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Westside Digest

Mountains Area : Funds for Land Acquisition

June 17, 1993

A key House subcommittee Tuesday recommended $4 million for land acquisition in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in the 1994 fiscal year--significantly less money than the urban park has received in recent years.

The action by the appropriations subcommittee on interior is a crucial first step in the annual appropriations process. The full House follows the panel's lead; the Senate, meanwhile, has usually been less generous in the sums that it earmarks for park purchases.

The news was distressing for local park officials who are racing against the clock to conclude the purchase of the scenic 314-acre Paramount Ranch in Agoura. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a state agency that buys and manages land in the mountains, has agreed to acquire the much-coveted ranch from Union Federal Savings Bank but still owes the bank $10 million, which it was to pay off by June 30 or face possible foreclosure.

"We're going to have to re-evaluate what the situation is" with the bank, said Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy's executive director. "We had hoped we would be in a position that the House had done something fairly good and it would only be a matter of extending" the terms by several months.

Edmiston said he hopes the Senate will be more generous, particularly with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein now on the Appropriations Committee. He said he would urge Feinstein and fellow California Sen. Barbara Boxer to go to bat for the recreation area at a time when there are many willing sellers.

Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills), the Santa Monicas' leading congressional ally, sought Tuesday to put the $4-million figure in a positive light. Although he had sought $20 million from the subcommittee on interior, he maintained that "in this budget climate, any amount--no matter how modest--is a victory."

Last year, the recreation area received $13.2 million. It has averaged $10.1 million in appropriations annually over the past 14 years.

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