County Gives Its Final OK to Soka Expansion

The expansion of Soka University received its final county approval Tuesday after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors granted the university a conditional-use permit to expand.

The board approved the project in December, but Tuesday’s vote was necessary to change county zoning laws in the Santa Monica Mountains where the school is located.

Much of the heat in the six-year battle over whether to expand the liberal arts college in an ecologically sensitive area--which included competing lawsuits and intense lobbying of lawmakers--ended last year after Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky brokered a compromise between several environmental groups and Soka.

The deal allows the university to set enrollment at 650 students over a 25-year period--500 of whom will be required to live on campus to cut down on traffic and pollution. Soka had originally sought a 5,000-student campus.


Yaroslavsky said Tuesday that while no one was completely happy with the compromise, the deal was in the best interest of the county. “This is the right decision, given the cards we were dealt.”

But testifying before the supervisors, opponents of the expansion hinted that they might file a lawsuit to stop the development because of concerns that the county violated state environmental law by approving the project. Various elements of the project must still be approved by the California Coastal Commission.