Efforts to keep the California Conservation Corps in the San Fernando Valley proceeded on two fronts Thursday.
Valley legislators mounted a campaign to inundate Gov. George Deukmejian with letters urging that he rescind a budget cut that would close the corps’ center on Oat Mountain, north of Chatsworth.
And the CCC chief appealed for donation of an office in the Valley that the corps could use if the center must close.
Earlier this month, the corps, which pays young people minimum wage to work on natural resource and emergency assistance projects, announced plans to close the Oat Mountain center by Oct. 5 due to budget cuts. Since 1978, an average of 60 to 80 CCC youths have lived in rugged dormitory quarters atop Oat Mountain to work on Valley projects.
To ensure that closure won’t result in reduced services for the Valley, the CCC should open a satellite office that would be a daily congregation point for corps members working in the Valley, said Bud Sheble, CCC executive director.
“That’s my recommendation,” Sheble said. “What we’re seeking now is community support.”
Previously, the corps had considered replacing the Oat Mountain center by staffing its Valley projects with CCC workers based at the agency’s centers in Camarillo, San Pedro and Pomona.
But the long commutes involved would delay the start of work and would lower productivity, Sheble said. A better plan for maintaining service would be to recruit CCC workers from the Valley, have them live at home and commute to a satellite office each day, he said. The satellite office would be both a morning congregation point for the work crews and a place to store tools and vehicles, Sheble said.
Needed to make such a plan work, Sheble said, is someone to donate facilities for a satellite office. “We’re hoping leaders like Assemblyman Katz and Sen. Robbins will help us in this regard,” Sheble said.
Assemblyman Richard Katz, D-Sylmar, and Sen. Alan Robbins, D-Tarzana, have led the protests against Oat Mountain’s closure.
In the past few days, Katz, Robbins and Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson have called on several hundred community leaders to fax letters to the governor calling for money to keep Oat Mountain open.
As a way to bolster the CCC’s budget, Katz said he has asked the governor to consider advancing by two weeks the start-up date of a state tax on out-of-state vehicles that do not meet California emission standards. That measure alone could earn more than $7 million in additional revenue, he said.
“We’ve been through this before, and we won,” Katz said. In the early 1980s, Deukmejian cut funding for Oat Mountain from the budget, a move later reversed amid an outcry similar to the one seen now, Katz said.