Thursday, July 13, 2017

The origins of our college district, Part 4: Tustin buffoonery? Hubris? Hayseedery?

Bill Moses, Tustin News
     IN THIS POST: the so-called Allen-Briscoe "report" referred to unfortunate proclivities among elements of OC government that led to fragmentation, and it is easy to see such tendencies among the cities and school districts in OC in the early 60s. By 1961, Tustin seemed to be shopping around for the best deal between that offered by the Santa Ana Junior College District and the possible deal offered by the Orange Coast Junior College District, despite Allen and Briscoe's key recommendation that things proceed according to a coordinated general plan. In a typical editorial, the Tustin News insisted that Tustin was under no obligation to follow the guidelines created by "out of town education experts." Rather, Tustin should sit tight until the most advantageous course of action for the city becomes clear. Evidently, the proposal according to which Tustin schools would coordinate with the schools of Orange and Santa Ana seemed to lead to a plan to construct a college in north Tustin, and so that merger was indeed attractive. On the other hand, Orange Coast officials seemed to embrace a “pay as you go” construction policy, and this appealed to Tustin's fiscal conservativsm.
     By April of 1963, however, Tustinites were discussing another “JC district” idea entirely, one even more alien to Allen-Briscoe recommendations, for they were contemplating merging with Laguna Beach and Capistrano high school districts to form a new, fourth JC district.
     Tustinites seemed to believe that, with the formation of a South County JC district, the first college would be built in or near Tustin. In part because California legislators compelled school districts to allign with JC districts by 1967; and in part because of the Irvine Co's decision to permit residential development around UCI, voters of the South County region voted in 1967 to form what soon was called the "Saddleback Junior College District. it overcame a "vigorous campaign" to annex south county districts to already-existing districts. And though existing projections indicated that Irvine, to the north, would experience the most growth, the older communities down south lobbied hard for a southern campus, and when the Mission Viejo Co. offered land at a great price for 199 acres at Avery, the deal was clinched. And thus it was that the first campus of the new district was located just above San Juan Capistrano, twenty miles south of Tustin. Classes opened in the Fall of 1968.
     Owing to the great distance between Tustin/Irvine and Saddleback College, many residents of those towns preferred to go to Santa Ana or Orange Coast colleges. By Fall, 1975, Irvine & Tustin comprised more than 46% of the district's population, but only 28% of Saddleback College's day students. Of the 3000 students declining to attend Saddleback, 60% went to OCC and 30% went to Santa Ana.
     In 1974, Tustin attempted to leave the Saddleback District and join the Santa Ana (Rancho Santiago) district. The matter was to be decided by vote, but when the state insisted that the election be district-wide, defeat was guaranteed, since Tustin's de-annexation would entail a tax increase for non-Tustin South County citizens.
     By 1975, it was clear to Saddleback district officials that they could and should build a northern campus, and, soon, nine sites were selected for consideration. In June 1976, the Trustees narrowed these sites down to three and then finally selected a site on the north/east side of the Santa Ana Freeway on Myford (essentially in Tustin). But then, in January of 1977, the Irvine Co., who owned all acceptable sites, urged the board to abandon the Myford site for a new site at Jeffrey/Irvine Center Drive, which the company was willing to sell at a low price. Nevertheless, the board selected the Myford site in February. After an election in March, the newly configured board overturned the earlier decision and went with the Jeffrey site. (The details of all of this are explained in parts 8A, 8B, and 8C of this series.) —RB

