About 75 parents and school administrators from Santa Ana were in Sacramento on Wednesday to lobby for bills that would give them 100 acres on which to build a new campus.
Getting the property, part of the closed Tustin Marine Corps Air Facility, would ease overcrowding in the 60,000-student Santa Ana Unified School District, which now operates at double capacity, officials said.
"We are looking in every niche and cranny," said Lucy Araujo-Cook, a spokeswoman for the district who helped organize Wednesday's trip. "This would be a hand up for our kids."
If the bills are signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis, however, Santa Ana still faces obstacles. The Tustin City Council, which has jurisdiction over the land, says it would challenge the measures in court.
"These folks have good intentions," Tustin Mayor Tracy Wills Worley said. "But their efforts are misdirected. They should be urging the school district to get back to the bargaining table to negotiate with Tustin rather than passing punitive laws dealing with local land-use decisions. All these laws will do is result in years of litigation."
The controversy has been simmering for several years, ever since the school district learned that the land within its boundaries was to be vacated by the air station.
At one point, Araujo-Cook said, Tustin offered the neighboring school district a 22-acre site once used to dump jet fuel. "It was toxic. Our scientists told us that the land might never past muster," she said.
Worley disagreed, saying the school district chose to walk away from a fair offer.
One of the two pending bills, AB-212, would earmark 100 acres each for Santa Ana Unified and the Rancho Santiago Community College District. The other bill, SB-874, would prevent Tustin from developing the land before the school districts' needs are met.
AB-212, sponsored by Assemblyman Lou Correa (D-Anaheim), passed the Assembly last month and is awaiting a Senate vote, which could come today. SB-874, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Dunn (D-Santa Ana), was passed by significant majorities in both houses and awaits Davis' signature.
On Wednesday, the Santa Ana group met with state officials, including a representative of the governor's office.
"We felt it was very important to let the legislators know who we are and that we are determined," said Victoria Zaragoza, who has a foster child and several nieces and nephews in the school district. "We came to fight for the children of Santa Ana."