Friday, December 2, 2011

A "filmmakers' village," but not at ATEP

A kind of "Filmmakers' Village" was once envisioned for the SOCCCD's ATEP campus; after over a dozen years and many millions of dollars spent, SOCCCD still doesn't know what ATEP will be
     As you know, in our district, the usual suspects are once again hard at work “envisioning” what ATEP—sixty-eight acres of the former Tustin Marine Corps Air Station—will be. We've certainly heard that before. Lots of times.

     Did you see the OC Reg article yesterday about the film complex that will be built at Chapman U (for the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts)? Looks impressive.

     $100 million Filmmakers' Village announced

     The Chapman "village" sounds a bit like the complex once envisioned for ATEP. Perhaps you'll recall that, for a while (c. 2006), district leaders were working on a plan to bring a film/TV/soundstage/studio complex to the Tustin property. That came to grief by mid-2008 but seemed to be revived soon thereafter (with different Money Men). But the economy soon tanked; then the revived Media Complex plan came to grief also. Sheesh.

     I've pieced together some of our (and others') coverage of ATEP and the old "film complex" (Camelot) proposal since 2000. It's pretty revealing, I think. Not in a good way.

• The Fall “Opening Session”
Dissent 50, August 21, 2000

     Ced [Chancellor Cedric Sampson] closed by promising, as he had done a year ago, that we will soon “convert” the Tustin Marine Corps Air Station. The political machinations of the Feds and other school districts have delayed conversion, he noted peevishly....

• "Cox channel 3 to air trustee forum"
The Lariat, October 5, 2000

     Power, money and education came under discussion Tuesday night as candidates for the South Orange County Community College District, (SOCCCD) board of trustees gave views of their intentions for Saddleback and Irvine Valley College.
. . .
     [Incumbent Tom Fuentes] said he opposed the El Toro airport and that, since the acquisition of the Tustin Air Base had to do with the “peace dividend” under president Ronald Reagan and that we have benefited under conservative leadership, a conservative leader should be involved in the process of developing the base.
     “We could call it the Ronald Reagan Campus,” Fuentes said.

• From Dissent 54, October 23, 2000

The District Mailer
. . .
     Have you seen the $50,000 district mailer, that proud monument to puffery, sophistry, incompetence, and illiteracy?
. . .
     Page 4. Here, next to a silly photograph of El Ced [Chancellor Cedric Sampson] and a Marine, we find a description of the “Advanced Technology and Education Park of South Orange County.”….
     Alas, the writing is less than lucid:
  • “ATEP will provide multiple career study opportunities. Special certification through graduate study will be offered to launch new ventures through a business incubator.”
  • The ATEP will provide in residence and distance education train-the-trainer component for the foreign, non-physician health providers affiliated with this project.” [Huh?]
• A pitcher, no catchers March 9, 2007

     ... Chancellor [Mathur] explained the “Camelot” proposal. The Camelot Group proposes a film/TV/soundstage/studio complex with a radio and, possibly, a TV station. CSU Fullerton has a film (production?) program, and they, too, are very interested in using any studio/soundstage facilities we might have.

• It’s Camelot! February 2, 2007

     Eventually, I made my way to Saddleback College for the special SOCCCD board of trustees meeting concerning the “Advanced Technology and Education Park” (ATEP) in beauteous Tustin, along lovely Ant Hill Boulevard. Tonight was the night for presentations of the “partnership” proposals submitted for use of our 68 acres, which are located just three or four blimp-lengths from one of those big Marine helicopter hangers.
. . .
     After some folderol, Chancellor RAGHU P. MATHUR introduced the ATEP business. He explained about the 13 proposals that had been submitted. For tonight, he said, only three of the groups who had submitted proposals would be making presentations. CSU Fullerton would present two of them, some outfit called the SEIS Group would present a third, and then Camelot Entertainment Group would present the fourth.
. . .
     The idea seemed to be that these four are the top of the heap.
     According to whom? Mathur made a point of explaining the process whereby the use of ATEP was being determined. According to Mathur, the “governance groups”—faculty, et al.—are a part of the decision-making process! (Don't think so.) The 13 proposals, he said, were duly assessed by the Chancellor’s Executive Committee—a group that included no reps from the governance groups. The Committee, he insisted, “not only invited input” from the governance groups, but “their input is expected!”
     Well, that’s bullshit. We stared at him.
. . .
     Then came CAMELOT Entertainment, the 800 pound gorilla of the evening. Camelot hopes to spend $800 million on a studio complex with sound stages and back lots.
. . ., they were slick. Plus they were determined to WIN THIS THING.
. . .
     The last proposal was called “Young Americans.” They’re patriotic and cheerful or something, and they used to be on Ed Sullivan….

