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Cal State to Explore Other Sites as Ventura Harbor Talks Fail

October 22, 1987|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

California State University officials this week announced that they will seek other sites in Ventura County for a proposed academic center after the failure of yearlong negotiations to put the facility near the Ventura Harbor.

A university spokesman said Tuesday that Cal State will continue talks with the Lusk Co., owner of about 330 acres of agricultural land on Harbor Boulevard, but held out little hope that a deal can be reached.

"We needed to see the possibility that negotiations with the Lusk people were coming to a successful conclusion," said Jack Smart, Cal State deputy provost. "We just have not seen that, and at this present time we don't see how they can be brought to closure within a reasonable time length."

Deadline in 1990

The university has until June 30, 1990, to buy land in the county for a permanent academic center for third- and fourth-year students or it will lose the about $8 million the Legislature alloted for the project.

Smart said that Cal State will send letters to cities, realty boards and landowners throughout the county expressing the university's interest in another site.

"We're open to whatever new sites come to our attention," he said. "Then, we would select the most promising."

Lusk officials, who hope to build a residential and commercial development on part of the Harbor Boulevard land, said they are not concerned by Cal State's decision to readvertise.

"We're still negotiating with CSU and they're still negotiating with us," said Carl Vogel, division vice president for Lusk. "I guess they just want to make sure they don't get caught out in left field without a site tied down. If you pardon my French, they're just trying to cover their backsides."

Both parties said negotiations have been mired in concerns over who should pay for infrastructure costs, such as freeway improvements and utility lines. Neither Cal State nor Lusk would indicate the amount of money being discussed, but Vogel said their respective proposals were about $4.6 million apart.

Ventura city officials, who engendered optimism earlier this month when they announced that they would consider some form of assistance to help seal a deal, revealed Tuesday that their aid is contingent on a commitment from the university to build a four-year college campus.

In a letter to Smart dated Oct. 1, City Manager John Baker proposed: "In return for a city contribution, Cal State University will guarantee full development of the site for (a) four-year college campus. In the event that a four-year site is determined to be inappropriate by the university, that portion of the land not used for University Center purposes will become property . . . of the city."

Cal State officials, however, were unwilling to guarantee a four-year campus.

"The demographics would not support one at the present time," Smart said. "It's hard to say when they would."

Assistant City Manager Lauraine Brekke said reaction to Cal State's move was mixed.

Engineering Study

"We're not sure what the message really is," Brekke said. "I don't know if it's just a strategic move on their part or if they're really serious about considering other sites."

She said she is optimistic that an engineering study of Taylor Ranch in West Ventura, commissioned by the city three weeks ago, will conclude that the property is a feasible alternate location.

The $25,000 study, which city officials said they commissioned in response to public interest, is expected to be completed by mid-November.

The search for a permanent university center in Ventura County began about two years ago, after a statewide study by Cal State projected substantial growth for the region.

The existing university center, a temporary facility in a leased Ventura office building, offers upper-division classes to about 1,000 Ventura County students registered at California State University, Northridge, and at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The new facility would be designed to serve 2,000 to 3,000 students, Smart said.

Cal State advertised its interest in finding a county site and, after narrowing the proposals to five, selected the Lusk property on Harbor Boulevard last year.

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