If nothing else, Tom and Pat Randa are persistent.
Whatever their neighbors may say about them--the words greedy and scheming come up with some frequency--no one doubts that the Randas are determined to get what they want: $1.6 million for their property near Malibu Lake, even if it means paving a mile-long road through Malibu Creek State Park.
The Randas built a stone house as their dream home. But the house and the road have turned into a nightmare--not only for the Randas, but also for their neighbors in Malibu Lake and officials in the state Department of Parks and Recreation.
State parks officials maintain that the Randas have no right to pave the road, now a dirt trail that begins at Lookout Drive and Sioux Trail. Popular with hikers, equestrians and mountain bicyclists, it cuts through the northwest corner of the park near Malibu Lake. Since the road is on state land, the Randas have been told that they need state approval for any changes.
But the Randas say they have every right to do as they please with the road because they acquired a right of way before the park was formed, and they say they are prepared to pave with or without the consent of state parks officials or the blessings of their neighbors.
Neighbors are irked because they say the paving would ruin their favorite hiking and riding area, but also they fear that paving the road would pave the way for more development in their overdeveloped community.
"This is a park," said Kimon Bellas, who lives on Lookout Drive only a few hundred feet from where the Randas want to start paving. "It is supposed to be a sanctuary. This sets a horrible precedent."
And so the fight over Lookout Drive is another round in a longstanding feud between the Randas and their neighbors and state park officials. At the heart of the dispute is the Randas' claim that state parks officials have gone out of their way to make it difficult for the Randas to develop their property, which abuts the state park.
"I think they have a personal vendetta against me and my husband," Pat Randa said.
State parks officials deny the charge. But the Randas, who have lobbied statewide for the rights of property owners, have repeated it over and over since the state park became their neighbor in 1981.
They complain that they have been unable to develop their five-acre lot without headaches and holdups caused by state parks officials who want the Randa property. All they want to do now, they say, is pave the road to make it easier to get rid of the house. Their asking price: $1.6 million.
State parks officials make no secret that they would like to buy the Randas out and end the tempestuous relationship, which began more than a decade ago.
The Randas bought their lot in 1978 for $5,000. Three years later, Malibu Creek State Park was formed. The Randa property is just outside the park boundary, and the Randas maintained an easement, a right of way, on a dirt road through the park. The road is the only access to the Randa property and in wet weather it is difficult to travel.
"All I want to do is pave my road . . . and get on with my life," Randa said in a telephone interview from her home in Sonoma County. The Randas have never lived in the Malibu Lake house.
But some park and Los Angeles County officials speculated privately that the threat of building the road is only a ploy to force the state into buying out the Randas. The specter of pavement through the state park indeed raises the hackles of officials and neighbors.
Dan Preece, state park deputy regional director, said the threat of a road "increases our interest in that parcel," adding that the "endangerment factor always accelerates the priority of a project." The Randa property has been on the state's priority list for acquisition for years, Preece said.
In fact, state parks officials are exploring the possibility of having a synagogue and the YMCA in Pacific Palisades buy the Randa property and then donate it to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in exchange for the right to build on eight acres in Los Liones Canyon in Pacific Palisades.
The proposal is still in the early stages and no formal offer has been made to the state, but officials hope that the arrangement could end the dispute with the Randas.
Already, the Kehillath Israel Temple has had the Randa property appraised. The temple has not gotten the results of that appraisal, but Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben said the $1.6 million demanded by the Randas is "in our ballpark."
Randa denied that proposing the road was a tactic to force the state's hand. She said the state has had several opportunities to buy her property for less, but could not come up with the money.
"I can't help it if they like a loaded shotgun pointed at their face," Randa said, referring to state parks officials' perceived unwillingness to deal with her. "I can't help it if they are suicidal. It's just going to keep getting more and more expensive for them."
She said paving the road would make her property more attractive to buyers. "In my mind, the house is definitely going to be sold," she said. "I don't care to whom."