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Stirling Goes to Bat for Santee Over Jail Location

Times Staff Writer

Infuriating San Diego County Supervisor George F. Bailey, Assemblyman Larry Stirling (R-San Diego) engineered a surprise legislative maneuver Thursday that could eliminate Santee as a potential site for a new county jail.

Taking a cue from an Orange County assemblyman who fashioned a similar provision to block a proposed jail near Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium, Stirling tacked a provision onto a jail bond allocation bill that gives city councils virtual veto power over plans for new county jails in their jurisdictions.

Santee Mayor Jack Doyle, who testified in favor of Stirling’s amendment during a hearing of the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Thursday, said the provision could “protect the property values and economic future” of the city’s ambitious redevelopment plan.

But Bailey, who saw the move as an overreaction and who resented the fact that no one discussed it with him beforehand, said he hoped the provision would either be removed before final passage or vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian.

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Although the Board of Supervisors in March ordered an environmental impact report for a 600-bed, $9.4-million temporary jail to be built adjacent to the Las Colinas women’s jail in Santee, Bailey said there are “10-to-1 odds against” a facility ever being built there.

Bailey, whose district represents Santee, said the county is studying putting the jail in other locations. But Bailey said he agreed to order an environmental report because county officials face court orders and state mandates to ease overcrowding at the county’s jails. He said he would have given a similar explanation and assurances to Stirling had he paid him the courtesy of a telephone call before Thursday’s surprise move.

Besides, Bailey said, it is inappropriate for the Legislature to get involved in a local land-use squabble.

“We can’t have people continually putting roadblocks in front of us,” Bailey said.

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Stirling proposed the provision as an amendment to a bill allocating money to counties from the $495-million bond issue approved Tuesday by 67% of California voters. The provision would ensure that no jail using bond revenues could be built in an incorporated area of San Diego or Los Angeles counties without approval of that city’s city council.

Moments earlier, the committee, which Stirling chairs, had approved an amendment proposed by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) stipulating that state money could not be spent on a new jail near Disneyland or Anaheim Stadium.

But while Robinson had been openly plotting a way to enter the Orange County jail controversy for weeks, Stirling’s move caught San Diego officials almost completely by surprise.

Patricia Gayman, the county’s lobbyist in Sacramento, said she only learned of Stirling’s plan to amend the jail allocation bill Thursday morning.

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Agreeing with Bailey that the restriction was inappropriate, Gayman said, “It is hard enough to site these things anyway . . . hardly anyone likes jails.”

Stirling initially sought to include only San Diego County, but Assemblywoman Gwen Moore added Los Angeles County to the amendment before the committee approved it, 6-1.

State Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), author of the bond allocation bill, did not strongly resist the amendments during the committee hearing, but said it was “a precedent we ought to be very careful about.”

However, Orange County supervisors received a confidential memo from one of their administrators late Thursday afternoon that said Presley would try and remove the amendments before final passage and that the governor’s office “has also indicated an inclination to veto the bill if the language stays in.”

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The Santee jail site has generated a barrage of protest. A community group claims to have gathered, in a single weekend, petitions opposing the site signed by about 18% of the city’s residents.


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