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Oxnard Balks at Annexing Campus Sites : Education: The district superintendent is confident that the high school will be relocated as planned.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Backers of a new high school campus in north Oxnard suffered a setback Tuesday when the City Council refused to take steps toward annexing three sites proposed by city and school officials as potential new locations for Oxnard High School.

The proposed annexations would have committed the city to provide water, sewer, police and fire protection services to the new campus. All the sites are at or near the intersection of Gonzales and Patterson roads.

Council members, yielding to protests by residents of the nearby Summerfield and River Ridge developments, passed a substitute measure that says only that the city “could provide the necessary services once a site is adopted.”

At the urging of state officials, the Oxnard Union High School District is trying to relocate Oxnard High School from its present location on 5th Street near the center of the city. Officials contend the present location is a safety hazard because it is under the flight path of Oxnard Airport.

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But some residents of the recently developed north-side tracts have objected that a high school would bring gang violence, traffic congestion and other problems to the area.

Some supporters of the north-side location have suggested that racism may be behind some of the objections. Oxnard High School is 48.8% Latino and 37% white. Black and other minority students make up the rest of the school’s population.

“Why move the high school in the first place?” Udas Young, who lives in Summerfield, asked the council. “People I’ve talked to feel very strongly that a high school should not be built at Gonzales and Patterson. The noise and congestion would simply be too much.”

In view of neighborhood feelings against the officials’ first choice--a 50-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Gonzales and Patterson roads--two alternate sites to the north and west were added, giving council members three choices.

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Instead of selecting any of those, the council adopted a resolution by Councilman Michael A. Plisky that calls on the school board to complete an environmental impact report and take up the matter with Ventura County’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which must approve any annexation.

“I have reservations about these sites,” Plisky said. “Let’s just say, ‘Yes, we can provide the services,’ not ‘Yes, we will.’ ”

Plisky and another council member, Dorothy S. Maron, also expressed concern that building a high school in north Oxnard would open the door to further development in the area.

“We’re all feeling the push from the developers already,” Maron said. “Annexing the property into the city will bring more and more push for development.”

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In an interview after the council session, district Supt. Ian C. Kirkpatrick expressed confidence that the new campus, which is expected to cost about $26 million, will be built on one of the three sites. He said the district already is working on an environmental impact report and expects to have it completed sometime next week.

“It would have been nice to hear the council say, ‘Yes, we will,’ but I’m sure we’ll go ahead with the project on one of those sites,” he said.

He added that he was not concerned about the council’s refusal to make the potential sites part of Oxnard’s sphere of influence. To do so would have assured the area city services without annexation.

But, Kirkpatrick said, a decision on a site for the school must be made soon or the district could lose about $20 million in state funding available through a bond issue passed last November.

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Opponents of the north-side location got a boost from Marc Charney, an attorney representing the property at the southwest corner of Gonzales and Patterson roads. He said his client, the Marian Graham Trust, is opposed to converting it from its present agricultural zoning.

No direct references to possible racial implications of moving the campus were raised during the council meeting, but Bedford Pinkard, a River Ridge resident who is also an Oxnard Union High School District board member, raised the issue when residents first objected to the move earlier this year.

“They’re saying the same things against high school students that they said against me when I moved to Oxnard 20 years ago,” said Pinkard, who is black.

Council members voted 4 to 0 to adopt the substitute resolution, with Councilman Manuel M. Lopez, who lives near the proposed site, abstaining.

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