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CSUN Bill Dropped; Development to Be Delayed

Times Staff Writer

A bill to exempt a large Cal State Northridge development project from Los Angeles zoning ordinances was dropped by its supporters in the state Legislature on Wednesday, a move that will delay construction of new facilities for at least nine months.

Supporters of the bill, including its sponsor, Assemblywoman Marian W. La Follette (R-Northridge), said there was insufficient time to move the measure through both houses of the Legislature. The session officially ended at midnight Wednesday.

La Follette said she would reintroduce the bill when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

“We’re dropping it for now because we felt it was better to have the issue fully heard when there is more time,” La Follette said.

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Under the bill, the city would relinquish jurisdiction over zoning ordinances on 100 acres of state-owned land along Zelzah Avenue so that a private developer, in a joint project with the university, could build the North Campus-University Park Development.

The developer, James R. Wadsworth, president of Watt Investment Properties of Santa Monica, said he needed the last-minute measure to obtain financing. He said delays could hurt his ability to line up office tenants.

The bill was approved Monday by the Senate Local Government Committee but was facing strong opposition Wednesday night at its next stop, the Senate floor.

State Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia) said he felt the bill was being shoved through the Legislature at the last minute without enough community input or information for legislators.

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“I don’t want to do a quickie deal now when I really don’t know what’s going on,” Davis said. Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) agreed.

Clearly Stymied

“It was clear we were not going to get it out of the Senate,” Wadsworth said.

Elliot Mininberg, CSUN’s vice president for administration, said that the delay would mean that student housing that probably would have been ready in 1989 will be delayed.

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The joint public-private venture calls for the university to lease land to Watt for a 200-room hotel and conference center and a cluster of office buildings.

Some of the profits would go to the university for construction of student housing, a stadium and a theater complex.

Wadsworth said the company’s lenders refuse to fund the project because they feel it is unclear whether the city or the state has land-use jurisdiction over the site.

Until three weeks ago, the university and the developer had planned the project based on the assumption that the state had sole authority to build on its land. In addition, the project had the blessing of a community advisory committee and City Councilman Hal Bernson, whose district includes CSUN.

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But a title insurance company questioned whether commercial use of the land removed it from state control.

The bill would have clarified that issue by granting jurisdiction to the state.

On Monday, Bernson opposed the measure because one provision would have eliminated his authority to appoint a majority of members of a five-person advisory committee, which would be the city’s only involvement in the project.

But that issue was settled when Bernson agreed to appoint two members and have the university select a third from a list he would provide.

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