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Governor Hints at Condemnation for L.A. Prison Site

January 13, 1987|RICHARD C. PADDOCK | Times Staff Writer

Gov. George Deukmejian, refusing to abandon his choice for a Los Angeles prison site, said Monday that he would consider condemning the property if the state cannot strike a deal to buy it from its new owner.

Speaking to reporters in Anaheim, Deukmejian for the first time signaled his willingness to use the state's power of eminent domain to take private property southeast of downtown Los Angeles for the controversial prison.

"We would hope to be able to negotiate a purchase from the new owner," the Republican governor said. "If not, we can always consider a condemnation action."

Meanwhile, a key legislator in the prison negotiations said Administration officials indicated in private discussions Monday that they would consider a second prison site in a remote part of Los Angeles County as a way of defusing opposition to his preferred location adjacent to heavily Latino Boyle Heights.

Still in Escrow

Escrow has not closed on the sale of the Eastside site to Ramser Development Co., but state officials have approached Ramser about the possibility of acquiring the land, Deukmejian said.

"They have indicated that they are certainly willing to talk to us," the governor said.

Although Deukmejian has remained adamant about the near-downtown location, his plan was seriously set back in December by Ramser's surprise purchase of a key piece of the prison site. The firm plans to build an industrial park on the property.

Construction of a prison on the site has been blocked by Democratic senators who argue that the site is too close to the neighborhoods of East Los Angeles.

Rodney J. Blonien, undersecretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, said that if condemnation proceedings are approved by the Legislature, they need not cause further delays to the governor's prison proposal, because the state could take possession within weeks.

Detected Change in Position

Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), who has carried the governor's prison plan in the Legislature, said he has detected a change in the governor's position on the Los Angeles prison.

For the first time, Presley said, Blonien indicated that the governor would be willing to consider a second prison in Los Angeles to break the deadlock in the Legislature. In the past, Deukmejian has resisted any such proposal.

"That's not much progress but it's a little," Presley said. "As far as I know, the governor has never even indicated a willingness to discuss it."

Presley is proposing to build the second prison on an unspecified site in the northern, rural area of the county--which is largely Anglo and Republican--to balance the overwhelmingly Latino and Democratic Eastside location.

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti, a leading opponent of the Eastside site, has called for construction of a prison in sparsely populated Castaic. But Presley sought to avoid mention of any specific site to prevent any more community opposition.

Times staff writer Leo C. Wolinsky in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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