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Ventura Continues Bid for 4th Veterans Home

Hearing: Governor's panel is looking at six sites for the last retirement facility, which will be run by the state. A final decision is expected Nov. 14.


LOS ANGELES — A contingent of Ventura County officials traveled to the Veterans Administration complex here Tuesday to lobby for the fourth and final war veterans retirement home to be built in Southern California.

Supervisor John K. Flynn joined David Kleitsch, Ventura's economic development specialist, and several military veterans to ask a gubernatorial commission to build the 400-bed home on property near Saticoy.

"All the controversies have ended," Flynn told the 12-member commission, referring to earlier disputes about the proposed location. "The Chumash, the city of Ventura, everyone supports this site."

Ancestors of Chumash villagers first opposed the east Ventura location, claiming that the site was an old burial ground and should not be developed.

But after proponents agreed to set aside more than two acres of the property for a Native American veterans memorial, representatives of the Chumash community dropped their opposition.

No decision was made Tuesday. But six communities are in the running for the final spot for the $30-million, state-run retirement home.

A Ventura veterans home would be built on about 22 acres near Telephone Road and Saticoy Avenue.

The cities of Barstow, Chula Vista and Lancaster have been chosen as sites of veterans homes, although only the Barstow home is now open. State money has been set aside for the Chula Vista home, but no funds have been budgeted for Lancaster.

A formal report on the fourth site will be completed and sent to Gov. Pete Wilson by Dec. 31, commission members said.

Representatives from Irvine, West Los Angeles, Ventura, Blythe, Twentynine Palms and Perris are asking the Governor's Commission on a Southern California Veterans Home to build the fourth home in their city.

"It's like all real estate," said Thomas R. Langley, the California Department of Veterans Affairs official working for the commission. "You have to look at location, location, location."

Commission members, who are expected to make a final decision at a Nov. 14 meeting in San Diego, said each of the applicants has a shot at landing the last retirement home, which would house aged and disabled war veterans.

"There are a lot of qualified cities, so we have a lot of criteria to look at," Commissioner Stan Standard said after the 90-minute hearing Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not leaning one way or another."

But retired Col. Jay Vargas, the state Department of Veterans Affairs secretary who also serves on the commission, said he prefers that two homes be built in coastal areas and two in inland communities.

"If a veteran that's living in Lancaster wants to live in a coastal site, he can do that," Vargas said.

Kleitsch told commissioners that the Ventura site fits the panel's prototype model home.

"We have an excellent location and a beautiful climate," he said. "And we have a strong partnership. We're all ready, willing and able to go."

But officials from other cities urged the panel to consider their communities.

"Everything you are looking for you will find in the city of Perris," said Olivia Gutierrez, that Riverside County city's director of community services.

"We have gone out to the organizations--the Optimists, the Rotaries and the Knights of Columbus," she said. "They look forward to making the veterans community part of our community."

No matter which city is selected as the fourth location, funding for the project must be set aside in next year's state budget, Langley said.

"Ventura has got a good shot at it," he added. "But right now, I wouldn't bet on anything."

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