FOCUS : A Place Plato Could Call Home

Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich, Susan Davis Greene and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Hard by the hubbub of the Orange Freeway (California 57) in Fullerton is the north county's answer to Academe.

Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) may be the neighborhood's largest institution of learning, but it is by no means the only one. Across from the south side of the CSUF campus on Nutwood Avenue sit Pacific Christian College and its next-door neighbor, the Institute of Religion--Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To the west of CSUF is Western State University College of Law, and to the north, the Southern California College of Optometry.

Clearly, not many minds are being wasted in these parts.

CSUF, born Orange County State College in 1959, became the 12th state college in a system that now counts 19 institutions and has taken on university status. CSUF now has an enrollment of 25,000 students, and its faculty numbers 775.

Unlike many of the other schools in the Cal State system, however, Fullerton has virtually no resident population. Just 400 students live on campus, a situation President Jewel Plummer Cobb hopes to rectify in the future. The school found itself in the national limelight last November when Ronald Reagan campaigned there on behalf of Vice President George Bush and Sen. Dan Quayle. Reagan's stop at the university was his last public appearance in Orange County as President. Asked why he chose to visit Cal State Fullerton, Reagan said, "I like great teams, and I couldn't think of any greater one than the Titans" (Titans is the nickname for the CSUF athletic teams). The baseball team, the school's most successful, won national championships in 1979 and in 1984.

CSUF has been expanding of late, and it will see a tremendous building boom--nearly $75-million worth of construction is scheduled--over the next 2 years. The privately funded Ruby Gerontology Center, valued at $2.5 million, opened last October, the result of a fund drive organized by Charles Ruby and of the efforts of the other senior citizens who conceived, planned and contributed money to build it. Some of these new projects, like the gerontology center, will be built with private funds; others will make use of a variety of sources.

Among the new ventures:

* A $20-million hotel and conference center, scheduled to open this fall. This will be the first commercial hotel built on a college campus on the West Coast. The Marriott Corp., through a joint venture with the university and the city of Fullerton, is leasing the property from CSUF.

* A $6.7-million sports complex, scheduled to open this fall. The complex will give all the Titan teams--including the football team, which has played its "home" games at other places in the county--a chance to play at facilities of their own for the first time in 30 years. Financing will come through revenue from the Marriott Hotel long-term lease.

* A $9.2-million addition to the Engineering Center, to be completed this fall. The addition will be built with funds from a statewide bond issue (Proposition 56, November, 1986).

* A $10-million addition to the student union, scheduled to open in the summer of 1991. The building is being financed by student fees and will be operated solely by the students.

* A $22.4-million addition to McCarthy Hall, which the university hopes will be ready this fall. McCarthy Hall, used primarily for science classes, is the oldest building on the campus. Money for the addition is coming from the Capital Outlay Fund for Higher Education, whose source is revenue from offshore oil wells.

Not that everything is book-cracking and ground-breaking. On the northeast corner of the campus lies the 26-acre Fullerton Arboretum, open to the public since 1979. This zoo for plants is operated through a joint-powers agreement between the city and CSUF. The bulk of its operating budget comes from the Associated Students and the Friends of the Arboretum, a community group.

On land once covered by orange trees is now a waterfall, stream, pond, lake and hundreds of species of flowers, trees and other plants. One of its special features is Chaparral Hill, dedicated to the cultivation of some of the state's best-known native vegetation. Visitors and tours are welcome daily from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (it is closed on rainy days). There is no admission charge.

Next to the arboretum on the campus is Heritage House, a Victorian cottage built in 1894. The house was once the home and office of Fullerton's first physician, Dr. George Clark. The house has been restored to its turn-of-the-century look. Handmade pills, utensils and furniture give visitors a real feel for the past. The house is open Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. for walk-ins and at other times by appointment only.

Perhaps the most noticeable residential neighborhood in the area is Teri Place, a former family street now home to the 15 fraternities and 7 sororities associated with the school. Teri Place is also the focus of some complaints from non-Greek neighbors who say that living on Frat Row means putting up with litter, noise and parking problems. Since 1985, all fraternity and sorority houses in Fullerton have been required to have conditional-use permits subject to annual review by the city. However, many of the neighbors say that the problems have persisted despite the permits, and three fraternities are opposing the permits in court.

Population Total: (1988 est.) 6,143 1980-88 change: +5.1% Median Age: 27.8

Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 79% Latino, 9% Black, 4% Other, 8%

Income Per capita: $16,144 Median Household: $29,693 Average Household: $32,828

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 42% $50,000-74,999: 16% $25,000-49,999: 35% More than $75,000: 7%

(Please see microfilm for full chart information) By sex and age: MALES Median age: 28.0 years FEMALES Median age: 27.6 years

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