A 40-acre flower field in Saticoy emerged Friday as the county's top site to build a new Juvenile Hall, setting in motion what officials hope will be a quick acquisition process.
The field, located at the edge of the Santa Clara River just east of Wells Road, is favored because it is convenient to police agencies in the west county, said Probation Agency Director Cal Remington. The land is zoned for industrial development and is up for sale, he said.
County officials looked at more than 20 properties before settling on the Saticoy site, but four alternative sites were also listed in a report to the county Board of Supervisors.
The other parcels are located on Vineyard Avenue in El Rio, on Del Norte Boulevard in Oxnard, at the County Government Center in Ventura and on Lewis Road south of Camarillo. The Saticoy, El Rio and Oxnard sites are privately owned and the other two locations are part of the county's real estate inventory.
On Tuesday, supervisors are expected to create three new Probation Agency positions--two managers and a clerk--to oversee the $65-million project. The board will also consider approval of an $111,332 environmental study that will review all five sites, with more detailed engineering studies to follow.
The environmental review will look at such issues as the project's impact on neighboring land uses, traffic and water supply. Of concern at the Saticoy site are initial findings that a potentially active fault is nearby, making the soil unstable during an earthquake.
Preliminary geological studies have already been ordered and are expected to be completed in August.
Remington said initial talks with residents in a nearby Saticoy neighborhood had been favorable. Residents were worried that the juvenile detention facility might depress property values and pose a safety threat, he said, but they were attracted by the project's potential to create new jobs and business for Saticoy's restaurants and shops.
"We think it's a site that the community of Saticoy can support," Remington said.
Ventura Mayor Jim Friedman said he will lobby the county to appoint a member of his City Council to the oversight committee. The Saticoy site is on unincorporated land but is adjacent to the city limits.
"We need to have some very proactive involvement because the residents of Ventura have a stake in this matter," Friedman said.
Pressure is on county officials to select and acquire a site because the county risks losing state funding if construction is not completed by May 2003. Two-thirds of the project's cost is being provided by state and federal grants.
The state Board of Corrections awarded the county $40.5 million in May to replace its overcrowded and aging juvenile detention facilities. The new juvenile justice center is designed to hold up to 420 offenders, double the number now housed in four facilities.
Officials say the expanded center, which will eventually grow to include a juvenile court and house rehabilitation programs, will increase public safety by allowing more youth offenders to be taken off the streets.
Finding suitable locations was difficult, county officials said. The search team was looking for sites that were between 40 and 50 acres and were in an area that is easily accessible by law enforcement.
Additionally, strict new anti-growth laws passed last year prompted the county to avoid land zoned for agriculture. Under the SOAR laws, the county would be required to hold an election seeking the public's permission before converting farmland to an industrial use.
The Saticoy site is already zoned for industry. Police agencies can easily get to it from Los Angeles Avenue and it is close to the county courthouse in Ventura, where youth offenders frequently attend hearings.
Supervisor Judy Mikels, who sits on a committee that is overseeing development of the juvenile center, said officials initially hoped to locate the facility in Camarillo. That would put the facility in the center of the county, making it easier to reach for east county police agencies.
But the search team was unable to find a viable site, Mikels said.
"If it were a perfect world, Camarillo would be a better site," she said. "But given the fact that there are so many constraints and we don't have a lot of time to look forever, this will do fine."
Final selection of a site is expected by January.
The Saticoy land is made up of two parcels. A 17-acre chunk is owned by Marco Roofing Inc., said Sean Payne, the county real estate administrator. A second 23-acre portion is owned by Alberto J. Castaneda and Jose A. Ortiz Sr., Payne said.
Both parcels have been on the market for some time, he said. Appraisals of the land are being done, Payne said. The El Rio site, a 46-acre parcel on Vineyard Avenue between Beedy and Lambert streets, is considered the second-best option and is also on the market, Payne said.
The three remaining sites are less desirable because each has significant obstacles to overcome, Remington said. The Del Norte parcel is a long, narrow strip that would be difficult to design a building for and a portion of the Lewis Road property is already used by other tenants.