     Oh, Tustin, Tustin, Tustin. Always lookin’ for a deal.
     A May 4, 1961, editorial in the Tustin News presents a city and community that is in no hurry to throw in with one merger plan or another. “Let’s see who offers the best deal,” they seem to say:
     We have continued to study aspects of junior college districts [proposals] since our last report on the meeting at which Santa Ana College officials addressed themselves to the subject of a merging Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin high school districts into one.     Our latest intelligence is that it is still possible for TUHS [Tustin Union High School] district to discuss the possibility and advisability of joining Orange Coast College [instead].
     That the Allen-Briscoe planners recommended Tustin’s merging with Santa Ana and Orange—and for good reason—doesn’t seem to bother this writer at all (probably Bill Moses).
     The writer seems impressed with Orange Coast’s finances:
Instead of bond issues, we hear OCC board is considering an over ride tax, to save bond issue interest and to undertake a “pay as you go” construction policy. This is refreshing news…. The override tax being discussed, we understand, is in the range of 15 to 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation. This is not a bad tab, when you look at other schools’ financial projections.
     Again, the writer opines that Tustin should be in no hurry to decide:
We believe a few months of study of the junior college districting situation is a program no one could argue with in light of the fact no good will come from TUHS district going the wrong direction. IF we go into any junior college district we should know why we are going there, how much the tax cost will be and future plans for the educational construction facilities.
Tustin's Hans
Vogel (1922-2015)
     I guess they're in the catbird seat. They sure think they are.
     The Tustin writer, hayseeds clinging to his trousers, evinces some skepticism toward the out of town “experts” who have been brought in, like freakin' outside agitators:
The new JC districting of the county was instigated by one JC administrator who foresaw crushing student population in the years ahead. And this county authorized some out of town education experts to draft a report. It shows Santa Ana, Orange and Tustin as a possibly merged JC district. But this is not mandatory at all, SAC [Santa Ana College] officials have stated in public meetings in Tustin.
     This next part is interesting, if I understand it:
They pointed out such a merger would have to be a “happy marriage” if the union was to endure, particularly with a multi-million dollar bond issue a necessity to erect a new junior college on a new 100-acre site in North Tustin.
Typical news item,
Tustin News 1965
     A college in Tustin? Is that what they’re hoping for?
     The writer reminds readers that their city need not bend to the will of nasty brainiacs and outsiders; Tustinites have a choice:
     It’s obvious TUHS district has a choice. From latest reports, Laguna Beach and Capistrano Beach high schools do not wish to merge into Orange Coast [again, contrary to Allen-Briscoe recommendations]. That would indicate TUHS district would be considered with interest, possibly by the OCC board of trustees.  
   SAC officials have shown their interest in TUHS. We imagine as much interest exists at OCCC official levels. No reason our local folk cannot find out how OCC officialdom feels about this high school district. Last we heard they like us fine.
     That’s too folksy for me to understand. WTF.

     That was the, or a, Tustinite perspective as of May, 1961. Somehow, by April of 1963, Tustinites are discussing another “JC district” idea entirely, one even more alien to Allen-Briscoe recommendations. They’re contemplating merging with Laguna Beach and Capistrano high school districts!
     Tustin’s merging with Orange and Santa Ana makes sense: the city is, after all, only a few miles from Santa Ana College, which is well-established. If a new campus is built for that district, Tustinites would have every right to assume that it would be located in or at least near Tustin. But if Tustin merges with the likes of way-distant Laguna and Capistrano—well by what logic would Tustinites assume that that district would locate its first (or second) campus in or near Tustin?
     Things really haven’t turned out well for Tustin. We’ve gone over some of this ground before. But it will be interesting to consider “the Commission’s” account. (I’m referring to the California State Postsecondary Education Commission and its 1977 report, which I discussed yesterday.)
     Here, then, are relevant excerpts from the Commission’s Community College Education in Orange County, California: The Challenge of Growth in an Era of Limits. It spells out the trials and tribulations of the City of Tustin from a state bureaucrat's perspective:

Celebration premature: Tustin News, March 3, 1977
     A final effort to conform with the Allen-Briscoe report came in 1974 when Tustin attempted to leave the Saddleback District and join Rancho Santiago. [Allen and Briscoe’s] master plan had placed Tustin within Santa Ana's junior college boundaries because of the two communities' proximity and socio-economic similarities. Tustin, however, had voted itself into Saddleback in 1967, believing that the district's new campus would be nearby. When Saddleback College was placed far to the south of Tustin, its residents began agitating for more convenient facilities. Almost 8,000 of Tustin's 31,000 qualified electors in 1974 asked the Board of Governors to approve their separation:
     We respectfully request that you consider the burden imposed upon Tustin residents by assignment to Saddleback Community College located approximately 20 miles south of Tustin when the Rancho Santiago Community College District, with better facilities and curricula and a lower tax rate, is located less than 4 miles west of Tustin.

     The Community Colleges Chancellor's staff supported de-annexation even though this would reduce the Saddleback District's assessed valuation by 23 percent and its average daily attendance by 18 percent. The staff, however, recommended that the de-annexation vote be district-wide, virtually insuring its defeat because non-Tustin voters faced a hefty tax increase if Tustin joined Rancho Santiago. An impassioned plea from Saddleback, though, convinced the Board of Governors to disapprove the transfer altogether on June 20, 1974.
. . .
     Although the Allen-Briscoe report had recommended that the Coast District reach south to include the older communities of Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente, these residents were not anxious to join a district which meandered from Seal Beach to southern Orange County. Two developments, however, forced them into a decision. 
     First, in the early 1960s, the Irvine Company began to gradually develop parcels within its 83,000 acres, thus reversing a 60-year policy, which reserved the land for crops and livestock. The land around UC, Irvine, was certain to become residential and form a solid urban corridor from Tustin south along the Santa Ana freeway and from Costa Mesa to El Toro along the San Diego freeway. 
     Second, California's Master Plan for Higher Education, whose prestige increased steadily during the 1960s, had recommended that all territory “be brought into junior college districts as rapidly as possible." The Legislature then set September 15, 1967, as the decision deadline. Therefore, some action had to be taken to accommodate the growing numbers of students in the older communities of southern Orange County and in the fledgling suburbs of Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, and Irvine.

