California State University officials acknowledged this week that they may miss a deadline for spending $7 million earmarked for a Ventura County campus, but said there was little chance that funds for the project would dry up.
Although Cal State loses the money if it does not acquire a site before July, 1990, lawmakers agreed that renewing the allocation would not be a major problem.
State Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), who sponsored the 1985 legislation that provided the $7 million, said he would gladly introduce such a bill again. And Hart predicted that, barring a severe budget crisis, the money would again be available.
"If we can show that some real progress is being made, I think we'll be able to persuade the Legislature to keep the ball rolling," he said. "It's not a slam dunk or a guarantee . . . but I'm reasonably optimistic."
Hart last week introduced legislation for a $900-million educational bond act that, if approved by the Legislature and California voters, could give the university $400,000 to help develop a West Ventura site. His last bond measure, Proposition 78, was approved by voters in November. It earmarked $100,000 for the campus.
Cal State officials had hoped to take steps toward acquiring a portion of scenic Taylor Ranch during their quarterly board meeting in Long Beach this week. But several studies that they had ordered for the ranch last summer--and that were expected to be completed this month--still have not been done, they said.
"I don't think it will be too difficult to get the deadline extended," said Jack Smart, Cal State's vice chancellor for university affairs. "Everything seems to take longer than it should."
Last June, the owners of Taylor Ranch threw the search for a campus site into turmoil when they announced that they were no longer interested in selling the oceanside property.
Undaunted, the Cal State Board of Trustees in July ordered an appraisal and an environmental impact report for the ranch--steps consistent with condemning a portion of the hillside land.
Under the California Civil Code, public agencies can acquire properties through eminent domain if a project is in the public interest and serves the greatest public good while causing the least public injury.
Although Cal State officials will not confirm whether they intend to use eminent domain, they acknowledge that it is an option. Smart declined to predict when those studies will be completed.
"I've been wrong so many times in the past," he said. "I don't want to be wrong in the future."
In comparison, the northern San Diego County campus proposed by Cal State about the same time as the Ventura County campus is already in the works.
The San Marcos site, which was purchased last year, is being graded and readied for construction. If work goes according to schedule, classes should begin in the fall of 1992, Smart said.
Since 1974, Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara have offered classes jointly to as many as 1,000 third- and fourth-year students in a cramped office building in mid-town Ventura. The Cal State wing of the university center moved to a larger facility near Seaward Avenue last fall.
The proposed campus is initially expected to serve 2,500 upper level students and, within the next 20 years, could be expanded into a four-year university serving 5,000 students, officials said.
Once a site is acquired, officials said, they will need at least four years for planning and development before the first student enters a classroom.