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NUDIST CAMP PULLS UP STAKES FROM TOPANGA.

Byline: Jordan Smith Staff Writer

TOPANGA CANYON - After 32 years of letting it all hang out, the famed Elysium Fields nudist resort is moving, sparking concerns from neighbors about the future of the nine-acre tract nestled against Topanga State Park.

While the relationship between neighbors and nudists hasn't always been congenial, it warmed over the years, and many people consider the possible development of the parcel even more risque.

``Who knows what might happen,'' said Peter Radon, who lives just south of Elysium Fields. ``They could subdivide it or yuppie it up. I'd rather have these people. If you take everything that was good about the 1960s and distill it, (Elysium Fields) is what you get.''

According to the Los Angeles County zoning permit office, new owners of the property would have only a few optional uses of the property without triggering a governmental review.

A similar resort or health spa could take over the site but would have to continue to comply with the restrictions and conditions outlined in Elysium's permit, said Mark Child of the county zoning permit department.

Alternately, a new owner could maintain the property as a single residence, a use consistent with the current zoning. But trying to subdivide and develop the property would be difficult, Child said.

``You need approval to subdivide, and it is a lengthy and involved process,'' he said. ``It's not uncommon for the process to take over a decade. There are stiff environmental reviews, and public opposition is always taken into account.''

Initial public opposition nearly killed Elysium.

Former set designer Ed Lange opened the resort in 1967, upsetting neighbors who were wary of living next to a clothing-optional family resort.

Los Angeles County zoning officials went so far as to change zoning ordinances to preclude the camp from operating on the site. But in 1993, after 25 years of battling the zoning board and slowly cultivating inroads with the neighbors, Elysium was issued a conditional-use permit for the Topanga hideaway.

The permit spells out several operational restrictions: traffic and fire controls on the steep, windy and narrow road up to camp, and evening curfews designed to curb noise.

After a county compliance review early this year, the permit was renewed through 2015.

While none of this now matters for the resort - the permit stays with the property and not the business on it, and wherever Elysium goes it will have to start the permit process over again - it does matter for whoever the new owner turns out to be.

When Lange died in 1995, he left the property and resort to daughters Lisa and Dana. Last year, the daughters resigned their positions on the resort's board of directors, and they announced their intention to sell the parcel earlier this year.

Lisa Lange could not be reached, and Dana Lange declined to comment on the sale of the Elysium property.

``We would prefer to stay here,'' said Betty Meltzer, who manages the 700-member resort and now runs its board of directors. ``We're currently looking at other sites. Our members are concerned but supportive.''

Meltzer and the resort's board bid $1.1 million for the property - that's the figure of last year's tax assessment - but the Lange sisters rejected the offer. They are asking $2.6 million. Unfortunately, the resort doesn't have the equity to up its bid, Meltzer said.

The Fred Sands real estate agency handling the property said the Elysium land is now in escrow, but an official declined to identify the buyer or plans for the parcel.

Elysium staff and members said that although they hate to leave the property they fought so hard to keep, the reversal of fortune will not keep them down.

``It's hard to imagine this place being used for anything else,'' said member turned resort office manager Jef Scott. ``Ed Lange's ashes are scattered here - it's part of the energy here.''

Scott said he expects Elysium to find a new home for its members. ``We've lasted 32 years, and we're not going anywhere wherever we are.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo: Betty Meltzer, managing director of Elysium Fields nudist camp, said although the resort's board of directors would prefer to stay, it is looking for a new site. The board submitted a bid to the landowners, but it was not sufficient to meet the asking price.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 9, 2000
Words:726
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