The Los Angeles Community College District trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to leave their controversial, rented headquarters downtown and build new administrative offices on a North Vermont Avenue site across from the campus of Los Angeles City College in East Hollywood.
"If we do this right, we can achieve an economic benefit and an improved image for our district," said Lindsay Conner, vice president of the Board of Trustees.
The vote came after much discussion and comparison of properties the district owns that are on or next to six of its nine campuses. Trustees followed a recommendation of their planning staff that the Vermont site is the most centrally located, is convenient to both freeways and mass transit, and construction there presents the fewest zoning and political problems.
In addition, some trustees said that City College, as the oldest and the best known of the schools, was a sentimental favorite and a move there would symbolize getting closer to faculty and students. "I'm very happy to see this dream of ours is going to come true," Trustee Julia Wu said.
Central Location Preferred
Hal Garvin, president of the board, said he preferred using property on Grand Avenue at Trade-Tech College, calling it more central. However, the staff and other trustees said they would rather save that land to one day build a parking garage that might earn revenues for the district. Garvin wound up voting for the City College choice along with the six other trustees.
The district pays $1.25 million a year in rent for its current offices at 617 7th St. Critics have called the headquarters a lavish Taj Mahal, and that long-running argument continued Wednesday as Garvin warned planners not to come up with construction proposals more luxurious than offices on district campuses. However, Trustee Wallace Albertson disagreed strongly, saying the downtown offices, where 350 employees now work, are not plush at all and that the district should improve campus offices and not aim to have the new Vermont headquarters match their conditions.
The district expects the rent downtown to rise substantially when it must extend its lease beyond next year. Officials figure they will save money in the long run by owning their headquarters, which they estimate will cost $14.2 million and take up to three years to build on what is now a student parking lot on the east side of Vermont between Monroe and Marathon streets. Thomas Fallo, the interim district chancellor, said that his staff is studying bond issues and various other ways of paying for the new building, but that he expects no trouble raising funds once a choice is made.
In other business, trustees announced the formation of a "blue-ribbon" committee to help in the search for a new chancellor to replace Leslie Koltai, the chancellor for 15 years who was forced out last fall after disagreements with a newly elected board majority. Working with a professional search firm, the 11-member committee is expected to narrow the number of candidates to five or six by May, and the trustees said they hope to make a final choice by summer.
The committee members are: Harry Pregerson, a federal judge; Jose Lozano, publisher of La Opinion newspaper; labor leader William Robertson; Rose Ochi, head of the mayor's criminal justice planning; Willard Chamberlain, a senior vice president of Atlantic Richfield Co.; John Smart, a vice chancellor of the California State University system; Hal Fox, president of the district's teachers union; Patricia Siever, president of the district's Academic Senate; Suzzane Goodlow, the student representative on the district board; David Wolf, president of Pierce College, and Raymond Palacios, captain of campus police at East Los Angeles College.