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Budget Carries $18 Million to Buy Mountain Parkland

June 15, 1986|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

The $37.4-billion budget that the Legislature sent to Gov. George Deukmejian last week includes an estimated $18 million for roughly 3,200 acres of open space and parkland in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains.

Nearly two-thirds of the $18 million would be channeled through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy open space in Thousand Oaks, Hollywood and Glendale.

Other portions of the spending package would set aside $3.7 million for the state Department of Parks and Recreation to acquire 500 acres of mountain land in Malibu Canyon and another 136 acres at Malibu Creek State Park.

Another $3 million would be set aside in anticipation of the state Coastal Conservancy giving top priority to the purchase of 345 acres of Roberts Ranch, west of Malibu.

When Deukmejian unveiled his budget in January, he included $1.2 million for the Malibu Creek State Park acquisition but excluded funds for the mountains conservancy to acquire open space.

Meantime, in what has become an annual drama about the amount of money to allocate for preserving open space ringing the Los Angeles Basin, legislators loaded the budget with a wide range of pet projects for open space in the mountains.

That prompted Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) to say: "I'm almost certain that some will be eliminated (by the governor). He will have to make decisions on the basis of highest priority and provide the most potential for recreational use."

Donna Lipper, a spokeswoman for the governor, said, "It's premature to say he's going to support one thing and not another." Deukmejian has until midnight June 30 to sign the fiscal 1986-87 budget.

Optimistic About Support

Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the mountains conservancy, was optimistic that the governor will support his agency's acquisitions because most of its money would be derived from a $95-million beach bond measure rather than from state general funds. The bond measure, which has been authorized by the Assembly, must still be approved the Senate, Deukmejian and the voters.

"In terms of the bond funds, I don't see we're going to be getting a veto" from the governor, Edmiston contended. Some expenditures are designated in the budget as being dependent on passage of the bond issue.

The conservancy was set up in 1979 to act as an intermediary to help public agencies buy open space in easy reach of urban areas. It has purchased or obtained through donation about 8,000 acres.

Originally, it was regarded as the political preserve of Democratic legislators, but Edmiston, with the help of Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), has forged a bipartisan coalition to support conservancy acquisitions.

After an uphill fight last year, the Legislature extended for three years the life of the agency, which had been set to go out of business this year.

Edmiston initially proposed spending about $5 million in the state budget year that takes effect July 1. But the governor omitted the funds as an austerity measure, prompting Edmiston again to stitch together the bipartisan coalition to support a variety of projects.

'Rather Potent Force'

Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale), who supports conservancy acquisitions in La Canada-Flintridge and Glendale, said the agency "has become a rather potent force" as Edmiston has worked with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Edmiston listed his top priority in the budget approved by the Legislature as being the $5.8 million earmarked to purchase the 1,690-acre Circle X Ranch south of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County. The land, now owned by the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, would be used as a public campground.

The money would be advanced by the state Coastal Conservancy, an Oakland-based agency designed to protect, preserve and acquire open space near the coast, to a joint powers agency operated by the mountains conservancy and the Conejo Recreation and Park District. The joint powers authority would be required to repay the loan within three years. Edmiston said he hopes the money will come from bond funds.

Edmiston said his second-highest priority among the projects in the budget is the acquisition of the remaining 345 acres at Roberts Ranch near Malibu for about $3 million. Edmiston said last year that the conservancy had already acquired 211 acres of the Solstice Canyon ranch.

Under the budget approved by the Legislature, the Coastal Conservancy would be asked to give a high priority for the purchase of the land for beach-oriented recreational activities. Neal Fishman, the Coastal Conservancy's lobbyist, cautioned that teh Roberts Ranch purchase is "by no means . . . guaranteed."

Descanso Gardens Site

Another project sought by Edmiston is 40 acres surrounding Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge.

Russell, who represents the area, said he will urge the governor to keep this appropriation in the budget because it would complete a "buffer zone" around the gardens.

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