Coalition says $12 million in measure J bond money should be used for finishing community college campus project at Van de Kamps property.
By David Fonseca |Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch | http://bit.ly/f5koPt
March 25, 2011 | Northeast Los Angeles residents who have been fighting for years to have a community college campus installed at the historic Van de Kamps property on Fletcher Drive in Glassell Park are crying foul over what they claim is yet another misuse of city bond funds by the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Directors.
<The historic Van de Kamps bakery property, circa 1940 Courtesy Van de Kamps coalition
On Tuesday evening, the board voted in favor of allocating $11.5 million in Measure J bond funds toward the renovation of the District's Educational Services Center. Those funds were approved by Los Angeles voters in 2008 for the purpose of retrofitting the Southwest Museum of the American Indian into classroom space.
Simply put, the Van de Kamps Coalition believes those funds should be spent on installing a LACCD satellite campus at the Van de Kamps property, said Miki Jackson, who help formed the coalition in 1999.
The board approved the measure by a vote of 5 to 2, with members Tina Park and Michael Santiago dissenting.
As of Friday morning, calls by Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch to the LACCD board of trustees have not been returned.
Daniel Wright, a Mount Washington based attorney who is representing the Van de Kamps coalition in several of their lawsuits against the LACCD board of trustees for allegedly failing to live up to their promise to install a satellite campus at Van de Kamps said the coalition is not upset that the funds were shifted away from the Southwest Museum, but that they were not put toward the Van de Kamps project.
Wright, who is also a member of the Friends of the Southwest Museum, actually wrote the argument against Measure J in 2008, as he believed the transformation of the museum into classroom space would prevent it from ever begin used as display space again.
The friends of the Southwest Museum are currently engaged in a battle of their own with the Autry National Center, who after merging with the Southwest Museum in 2003 drastically limited the number of weekly collection display hours until completely closing the museum to the public in 2008.
"The friends of the Southwest Museum and the Van de Kamps coalition members overwhelmingly did not support this proposal for LACCD to come in and renovate the Southwest Museum," Wright said. "It was The Autry National Center's proposal to LACCD to slip the retrofit project into the measure J project list without bothering to do any consulting with the community."
The battle between the Van de Kamps Coaltion and LACCD goes back to 1999, when under previous leadership, it promised to renovate the historic Van de Kamps property and install a satellite campus consisting of three buildings, Jackson said.
In 2003, LACCD received $72 million in measure A/AA bond funds to complete the project. However, Jackson said that as time passed and administrations changed LACCD's board of trustees lost interest in the renovation project.
Currently, LACCD is collecting rent on two buildings at the Van de Kamps property, which have been converted into commercial job training centers.
Jackson said that on Tuesday night, the LACCD board of trustees missed a chance to reinvest in the Van de Kamps property by instead allocating the $12 million in Measure J bond funds toward the educational services center in downtown Los Angeles.
"The community lost out and the students lost out," Jackson said. "It seems like this would have been a perfect chance to reinstate the third building, keep the money in the community and benefit the students."
Jackson added, however, that the board's decision not to use the measure J funds for the Van de Kamps project did not come as a surprise, as it coincided with their recent history of using publicly funded bond measures for projects that have dubious benefit to the community or students.
"This is just another move by the board of trustees to further enrich elected officials and bureaucrats using taxpayer funds and the community that has suffered the most is the northwest," she said.