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Crystal Cove Residents File Suit

Action Alleging State Violated Law Comes in Answer to Eviction Notices

[Article from the Los Angeles Times 2-14-2001]


Residents of the Crystal Cove State Park cottages who have received eviction notices from the state sued on Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court to prevent being ousted from the 1920s-era dwellings.

A lawyer representing the Crystal Cove Residents Assn. said California Department of Parks and Recreation officials had violated the California Environmental Quality Act and other statutes by evicting residents without first adopting a plan for reuse or maintenance of the historic cottages.

But Roy Stearns, deputy director of communications for the Parks Department, disagreed. "We have a plan. The 1982 General Plan is still in effect," he said.

That plan calls for repairs, upgrades and other renovations which officials have said could cost an estimated $32 million, but does not specifically outline the future use for the historic beach structures.

Last week, parks officials said they had dropped plans to allow a luxury resort there. But in a statement Tuesday, parks director Rusty Areias said Michael Freed, the developer who was awarded the 60-year contract to run a resort on the site, may still be involved in future plans there. Freed could not be reached for comment.

Deborah Rosenthal, a Costa Mesa attorney representing the residents association, said the Parks Department should have more than the initial stages of a plan in place before evicting the longtime tenants.

"Ordinarily, when you have a General Plan, you need to have a development plan and development approvals," she said.

The residents are also concerned that the picturesque but fragile cottages will be vandalized or damaged by the elements.

The cottages will "become historic, both literally and figuratively," said Al Willinger, a member of the board of the residents association.

But parks officials said both security and maintenance personnel will be posted there. Also, the state Office of Historic Preservation will monitor the process to ensure compliance with federal standards for historic preservation.

Jim Thobe, a 31-year Crystal Cove resident, noted that the state allowed six of the cottages that have been vacant for years to deteriorate.

"What kind of preservation is that?" he asked. The Parks Department mailed eviction notices to the tenants Friday, saying they must be out by March 15. The agency said it must take possession of the cottages to begin their conversion to public use.

Areias said that parks staff will first shut down and evaluate the cottages' aging septic tank system. The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality control board issued a cease and desist order in November to stop waste water discharges to pristine Crystal Cove.

Residents argue there is no proof that their septic tanks have contaminated the cove.

"If that turns out to be the case, environmentally, that's good news. But without digging them up and looking at them, you can't tell that," Stearns 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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