• Do hemorrhoids dream of pineapple sheep? February 3, 2007

     As you know, the star of Thursday’s ATEP board meeting were the Camelot Group, a crew of business suits that showed up with a whiz-bang presentation complete with Star Wars music and slick visuals.
     A friend writes
     Thanks for the info on the ATEP proposals the other night. Camelot's website…sure doesn't have much—and you'd think that a film group…should have their website completed. Still can't find a single title of anything they've ever produced—though their proposal and their website is really eager to tell you all about "investments" and "portfolios" and "incentives.”
     The friend quotes from Camelot’s webpage:
     By combining the production efficiencies of the early studios with the creative advantages leveraged by today's independents, Camelot Films seeks to consistently combine financial success with artistic success.
     My friend is unimpressed:
     Efficiencies of the early 1900s?????...So...where's the education?
     Yeah, what about that? No word yet on what the board made of Camelot and their presentation. Trustees did ask some good questions though. For instance, What happens if you guys miss a payment? And: will Camelot be producing pornography?....

• Board meeting February 27, 2007

     Mathur seems determined to go with the "Camelot" project ….

• A skosh, a dollop, and a plague! April 22, 2007

     Item 4.1 is “Approval of Exclusive Rights to Negotiate Agreement (ERNA) with Camelot Entertainment.” Maybe you know what this means. I don’t. Does it mean that the district is zeroing in on the Camelot deal?
     Camelot, of course, is the investor group who proposed a super-duper studio complex to take up much of our ATEP acreage in Tustin. Some people worry that we’ll get fleeced by these guys. Could be.
     Mathur seems to have taken over the ATEP project. He imagines, I think, that he can envision a success at ATEP so spectacular that his mug will eventually get blasted onto Mount Rushmore.

• Last week's board meeting: sandwiches described and machinations exposed April 30, 2007

     5.1 The board approved the “Exclusive Right to Negotiate Agreement…with Camelot Entertainment.” It was unanimous, and there was no discussion….

• "Real cop donuts": the Saddleback College Trustees Forum May 14, 2007

     There was another horrible lull, and so I stood up and asked about ATEP. Park Ranger Bob explained that construction is moving forward at the Tustin facility and they’ll be offering about 35 classes in the fall. There’s a big marketing campaign, too, and the “partnerships” are moving along. The Camelot people are working with the district on agreements and such. That Bob sure can be pithy….

• Monday’s board meeting: machination SNAFU August 28, 2007

     After a brief break, Park Ranger Bob Kopecky and his crew made a presentation regarding the recent opening of ATEP in Tustin. Bob showed lovely pictures of the new facilities. He showed charts and graphs. He explained about the ongoing conversations with potential partners Camelot and the “Young Americans,” who, he said, are “spreading the American spirit around the world through song and dance.”….

• Did I miss an email? November 6, 2007

     Plus I keep hearing that the city of Tustin is none too keen on Mathur’s BIG PLANS for ATEP—you know, Camelot and Young Republican Hoofers for Christ (or whatever they're called). The word is that the Tustin folks have been giving us the slow stink eye and, if they’re sufficiently unhappy with us, they’ll pull the plug….

