Your editorial (Nov. 22), "Why No Prison?" says that the new state prison scheduled for Los Angeles County belongs in downtown Los Angeles. I strongly disagree.
There are many good reasons why the Crown Coach site in downtown Los Angeles is unsuitable for a new state prison.
First, there is the matter of cost. The governor is asking us to pay $31.4 million for the Crown Coach site--that comes to more than $1 million per acre.
Moreover, the Crown Coach site is not even large enough to sustain the kind of facility the governor has proposed. He wants to put 1,700 beds on the 29-acre site, but Department of Corrections guidelines require at least 50 acres to accommodate that many prisoners. Clearly, the site falls short of that criteria and the state will have to purchase property adjacent to the Crown Coach site to meet its own guidelines. That will bring the cost of developing the site to much more than $31.4 million.
Another consideration is the issue of equity. It is unfair to burden any one part of this county with an excessive concentration of prisons. The people of Chinatown, Little Tokyo and East Los Angeles are already shouldering their fair share of the prison burden. They have more than 12,000 inmates--one-third of California's entire prison population--living close to their homes, schools and businesses.
Despite these compelling considerations the governor insists on purchasing the Crown Coach site without allowing area residents a fair hearing. Before we build a prison anywhere in this county, we owe it to the residents of any potential site to hold an environmental impact hearing prior to spending millions of dollars on a site that may be unsuitable.
Let there be no misunderstanding of my position on this issue. I strongly support and will continue to support our commitment to build a prison in this county. What I will not support is wasting taxpayers' money on overpriced prison sites, nor will I support the dangerous concentration of prisons in any one area of this county. Moreover, I will continue to insist that environmental impact hearings are conducted on any site before we spend millions to purchase it.
I hope that the governor will join Mayor Tom Bradley, myself, and other concerned legislators in our efforts to find a prison site in this county that is suitable to taxpayers, the needs of our correctional system, and to communities that already have their fair share of California's prison population.