A legislative budget analyst's recommendation that proposals for new California State University campuses be scrapped will not halt plans to buy land for a campus in Ventura County, legislators and university officials said this week.
It is still too early to tell, however, whether the report could discourage state funding, said state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara.)
"The debate is just beginning," said Hart, who sponsored the $7-million funding bill to acquire land for a California State University campus in the county.
"The important thing is that money set aside for land acquisition is still whole, and that the analyst has not recommended it be tampered with," Hart said.
Jack Smart, California State University vice chancellor, said it is highly unlikely that the report would kill the Ventura project.
"The legislative analyst makes several recommendations every year," Smart said. "I would categorize this recommendation as one that says we should stop planning. And I don't think the Legislature will endorse that."
Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill, a nonpartisan budget adviser who writes staff reports for the Legislature, told the lawmakers last week that enrollment estimates for both the Cal State and the University of California systems for the next 15 years are unrealistically high.
She said Cal State's 19 campuses can accommodate student needs until 2005.
Russ Baggerly, an Ojai environmentalist who has been an outspoken opponent of a plan to build a campus at Taylor Ranch, west of Ventura's city limits, sees the report as one more blow to the proposal.
The fact that money to buy land is available now is no guarantee that money to build a university will come later, he said.
"Then they would have to sell the land, and sell it to the highest bidder," Baggerly said. "That won't be a farmer. It will be a developer who will want to develop. And then we would start the battle all over again."
Baggerly and other environmentalists, as well as at least three Ventura City Council members, oppose building on the Taylor Ranch. They cite the possibility of development west of the proposed campus, the air pollution that would be carried by offshore winds to the Ojai Valley, and traffic and water delivery problems.
But proponents argue that unless Cal State moves forward with the Taylor Ranch site, the county will lose its chance for a university forever.
Trustees will decide at an open meeting beginning at 9:30 today in Ventura whether to proceed with a second environmental impact report on the site or to stop the process to acquire the Taylor Ranch site.
The analyst's report "doubles the urgency to an already perilous situation," said Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks). "It re-emphasizes that there is no second shot for Ventura."
The analyst advises on the budget alone, Hart said, adding that other considerations may be more compelling.
"There are political and economic consequences that they tend not to take into account," Hart said. "It's not the 10 Commandments." He added that the analyst's comments are often disregarded.
The funding authorization to buy land expires in June but will probably be renewed this summer, said Assemblyman Jack O'Connell (D-Carpinteria.)
"We already fought that battle three years ago," he said. He called the latest report a minor obstacle to a new campus here.
Vice Chancellor Smart disputed the state Department of Finance figures on which the analyst based her assumptions.
"The Department of Finance projections show the high school graduating classes are increasing at 65%, that community colleges are growing at an average of 2%. And meanwhile, CSU they project is growing only 1.7 %. Something is not right," he said.
Smart is to deliver a staff report of recommendations today on whether Cal State should authorize a second environmental impact report on the site.
The university reported on the impacts of a two-year campus for upper division classes only, but a judge ordered a more complete report that would include the impacts of a full four-year campus with a maximum 15,000 students.
After strong community opposition to the campus surfaced, Cal State decided to reconsider whether to order the second report, estimated to cost about $200,000.
"The analyst is saying we shouldn't have more facilities because in theory we could have more students in Bakersfield or Stanislaus or Pomona," Smart said. "But that would not do anything for students in Ventura or other areas where there is no campus close at hand."