Crystal Cove Tenants Agree to Leave Cottages by July 8

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After decades of doubt, the residents of the cottages that dot the beach at Crystal Cove State Park have agreed to move out by July 8. The eviction date was hammered out in a deal signed Tuesday by the state Department of Parks and Recreation and the Crystal Cove Residents Assn.

"It's the end of one era and hopefully the beginning of another one," state parks director Rusty Areias said. "It brings an end to the legal nonsense, and [allows] one final Fourth of July at Crystal Cove for the tenants."

The 46 cottages are on the National Register of Historic Places as the last intact example of a 1920s Southern California beach colony. State officials have scrapped plans to turn the cottages into a pricey resort but said they still need to evict the tenants to fix leaking septic tanks and to allow better public access to the picturesque cove.

Many families have lived in the cottages or used them for vacation getaways for generations, and they have weathered threats of eviction before.

But this time, everyone concedes that their idyllic life by the sparkling sea is over.

"It's an emotional, dramatic time," said Al Willinger, a residents association board member who signed the pact. "So many fond memories have been built up over the decades."

Cottage tenants were served notices in February requiring them to leave by March 11, but Areias said the state agreed to the four-month reprieve to allow tenants to find new homes and to end on a conciliatory note.

Tenants also agreed to allow state parks officials into their cottages to investigate safety and infrastructure issues, and the residents association dropped a lawsuit against the state parks department.

The future of the cottages is unknown. On March 22, state parks officials will ask the California Coastal Conservancy for up to $2 million to buy developer Michael Freed out of the contract that would have turned the cottages into a resort and for $10 million to build a sewer system and make other improvements.

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