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School Land Purchase Viewed Both as Irresponsible, Proper Procedure

March 13, 1994

* Minutes of a closed meeting, Santa Ana Unified School District board-- as I envision them:

Board member 1: Let's buy 11 acres from Bristol Market Place for $23 million. They're stuck with the land and can't use it for anything else.

Board member 2: Boy, that's almost $46 a square foot and we can buy land on the open market for $15 to $18 a square foot.

Board member 3: That doesn't make any difference, this is free money from the state; we need money and the state gives it away.

Board member 4: Don't we have a responsibility to limit any land purchase to a price that reflects market value?

Board member 5: I agree with member number 4.

Board member 3: Don't you understand, this is free money from the state. If we get any public static, we won't have to take the heat; we can lay it off on the State Allocation Board. Besides, (Assemblyman Tom) Umberg got us that Waldron appraisal and we can always play dumb and claim reliance on the appraisal.

THE VOTING: Members 1, 2 and 3 voted in favor; 4 and 5 voted against.


Santa Ana

* Indifference to spending taxpayer money or a conspiracy to make too many bucks, too fast?

Two recent Times articles on the Santa Ana Unified School District's "Space Saver" school imply that one of these must be true.

In reality the district is taking the correct actions. This state-imposed process puts the district "out of the loop" in determining the property value.

Those who dislike this process should complain to Sacramento instead of condemning the district.

That process requires a price estimate for the site. This estimate was given to the State Allocation Board (SAB) over four months ago. The SAB, including State Sens. Leroy Greene (D-Carmichael) and Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), and its executive director, Lyle Smoot, were aware of this estimate when they reserved $22.7 million on Dec. 1.

That this estimate is confidential is not surprising. The district has no desire to reveal its information when it enters into the final negotiations. This disclosure has seriously weakened the district's position in those negotiations.

If school district attorneys profit, it is due to hours spent combatting disinformation spread by this project's opponents. It is sad that those who call for wise use of taxpayer dollars have forced them to be spent this way.

There is far more involved than the casual observer will notice. Those truly interested have come to understand the system by directing relevant and pointed questions to the board and staff.

I continue to be convinced that the district is acting in good faith and with great care.


Santa Ana

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