• Get with the goddam program December 2, 2007

     Everybody’s been pretty tight-lipped about the ATEP meeting, but there are numerous indications that it was way stormy and/or unhappy (if facial expressions & grumpitude are any indication). Could it be that things are not going well re Mathur’s grand plan to place his mug on Mt. Goomore via the "Camelot" deal? I keep hearing that there exist big tensions among the three concerned parties: (1) the City of Tustin, (2) the Camelot people, and (3) the District.
     If the city is unhappy enough, they'll pull the plug on any BIG ATEP DEAL.
     (NOTE: In my report for the September board meeting (see), I wrote
David Hunt (of gkkworks) presented the “short-range plan” for ATEP.... Our continued use of those 68 acres depends on the city’s confidence that we are making progress in its development. The “long-range plan” is the as-yet-undefined partnership now being negotiated with such entities as Camelot. The “short-range plan” is what we’ll be doing with the property in the interim, which, I gather, will be a period of years. ¶ The short plan’s chief element appears to be demolition of buildings, the projected cost of which is about $7 million. The projected cost of the entire plan, not including some as-yet-to-be-determined elements (e.g., maintenance), is $9,231,610. ¶ Hunt opined that this plan should be enough to satisfy the City of Tustin.
     At the time, I wondered: where's all this money gonna come from?)
     We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything definite.

• The further adventures of a world-class f*ck-up: board meeting December 8, 2007

     The discussion of the 50% Law fiasco is scheduled for the end of the meeting. That could be interesting. It is no secret that Mathur’s failure to understand that law whilst spending BIG on ATEP has put us between a rock and a hard place. Meanwhile, there are indications that negotiations between SOCCCD, Camelot, and the City of Tustin are going badly. It is conceivable that the plug will be pulled on the Deluxe Edition of ATEP. (If that happens, it will be because Mathur is incompetent, not because ATEP was a bad idea.) But who knows….

• The board meeting: faculty address the board re the contract & Nancy carps about a seal March 24, 2008

     Decisions were made about ATEP, but no effort was made to explain them to the public. Curiously, trustees Milchiker and Fuentes voted "no" on item 6.5: "reimbursement agreement: Camelot Development Tustin" ($786,100).

• Will ATEP be home to the "Young Americans"? May 18, 2008

I have a secret plan
     One of these days—within a few months, I think—faculty will suddenly be “informed” that they must start developing an impressive range of programs and courses, as per the SECRET PLAN that will at long last be revealed. Naturally, everything will happen in a big rush, like the recent attempt to hire 38 new faculty (caused by the Chancellor's failure to attend to the 50% Law). Judging by the latter effort, the ATEP whatchamacallit curricular/programatic initiative will be a rush-job, a fiasco.
     No doubt, someone will be inspired to intone, "This is no way to develop programs and curricula."
     —True, faculty are not entirely sans clue. We do know that “Camelot Entertainment” is in the entertainment industry: lights, cameras, action....

• Tiny newsberries June 17, 2008

     Speaking of ATEP (i.e., the Advanced Technology and Education Park, in Tustin), I keep hearing that things are FUBAR with the ATEP confabs. Is Camelot a buttnugget? If so, plan B will look nothing like plan A, and SOCCCD will look like SHIT once again P.D.Q. (The Young Americans want to put up their tents and park their clown cars at ATEP. Is that part of plan B?)
     As you know, some of our trustees (and trustee Tom Fuentes in particular, who has philosophical misgivings) are unhappy with Big ATEP. When, a few months ago, things got rocky Big-ATEPwise, the board was barely able to scrape up a green light for continued efforts.

• Tonight’s board meeting July 28, 2008

     During group reports, IVC Prez Glenn Roquemore thanked the various participants of the IVC Accred Focus Group. Of the report they have drafted, he said, “I think it hits the mark.” Glenn also reported that ATEP enrollments have been very high (about 600 this summer). He indicated that Chapman U, CSU Fullerton, and even UCI are “excited” about working with us at ATEP. (I got confirmation tonight that “Camelot” is out of the picture. One source told me that other groups [with big money, I assume], though, “have been standing in line” to get involved.)

