All three parcels of farmland proposed for a four-year university in Ventura County pose significant environmental problems, but a site in unincorporated Oxnard is the most troublesome, Cal State University officials said Thursday.
Nevertheless, officials said, the three sites are still the best available and represent Ventura County's last chance for a four-year state university.
"If for any reason we are unsuccessful in acquiring one of the sites, the prospects are very dim for another round," Cal State Vice Chancellor John Smart said Thursday.
Smart made his remarks in Ventura as the university distributed a two-volume report that he said is the most extensive environmental study Cal State has ever performed.
The release of the document follows a six-year search for a university location in Ventura County that has been marked by a long series of setbacks for university supporters who at one time hoped to see a campus built at the Taylor Ranch, an undeveloped bluff west of Ventura.
The Taylor Ranch site was abandoned last year after opposition from environmentalists, a divided Ventura City Council and the owners of the land, who were refusing to sell to the state.
Cal State officials say they believe that the university's board of trustees will be able to choose a site in September from the three new sites that have been selected as the best current alternatives.
Despite the environmental concerns raised about all three of the sites, Smart said he hopes that the university can buy one of the sites soon after the September meeting and receive funding from the state to begin building within five years.
"The chances are better than even that we can make this work," Smart said. "But I'm not so optimistic that I can ignore the potential problems surrounding any of these three sites."
Cal State proposes to build a two-year upper-division college for 2,000 to 5,000 students that would evolve into a four-year campus for 15,000 to 20,000 students over the next 20 years.
About 10% of the students would live in housing on campus, the study estimates, and about half the students would be from Ventura County. The remaining students would commute from outside the county or move to Ventura County from elsewhere, the study shows.
The study projects that by 2010, the campus would increase the county's population by 13,600 people, generating the need for another 6,240 houses or apartments. Without the campus, Ventura County's population is projected to increase by nearly 225,000, from the present 669,016 to 893,770, by 2010.
Smart said none of the three sites were disqualified by the environmental study. And he added that all three are superior to five alternative sites that were reviewed as a requirement of state law, including Taylor Ranch.
But Smart and environmental consultants said hazardous wastes from ongoing and abandoned oil operations on the 308-acre Oxnard site south of Wooley Road and east of Rose Avenue, known as the Donlon property, would make it the most expensive location to work with.
In addition, the configuration of the land at the Oxnard site makes it acceptable for a two-year upper-division college, but troublesome for a full four-year campus due to easements and setback requirements, he said.
The environmental report concluded that a 320-acre site west of Camarillo, located in the greenbelt between Camarillo and Oxnard, is subject to flooding during storms.
The Camarillo site, known as the Duntley/Chaffee property, also is within 2.5 miles of the active Oak Ridge earthquake fault that runs south of the Santa Clara River. A high water table in the area and loose soils make the property subject to violent shaking, called liquefaction, during an earthquake, the report said.
In addition, the Camarillo property is next to a California Youth Authority juvenile prison that houses young offenders ranging from petty thieves to those who have committed murder.
Traffic was not considered a problem at the Camarillo site, but establishing a university there would induce the growth of stores and restaurants in the agricultural area, the report said.
The third location studied in the report, the 350-acre Sudden Ranch site on an unincorporated hillside area east of Ventura, is within two miles of two active earthquake faults, the report noted. The property could be subject to landslides or debris flows during storms.
But potentially inadequate water supply and increased traffic through existing neighborhoods are considered among the most significant problems for the east Ventura site, officials said.
The Ventura City Council played a major role in defeating the Taylor Ranch site last year and continues to be bitterly divided over whether a university would create more benefits for the city than problems from traffic or growth. Community support is considered crucial by Cal State officials.
Ventura Mayor Richard Francis and Councilman James Monahan said this week that they still prefer the Taylor Ranch site, but Francis said he could support the east Ventura site while Monahan said he could not. Councilman Donald Villeneuve argued in favor of the Camarillo site, saying that California Youth Authority officials should tighten up security at the facility.
Councilman Gary Tuttle, who was elected as an opponent of the Taylor Ranch location because of additional growth and traffic it would generate, said the Sudden Ranch problems are similar to those at the Taylor Ranch.
Council members Cathy Bean and John McWherter could not be reached for comment.
"We lost the best site when some of the council wouldn't support the Taylor Ranch," Francis said. "But if the east Ventura site is chosen as the best possible place for a university in Ventura County, we have to swallow hard and do it. The net advantages still outweigh the disadvantages."
Everett Millais, director of community development for the city of Ventura, said the water-supply and traffic problems at the east Ventura site are solvable.
He said Ventura will have to find a new source of water regardless of whether the university moves to the city. In addition, he said, developers who are building 721 houses in the area have already agreed to widen Kimball and Telegraph roads.
The state plans to widen California 118 through the area by late 1994, he said, although a September meeting will decide whether the project will be funded.
Proposed Cal State University Sites 1. Sudden Ranch Site: 350 acres south of Foothill Road between Saticoy Avenue and Kimball Road, northeast of Ventura. 2. Duntley / Chaffee property: 320 acres east of Central Avenue and south of Santa ClaraAvenue, west of Camarillo and next to the California Youth Authority facility. 3. Donion property: 308 acres south of Wooley Road between Rose and Rice avenues, east of Oxnard.