A report released Wednesday by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) recommends that the proposed California State University academic center in Ventura County be located at Ventura's Taylor Ranch instead of at an Oxnard agricultural site.
LAFCO cannot dictate the location of the college, but it does have the final say on requests by cities to annex land. Both proposed sites lie outside their respective city boundaries and would require annexation because of county guidelines that discourage development in unincorporated county land.
Both Ventura and Oxnard are vying for the college. Ag Land Services, the developer who owns the Oxnard site, has offered to conditionally donate 100 acres, and Ventura officials have indicated that they may be willing to provide financial assistance.
LAFCO's report--which was mailed to Cal State Deputy Provost Jack Smart on Wednesday--evaluates zoning, land use, traffic, water supply and sewer considerations at the two sites. It concludes that placing the university center at Taylor Ranch would have the least impact on the environment--and especially on agricultural land, which LAFCO is committed to preserving.
'Minor' Farming Impact
Smart said the LAFCO report is "obviously going to be a factor in our decision." But, he added, "we certainly would not want to end up with the wrong piece of property just because it was easier to get the government to approve it."
Taylor Ranch, a hillside pasture located on a panoramic bluff north of U.S. 101, is used for cattle ranching and generates $10,000 annually. Building a college there would have a "minor impact" on local farming, according to County Agricultural Commissioner Earl MacPhail, who was quoted in the LAFCO report.
Since 95% of the Taylor Ranch site lies in a designated coastal zone, however, building a university center there also would require approval from the California Coastal Commission.
The Oxnard site, located near Victoria Avenue and Gonzales Road, is prime agricultural land that generates $400,000 annually.
'Unique . . . Microclimate'
According to the agricultural commissioner, the site is in a "microclimate" that allows up to three crops a year of mixed vegetables, a feat that is "unique, and few places in the world can equal this kind of production."
LAFCO's report also expressed concern that four-lane Victoria Avenue, which is projected to expand to 10 lanes or more by the year 2010, would be further clogged by the proposed university and related development.
Ag Land Services has said it will donate the 100 acres in return for rezoning and other concessions from Oxnard officials that would allow construction of a 180-acre residential development on neighboring property also owned by the firm.
On Wednesday, LAFCO executive officer Robert L. Braitman stressed that the report was a preliminary one and he declined to anticipate what the Commission's final action might be.
'We Don't Have Cost Yet'
But Oxnard's mayor remains optimistic that his city is still in the running.
"Unfortunately, any piece of ground we develop in Oxnard is going to be good agricultural land. There's no way to mitigate that," said Mayor Nao Takasugi.
Ventura City Manager John Baker did not view the report as cinching the campus for Ventura. "The most important pieces of information have yet to come," he said Wednesday. "We don't have the cost yet, and that is the key thing for all of us."
The Taylor Ranch is owned by Cynthia Wood, a Santa Barbara oil heiress. She has not yet set a price for the 550-acre parcel that would be used for a campus on her 30,000-acre ranch.
Times staff writer Jesse Katz contributed to this story.