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Rifts showing in Crystal Cove fight

February 22, 2001

Paul Clinton

CRYSTAL COVE -- After banding together to stop plans for a luxury

resort at Crystal Cove State Park, environmentalists are beginning to

snipe at each other over how to take the next step.

With an invitation-only meeting set for Friday at heiress Joan Irvine

Smith's San Juan Capistrano ranch, some of those planning to attend are

saying an alternative to the resort should be hashed out in public

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instead of behind closed doors.

Among them is Sandy Genis, a co-founder of Friends of Harbors, Beaches

and Parks and a former Costa Mesa mayor.

Genis said Wednesday she is concerned the meeting could be viewed as

an attempt to craft a project without public input.

She also likened it to the secret deal California State Parks struck

with resort developer Michael Freed in 1997 to act as concessionaire for

a $375-a-night resort.

That contract, a controversial 60-year pact to operate the resort,

came as the state abandoned its 1982 general plan for Crystal Cove.

"If we do that, we're no better than those folks in Sacramento who

made their alternative behind closed doors," Genis said. "We did not come

together to subvert the public process. We came together to fight the

resort."

Genis said she also objects to public comments from Smith, who has

said the meeting would be a forum to "throw out some ideas on the table."

Reached Wednesday, Smith said the meeting was not an attempt to cut a

secret deal. It will be used as an opportunity to update activists about

the rapidly changing landscape of Crystal Cove's future, she said.

"This all has to go through the public process," Smith said. "In the

meantime, we just want to make sure nothing slips through the cracks."

Jeannette Merrilees of the Sierra Club was reluctant to prejudge

Friday's meeting.

"We need to push for public workshops," Merrilees said. "I don't know

what it's going to be. All I know is I've been invited to lunch."

Another of the meeting's organizers, Laura Davick, the founder of the

Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove, could not be reached for comment

Wednesday.

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