Whimsical board: July 11, 1977
     Despite a vigorous campaign to annex the southern territory to existing districts, the voters in nondistrict territories voted in 1967 to form the Saddleback Community College District. The new district would be at once the largest and the smallest in the county: it would cover 48 percent of Orange County's square miles but would have fewer residents than the northern districts. Although population projections in the Irvine area were higher than those in the rest of the district, the older communities pressed to have the first campus near San Juan Capistrano. The Mission Viejo Company's low price for 199 acres in the rolling hills along the San Diego freeway clinched the decision, and the first college classes at Saddleback opened during the fall of 1968 in temporary facilities.
     Since that time, enrollment growth has been dramatic and, at times, overwhelming. … Ultimately, the Saddleback site could support a campus of 12,000 ADA students if enrollment continues to expand.
     Since 1967, Saddleback has experienced the striking successes and frustrations characteristic of an extensive district with an influx of relatively affluent, education-minded people....
     Likewise, program development could not be comprehensive at Saddleback. Each program has been phased in order to concentrate resources and to bring each division of the college to maturity in sequence. Transfer programs and vocational courses, which do not require elaborate equipment or much space, have been developed first. Indeed, two vocational programs—gerontology and recreation—have received much support because of the special circumstances in the district. Alternately, specialized technical-vocational facilities have been de-emphasized and, if a second campus in the District at Irvine becomes a reality, the bulk of such education will be there.
From official Tustin website. I guess they
think they dominate the County
     Finally, many students, who live northwest of the campus, prefer to attend closer colleges, which offer more programs. Although the Irvine and Tustin areas contained 46.2 percent of the District's population, in fall, 1975, only 27.7 percent of Saddleback's day students attended from these areas. In 1975, over 3,000 students (900 ADA) attended Community Colleges outside Saddleback District, roughly 60 percent going to Orange Coast and 30 percent to Santa Ana. This number has been cut drastically in 1976-77 by the Trustees' refusal to grant out-of-district transfers liberally, but the administration recognizes that a positive solution must be found for the problem of educational expatriation. All these "growing pains” and the geographical size of the District have held Saddleback's enrollment to 5.1 percent of the District's adult population while the statewide average exceeds 7 percent. To increase this ratio is the foremost goal of the administration and Trustees.
. . .
     The Tustin petition … and the projected growth of the City of Irvine … made a major new facility in the north a compelling item on the Saddleback Trustees' agenda. Furthermore, they believed that enrollment estimates fully justified planning for a second campus. In November 1975 the District selected nine sites in the northern area to be considered for the new campus.... In June 1976, the Trustees narrowed these sites down to 1, 2, and 5, and finally selected Site 1 [in Tustin] after receiving an Environmental Impact Report.
     The District is now embroiled in negotiations over these potential sites. Site 1 (the Myford-Bryan site) is the nearest to Tustin and therefore has political appeal. Unfortunately, the site is in an undeveloped flood plain, without sewers, water, or electricity. Site 1 is also under Williamson Act contract. [It is somewhat encumbered.] Notice has been given on much land surrounding the site, and this land will be released from Williamson Act "agricultural preserves" in the early 1980s. 
     Despite these drawbacks, the Saddleback Board approved Site 1 in September 1976, and approached the Irvine Company, owner of all the acceptable sites. For several reasons internal to its policy-making, the Irvine Company has been reluctant to sell Site 1 and, in January 1977, proposed a counter-offer to the Saddleback Trustees. The Irvine Company would sell Site 6 [on Jeffrey/Irvine Center, in Irvine] substantially below market value. Obviously, the District could initiate condemnation proceedings and ultimately obtain Site 1, but the Irvine Company has made such an attractive offer on Site 6 that condemnation would cost the District thousands of extra dollars.
     Regardless of this, the Board considered the alternatives in February, 1977 and voted 3-2 to press ahead with Site 1 [in Tustin]. On March 8, 1977, a new Board was elected after a campaign which highlighted the second campus issue and, therefore, the negotiations with the Irvine Company are uncertain….
     The rigors of selecting a site have slowed the District's planning for the kind of campus, which would be established in the north.... [END of excerpt]

     See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Above is an old graphic (badly reproduced), an artifact of the district's selection process of the "north campus" in 1976-7. I have added a contemporary map of the same area, showing sites 1 and 6 (i.e., Bryan/Myford at today's Tustin Marketplace and IVC @ Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive).
More later.
* * *

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice documented overview of our District's history--and some petty intrigues. I like the "hayseedery" bit. Keep logging in, Roy. You are appreciated.

Haven't heard much about your cat of late.

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