New Campus, Parkland in Budget Sent to Governor

Times Staff Writers

San Fernando Valley legislators Thursday hailed the inclusion of about $34 million for a variety of local projects in the $37.4-billion state budget approved by the Legislature.

The projects in the spending plan sent to Gov. George Deukmejian range from building college classrooms and purchasing parkland to easing lines for drivers' licenses and caring for the elderly blind.

Mission College and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy were among the biggest winners. Valley lawmakers obtained $8.5 million to build a permanent campus for the 10-year-old college, which has been operating in rented storefronts. And the Legislature allocated about $9 million to buy parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains.

In January, when the governor released his 1986-1987 budget, it contained no money for the college construction or the mountain acquisition.

'Our Best' Year

Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys), who served as a member of the Assembly-Senate committee that ironed out differences over the budget, said: "In terms of budget appropriations, it's been our best" year.

Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), however, cautioned that the governor will "have to do a lot of blue-penciling" to achieve the $900-million reserve he has sought.

Deukmejian, who has until midnight June 30 to act on the 1986-87 budget, could eliminate any or all of the Valley projects.

The budget sent to the governor was also notable for what it did not contain for the Valley. No money was appropriated for the controversial Medi-Cal experiment called Expanded Choice, which was originally planned to start in the Valley and San Diego County this year.

The San Diego part of the project was killed this week when the budget conference committee deleted it. The state postponed the Valley project in January, but Valley legislators used the budget process to make sure the decision could not be reversed.

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda) and Robbins had language inserted into the budget to prevent the state from using any money to resurrect the program, which would have required most Medi-Cal recipients to use Health Maintenance Organizations.

"Reality caught up with Expanded Choice," Katz said. "It's not nearly the panacea it was held out to be."

The fate of Mission College apparently is in doubt. Robert Gray, a principal education analyst in Deukmejian's Finance Department, said his agency has opposed the expenditure because Valley legislators have never presented any justification for the building. Gray noted that the Los Angeles County Grand Jury last week urged the district to abandon its plans to build the permanent Mission College campus and urged it to sell the construction site in Sylmar.

Indications of Approval

But Mission College President Lowell Erickson said he was "extremely surprised that the governor's representative has taken this point of view." Erickson said the administration has indicated to him that the governor is leaning toward approving the construction.

Local legislators told him chances were good, Erickson said, because of recent votes of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and the Post-Secondary Education Commission in favor of a permanent Mission College campus. "They felt these were more authoritative bodies with respect to the needs of higher education and that the grand jury's recommendations should not be paid attention to," Erickson said.

Even with the governor's approval, the building would have to be approved through a higher-education bond issue on the November ballot.

It took Mission College a decade to get this far because the community colleges board and the California Post-Secondary Education Commission were unconvinced that the college was needed. Members believed that Valley and Pierce colleges could adequately serve the area.

Drive Showed Distance

In hopes of swaying opinion, Katz drove Chancellor Joshua L. Smith from Mission College to Pierce and Valley colleges to try to prove the distance was great enough to merit a permanent Mission campus.

"He became a great believer after that," Katz said.

Valley legislators said they would lobby the governor for money for Mission College and for the land acquisitions in the Santa Monica Mountains. La Follette said she does not expect Deukmejian to approve all the land acquisitions.

The mountains conservancy was set up in 1979 to act as an intermediary to help public agencies buy open space in easy reach of urban areas. It has purchased and obtained through donation about 8,000 acres.

Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, said his highest priority in the budget is $5.8 million to buy the 1,690-acre Circle X Ranch south of Thousand Oaks from the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It would be used as a public campground.

Bond Act

The funds would be advanced by the state Coastal Conservancy, an Oakland-based agency designed to protect, preserve and acquire open space near the coast, to a joint powers authority operated by the mountains conservancy and the Conejo Recreation and Park District. The authority would be required to repay the loan within three years.

Edmiston said he hopes that the money will come from the proceeds of a bond measure that the Legislature is expected to place on the November ballot.

The budget also sets aside another $1 million from the bond measure for acquisition of more than 200 acres at the site of the old Corriganville Western movie set in the Simi Valley, now owned by comedian Bob Hope and called Hopetown. Edmiston said the state already has allocated another $1 million from an earlier bond act for the acquisition.

Possible Development

Edmiston said the Hopetown purchase would forestall a possible housing development on the land, which Hope has optioned to Griffin Homes. The property would be preserved for camping, horseback riding or a museum.

The spending plan sent to Deukmejian also includes $1 million for conservancy grants aimed at fostering outdoor education and building campgrounds.

Other Valley-area items in the budget include:

$13.4 million for three projects at California State University, Northridge, about which there was no controversy. The projects are a $12.5-million science building, a $736,000 library expansion and a $225,000 program for high-technology projects for students and teachers.

$2 million to develop the Hungry Valley off-road vehicle park in Gorman, one of Robbins' pet projects.

$55,000 to help establish a new state Department of Motor Vehicles office in North Hollywood. Robbins said the budget included $25,000 for an option for a site and another $30,000 to lease a building for four years until the permanent office is built.

$200,000 to help pay for a bigger building for the Sophie Myers Center in Van Nuys, a nonprofit senior-citizens center for the legally blind.

$100,000 to erect a covered platform for Amtrak in Simi Valley.

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