Orange County is pressing ahead with its controversial plans for a branch jail near Anaheim Stadium, even though some county officials say privately that they doubt the facility will ever be built.
Next Tuesday, the supervisors are scheduled to vote on whether to spend thousands of dollars to revise an environmental impact report for the proposed jail that was rejected as inadequate by a Superior Court judge in a lawsuit filed by Anaheim.
The board will also be asked to authorize expanding an environmental impact report for a proposed jail in Gypsum Canyon to add items that the judge said were lacking in the report for the Anaheim site. The extra work on the Gypsum Canyon report is expected to cost about $57,700, bringing the report’s total price to almost $200,000.
Rich Adler, a planner in the county’s Environmental Management Agency, said the cost to redo the report for the Anaheim site has not been determined but that it should cost about the same as the extra work on the Gypsum Canyon jail report.
Even with their doubts, the supervisors have supported the Anaheim jail project, at Katella Avenue and Douglass Road because they say it might be needed if other proposed jails fall through. But the 1,600-bed facility faces many obstacles:
- The city of Anaheim has promised to oppose any jail plan for the area of the Katella-Douglass site because it is a commercially lucrative district.
- The county has no idea where it will obtain the estimated $140 million needed to build the jail. State law aimed specifically at the Katella-Douglass site prohibits the use of state money to build a jail there.
- The centralized jail initiative, which has qualified for the June, 1990, ballot would restrict all new jails to Santa Ana.
“I think it’s fair to say that if the county had . . . money and support from the community, we would probably be better served by going ahead with the (Gypsum Canyon) jail site” and not Katella-Douglass, said Supervisor Roger R. Stanton.
“But given that there are so many unknowns in terms of opposition, lawsuits, ballot initiatives, funding shortfalls and so on, the county is forced into the position of having to keep all of its options open,” he said.
Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez said: “It’s an option that has to be kept alive.”
Supervisor Don R. Roth, who was out of town Thursday, is the only supervisor who has openly opposed the Katella-Douglass site.
Last June, Superior Court Judge Claude Owens sided with the city of Anaheim in saying that the environmental impact report done for the Katella-Douglass jail did not adequately consider whether the surrounding businesses would be adversely effected or what the impact would be if the jail were overcrowded, as other county facilities are.
If the supervisors approve the new reports being sought for the Gypsum Canyon and Katella-Douglass jails, they will examine worst-case scenarios in terms of overcrowding and--in that context--reconsider all of the effects on the area, including traffic and property values.