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CALIFORNIA ELECTIONS / GOVERNOR : Environment and Equality Get the Candidates’ Attention : Van de Kamp: Bolstered by highest ranking from conservation group, he promises more funding for Coastal Commission.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bolstered by a laudatory review of his environmental record, John K. Van de Kamp took an aerial tour of the Santa Monica Mountains on Tuesday and said that if elected governor he would increase funding to the California Coastal Commission to aid the agency’s battle against illegal developments.

Hoping to capitalize on a report by a conservation group that gave him the highest marks among the gubernatorial candidates, Van de Kamp viewed two allegedly illegal developments in the mountains along the Malibu coastline and vowed to crack down on those who have defied state building laws.

“Developers are waging an illegal war of attrition against this section of the California coast,” the Democratic candidate said at a press conference shortly after his helicopter touched down in Corral Canyon State Park in Malibu. “And the coast is losing.”

Van de Kamp proposed doubling the commission’s $9-million 1989-90 budget and advocated strengthening the agency’s enforcement powers so it could levy administrative fines and force violators to pay all legal costs. He said he also would increase the number of regional investigators to monitor developments along the state’s coast.

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“All that stands between the beach right over here and the bulldozer is the California Coastal Commission,” he said. “But their budgets are so small, and their powers so weak, that it’s good business for developers to ignore the law and chew up the coast.”

Van de Kamp toured and cited two developments in Malibu that are testing the limits of the Coastal Commission. Officials said developer Charles Tarrats illegally built a 2 1/2-mile-long road in Upper Ramirez Canyon and is being sued by the state for more than $500,000. In the other example, developer Sheldon Gordon received a permit to grade 40,000 cubic yards of earth and then allegedly graded more than 560,000 yards of dirt. Gordon faces a permit revocation hearing and possible fine next month.

The California League of Conservation Voters on Tuesday gave Van de Kamp the highest rating among gubernatorial candidates, citing his “leadership” on coastal protection, water quality and toxics regulation issues.

The group gave favorable marks in four areas to Dianne Feinstein, Van de Kamp’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, but said that she had not taken leadership roles in any category. Feinstein received mixed reviews in the areas of transportation, growth management and toxics.

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Republican candidate Sen. Pete Wilson was given high marks for leadership in the areas of coastal protection and air quality, but the league said Wilson had a mixed record on parks and wilderness, toxics and energy issues.

Although the league is a nonpartisan group, it screens candidates for office and campaigns for preferred candidates and ballot measures. Lucy Blake, the group’s executive director, said that the league would not endorse any candidate until after the June 5 primary, but Van de Kamp touted his high marks and criticized Feinstein’s environmental views.

“This report shows that she has not been involved heavily in state environmental issues,” Van de Kamp said.

Feinstein said she was not surprised by the league’s assessments, although she disagreed with the conclusions. She said the league’s questionnaire was “really skewed against me” because she was not a sitting elected official like Van de Kamp and Wilson, and as such has had no post from which to initiate or react to environmental issues.

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