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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Planners Envision a Self-Contained CSU Community

Development: Proposal calls for a complex surrounding the Camarillo campus including 900 houses, recreational amenities, office space and shops.

April 18, 1999|FRED ALVAREZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cal State officials are proposing to build a self-contained community around Ventura County's emerging public university, a move designed to sustain both the college campus and the people who will live, work and go to school there.

After two years of study, university planners have unveiled a blueprint for development of a sprawling community of 900 houses crisscrossed by bicycle paths and dotted with parks and pools.

It would feature a child-care center, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school and a bed-and-breakfast retreat for academic-related uses.

It would be a place where research-and-development firms could set up and do business and where residents of the campus community could gather in a town square anchored by small restaurants, shops and perhaps even a small theater.

Taken together, the projects are intended to generate the $307 million needed to build out the university over the next 25 years. That money would be used to create academic space for as many as 17,000 students eventually expected to attend the Cal State Channel Islands campus.

Moreover, officials say the development--known as the East Campus Community Plan--is designed to address long-standing concerns over anticipated air-pollution and traffic problems at the university by creating a self-sustaining community whose residents would have little need to travel off campus.

"This will be the financial engine for the capital program needed to build the university," said Handel Evans, president of the fledgling campus under creation at the shuttered Camarillo State Hospital complex.

"But all of us who have been on the team have also tried to be very sensitive to the environmental concerns of the region while trying to raise the financial base for this campus," Evans added. "I believe what we've done here strikes a good balance."

While the proposal offers the most detailed look yet at the type of income-generating ventures under consideration to finance the university, it still has a long way to go before it moves from the conceptual stage to construction.

In coming months, county planners will take the broad concepts laid out in the blueprint and refine them into a detailed development plan for review by the county's Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. That process will entail a series of hearings where the public will also have an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

If all goes smoothly, university officials hope to have final approvals in place by early next year and to break ground on the development by May 2000.

"From a conceptual point of view it seems pretty reasonable," said Tom Berg, director of the county's Resource Management Agency. He was among more than a dozen county staff members invited to the campus last week to learn more about the plan from the developer, the San Francisco-based Catellus Residential Group.

"Now, however, we've got to roll our shirt sleeves up and prepare their concept into an actual plan," Berg said. "But I think they've given a lot of thought to this project. They are really emphasizing that this is an adjunct to the university, not just something that's there to make a bunch of money."

Even before the Cal State University governing board approved creation of the campus, it was clear this university would be built unlike any other.

A local state college had been on the drawing board for more than three decades, but a series of setbacks delayed those plans. CSU trustees finally agreed last year to launch a four-year college at the mothballed state hospital complex, but only if university planners generated most of the money to make that happen.

Toward that end, Channel Islands officials have a explored a variety of income-generating ventures. Their first proposal two years ago included creation of a golf course, a conference center and a sprawling retirement complex on the outskirts of the campus.

That plan has been refined over the years--on the advice of consultants and through meetings with local residents and officials--to the working document now under review.

"It has been a moving target, but I think that just shows you how responsive the university has been to input from the Board of Trustees, the county Board of Supervisors and the neighbors," said Carolyn Leavens, a Ventura farmer and business leader who had worked for years to bring a Cal State campus to Ventura County.

"Nothing like this has ever been tried before," she said. "But these people are getting very creative in their planning."

At the heart of the development is a range of housing for students, faculty and staff members. Planners propose construction of 369 houses and townhouses for sale plus another 530 units of rental housing. The plan also includes dormitory-type housing for 1,000 students.

Both the for-sale and rental housing would be marketed almost exclusively to people who work or attend classes at the new campus, Channel Islands officials said.

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