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Jail Site Close to Stadium Selected by Orange County

March 19, 1986|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

Rejecting strong objections from political and economic leaders of Anaheim, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday selected a site half a mile from Anaheim Stadium for a $138-million maximum-security jail for up to 1,500 inmates.

The board voted 4 to 1 to build the facility on vacant county-owned land at Katella Avenue and Douglass Road, across the Orange Freeway from the stadium, which is home to the California Angels and the Los Angeles Rams.

Ralph B. Clark, the supervisor whose district includes Anaheim, cast the lone vote against the site.

A representative of Disneyland, which is closer to one of four other potential jail sites considered by the board, nonetheless joined spokesmen for the Rams and Angels in urging the supervisors to keep the jail out of Anaheim.

But Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, who led a weeklong battle to keep the jail out of his district in Santa Ana, said that a county report on possible locations "leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone who is socially conscious, leaves no doubt in the mind of anyone who puts human values above material values," that the Katella-Douglass location was the best.

The four other potential sites, three in Santa Ana, are near larger populations with more schools built or planned, according to a county report.

Before the Katella-Douglass location is formally chosen, environmental impact reports must be prepared and public hearings held, a process likely to last until the end of the year.

The selection of the new jail site took place in a meeting room filled to capacity with politicians, business people and residents, some of whom held hand-lettered cardboard signs and booed or applauded speakers.

"I'm pleading with you to proceed with caution on the jail site," Anaheim Mayor Donald Roth told the supervisors. Earlier, Roth had noted that "Disneyland is known as the hub of happiness; let's not change it to the hub of despair."

The supervisors have been under pressure to increase jail capacity since March, 1985, when they and Sheriff Brad Gates were found in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge William P. Gray for not heeding his 1978 order to improve conditions at the main men's jail in downtown Santa Ana.

Inmate Reduction Ordered

Gray fined the county, appointed a special master to oversee improvements at the jail and ordered that the jail's population be reduced from 2,000 to 1,500 by Jan. 15 and 1,400 by April.

The county expanded branch jails in the City of Orange and near El Toro, turned away state and federal prisoners and authorized the early release of some inmates in an effort to pare the numbers at the Santa Ana jail.

The county also is searching for a site for a new, 5,000-prisoner jail in a remote area of the county. That search is expected to continue for at least another year, and it is expected to take at least three years to build the facility. Plans for the large new jail are not expected to be affected by Tuesday's decision.

The jail approved Tuesday is expected to be built relatively quickly because it will be smaller and will be built on land already owned by the county.

Expected to Open in 1989

The move to build a smaller second jail gained impetus March 4 when Judge Gray ordered Gates to return to court Thursday to show why he should not again be found in contempt for permitting population at the main jail to exceed more than 1,500 inmates three times in February.

The supervisors said they had to show the judge that they were taking action. The jail is expected to open in January, 1989.

"There's no doubt that we are going to be faced by lawsuits" by opponents of a jail site, Clark said at the opening of the 90-minute debate Tuesday. "We are going to have all sorts of opposition to this.

"Based on the outcry, and I mean outcry, from the affected communities . . . I believe we've got the proverbial tiger by the tail," added Clark, who is stepping down as supervisor at the end of the year after 16 years in office.

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