• Williams' last term? Hope so December 12, 2008

     ATEP FUBAR. Yesterday, at IVC's Academic Senate meeting, President Glenn Roquemore updated faculty on developments at the district's ATEP facility in Tustin. The Camelot group is long gone, we were told, but two new groups seek to take their place, and a decision about that will be made soon.
     Glenn was very upbeat, but I've been reading documents and letters regarding negotiations between the district and the City of Tustin, and it seems clear that, come April, the city will declare that SOCCCD's progress and planning regarding ATEP is unacceptable to them.
     Expect litigation. Lots of it....

• What if they gave a democracy and nobody came? Board meeting notes, part 2 March 27, 2009

     ATEP 2.0 was once supposed to be a center for “Homeland Security” training. Then, I think, it was supposed to be a center for the study of gizmology (well no) and Young Republican Hoofers 'n' Crooners (yes, sorta). Anyway, in recent years, efforts have been made to work with Money Men (and Money Women I guess, though I never seem to spot any of those) to create a film and TV pre- and post-production complex and underwater basket-weaving appreciation module.
     For a while, the “Camelot” people seemed likely to put this thing together, but they turned out to be Money Men sans Money. Nowadays, there are two bigtime developers in the running (they seem to be avec money), and they’re still talking about that Film and TV studio, which, I'm told, is desperately needed in OC. One wonders why these Money People need us, cuz leasing property has got to be cheap in OC by now—I mean, what with the country hitting the skids and all.
     In the meantime, the City of Tustin is essentially a crew of hayseeds who keep falling off of a turnip wagon—and those people are pissed because, way back in the 60s or 70s, they were slated to get their very own community college right there where the Tustin Marketplace now stands, but then that wily old Irvine Company arranged one of its slick deals to avoid paying taxes by giving away that orange grove upon which IVC now sits.

• ATEP bushwackery? A tiff over turf April 14, 2011

It's a money pit
     …Contemporaneous with Dixie’s Accredular adventures, the SOCCCD board of trustees had about reached their limit with regard to ATEP, a project that, despite many years of district effort and expense, never seemed to really get off the ground. After all of these years of struggle, the trustees just felt worn down.
     They were about to pull the plug.
     Meanwhile, trustee Fuentes, who has never liked the idea of ATEP (his libertarian ideals produce occasional spasms of bilious spewage; he projectile vomited last summer), had reached the conclusion that ATEP was a “black hole,” a money pit. He said so publicly, noisily. He demanded action…. [END]


     Fuentes did not prevail. Somehow, the pro-ATEP (i.e., pro-BigATEP) contingent on the board won the day.
     As I recall, the decision to embrace ATEP occurred some time during the summer of 2010. That was about when Raghu Mathur was run out of Dodge--during Dixie B's brief tenure as temp Chancellor. Wagner and Williams were still on the board, but they were short-timers.
     Recently, Fuentes--seemingly with his last breath--alluded to a fateful wrong direction taken by the district that places us on a precipice, etc. Perhaps he was referring to the Big-ATEP decision. Not sure.
     --Ironically, a fair number of faculty critics of the board and of Fuentes in particular--including me--have come to agree that ATEP is a money pit, that we should cut our losses to the extent possible. But it looks like the board has made its decision, and that's that.
     I do hope that we don't lose sight of the central faculty issue concerning the ATEP saga: that, despite faculty's authority over program development (etc.), from the beginning, the board and Chancellor have developed ATEP unilaterally. The big decision I mean, not the details.
     I certainly understand that faculty could not pilot that ship. But the pilot should have allowed faculty to sit nearby, advising. That never happened.

The notorious ten minute tour of ATEP


Charlie said...

What a total disappointment. We had the vision a decade before this and just squandered it away.

Anonymous said...

Missed opportunities...

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worry about Tustin pulling the plug on ATEP. The economy took a dive and the developers took a hike. Tustin has a nice piece of toxic land, but no one is standing in line to develop it. We should hang on to our piece, and just stay put with a tiny little facility, offering classes that interest the community. Plan B should be to stick with Plan A for another five years.

Anonymous said...

What a waste it has been.

Anonymous said...

A waste then, a waste now, awash in waste in the future.

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