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OK of Land Sale Means Home Is in Sight for Mission College

November 27, 1985|PAMELA MORELAND | Times Staff Writer

The Northridge Little Leagues and Mission College, the Los Angeles Community College that has operated for almost a decade without a campus, were both winners Tuesday when Community College trustees accepted a $12.5-million offer for 80 acres in Northridge.

Mission College was a winner because the money from the sale of the land, now owned by the Community College District, will be used to build a permanent home in Sylmar for the school.

The Northridge Little Leagues won because the land will be sold to ASL Financial, a subsidiary of Northridge-based Advanced Savings & Loan Assn., which wants to build homes on the land but promised to preserve 13 acres that the youth baseball leagues use for playing fields.

The property is bordered by Devonshire Street to the south, Chatsworth Boulevard to the north, Wilbur Avenue to the west and a shopping center on Reseda Boulevard to the east.

Complicated History

The successful bid for the Northridge property was another twist in what has become a long and complicated history of the community college district's attempt to finance construction of a permanent campus for Mission College.

From 1961 to 1963, the district spent $1.1 million to buy the Northridge tract, which was designated as the site for a northwestern campus. But studies by the district later in the 1960s showed that a community college campus was needed more in the northeastern Valley than in Northridge.

Mission College was established in 1976, without a permanent campus. Classes were held in storefronts, high school classrooms and hospital auditoriums.

While attention was focused on nurturing Mission's growth, the Northridge site was left unused except for the Little Leagues, which simply moved onto the vacant land as self-described "squatters." For 15 years, the Little Leagues used a 13-acre area for baseball diamonds.

The district trustees decided to sell the land, ruling in 1983 that money raised from the sale would be earmarked for construction of a Mission College campus. A site was chosen on Hubbard Street in northeastern Sylmar at El Cariso County Park.

Minimum Price Set

The trustees placed a minimum price of $12 million on the Northridge property.

And, despite pleas from the Little Leagues, the 13 acres of playing fields were included in the property to be sold.

Under state law, the first round of bidding on the property was restricted to government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Once it was determined that there were no bidders in those categories, the bidding was opened to businesses.

Last year, a bid for the property was made by the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, which wanted to pay either $9 million over two years or $12 million over five years. Church leaders also promised Little League officials that, if the church bought the property, the playing fields would be preserved.

Church Bid Rejected

But district trustees unanimously rejected the church's bid because it did not meet the specified minimum of an immediate $12 million, opening the way for the successful bid by ASL Financial.

"We feel confident that this is about as well as we could do," said George Hall, a former president of the Northridge Little Leagues.

Hall credited Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, whose West Valley district includes the Northridge site, for acting as a mediator between ASL and the Little Leagues.

"The land the Little Leagues is on will be dedicated to the city. The land will then be leased back to the Little Leagues for our use," Hall added.

ASL Financial is headed by Thomas D. Heath, who is also president of Advanced Savings & Loan. Heath estimated the savings and loan's assets at $50 million to $53 million.

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