CSU Risks Losing Site Funds, Hart Tells Panel : Education: The governor's budget includes $7 million to buy land for a Ventura County campus. But officials warn that special-interest groups must agree on a site soon.


State Sen. Gary K. Hart warned Cal State University officials Thursday that they should move quickly to reach agreement on a site for a new university campus in the county or lose the state funds already appropriated to buy the land.

Addressing the 30-member Cal State Site Selection Committee and the 50 people in the audience at a meeting in Oxnard, Hart said $7 million to buy a site somewhere in the county had been included in the new state budget signed Tuesday by Gov. George Deukmejian.

But Hart (D-Santa Barbara) said money will be withdrawn eventually if factions in the county continue the squabbling that led to the university's retreat from the Taylor Ranch west of Ventura as its chosen site and recent reopening of the site selection process.

"It's important to avoid a competition mentality," Hart said, cautioning against special interest groups representing cities, business or environmental groups quarreling among themselves.

"Those kinds of dichotomies are death to this process," Hart said.

County Administrative Officer Richard Wittenberg also cautioned the committee to move quickly, noting that there are many demands for state money.

"If we're not going to be decisive about it and get on with choosing a site, it's very clear that money could be lost," he said.

The university chose the 465-acre Taylor Ranch west of Ventura after a years-long search for property. But opposition to the site grew and the Ventura City Council, which led the university to the Taylor Ranch, withdrew its support.

In June, despite a threat six months earlier to pull out of the county altogether if the community could not agree on the Taylor Ranch site, the university announced that it would reopen the site search.

Nevertheless, Taylor Ranch will remain among the final sites considered, university officials said.

To avoid a repeat of the wrangle, Cal State formed the site selection committee, with representatives from the county's 10 cities and from opposition and support groups.

University Vice Chancellor John Smart, who presided at Thursday's meeting, said he hopes to have five sites to present to the Cal State Board of Trustees at its October meeting. In-depth environmental impact studies would then begin in November, he said.

The committee had been expected to begin narrowing the number of appropriate sites at its Thursday meeting. But the committee threw out a narrowed list of 16 potential sites developed by consultant Brian Boxer.

Instead, Smart appointed a six-member subcommittee to develop criteria that will be applied to all 35 proposed sites, including three new ones added Thursday.

The subcommittee will include representatives from the cities of Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo and Santa Paula, as well as Wittenberg from the county and Stan Greene from the environmental group Citizens to Preserve the Ojai.

At the next meeting, on Aug. 24, proponents of various sites will be asked to make their presentations to the full committee. On Sept. 7, the criteria developed by the subcommittee will be applied to all the sites, and the potential sites will be narrowed to 10.

On Sept. 21, the university will take the full committee on a bus tour of the 10 sites. On Sept. 28, the committee will winnow the choices down to five.

Boxer of the EIP Associates consulting firm of Sacramento will then study the impacts of the five sites on pollution, traffic, water and other services. The firm should recommend a site to Cal State trustees by July 1, 1991.

The number of sites grew to 35 after locations west of Central Avenue and north of the Ventura Freeway in Camarillo, at the foot of South Mountain near Santa Paula and south of Gonzales Road near Victoria Avenue in Oxnard were added at the request of members of the Advisory Committee.

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