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Council Agrees to Battle Eastside Prison in Court

July 22, 1987|BILL BOYARSKY | Times City-County Bureau Chief

A unanimous vote of the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday sent the city's attorneys into court fight to block the proposed state prison on Los Angeles' Eastside.

Council members from the Westside and the Eastside joined in supporting the court challenge, as did Mayor Tom Bradley, who appeared before the council to urge the lawmakers to back the fight.

Whether the city can succeed in blocking the prison is uncertain. But the resources of the city attorney's office will be a help to East Los Angeles community leaders, who suffered a defeat when Gov. George Deukmejian signed a Los Angeles County prison construction bill.

The measure authorizes construction of prisons in East Los Angeles and in the Lancaster area next to the Mira Loma county jail. Under the legislation, Deukmejian is also to study a third site, in the lightly populated Hungry Valley area near Gorman. Legislation still pending in Sacramento would permit, but not require, the governor to drop either the East Los Angeles or the Lancaster site--or both--in favor of Hungry Valley.

The legislation was the result of a compromise. Deukmejian favored putting a Los Angeles County prison in working-class, Latino East Los Angeles but could not get it through the Democratic-controlled Legislature unless he also agreed on a prison in the predominantly white and more affluent northern county.

Bradley, who opposed the East Los Angeles site all through his unsuccessful campaign for governor last year, said construction of it would halt plans for commercial development of the land southeast of Olympic Boulevard and Santa Fe Avenue. Commercial development there, he said, would provide jobs for East Los Angeles.

Councilwoman Gloria Molina voiced a major complaint of East Los Angeles prison foes: The state legislation does not require an environmental review of the Los Angeles site until the land has been purchased. Declaring that environmental impact reports are usually required before such land purchases are made, Molina said, "The city of Los Angeles should not be treated differently than any other part of the state."

Westside Councilwoman Ruth Galanter called the state legislation a "perversion of the environmental review process."

That point will likely be a major part of the city's legal attack against the prison legislation.

The legal challenge is just one obstacle facing the prison. Another concern is fiscal. A total of $149 million from a recently approved state bond issue is available for the East Los Angeles site, but money for the $147-million cost of the Lancaster prison is to come from a bond issue the Legislature hopes to place before voters next year.

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