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Measure Includes Canyon Land Purchase : Conservancy’s Reign Extended to 1990

Times Staff Writer

Climaxing a 17-month struggle, Gov. George Deukmejian has signed into law a bill to extend the life of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy until 1990.

The bill, by Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), also earmarks $3 million for the conservancy to purchase 1,015 acres in a pristine Malibu-area canyon.

Without the extension, the agency would have gone out of business next July.

On Friday, Davis applauded Deukmejian’s action, which took place late Thursday, saying: “While the governor was initially suspect of this agency, he’s become a born-again supporter. He has come through time and time again for the conservancy.”

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Since it was established by the Legislature in 1979, the conservancy has spent $26 million to buy 4,600 acres of open space in the foothills bordering the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles, according to Joseph T. Edmiston, the conservancy’s executive director.

Supported by City Council

In 1981, the Legislature extended the conservancy’s life until July, 1986.

Davis’ proposal this year to keep the conservancy alive hit a snag after a representative of Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich attempted to limit the extension to two years instead of the four Davis had proposed.

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The attempt failed in an Assembly committee in April and the conservancy appeared to have smooth sailing, especially since the bill was supported by the Los Angeles City Council and an array of community groups in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Also, in June the governor approved $9.5 million in conservancy acquisition funds in the state budget.

However, the governor dealt the agency a setback by vetoing $6 million in the budget to buy the “ecologically significant” Lower Zuma Canyon, about two miles north of Point Dume in Malibu.

That action prompted conservancy supporters in the Legislature to revise the Davis bill. They made Lower Zuma Canyon a top priority and shifted $3 million from other projects to acquire the land.

Fear of Development

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They also sought another $3 million from the state in Davis’ bill and sought to persuade the Deukmejian Administration to support the appropriation.

The conservancy has been afraid that the canyon would be developed by its owners, members of the Adamson family. They are descendants of the Rindge family, which obtained the land in 1890.

The purchase has been the top priority of the National Park Service, which has had an option to buy the land, but no funds.

Under the Davis bill, the National Park Service must assure the conservancy that the state will be reimbursed for the purchase within four years. Otherwise, the state must sell the land on the open market.

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However, after the Davis bill was amended, several senators questioned how many more times the Legislature would be asked to breathe new life into the conservancy, which was not originally meant to be a permanent agency.

Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), who carried the bill in the Senate, responded during the floor debate several weeks ago that he could offer no guarantees that the agency would go out of business in 1990.


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