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Valleywide Focus

Pierce Head Pitches Commercial Plans

August 23, 1994|FRANK MANNING

Pierce College's president--seeking support for her ambitious plans to renovate the campus and introduce various commercial ventures--has begun pitching her proposals to neighborhood residents.

"You have to know where you are going if you are ever going to get there," said Mary Lee, who estimates the project will cost up to $100 million and take as long as three years to complete.

The commercial ventures, including a golf driving range, will bring in badly needed revenues with minimal impact to the neighborhood, said Lee. Most of the proposals are designed to improve the school's educational programs.

She will meet at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with members of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization at the Pacific Lodge Boy's Home, 49000 Serrania Ave. in West Hills.

Lee's proposal includes creating a public/private partnership to build a driving range and farm museum; construction of a 300-seat domed theater that would also serve as a planetarium; construction of a discovery pavilion to give children and adults hands-on experience in science; construction of a 160- to 260-seat conference center, and adding about 10,000 seats to the football stadium, which now holds about 5,000.

The project would be paid for, Lee said, through state grants, public/private partnerships and special assessment districts.

Many neighborhood residents want to learn more about Lee's ideas, said Robert Gross, president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization.

"We have some skepticism over the master plan," he said. "How does it enter into the educational mission of a college?"

"Our main goals are to make sure that the farmland and the natural environment areas be protected for educational use and for wildlife habitat," said Margo Murman, president of the Coalition to Save the Farm, a group formed to spare the farm from budget cuts.

"From what I've seen of the plan, it keeps evolving," she added. "I certainly would like to see a lot of public input."

Under Lee's proposals, the farm would remain in operation and a 15-acre wildlife preserve, Canyon de Lana, would not be altered. Lee says she has consulted with students, teachers, school administrators and others about her plans.

The neighborhood group has been at odds with previous school officials, including Dan Means, who retired as president in June, 1991, after leading a successful bid to close the school's dairy and farm store.

According to Gross, Lee--who took over as president in April after serving 13 years as president of Valley College--has been working with residents to ease tension.

"We have a proven educational leader in Mary Lee and we are looking forward to working with her," Gross said.

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