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Fixing Crystal Cove, or Coddling Residents?

January 13, 2002

Re "A Solution for Crystal Cove," Commentary, Jan. 6:

Assemblyman John Campbell's proposal to "save" Crystal Cove by allowing mobile home residents to stay in El Morro is based on flawed reasoning and, worse, a disturbing disregard for the rights of Californians to have full access to their beaches. Crystal Cove and El Morro are state parks, and thus belong to all of the people, not just a privileged few who have managed to monopolize these areas and limit public access over the years.

Just as the state Parks Department found it was going against the will of the people in its plan to lease Crystal Cove to a developer, Campbell is trying to thwart the public by extending private leases at El Morro. This is not a "solution" for Crystal Cove, as he claims, but a coddling of special interests. I don't blame the renters for wanting to stay, but it's time for them to say thank you and move on.

Crystal Cove, in fact, has already been preserved, thanks to the efforts of local activists. There will be no resort. And even though the cottages have been declared a historic district (a designation sought by the residents in order to stay their eviction), this does not mean that all 46 cottages must be kept. Most of them are so ramshackle that they should be torn down.

I hope the department can find enough money to restore a few for administration and education, returning the rest of the beach to its natural form. As for El Morro, the trailer occupants should be required to leave by 2004 as the present contract requires.

Bette Anderson

Laguna Beach

*

I too have walked and run the beach at Crystal Cove for years, most recently with a group from the Sierra Club on a beach stroll. The fact Campbell cites, that "cottages ... have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979," is the cause of all this trouble. The solution: reverse the historic listing and get out of the $250,000-to-$400,000-per-cottage restoration cost. Sentimental values don't cut it here; the state doesn't have the funds.

As for the proposed hotel, the allowance of which was simply a vehicle to get more money to support this ill-conceived cottage restoration project, I'm especially glad that idea was thrown out the window. Only the wealthy could have afforded to stay in one of the hotel rooms for $400-plus per night. Alternatively, staying in a restored cottage would lose its luster after the guest learns there is no room service, or worse, the bar is too far for walking. And do not forget beach concessions with exclusive roped areas for hotel guests while humble citizens are relegated to the less attractive, less accessible areas (trash barrels and portable toilets provided, of course).

Further, the citizens of El Morro mobile home park should not live under the threat of increased rent as a source of restoration money. To destroy the active and pleasant community of El Morro, only to be replaced with a campground for itinerant citizens, is one of the cruelest proposals ever made.

Peri Tooker

Orange

*

For years, past residents and other supporters of Crystal Cove have suggested the idea of having the revenue of Crystal Cove State Park be used directly for its upkeep. Unfortunately, state politics and bureaucracy have created a massive "black hole" for those revenues known as the California State General Fund.

Between El Morro and Crystal Cove resident lease revenue, there always has been surplus to provide for restoration and improvement. Unfortunately, the Parks Department has not acted responsibly, and now they've kicked out one sure revenue source (the past residents) and have even less to fall back on. To me, it sounds as though the state's plan for restoration is a pipe dream.

May I suggest an addendum to Campbell's plan? Allow some residents back into the cottages for now (say 30 of the 46 cottages). These residents could be new or previous inhabitants. Charge a fair rate for their occupancy. Use the rental increases from El Morro and additional income from the 30 cottages and start the renovation now. When the first phase of cottages is done, focus on another set, but work it to keep some residents there to help pay for the costs and keep up what is already there.

Bob Von Der Ahe

Newport Beach

*

Campbell's idea to extend the leases at the El Morro mobile home park is not a good one and is terribly unfair to the vast majority of his constituents as well as the public of California.

We taxpayers paid the Irvine Co. $32.5 million for Crystal Cove State Park in 1978. At that time the people in the mobile homes were given very generous 20-year leases to adjust to the idea of having to leave. In 1999 they were given a five-year lease and now, as the time approaches for them to leave, they are using every means possible to stay on indefinitely, including disseminating misinformation and hiring a lobbyist and public relations firm.

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