Two bond acts proposed for next June’s ballot would provide more than $100 million for expansion of parks in the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountains and neighboring hills and wild lands.
Although this windfall is far from assured, park advocates soon will be queuing up before the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy with wish lists of tracts they want purchased if the park bonds are approved.
On Monday in Agoura Hills, the conservancy will hold the first of six regional hearings for residents to nominate their favorite canyons, meadows and watersheds. The idea is to create a shopping list of projects that could be funded if either or both bond acts--one statewide and one for Los Angeles County--win passage next June.
The hearings also are intended to rally public support for the bond measures, said Belinda Faustinos, deputy director of the conservancy--a state agency that funds park expansion in the Santa Monica Mountains and neighboring mountains in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
“We have several hundred million dollars worth of projects in the Santa Monica Mountains zone,” Faustinos said. “We basically need both of those measures to address the funding gap.”
In addition to Agoura Hills, other hearings sites will be Santa Clarita, Thousand Oaks, Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Malibu.
The first hearing comes almost a year to the day after the defeat of two similar measures that would have funded a major expansion of mountain parks in the Santa Monica Mountains and neighboring ranges.
This time around, however, park supporters are hoping a change in the rules and more favorable political circumstances will produce a different outcome.
The first of the two proposals--the $628-million California Heritage Lands Act--is part of Gov. Pete Wilson’s legislative program. The state bond act defeated last November, Proposition 149, was opposed by Wilson’s predecessor, George Deukmejian.
The Wilson proposal--which needs approval from the Legislature and then a simple majority vote at the polls--includes $48 million for the conservancy. However, $30 million that the conservancy is due to receive from a prior bond act may count against the $48-million total. The conservancy and governor’s office are negotiating over how much the agency would receive from the measure.
In any event, the Wilson proposal could mean even more than $48 million for the local mountains. That’s because $300 million of the $628 million is earmarked for preservation of native forests. Along with redwood groves in Northern California, local woodlands would also qualify for funding, including oak savannas in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills and the densely forested northern slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains, site of a proposed Santa Clarita Woodlands State Park.
The second proposal--dubbed the Los Angeles County Park, Beach and Recreation Act of 1992--would be nearly identical to the $817-million county ballot measure that also was defeated last November. A key difference, however, is that the new proposal would need only a majority, instead of a two-thirds vote, to pass--a change in the rules that may allow it to pass.
The new measure would include about $800 million, with about $75 million for the conservancy.
Fifty-seven percent of voters favored the original bond act, which was intended to create new wild land preserves, acquire and improve municipal and county beaches and parks and refurbish such cultural attractions as the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood Bowl.
A simple majority would be needed to pass the new measure, which would create a regional park district with the same boundaries as the county. Under state laws governing such special benefit districts, bonds would be repaid by a per-parcel assessment rather than one based on the value of each property.
According to preliminary estimates, the average property owner would pay $12 to $15 per year for 20 years to fund the bonds, said Esther Feldman, a key strategist for the measure and director of special projects for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, a branch of the conservancy.
County supervisors early next year are expected to put the measure on the June ballot.
In the meantime, local conservation groups are hoping to maneuver their pet projects to the top of the shopping list. One such organization--the Santa Clarita Valley Canyons Preservation Committee--is pushing acquisition of about 1,000 acres of Whitney Canyon and adjacent lands southeast of Santa Clarita.
The lands would buffer the Placerita Canyon Nature Center against private development and serve as a gateway into the San Gabriel Mountains.
“It’s certainly a popular idea up here,” said Karen Pearson-Hall, vice president of the committee.
Hearings on Parkland
The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy has scheduled six public hearings to update its long-range land-acquisition plans. Each hearing is scheduled for 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Those wishing to nominate tracts for purchase by the conservancy can obtain nomination forms by calling the agency at (213) 456-5046.
* Monday, Ramada Hotel, 30100 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills. For projects in Agoura, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Westlake Village and unincorporated areas of Ventura County.
* Nov. 18, Santa Clarita Historical Society, 24107 San Fernando Road, Santa Clarita. For Santa Clarita and northwestern San Fernando Valley.
* Dec. 2, AAF Rose Bowl Aquatic Center, 360 Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena. For eastern rim of the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Sierra Madre.
* Dec. 16, East Valley Sheriff’s Station, 2101 Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. For Simi Valley, Moorpark, Santa Susana Knolls.
* Jan. 6, William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom, 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills. For eastern Santa Monica Mountains, city of Los Angeles.
* Jan. 13, Webster Elementary School, 3602 Winter Canyon Road, Malibu. For Malibu, Calabasas, western Santa Monica Mountains.