Hold off on evictions


    I thank your paper for its efforts to deliver an unbiased view.

    In last week’s article about our Lower Topanga community (“Lower Topanga tenants told to go”) there were two statements regarding the use of California taxpayers money which should be corrected.

    On the front page of the article, it says that “The ALC has optioned to buy the property for $43 million with the goal of donating it to State Parks.” The ALC in fact has no intention of donating the land but intends to sell the property to State Parks. If this deal went through, the State Parks Dept. would use the $40 million of taxpayers money raised by Prop. 12 last year to purchase the land.

    Although the ALC is set up as a non-profit conservancy, it would be better characterized as a real estate broker for the state.

    With an annual operating budget of $2 million, the head of the ALC, Harriet Burgess, says that if she does her job well, she turns a 25 percent profit (Seattle Times 10/29/98).

    The second statement is a quote by State Parks officials saying that “If the State Parks acquires the land with tenants then they become liable for relocation and then it (relocation costs) will be paid for with tax money.” This implies that if a private company like the ALC purchased the land, the state could avoid its obligations under relocation laws, including relocation costs. This is just not so – any time land is purchased for the state, whoever buys the land is responsible for complying with legal guidelines created by the government for exactly this set of circumstances.

    Further, we find it unconscionable that the first step in what is undoubtedly a long process would be to evict the tenants. We see what has happened at the foot of Topanga and PCH where a gas station used to reside on LAACO property. It has sat abandoned for months and is now the type of eyesore with gang graffiti and fences that we all moved here to Malibu to avoid in the first place.

    Is this to be the fate of our community while years of studies and plans are made? One does not have to look far to see that this process takes time.

    Up Topanga Canyon lies Trippet Ranch, sold to the state in 1970, it was not designated as a park until four years later, and the only change that happened there was the addition of a parking lot. Original residences remain with renters on the property to this day.

    In Crystal Cove, State Parks purchased land in 1976, but it wasn’t until 1982 that a park plan was even approved. In a similar economic climate to today, no funds were available to do anything and 25 years later, no park plan has yet to be implemented (the original tenants have remained on the land to this day).

    The tenants and businesses of this community are not against the idea of a state park in Lower Topanga. We occupy less then 3% of the acquisition and believe that there is a fair compromise where families and businesses, which have resided here for decades will not be evicted by the end of the year as threatened by the American Land Conservancy.

    Don Hassid

    Lower Topanga Community Association