Dozens voiced their opinions last week at a public hearing on the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa to express both concern and support for a plan to close the state-owned facility.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed transitioning developmentally disabled residents out of Fairview's institutional-style setting by 2021 and into smaller regional centers that are more integrated into communities. To that effort, Brown has budgeted $78.8 million this fiscal year toward the closure of Fairview and two similar facilities.
The governor's proposal, however, was met with considerable skepticism at Saturday's hearing.
Family members of Fairview residents expressed concerns that their loved ones wouldn't receive the high level of care that the center's staff have provided for decades.
Maggie Flavia, whose son has lived at Fairview since 1983, was unconvinced that he would receive such specialized care outside the center.
"Can the care at Fairview be duplicated out in the community? I say it's an impossibility," she said.
For some residents, Flavia added, leaving Fairview "is literally a matter of life and death."
Michael Fitzgerald told state officials his brother has lived at Fairview for most of his life. There, he lives a very regimented existence, and that works for him.
"To rip him away from this place is a discredit to our taxpayers, a discredit to the community," Fitzgerald said. "We should be ashamed of ourselves."
A representative with Disability Rights California, a Sacramento advocacy group, said it supports the closure, provided that the plan safely transitions Fairview's population into appropriate settings.
State officials have noted that should the center close, its residents will receive individualized care, and that no one will be moved until supportive services such as housing and medical care are in place.
City Councilwoman Sandy Genis and other Costa Mesa residents urged the state to reuse Fairview's land for veterans or homeless services.
Robert Sterling, who works at Estancia High School, said the land could be used for nonprofits, such as Save Our Youth, the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area and Girls Inc.
"We need more real estate for our students," he said.
Ray Ceragioli, president of Fairview Families and Friends, a nonprofit that supports the center, said his organization has not yet taken a stance on whether to close the center.
All of Saturday's comments will be summarized into a state Legislature plan submitted by April 1.
As of this month, the 114-acre developmental center is home to 244 people, some of whom cannot live independently and require round-the-clock care. Fairview employs 984 people.
It opened in 1959. Its population peaked in 1967 at 2,700 residents.