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Parks Group Seeking New Fund Sources

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Staggered by voter rejection of a massive bond issue that would have given it $76 million in yearned-for revenues, a state agency that buys parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains is studying new ways of raising money for itself, including a scaled-down bond initiative.

The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy decided earlier this week to spend $88,000 to pay three staff researchers for six months of exploring alternative ways of raising more cash.

The action followed the defeat last month of Proposition B, the biggest bond measure in county history. The $816-million initiative was designed to finance improvements to parks, beaches, museums and other public facilities throughout Los Angeles County. The bonds, which required two-thirds approval for passage, received only 57%.

About $76 million of the proceeds were earmarked for parkland acquisition by the conservancy. The agency, which played a major role in drafting and promoting the bond act, also would have been eligible for an additional $30 million designated for trail planning and other activities.

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“Our great hope was Proposition B, which would have carried us on and done incredible things,” conservancy Chairwoman Carole B. Stevens said. “It came so close to winning and it was heartbreaking to lose.”

In addition, the conservancy will not get $10 million set aside for it in a statewide bond issue, Proposition 149, which also went down to defeat in the Nov. 6 election.

Conservancy Executive Director Joseph T. Edmiston said the agency’s budget “is extremely tight” as a result of the two failed bond measures.

The conservancy’s biggest source of income next year, $10 million from a statewide bond issue that passed last June, is already reserved for buying land in Fryman Canyon in Studio City, Malibu’s Corral Canyon and Sage Ranch south of Simi Valley, Edmiston said.

“We basically have cleared out the cupboard and emptied the cookie jar and then . . . licked all the crumbs from the jar,” he said.

Conservancy officials had been counting on Proposition B to finance the purchase of a number of parcels that may now be snapped up for development, Edmiston said. Esther Feldman, a conservancy official who managed the campaign for Proposition B, said the conservancy is looking into the possibility of another bond issue--aimed only at Los Angeles city voters--to generate new funds. The measure would raise more than $200 million.


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