As I’ve written about before, it looks as though El Morro Trailer Park
tenants in Crystal Cove State Park will continue to enjoy their
under-market rents until Dec. 31, 2004, but no longer. Assemblyman John
Campbell has agreed to withdraw Assembly Bill 2190, which would extend El
Morro leases for at least five additional years and increase the rents to
market rates, earmarking these funds for rehabilitation of the cottages
in the historic district of our publicly owned coastal park.
The Friends of the Irvine Coast, upon learning that El Morro Village
(formerly El Morro Investments Inc.) had hired a lawyer, a lobbyist and a
public relations consultant and was approaching Orange County legislators
to introduce a bill to extend their stay, promptly sounded the alarm to
concerned citizens and organizations.
In addition to the “Friends,” public-spirited groups such as the
Laguna Greenbelt, Village Laguna, Laguna North Neighborhood Assn. and the
Sierra Club Conservation Committee not only took early and strong board
positions, but encouraged their members to write, call or e-mail decision
makers on this issue. Campbell and the Water Parks and Wildlife Committee
became the focus of the Friends’ letter-writing campaign at the Women
For: Orange County organization’s “Great American Write-In” held at UCI
on March 13.
This united storm of protest, boosted by the strong voter approval of
Park Bond 2002 (Proposition 40) and a concerted lobbying effort in
Sacramento, is credited with moving John Campbell, 70th Assembly District
representative, to withdraw his “funding proposal for Crystal Cove
Historic District” in order “to see the cottages restored” weeks before
its first legislative committee hearing. He will urge Gov. Gray Davis to
allocate Proposition 40 monies in the May budget revision and may
reintroduce this bill if funding lags.
For El Morro Canyon and its sandy beach, with funding already
appropriated and park department plans scheduled for implementation
January 1, 2005, there exists no reason to postpone its intended
The Parks Department will receive generous funding from Proposition 40
and continues to insist that Crystal Cove Historic District
rehabilitation is, if not its top priority, among the top projects for
park implementation. The California Coastal Conservancy, source of the
$2-million buyout for resort concessionaire Michael Freed, will also
administer its portion of Proposition 40 funds.
Once again, it has been demonstrated that strong organized groups and
determined citizen involvement in a united effort can be effective in
securing a desired public benefit. The credit for ‘nipping in the bud’
this legislation initiated by a few to benefit their special interest
belongs to the many citizens who took the time to write letters, return
postcards, send e-mails and make phone calls opposing the “cottage
restoration funding” proposal.
The long-awaited final draft of the California State Parks’ “Public
Use Plan for the Historic District” promised by “early summer” will
require the same careful attention and response before it is scheduled
for approval by the State Parks Commission and then Coastal Commission.
* ED MERRILEES serves on the board of the Friends of the Irvine Coast.