Gov. George Deukmejian's cuts of $706 million from the Legislature's $37.4-billion budget include $4.5 million that had been allocated to buy mountain parkland on the Westside. The governor also deleted funds for security patrols on open space that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy already owns.
The governor vetoed $2.5 million for 500 acres in Malibu Canyon and about $2 million for 40 acres in Hollywood's rustic Runyon Canyon.
Top Priorities Funded
But Deukmejian did leave intact $5.8 million for the purchase of the 1,690-acre Circle X Ranch, west of Malibu in Ventura County. Another $3 million will go to the state Coastal Conservancy with the recommendation that the money to used to acquire 345 acres at Roberts Ranch in Malibu's Solstice Canyon. The Coastal Conservancy, based in Oakland, preserves open space near the state shoreline.
Circle X and the Roberts Ranch are the mountains conservancy's top priorities.
In what has become an annual drama surrounding the amount of money to allocate for preservation of open space in the Santa Monica Mountains, Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) said he hopes to persuade the governor to restore some of the cuts.
"It's a very tight year. I understand that, but I'm hopeful," Davis said. The Administration "always makes this a difficult fight, but in the end they come through."
In Deukmejian's original version of the budget, unveiled in January, no money was included for the conservancy to buy undeveloped land. He did include $1.2 million for the state Department of Parks and Recreation to buy 136 acres of private property within the boundaries of Malibu Creek State Park, which survived the budget process.
The conservancy was established in 1979 to help public agencies buy open space near urban areas. It has purchased or obtained through donation about 8,000 acres ringing the Los Angeles Basin.
"Obviously we are overjoyed" that Circle X Ranch and Roberts Ranch were included in the budget, said Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy. Circle X, now owned by the Los Angeles Council of the Boy Scouts of America, would be used as a public campground. Roberts Ranch would augment 211 acres in Solstice Canyon acquired by the mountains conservancy last year.
No Danger of Development
The Malibu Canyon acreage, which would have been bought by the state Department of Parks and Recreation, is not in danger of being developed immediately, Edmiston said. "It was not one of our top priorities," said Maurice (Bud) Getty, superintendent of the parks department's Santa Monica Mountains District.
And the Runyon Canyon money had not been assured, because it was included in a bond issue that would have required ratification by voters statewide, Edmiston added.
However, Jerome C. Daniel, an environmentalist who organized the Santa Monica Mountains Leadership Coalition to lobby for funding, said the cuts leave him "pretty disappointed. We had hoped the governor would heed the cry from the public in this area, which the majority of lawmakers from this area supported. I can't think of anything in that package that didn't deserve state funds and I find this very disturbing."
And Edmiston said the security cuts "leave me in a state of shock."
The governor vetoed $100,000 for security because the money is included in a bill pending in the Assembly. However, he said in his budget address, "Administration support for (the measure) should not be construed by this action."
In April, Edmiston said, the conservancy contracted with the state Department of Fish and Game to respond to problems on conservancy land.
"If you call the LAPD or the Sheriff's Department, a call that somebody is dumping toxic wastes in a stream or chopping down a tree or hassling hikers on a trail will have to compete with all of the other calls they have to handle," Edmiston said. "And they are not trained in enforcing environmental law."
Fish and Game wardens are normally required to respond only to hunting and fishing violations. "What we were buying is a certain amount of time from each one of the wardens in the area," Edmiston said.
As a result, "the number of incident reports has gone down drastically," Edmiston said. The conservancy office received 20 to 30 calls each month during the winter. Though the volume usually goes up as temperatures rise and park use increases, the monthly number has gone down by 30% since the contract took effect, Edmiston said.
The conservancy identified reductions in three major complaint categories: reports of firearms being discharged on parkland, dumping at Mulholland Crest near Topanga State Park and after-hours trespassing on conservancy land.
The wardens "made a real effort at high profile in a number of our areas, especially along the Mulholland corridor," which follows the mountain ridge from Griffith Park to the Ventura County line, Edmiston said.
The contract with Fish and Game expires July 1.
"Unfortunately, state law prohibits us from closing off access to public lands for any reason but fire, flood or mud slide danger, so there isn't much we'll be able to do about it," Edmiston said.
The governor's budget also cut $1 million for the conservancy's nonprofit grants program, which would have come from the sale of vanity license plates. Kirk Stewart, an analyst in the governor's Finance Department, explained that the state Resources Agency, which normally screens such requests, was never asked to review the proposed allocation. "It's a large lump-sum appropriation that never had any review," Stewart said.
The program provides matching funds to nonprofit groups for parks improvement. This year, for example, the conservancy used the grant money to help pay for volunteer mounted patrols on trails in Malibu's Zuma Canyon and a restroom at the Adamson House at Malibu Lagoon State Beach.