EL MORRO -- The eviction process underway at the El Morro Village mobile home park would be halted and residents would be allowed to stay up to 30 more years under two alternate bills introduced Thursday by Newport Beach Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.
The land where the mobile home park sits was purchased by the state in 1979 to be turned into a park, but residents were given 20-year leases. A five-year extension ended last year, beginning the eviction process. advertisement
The state Department of Parks and Recreation plans to spend $12 million to raze the mobile home park and convert the site to a public park, with a 60-unit campground, a 200-space parking lot with access to the beach and nature trails, and restrooms and a lifeguard tower on the beach.
Either of DeVore's bills could stop those plans. Both would prevent the state from spending bond money to create park facilities, and both would raise El Morro Village rents to market rate, earning the state an estimated $3.2 million a year.
The difference in the two bills is where the money would go. One would give residents a 30-year lease in exchange for a $50-million payment to go to the state's budget deficit, estimated at more than $8 billion.
Under the other bill, residents could get a lease of up to 30 years, and the rent money would go to the state Parks Department to help pay for a $466-million backlog of park maintenance work.
Spending the money now to develop park facilities that were planned when the state had a financial surplus is "fiscal madness," said DeVore, who is in his first months in office.
"We have a tremendous problem in our state with a budgetary imbalance, and to proceed on a 23-year-old plan as if the financial conditions are the same today as they were 23 years ago is irresponsible," he said.
State parks officials have not taken an official position on the bills yet, but funding for the El Morro project was included in the governor's budget and is a "top priority for the department," said Mike Tope, superintendent of the state parks' Orange Coast District.
"This was all agreed to back when the state purchased the property," he said. "We're not meeting demand now with the existing parks that we have."
El Morro Community Assn. President Jeanette Miller could not be reached for comment.
Proponents of the park conversion aren't likely to welcome the bills, and Fern Pirkle certainly doesn't. She spearheaded efforts that led to the creation of Crystal Cove State Park.
"Definitely it's against the best interests of the people of California and against the best interests of most of Mr. DeVore's constituents, who I'm sure would like to be able to go to the beach there and would like to be able to spend the night camping there," Pirkle said.
If residents stay another 30 years, taxpayers who paid for the bonds the state used to buy Crystal Cove may never get to fully enjoy the park, she said. Pirkle doesn't expect the bills to have much state-level support, but DeVore is touting the bills' co-author, Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The reason there are two bills is to provoke discussion in the legislature and the governor's administration, DeVore said.
"I'm showing what you can do with this money," he said.
* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She may be reached at (714) 966-4626 or by e-mail at alicia.robinson @latimes.com.
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