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Board Went by the Book on Soka

June 03, 1993

In explaining why he opposes the proposed Soka University expansion in the Santa Monica Mountains (Valley Commentary, May 16), Dave Brown has taken a few liberties with the facts.

Mr. Brown tries to paint the board as having a predisposition toward approving this proposal. He insinuates that the board in past years "bent the rules" to approve favored projects. Nothing could be further from the truth!

For example, he accuses the county of upzoning what he refers to as the "Renaissance Faire" property. As he knows, the property was not owned by the fair operators. Further, the general plan amendment approved by the board was based upon a finding that the previous land-use classifications were based on incorrect hillside slope information. The board's action simply corrected the mapping to give this property the same development opportunities enjoyed by other properties having similar characteristics. More to the point, the board's action permitted only 150 homes on 320 acres, hardly a dense project.

Mr. Brown wanted the classification to remain unchanged so that the Park Service could acquire the site at less than fair market value. However, as Joe Edmiston of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy wrote in a letter to The Times on April 26, 1989: "Bluntly stated, the Constitution says government cannot lower property values with one hand so that the other hand can write a smaller check to buy the land." It should also be remembered that Superior Court Judge David Jaffe later confirmed the legality of the board's action.

In another example, he states that two members of the board (myself included) sent letters opposing the purchase of the Soka property through eminent domain. I did send a letter to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors complaining that it was improper for Ventura County to circumvent the law to condemn land in Los Angeles County. A Ventura County Superior Court judge ultimately agreed with me on this issue, and the action was disallowed.

While it is true that the proposed condemnation action was to acquire the Soka site, the issue was not Soka but the impropriety of one county's action as it affects property in another county. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time an outside agency attempted to condemn property in this county. The letter makes no mention of Soka University.

Mr. Brown seems to condone illegal actions when they fulfill his ends, but he is very pious when he impugns the motives of others. By law, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy must follow established procedures in acquiring properties for the park. It was Mr. Brown's friends who tried to "bend the rules." The conservancy was caught and spanked by the judge. Nowhere in Mr. Brown's commentary is that mentioned.

The Soka proposal raises a number of legitimate questions that must be dealt with as part of our public hearing process. Mr. Brown would serve everyone better if he stuck to those real issues instead of raising bogus ones.

MICHAEL D. ANTONOVICH

Supervisor, 5th District

County of Los Angeles

Public Land Buys Bring Trouble

* I would like to comment on Joseph Edmiston's letter (May 23) about "the importance of public purchase of the property to protect for all times its spectacular natural and historic resources" in reference to the public acquisition of Soka University.

In these times, public purchases by our government is the worst thing that can happen to a piece of land. Lets review the facts:

* The state of California is so poor it depends on Pepsi-Cola for playground equipment donations, the L. A. Clippers for improvement of basketball courts and a home-building firm (Kaufman & Broad) to build a dog-exercise park, all in the San Fernando Valley.

* A new policy change has opened millions of acres of national parks to strip mining for coal.

* The national forests are heavily logged.

* We now have to pay $23 per year for a permit to hike in our own county-owned parks.

* The Los Angeles City Council voted to close several parks in the Sepulveda Basin at sundown because of vagrants and criminal activity at night.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority has strongly supported the Baldwin and Micor developments which add 800 homes to the Las Virgenes area, remove more than 2,000 oak trees and grade 25 million cubic yards of earth.

At the same time, this agency has spent close to $500,000 of taxpayers' money in a two-year attempt to seize Soka University land.

In contrast, the public has free access to 582 acres of Soka University every day. Over 80% of the land will remain wild. Only 160,000 cubic yards of soil will be graded in areas previously developed or cultivated. Also, Soka University currently pays $500,000 per year in taxes.

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