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Governor Vetoes Bill for $6-Million Canyon Purchase : Funds Survive for CSUN Building, Study of Indian Artifacts Museum

Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian on Friday vetoed funds for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy’s proposed purchase of a pristine, 973-acre canyon that the conservancy fears could be sold to private developers if the state does not act quickly.

The deletion of the $6 million to buy the “ecologically significant” Lower Zuma Canyon came as the governor blue-penciled a total of $501 million from the 1985-1986 state budget.

The conservancy, empowered by the state to buy land in the Santa Monica Mountains to preserve open space, fared better in some of its other acquisition projects, however. About $9.5 million in conservancy acquisition funds remained in the $34.8-billion state spending package.

And the governor kept in monies for two San Fernando Valley capital projects, $827,000 toward a science building for California State University, Northridge, and $50,000 for a feasibility study on a proposed museum to house Indian artifacts found in Encino.

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But Deukmejian in his veto message said he felt the $6 million the Legislature had set aside for Lower Zuma Canyon “is needed for higher priority projects.”

Sought After for Years

The canyon, which lies north of Point Dume in Malibu and about two miles inland, has been sought after for years by the National Park Service, which has not had the funds to buy it. The conservancy’s territory also includes the hills above the San Fernando and Conejo valleys and Las Virgenes. It would have bought the property with the understanding that the federal agency would have in turn purchased it from the conservancy when and if the money became available within four years.

The National Park Service has made the acquisition of Lower Zuma Canyon--which its officials say has “unequaled recreation opportunities"--its highest priority. It is the only coastal canyon left in its pristine state in Los Angeles County. It is one of about 20 sites that Los Angeles County has designated as ecologically significant.

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Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) who pushed for the conservancy acquisitions, said he was surprised the governor vetoed “an extremely important purchase.”

‘Might Be Lost Forever’

“If we don’t seize the opportunity, it might be lost forever as a park,” Davis said.

The canyon is owned by the Adamson family, who are descendants of the Rindge family, which obtained the land in 1890. Alfred Edgerton, director of legal services for the Adamson Cos., has said that there has been thought of putting a golf course and hotel on the panoramic site.

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The federal agency has an option to buy the land until the end of the year. “If it doesn’t get bought this year, Mr. Adamson has indicated he will get into development,” said Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy’s executive director.

Edmiston said Friday that he accepted most of the responsibility for the governor’s veto. In selling the idea, he said, too much emphasis had been placed on the fact that the conservancy would have sold the property in four years if the federal government could not come up with the money for it. He said he did not adequately convey the importance of preserving the unspoiled beauty.

“We’re out in the mountains daily; we assume everyone else knows how beautiful it is,” Edmiston said.

Apparent Hesitancy

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The director said that there apparently was some hesitancy to help the federal government. He said, however, that the conservancy would have bought the land even if the federal agency didn’t want it.

Davis and Edmiston said they hope something can be worked out with the governor so the land can be purchased. Davis said he would find out why the governor vetoed the bill with the hope of tailoring a new acquisition bill acceptable to Deukmejian.

Meanwhile, officials at CSUN were ecstatic when they learned their science building had survived the governor’s vetoes.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am after nine years of struggle,” said Dorena Knepper, director of government and administrative affairs, who extended much of the credit to Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda). “He was like a dog with a bone. His efforts, I think, turned the final corner for us.”

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The building is needed because the increasing popularity of science programs and the technological advances of the discipline have made the present facility obsolete and inadequate, said Charles Manley, the university’s director of facilities, planning and management.

Because of overcrowding, some science classes are held in the engineering building, which has kept the engineering program from expanding. Also, some professors had to tailor their science courses to exclude laboratories because there is not enough lab space. The new building, which will house upper-division laboratories, will solve both of those problems.

The money approved this year is for blueprints for the new building, which could open by early 1988.

The feasibility study of an Indian artifacts museum survived the budget ax despite the governor’s veto of two other Los Angeles museum proposals. A pet project of Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), the study will look at the prospects for creation of a museum to display the Indian artifacts found at the Lost Village of Encino along Ventura Boulevard.

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Visited Governor

Robbins said he and Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) visited the governor to extract a promise from him that he would approve the funding for the Valley project.

The Indian project has not been without its controversies. After the artifacts were excavated, Robbins sought $8 million to purchase about three acres next to Los Encinos Park and another $3 million to preserve the artifacts and design plans for a museum. Yet the state Department of Parks and Recreation thought the move was too hasty and suggested that a determination should be made on how significant the collection is and who should be the custodian.

Robbins, who has a bill pending that would allocate $975,000 for the preservation and cataloguing of the artifacts, said he now believes the entire museum project can be accomplished for $5 million. “We want something practical,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a palace.”

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