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Soka University-Conservancy Compromise

November 20, 1994

The Soka University-Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy compromise is good--most importantly because it saves tens of millions of dollars that would need to be spent on the increasingly lengthy condemnation action and seizure of the property. The Conservancy admittedly does not even come close to having this kind of money.

The proposed settlement preserves the King Gillette Ranch, which is the only portion of the property outlined for preservation in National Park Service's own documents. An adjacent part of the campus, in fact, has been previously entitled for development by no less than the State Coastal Commission.

A scaled-down residential college and graduate school would cause virtually no environmental impact. And besides, the ultimate build-out of the school would have to be determined by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors and not by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Most opponents of Soka don't realize that the university, without a settlement, would continue to defend itself against condemnation and would eventually win. The school already has enough buildings to support well over 1,000 students and at the very least, it can lawfully do that.

So the hope that Soka University may sell its campus is pie-in-the-sky. The site will either be a commuter university of more than 1,000 students or a well-planned park and residential university that will benefit everyone concerned and preserve the majority of the land as open space at no financial burden to the state.

BARBARA WRIGHT

Calabasas

* I was most disappointed to hear that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy is considering abandoning its attempt to stop Soka from building a huge university campus in the middle of the scenic Santa Monica Mountains.

Apparently the conservancy is so uncertain of the success of its lawsuit against an international institution with enormous financial resources that it is happy to settle for anything that saves its face.

On the basis of the facts as we now have them, no other explanation seems plausible, because there can be no one on the conservancy who does not deplore the prospect of finding a footprint nearly twice the size of Topanga Plaza right in the middle of the parkland it is dedicated to protect.

The conservancy should draw strength from the story of David and Goliath and not capitulate to Soka.

HUMPHRY KNIPE

Calabasas

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