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Developer Sweetens Land Deal to Lure Cal State to Oxnard

July 07, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

A developer trying to lure California State University to Oxnard has renewed his offer of free land and sweetened it with $5 million in cash.

Ag Land Services, owners of the agricultural property near Gonzales Road and Victoria Avenue, decided to try to spur new interest after Cal State was unable to purchase a portion of Taylor Ranch in west Ventura, said company Vice President Dave O. White.

In a July 1 letter to the university, White said that the free, 80-acre parcel, valued at $3 million, would also be less costly to develop and more centrally located than the scenic hillside ranch that college officials had selected in March.

"Hell, if that isn't lucrative, what do you want?" White said. "How often does the state get offered 8 million bucks?"

Cal State Deputy Provost Jack Smart declined comment, saying only that the Board of Trustees will consider the offer during a two-day meeting starting July 12 in Long Beach.

That meeting will also be university officials' first chance to discuss the withdrawal last month of Taylor Ranch by its owners, who concluded that a campus would be incompatible with continued oil production on the property.

A top local official has said that the state is prepared to condemn the site through eminent domain, a power authorized under the California Code of Civil Procedure if the seizure is considered essential to a project and in the public interest.

Smart, who has declined to comment on whether the university would take that step, said that Ag Land's offer would probably not affect the state's right to seize a portion of the ranch, should such a determination be made.

Ag Land, which earlier this year had offered to donate 132 acres to Cal State and sell another 80 acres at a reduced price, made its latest offer contingent on the Oxnard City Council's approval for development of 270 acres of nearby land.

The Somis-based company hopes to build 1,200 single-family homes and a shopping center on the agricultural property, a project for which speedy approval would be worth the $8 million donation to Cal State, White said.

Oxnard officials, who had endorsed the earlier proposal, hoped Ag Land's new offer would put the city back in the running for what many believe will someday be the county's first four-year public university.

"It certainly has to be considered an additional carrot before them," said Mayor Nao Takasugi, adding that he thought the council would support the development sought by Ag Land. "It's a much sweeter proposal."

Besides the donation of land and cash, White said he thought the offer would be viewed favorably by Cal State because the proposed site was no longer on the north side of Gonzales Road, but on the south side, farther from nearby landfills.

Unimproved Land

Should Cal State want to expand the facility, more than 200 acres of unimproved land, selling for $30,000 to $50,000 an acre, borders the parcel, White said.

In addition, he argued that developing the largely flat property would be a more prudent use of educational dollars than investing heavily in construction on the steep, coastal ranch.

"It would seem to me that economy and accessibility are going to be more important to these students than a view of the ocean," White wrote. "We are, after all, not talking about a private university such as Pepperdine, but, rather, a facility which will help the disadvantaged better their lot in life."

Cal State is in the third year of its search for a Ventura County campus, which initially is planned to serve 2,000 to 3,000 third- and fourth-year students.

The university has until July, 1990, to buy a site or risk losing the approximately $7 million budgeted for it by the Legislature.

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