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Facts, Not Fiction, Should Be Basis for Land Decision

March 06, 1994

* North Los Angeles County is one of the most rapidly growing areas in Southern California. An unfortunate circumstance of this growth has been tremendous pressure upon all government services. Formulating a reasonable approach to addressing these challenges is difficult in the best of times but is made doubly difficult when egregious, patently misleading statements enter the debate.

A Valley Commentary article (Feb. 13) concerning the proposed replacement of the 33-year-old High Desert Hospital, originally built in Lancaster to provide tuberculosis care for inmates of the County Jail, is a case in point.

In it, a local civic naysayer is given numerous column inches to spew distortions, inaccuracies and misstatements. For example, the author says that the Lancaster Redevelopment Agency intends to issue bonds to raise money to purchase the property, with Los Angeles County to repay the agency. This is false.

He says it should not be the site because it is in a flood hazard area. This is an equivocation that anyone "specializing in land for almost 30 years" knows leaves a false impression, since a fully improved concrete flood-control channel exists and will protect development of the site.

He says that it has poor soil that will need to be replaced and compacted at considerable cost. In fact, this has already been done by the current owner.

He says that $150,000 an acre is unreasonable, but he fails to point out that this property is zoned commercial and is projected to contribute millions of dollars to the Los Angeles County treasury as parcels are sold for hospital support uses, such as medical office buildings, in the future.

He says that the seller, Presley Development, will no longer have to pay its Mello-Roos bonds obligation. This is false. Presley is not relieved of its obligation to pay the special taxes with respect to the property to be transferred to the county for the hospital. On the contrary, Presley will be required to deposit millions of dollars into an escrow fund that will be used to pay the special taxes as they come due.

Projecting public service needs that taxpayers will be entitled to in the Antelope Valley five, 10 or 20 years from now is a challenging undertaking. The continued hodgepodge expansion of an antiquated county medical facility that will duplicate or erode the services of existing centers makes no sense.

However, neither does imagining impediments that will deny north Los Angeles County a facility that will surely be needed in the years to come. Common ground will be found for this debate. But fact, not fiction, must be the basis for a proper solution.

In summary, the diatribe that was published was long on fantasy and short on fact. Perhaps the only factual statement that the real estate "expert" included was that in finding other land, "Realtors and property owners would love to join in the hunt."

ARNIE RODIO

Mayor

GEORGE ROOT

City Councilman

Lancaster

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