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Better Lease Offered in Bid to Keep Arts Festival

May 04, 2000

LAGUNA BEACH — Threatened with the loss of its most distinctive annual event, the city has offered its most attractive lease deal ever to the directors of the Festival of Arts--who still may decide to leave town.

The City Council's offer late Tuesday came after years of squabbling over the future of the popular summertime art venue, and just a day before the rival city of San Clemente proposed a new round of negotiations to lure the festival away.

"We want to keep it in Laguna," Mayor Kathleen Blackburn said Wednesday.

Under the proposal unanimously approved by the council, Laguna Beach would surrender control over the $600,000 in rent the festival now pays for the city-owned facility under its existing lease.

The city also would forgo an annual lease payment the festival now pays into city's general fund, which amounted to $74,000 last year. In exchange, the festival must allow the city to rent the facility--the Tivoli Terrace restaurant, the park area and the Irvine Bowl--during the eight months the pageant is dormant.

The board is scheduled to meet May 16, but a special session could be called sooner to consider the offers, festival President Sherri M. Butterfield said.

Festival exhibitor Diane Reardon, who has been rallying the Laguna Beach City Council for months to present a better offer, said the lease proposal is one the festival board cannot turn down.

Reardon and many other exhibitors are at odds with the board of directors and want the festival to remain in Laguna, and some launched an effort to recall board members who support the move to San Clemente. A hearing on that recall is scheduled for May 24 in Orange County Superior Court.

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