Conservancy board members said they want to wait until they see plans for a project smaller in scale and more rustic in nature than earlier proposals.

The Watts Labor Community Action Committee has agreed with the state Department of Parks and Recreation to draw plans for a complex that would house 50 to 60 people, a reduction from original proposal for 96 people.

Restricted Area

The proposed construction also has been concentrated on the east side of the park's Hunter House, which was built for a 1948 Cary Grant movie. Originally, "our intent was to disperse units for most amount of open space around each cluster," said Louise Manuel, a senior planner for the Watts committee.

Architects' drawings of the revised project are due tomorrow, Maneul said.

The project was mandated by the California Legislature. A special measure required that the Hunter House and six acres surrounding it be used for five years by the Watts committee.

Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) was instrumental in getting the group added to the legislation, which originally was designed to obtain five acres of state land on a seaside bluff for the Malibu Little League for five years.

Worried About Precedent

Critics said the Watts committee's proposal would set a precedent allowing new construction on state parkland. They were also alarmed by a marketing study suggesting rental of the complex for corporate meetings and weddings more than 65% of the time.

The anti-poverty group said it had no intention of following those recommendations. Committee Administrator Ted Watkins also said his group would not subsidize the project's operations.

So last month, environmentalists asked the conservancy to take back its grant, the bulk of the money allotted for the project.

At the time, the Watts committee and the state were under a June 30 deadline to reach an agreement on the project or the grant money would be returned to the state's general fund.

Legislative action last week effectively extended the deadline for another year, Conservancy Executive Director Joseph T. Edmiston said.

For now, "our contract is to come to an agreement with state parks, and we're trying to do that," Manuel said. "This is a question of access and nothing more."

Peter Ireland, a conservancy board member, said the state should have done such a project on its own long before.

"In a sense, we're all guilty for not seeing that these kind of projects took place, and a legislator and a nonprofit group had to do this," he said. "A state agency long ago should have recommended projects to serve this constituency."

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