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Critics Protest Private Golf Range on College Land

May 17, 2003|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

Launching a drive of their own, opponents of a private golf driving range at Los Angeles City College are demanding that officials halt construction and return the range site for educational use.

Critics of the $5-million golfing facility say they will protest the development with a demonstration at 10:30 a.m. today at the college at 855 N. Vermont Ave.

The 70-player practice range, which includes a 160-foot-high fence enclosure, is being built on a 3.8-acre vacant lot at the campus. It is scheduled to open in August and is being constructed under a 10-year lease arrangement with the Los Angeles Community College District. The lease is renewable for up to 35 years.

"We're asking that the lease be rescinded, that the district buy out the developer if necessary," said Duke Russell, a City College alumnus who opposes the range construction.

Opponents contend that use of the land for the driving range will force college officials to tear up existing campus soccer and softball fields and a running track to make room for a proposed science-technology classroom building for the campus.

The college district approved the lease in 1999, three years before voters approved a $1.24-billion bond issue that provides funding that could have been used for classroom construction on the empty lot.

Golf range developer Hee Cho, who is paying the college district $120,000 a year to use the land, said he has no intention of pulling out.

"Even if somebody makes an offer for $100 million, I'm not going to sell," Cho said.

Those opposed to the driving range argue that it is an inappropriate use for public school property and that the enclosure's height makes it ugly and out of scale for the campus area. They also say the district is only getting about a third of the market value of the land.

College district Chancellor Mark Drummond defended the golf deal, however. He said officials who reviewed the rental agreement acted with "due diligence."

Drummond acknowledged, however, that had the bond issue been proposed or approved before the golf agreement, "I suppose different uses would have been made of this certain piece of property."

Critics of the driving range said the golf deal could hinder the district's efforts to pass another $980-million bond measure Tuesday. Drummond declined to comment.

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