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Bills Would Keep Homes at El Morro

Assemblyman proposes extending mobile-unit leases 30 years. The deal would cost tenants $50 million upfront, plus higher rents.

[Article from the Los Angeles Times 2-12-2005]


Even as the state is trying to evict residents of the El Morro Village mobile home park to allow development of a public beachfront park, a legislator has proposed extending tenant leases for 30 years.

The extension would cost the tenants collectively $50 million in a lump-sum payment, plus an increase in monthly rents that might triple what they currently pay at the park, near Laguna Beach. The revenue, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) said, is needed to pay down the state's debt.

The freshman lawmaker said he introduced the legislation Thursday because he considered a state Department of Parks and Recreation plan to spend $13 million to convert the aging oceanfront development into Crystal Cove State Park "fiscal insanity."

DeVore said he wants to let the residents stay and generate new revenue for the state.

El Morro's 32 acres can generate $1.3 million a year under his proposal, DeVore said, while allowing the state to defer the $13 million it would cost to remove an estimated 270 mobile homes. A state parks official said the department would analyze the proposal and make its recommendation soon.

Devore introduced two bills that offered different means to accomplish the same thing.

Under AB 328, tenants would be allowed 30-year lease extensions by paying $50 million and agreeing to rent increases at going market rates. Devore's second bill, AB 329, called for the $50-million payment and rents totaling $3.2 million annually, compared with the $1.2 million in total rent revenue currently paid annually.

The state, which has notified tenants that their leases expired Dec. 31, plans to convert the oceanfront development into Crystal Cove State Park with campgrounds, picnic grounds, an amphitheater and parking.

Some tenants owned their homes before the Irvine Co. sold the land to the state in 1979.

Many tenants at the time signed 20-year leases with the state and in 1999 were given a five-year extension. About 10% of the residents signed an agreement allowing them to stay until April 1 in exchange for paying $3,000 in advance to cover the cost of mobile-home removal and demolition, plus water and utility bills.

But residents have said that the state hasn't followed proper eviction procedures, and they have refused to leave.

Environmentalists and others have urged the state to speed up the evictions and remove the mobile homes so the public can use the picturesque area.

Residents have argued that the public can now park inside El Morro and walk through an underpass beneath Coast Highway to the beach.

The tenants' leases have expired and the land belongs to the public, said Ken Kramer, superintendent of Crystal Cove State Park.

As to DeVore's proposed legislation, Kramer said the state parks legislative staff is reviewing the bills and the department will make a recommendation to the governor as soon as possible.

"We're on track, and we're moving forward with the plan and it's already been fully funded for the 2004-05 budget," Kramer 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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