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Environmental groups unite to fight Crystal Cove resort

Critics of a proposed development agree to set aside differences.

[Article from the The Orange County Register 1-31-2001]

The Orange County Register

CRYSTAL COVE -- Environmentalists who have been united in their opposition to a $35 million luxury resort in Crystal Cove State Park but fractured in their methods of fighting it agreed Tuesday to a unified front.

Laura Davick, founder of Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove and a resident of one of 46 historic cottages slated to be rehabilitated for the resort, will drop her push for an arts and environmental center on the site.

"We believe that no alternative to this project can be brought forward until the contract is terminated and the public process is begun,'' said Davick, who with heiress Joan Irvine Smith recently announced they were forming the nonprofit Crystal Cove Conservancy to fund their proposal.

The consensus was reached after meetings Friday and Tuesday at Irvine Smith's San Juan Capistrano ranch. Among those in attendance were members of the League for Coastal Protection, Orange County Coastkeepers, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The groups disagree on what to do about Crystal Cove, but agree they don't want the resort.

"I think people are beginning to work together,'' said Jean Watt, president of Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, Orange County. "That's super.''

The two meetings came on the heels of a contentious Jan. 18 meeting in Corona del Mar in which State Parks Director Rusty Areias and developer Michael Freed were shouted down by the 600-member audience as they tried to outline the proposal for the resort, which includes the renovated cottages, an interpretive center, a pool and a restaurant.

Areias said Tuesday that he recognizes the resort has intense opposition, but added that he is hamstrung by a state contract with Freed reached in 1997 during the administration of then-Gov. Pete Wilson.

"It's a difficult situation,'' Areias said. "I don't want to have to write a check for $1 million for breaking the contract.''

Freed, who is known for environmentally sensitive developments, could not be reached Tuesday.

Environmentalists and cottage residents have complained about the lack of public input on the project and the high cost for cottages - as much as $375 a night.

But Areias and Freed have countered that the project cost is high because the cottages are listed on the National Register for Historic Places and must be rehabilitated.

Freed had agreed to work with Davick and others to find the money to turn the development into a more modest retreat and to forgo his profits.

"Freed has been very open-minded about other alternatives, and I would not be surprised if there was some creative way to open all or part of this process to try to arrive at some consensus,'' Areias said.

But David Beckman, a senior attorney with the Los Angeles office of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the environmental groups are opposed to any resort.

"This is not the right project in the right place,'' he said. "Sometimes the most prudent course is simply to recognize that and to move on.''


[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 Orange County Register]

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