The state Parks Department has rejected an assemblyman's proposal to extend the leases and raise the rents of residents at El Morro Village to pay for restoration of the nearby historic cottage district in Crystal Cove State Park.
Assemblyman John Campbell (R-Irvine) had proposed in October extending the leases at the oceanfront village between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach for 10 more years while doubling the rents.
Renovation of the historic district, considered the last intact example of a 1920s-era Southern California beach colony, could cost as much as $15 million, said state parks spokesman Roy Stearns. Campbell had said the weakened economy and cuts in Gov. Gray Davis' budget could stall restoration of the cottages for years. He saw the lease extension and higher rents as a way to hasten the process.
"It seems like a solution designed primarily to keep those El Morro residents right where they are for another 10 years," Stearns said.
Rusty Areias, director of the Parks Department, said: "Extensions won by the renters have kept them living in a state park for . . . 20 years. How long should the public wait to watch the sunset from an El Morro campsite?"
Stearns added that "there are other places we can look" for funds, including possible special legislation, the California Coastal Conservancy "and others who have said there are money possibilities to help."
El Morro's 294 tenants pay $300 to $700 a month to rent their spaces at one of Orange County's most picturesque spots.
Other state agencies and environmentalists have lined up against Campbell's proposal, saying all it would do is maintain public land as a private enclave for the privileged few lucky enough to own or rent a mobile home there.
"The sole reason I'm doing this is to fund Crystal Cove," Campbell said. "If we can find funding through another method, I'll drop this proposal."
The congressman said he has until late February before he has to introduce any legislation.
In the meantime, he said, "I'm pleased that the proposal is getting everyone to look under every rock to see where we might find money."
[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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