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State Plans to Renovate, Rent Historic Crystal Cove Cottages

Beach colony homes, which were to have been part of a pricey resort, will go for $100 a night in 2004. Formal approval is still needed.

October 16, 2002|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

The historic cottages at Crystal Cove State Park would be restored to their 1920s luster and opened to the public at discount prices under a plan unveiled Tuesday by the state Parks Department.

The cottages, once destined to become part of an upscale resort, will offer the public ocean views and seclusion for $100 a night. Some will be converted into dormitory-style houses whose rooms will cost $20 to $30 per night.

"This is not going to be a luxury experience," said Mike Tope, Orange Coast district superintendent for the state Parks Department. "This is going to be a very rustic Crystal Cove experience."

Officials said they hope to re-create the bohemian culture that existed at Crystal Cove before World War II, including creating facilities for artists.

Twenty to 25 of the 46 cottages -- forming one of the last intact beach colonies in Southern California -- will be prepared for summer 2004 rental.

Environmentalists hailed the plan, saying it's far better than earlier plans to make the cottages the center of a four-star resort that would include a restaurant, pool and other amenities.

Rooms at the resort would have cost $375 a night.

"It has been a very challenging process for state parks by trying to balance public access with resource protection, and trying to respond to the community," said Laura Davick of the Alliance to Save Crystal Cove, who applauded the plan.

"They should be commended for what they have put together."

That rustic experience, however, will be unique along the coast for its affordability and views. "There's nothing else like this in Southern California," Tope said.

The cottages, between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, have been the subject of a long battle.

They have been largely vacant since the longtime tenants who rented them from the state were evicted in July 2001.

Some families had rented the inexpensive cottages for several generations, which afforded them a coveted lifestyle in one of California's most picturesque locales.

The state evicted them so it could repair the cottages and tie them into the rest of Crystal Cove State Park.

Funding for the project will come from several sources. The Parks Department received a $2.8-million contribution from the California Coastal Commission.

Gov. Gray Davis set aside an additional $9 million from Proposition 40, the voter-approved bond measure that funneled $2.6 billion into park projects and environmental initiatives across the state.

The Parks Department said the price for the first phase of the improvements will be nearly $13 million.

The plan has to be approved by the Coastal Commission, but because its purpose is affordable public access, proponents say they are optimistic about quick consent.

"I think there can be no doubt that a plan that actually allows the public much greater access to the Historic District will be viewed favorably," by the commission said Susan Jordan, an environmentalist with the California Costal Protection Network.

The plan, which was developed in the last year, recommends:

Restoration of five cottages for use by state workers for security, landscaping, research, maintenance, a lifeguard substation and manager's residence.

A park interpretation and education program with a visitor orientation center, archive center, docent and park interpreter annex, multipurpose meeting and classroom facility, Crystal Cove house museum and underwater park education center.

Repairing boardwalks and stairways.

A cafe/snack bar and beach store concession.

Parks officials emphasized that the public will still have a voice in evaluating the plan.

"If the public thinks they're done now, they're wrong," said Roy Stearns, deputy director of the Parks Department. "They are a key part of what happens from here on in."

The public can review and comment on the plan until Dec. 2. Printed copies of the plan and environmental impact report are available at various locations in Southern California and Sacramento. For a list of the locations, contact the state Parks Department at (949) 492-0802.

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