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College Trustees OK Science Center, Delay Action on Pierce Building Ban

Times Staff Writer

Sidestepping a proposal to preserve Pierce College farmland, college officials Wednesday endorsed plans to build a $10-million children’s science center on the edge of the school’s main crop field.

Los Angeles Community College District trustees voted unanimously to “encourage the development” of the privately run Valley Science Pavilion on 6 acres at the Woodland Hills campus. The approval clears the way for the project’s originator, Nelson Brestoff, to begin soliciting corporate donations to finance the proposed three-building museum complex.

The trustees’ action came as Woodland Hills residents pleaded with them to impose a moratorium on further development of Pierce farmland until a master plan for future campus construction can be prepared.

Homeowners said the building ban would give officials time to evaluate the cumulative effect of several other proposals, including a 40-acre San Fernando Valley Fair site and a 12-acre equestrian center.

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Residents accused college officials of chopping up the 40-year-old college campus piece by piece for developers who have purchased or leased school property for projects that include homes, a retail vegetable stand and a Jewish temple.

The vegetable stand and temple leases provoked complaints that the college district disposed of valuable land without negotiating the best deal for taxpayers. Homeowners last week persuaded Jewish leaders to drop plans to build a high-density senior citizens’ housing center on part of a 17.5-acre section of the campus they have leased for 75 years for $3 million.

“Turmoil such as we’ve been subjected to at Pierce College over the past few years would be a thing of the past” if development were halted until an advisory committee of residents, students and college administrators could be formed, said Robert Gross, vice president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization.

The proposal to relocate the Valley Fair from Northridge to the college drew the sharpest reaction from residents during Wednesday’s board meeting at Valley College in Van Nuys. Officials said they plan to review the fair proposal next month after a new “memorandum of understanding” is drawn up by fair organizers.

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Fair operators want to hold a trial run next July at the campus. If things go well, they hope to negotiate a long-term lease on Pierce property.

“If the fair camel gets its nose under the tent, you’ll find that camel wants to spend another 50 years in there,” said homeowner James L. Pyle.

Pierce agriculture professor Ed Boggess charged that trustees are carving up campus agriculture land “in bits and pieces.”

After voting in favor of the science center, trustees delayed consideration of a resolution calling for the school’s 200 acres of farmland to be “indefinitely preserved.”

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Trustee Wallace Albertson complained that the resolution was vague and its definition of “open space” was confusing--particularly in light of the development proposals for the science center, the fair and the equestrian center.

Postponement of the preservation resolution was a disappointment for David Wolf, Pierce College’s president. Wolf, who has long advocated such a policy, resigned his post effective Oct. 1 to become vice president of Santa Rosa Junior College.

Wolf defended the proposed resolution by explaining that it also calls for “continued enhancement of educational activities,” which he said includes development of the science center, fairgrounds and horse center.


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