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Crystal Cove Residents Receive Eviction Notices From State

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Residents of the historic Crystal Cove State Park cottages on Monday began receiving long-dreaded eviction notices from the state Department of Parks.

The certified letters to the 39 remaining residents of the beachfront homes were “short and sweet,” said Jim Thobe, 75, a resident for 31 years.

He and the others are being asked to leave within 30 days of receiving the notice.

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But Thobe said he’s not packing just yet. He said residents will go to court, possibly today, to seek a temporary restraining order halting the evictions.

State officials have been trying to oust residents from the 1920s-era beach colony since 1979. But many of the tenants have always found a way to stave off the evictions. In 1996, for instance, the residents ignored an eviction notice, and the state eventually granted a two-year extension on their lease.

State water board officials suspect that raw sewage is seeping into the waters off Crystal Cove from the cottages’ septic tanks and have ordered state parks officials to replace the sewage system within two years. Parks officials say they can do that only by moving the tenants out of the structures.

But some residents and activists question the wisdom of evicting tenants before plans for a sewer system have been approved by all appropriate agencies.

Because of the Lincoln’s birthday holiday, state officials were not available for comment Monday. According to plans presented at a public meeting Jan. 18, eviction notices were not supposed to be issued until Thursday.

The debate over the use of the 46 cottages, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Placea, took an unexpected turn in the past week, when state parks officials announced they had dropped plans for a luxury resort proposed by developer Michael Freed.

That decision came after years of protests over the proposal and remains contingent on negotiations between the state and Freed.

Park officials have asked Freed and his associates at Crystal Cove Preservation Partners to figure the cost of buying back the 60-year lease they signed with his company in 1997. The price could reach $2 million, said Roy Stearns, deputy director of communications for the parks department.

Even if the buyout doesn’t materialize, Stearns has said, it remains unlikely the resort will be built.

Paul Ramsey wonders, then, why there is a rush to evict him and other tenants, who pay a combined $480,000 in rent annually.

“It seems a little unrealistic acting in such haste,” he said.

Ramsey, who has used his cottage as a vacation home since 1968, said it would be safer to have reliable, rent-paying tenants in the cottages rather than leave them exposed to potential vandalism.

But Susan Jordan, a board member of the League of Coastal Protection who has actively lobbied for complete public access to Crystal Cove, said, “It’s distressing that [the tenants] might litigate. I feel for them, but they’ve been there way beyond when they should have.”

Despite Thobe’s determination to fight the eviction, he said he and his girlfriend, Pam Gardner, are prepared to say goodbye to the cottage they’ve shared for 21 years. But not their memories.

“Between us we’ve got six kids,” Thobe said. He remembers the kids learning to surf “in front of the house” and the potlucks and campfires, when he would tell the story of the “Ghost of Crystal Cove.”

Gardner wistfully recalled a recent 10th birthday party for her grandson Zachary Glazer, who told her later it was the best birthday party he’s ever had. He asked if he could come back next year and the year after that.

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Times staff writer Deborah Schoch contributed to this article.


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