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Background History

[Reproduced from a hand-out obtained at the Laguna Canyon Conservancy meeting 3-30-1998]

Twenty years have passed since Irvine Co. land was purchased with public funds in late 1970's, an era of rapid development and disappearing coastline, in a State effort to preserve and protect the outstanding, unique places for future generations of Californians. Parks insisted in negotiations with the Irvine Co. that the cottage area must be included along with the 3.25 miles of coastline and inland portions. At $33 million, it was then the most expensive Park in California history.

Given the California Parks commission's highest category (Park) and named for its historic cove, it became Crystal Cove State Park. The area known historically as "Crystal Cove" was listed on the National Register (1980) as Crystal Cove Historic District.

State Parks next undertook an exemplary public process in producing a General Plan for the Park and a "Public Use Plan" for the District (CCHD). It was approved by the Parks Commission and Coastal in 1982. The Public Use Plan called for infrastructure by the State, phased rehabilitation of cottages, and their adaptation for group, hostel, and family use.

Starting in 1978 when a Parks Director proposed that the Depart ment use fees generated by visitors to support the Department, both State Administration and Legislature favored increasing user fees and reducing Parks share of General Funds as a budget item. Major reorganization followed with staff and maintenance cutting, raids on highway and boating funds, creating a $20 million short fall which persisted until Gov. Wilson's surplus was applied (along with his 1997 tax break) with a promise that parks would soon become self sufficient. Parks Department began a search for revenue producing privatization opportunities within the system.

Some funding was voted after Plans for Crystal Cove were approved but implementation was shelved when tenants were granted long term leases and a recession economy brought deep budget cuts to Parks. The public waited, anticipating Park infrastructure and rehabilitated cottages per the 1982 Plans for all Californians.

The Request for Proposals noticed in late 1995 were expected to accomplish rehabilitation and mere rental management. Early in 1996, of two valid responses, a resort partnership was selected over a historic restoration firm and negotiations began. In July, 1996 special legislation titled "Crystal Cove"* was inserted in the 1996 budget bill authorizing Parks to contract with the resort group for an unprecedented 60 year occupation of the entire Historic District to the mean high tide for development, maintenance, and operation of the District "as a public facility."