Putting an end to nearly two years of public bickering, the state Senate has unanimously approved a bill to establish a permanent home for Indian artifacts at a site believed to be the "Lost Village of Encino."
The measure, approved on a 27-0 vote and sent to the governor, would allocate $195,000 to the state Department of Parks and Recreation to remodel the second floor of the Garnier House in the Los Encinos State Historic Park. The artifacts to be housed there include pottery, stone tools, arrowheads, beads and bones dating from 5000 BC to the late 1800s.
The money also would provide parking for the Garnier House, which is across the street from the dig site.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), is a severely pruned version of the original proposal to spend $11 million to buy land at Los Encinos park and build a museum.
After the discovery of the Indian village in the summer of 1984, questions arose about the find's significance. Many experts contended that the artifacts were of little importance, whereas others, including Robbins and local residents, said they are historically valuable.
The Native American Heritage Commission opposed a museum, arguing that, according to tribal tradition, the objects should be left in the ground. Other critics said moving the items elsewhere would lead developers who dig up sacred Indian grounds to then appeal to the state for money to preserve the artifacts.
Developers Pay Fee
Now, developers who turn up artifacts must hire archeologists to supervise construction in areas where significant artifacts are believed buried. Developers must pay half of 1% of their construction cost toward preserving the objects.
The bill was favored by many local politicians and community groups but it was not supported by the state Department of Parks and Recreation, which said the find was not unique.
Nonetheless, Robbins said he is pleased that the bill passed, saying that, "at a very nominal cost, people, especially kids, can see how people used to live in the valley years and years ago."
If Gov. George Deukmejian approves the bill and there are no complications, Robbins said, the artifacts should be on display by early next year.
One complication could arise with archeologist Nancy A. Whitney-Desautels of Huntington Beach, who found the village. Whitney-Desautels, president of Scientific Resource Surveys, has said she is still owed about $350,000 for the cost of the dig. She has also said that, until she is paid, she will not release any of the artifacts, which are stored in a warehouse in Huntington Beach.
Whitney-Desautels could not be reached for comment. However, Roger Mason, research director for the archeological company, said, "There still are issues to be resolved. That's one of them."
Another complication is that the bill would not provide funds to catalogue the artifacts. Robbins said he hopes that amount, which is undetermined, would be provided by First Financial Group Inc., the developer of the excavation site. First Financial officials were not available for comment.
The exhibit's estimated $15,000 in annual operating costs would be paid by donations, said Robbins aide Bob Hayes.
The Lost Village of Encino was first described in the writings of Father Juan Crespi, a missionary who accompanied Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola on a 1769 expedition.
Experts believe that the village was occupied by the Chumash and Gabrieleno tribes. When it was discovered by archeologists, workers found more than 2 million items, although Whitney-Desautels has said that only 12.5% are worth displaying.
Robbins said the Garnier House will display only about 200 items. The rest may be offered to colleges and museums in Southern California.