$18 Million for Mountain Parkland in Budget

Times Staff Writer

The $37.4-billion budget that the Legislature sent to Gov. George Deukmejian last week includes an estimated $18 million for about 3,200 acres of open space and parkland in the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains.

Nearly two-thirds of the $18 million would be channeled through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy open space in Thousand Oaks, Hollywood, Glendale and La Canada Flintridge.

The funds include $2 million toward purchase of the 746-acre Inter-Valley Ranch in Glendale at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains and $537,000 toward purchase of 40 acres of wilderness near Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge.

Inclusion of funds in the state budget hinges upon approval by the governor, who has until midnight, June 30, to sign the fiscal 1986-87 budget.

Also, funds for the Inter-Valley Ranch purchase are included in a proposed $95-million bond issue expected to be placed on the November ballot by the Legislature.

Other parts of the state spending package would provide $3.7 million for the state Department of Parks and Recreation to acquire 500 acres of mountain land in Malibu Canyon and another 136 acres at Malibu Creek State Park.

Roberts Ranch Purchase

Another $3 million would be set aside in anticipation of the state Coastal Conservancy giving top priority to the purchase of 345 acres of Roberts Ranch, west of Malibu.

When Deukmejian unveiled his budget in January, he included $1.2 million for the Malibu Creek State Park acquisition but excluded funds for the mountains conservancy to acquire open space.

Meanwhile, in what has become an annual drama about the amount of money to allocate for preserving open space ringing the Los Angeles Basin, legislators loaded the budget with a wide range of pet projects in the mountains.

That prompted Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge) to say: "I'm almost certain that some will be eliminated (by the governor). He will have to make decisions on the basis of highest priority and provide the most potential for recreational use."

Donna Lipper, a spokeswoman for the governor, said, "It's premature to say he's going to support one thing and not another."

Optimistic View

Joseph Edmiston, executive director of the mountains conservancy, is optimistic that the governor will support his agency's acquisitions because most of the money would be derived from the $95-million beach bond measure rather than from state general funds. The bond measure, which has been authorized by the Assembly, must still be approved by the Senate, Deukmejian and the voters.

"In terms of the bond funds, I don't see we're going to be getting a veto" from the governor, Edmiston contended. Some expenditures are designated in the budget as being dependent on passage of the bond issue.

The conservancy was set up in 1979 to act as an intermediary to help public agencies buy open space in easy reach of urban areas. About 8,000 acres have been purchased or obtained through donation.

Originally, it was regarded as the political preserve of Democratic legislators, but Edmiston, with the help of Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), has forged a bipartisan coalition to support conservancy acquisitions.

After an uphill fight last year, the Legislature extended for three years the life of the agency, which had been set to go out of business this year.

Edmiston first proposed spending about $5 million in the state budget year that begins July 1. But the governor omitted the funds as an austerity measure, prompting Edmiston again to stitch together the bipartisan coalition to support a variety of projects.

'Rather Potent Force'

Sen. Newton R. Russell (R-Glendale), who supports conservancy acquisitions in La Canada Flintridge and Glendale, said the agency "has become a rather potent force" as Edmiston has worked with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Edmiston listed the $5.8 million earmarked to purchase the 1,690-acre Circle X Ranch south of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County as his top priority in the budget approved by the Legislature. The land, now owned by the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, would be used as a public campground.

The money would be advanced by the state Coastal Conservancy, an Oakland-based agency designed to protect, preserve and acquire open space near the coast, to a joint powers agency operated by the mountains conservancy and the Conejo Recreation and Park District. The joint powers authority would be required to repay the loan within three years. Edmiston said he hopes the money will come from bond funds.

Edmiston said his second-highest priority among the projects in the budget is the acquisition of the remaining 345 acres at Roberts Ranch near Malibu for about $3 million. Edmiston said last year that the conservancy had already acquired 211 acres of the ranch in Solstice Canyon.

Under the budget approved by the Legislature, the Coastal Conservancy would be asked to give a high priority for the purchase of the land for beach-oriented recreational activities. Neal Fishman, the Coastal Conservancy's lobbyist, cautioned that the Roberts Ranch purchase is "by no means . . . guaranteed."

Descanso Gardens Site

Another project sought by Edmiston is the 40 acres southeast of Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge. The city has agreed to pay $179,000 of the $716,000 purchase price of the property, known as Cherry Canyon Phase 2 and owned by USC. A 55-acre park site in Cherry Canyon was acquired by the city last year.

Russell, who represents the area, said he will urge the governor to keep this appropriation in the budget because it would complete a "buffer zone" around the gardens.

Edmiston is less certain about the future of several other projects in the budget because they would rely on funds from the bond measure that he hopes will be placed on the November ballot.

Among these are:

The Inter-Valley Ranch in Glendale, with an estimated price tag of $4 million, half from the conservancy and half from the city of Glendale. The ranch, owned by Howard Bliss of Rancho Mirage, includes an area used for horse stables. It is along the Rim of the Valley Trail that runs from the Santa Monica Mountains to the San Gabriel Mountains. Glendale's share of the acquisition cost is included in its 1986-87 budget, scheduled to be adopted June 24.

An extension of as much as 40 acres of Hollywood's rustic Runyon Canyon for an estimated $2 million. In 1984, the city of Los Angeles, with the help of the conservancy, spent $5.16 million to buy 133 acres in the canyon, which was once owned by supermarket magnate G. Huntington Hartford. It is north of the intersection of Franklin and Sierra Bonita avenues.

The 270-acre site of the old Corriganville Western movie set, now known as Hopetown, in the Simi Valley for $2 million, half expected to come from the new bond act. Edmiston said the purchase would forestall a possible housing development on the land, owned by comedian Bob Hope but optioned to Griffin Homes for a housing development.

In addition, the spending plan sent to Deukmejian includes another $1 million for grants from the state's environmental license plate fund, which raises money for environmental projects.

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