Panel Approves Study of Third L.A. County Prison Site

From a Times Staff Writer

The Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would authorize an environmental impact study of a third state prison in Los Angeles County.

Recently signed legislation authorizes construction of a so-called downtown prison near the Eastside of Los Angeles and a rural prison near Lancaster, provided environmental impact studies determine the sites to be suitable. When that bill was passed, lawmakers and the Deukmejian Adminstration tentatively agreed a study would be done on a third site near Hungry Valley, along Interstate 5 north of Gorman.

The latest bill, by Sen. Robert B. Presley (D-Riverside), was approved by the committee on a 4-0 vote and calls for an environmental study of that third site.

However, the committee struck from the measure a provision that would authorize actual construction of the third facility. Some lawmakers indicated they wanted the Legislature to have the final word on where and when to build the institution.

Presley indicated agreement with the action, saying he would later seek authorization of the prison at the same time money would be appropriated to build the approximately 4,000 bed penitentiary.

The bill was the product of a delicate compromise reached earlier in the summer that was designed to spread "equal pain" among Democratic and Republican areas of the county which would be forced to accept state prisons.

The original idea was to authorize environmental studies on all three sites and give Gov. George Deukmejian authority to select either both the Eastside and Lancaster sites, or build one larger prison at Happy Valley near Gorman.

Deukmejian, however, said he had a different interpretation of the compromise, saying it gave him authority to select any two of the three sites.

As it stands now, the governor is still empowered to build prisons on the Eastside and near Lancaster, but would have to receive legislative approval to build at the Hungry Valley site.

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