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Group planning alternative to Crystal Cove development

The coalition would like to see an environmental center at the state park instead of proposed resort hotel project.

[Article from the Los Angeles Times 5-15-2000]

By Alex Coolman

A coalition of environmental groups is developing an alternative to the resort hotel project proposed for Crystal Cove State Park, a representative of the coalition said.

Laura Davick, founder of The Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove, said the group is fleshing out a proposal that could contest the project being planned by developer Crystal Cove Preservation Partners.

The point of the new effort, coalition members say, is to come up with an idea that will be more environmentally sensitive and more conducive to beach access than the resort proposal under consideration.

Crystal Cove Preservation Partners' plan, which has been in development since 1995, calls for more than $20 million in construction along the secluded beach, which is home to 46 ramshackle cottages.

The cottages would be renovated and available for overnight stays, and a new 100-seat restaurant and environmental interpretive center would be built on the parkland, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The development plan has been a major source of controversy among Crystal Cove residents and environmental activists in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach for five years.

"They're trying to posh it up," said Chris Bradley, an architect working with the alliance, of Crystal Cove Preservation Partners' plan. "It's not going to be the rustic, California beach community that we're trying to preserve."

The group--which includes members of Orange County Coastkeeper, the League for Coastal Protection and the Laguna Beach City Council--met last week at Laguna Beach City Hall to sketch out tentative ideas for its proposal and solicit community input.

Another outreach effort will be held Saturday at the Vision Fair, an event that will give Laguna Beach residents the chance to help form a plan for the city's next 30 years.

Specific details of the alternative plan are sketchy. Organizers say the proposals are changing based on community input.

While the plan leaned toward the creation of a sort of cultural center at Crystal Cove, Davick said it has evolved into something more like an environmental center that would be available to student researchers and the public.

Though Michael Freed, managing partner of Crystal Cove Preservation Partners, said he is interested in talking with the environmental groups about their concerns, he strongly disagreed with the contention that his company's development would fail to provide public access to the park.

"Public access is exactly what [our] project is all about," he said.

Bob Cates, chief of the environmental design division of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, said he had not heard anything about alternate proposals for Crystal Cove. Moreover, Cates noted, the department was expecting to receive final plans from Crystal Cove Preservation Partners "within the next week."

When that happens, Cates said, the department will hold public meetings before the project goes to the state Parks and Recreation Commission for final approval. The California Coastal Commission would also have to sign off on the plan, he said.

Before that happens, Davick says her group hopes to bring an alternative voice into the debate.

"This is by no means a done deal," she said.


[Clips from original newspaper articles appear here for educational purposes and purposes of comment, rather than commercial purposes. They are reprinted under the fair use doctrine of international copyright law. Copyright Los Angeles Times]



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