District sued for misuse of funds

The old Van de Kamp’s Bakery building stands after the Los Angeles Community College District planned to demolish it to create classrooms. PHOTO BY EDGAR LOPEZ




By Rodolfo Trujillo

The Los Angeles Community College District is being sued by a coalition of community organizations and citizens for spending millions of dollars on a satellite campus at the former Van de Kamp’s Bakery.

The property was intended as a satellite for Los Angeles City College, but the Van de Kamp’s coalition, an unincorporated association of nearly 20 community organizations and a large number of individuals in Northeast Los Angeles, argued that the building was to be preserved for historic purposes.

In a year that has seen further cuts in class sections and the cost of education go up to try to balance the state budget, the LACCD is renting out a proposed community college space to a charter high school and work development programs after having spent millions of dollars of bond money to renovate the historical site.

The Van De Kamp’s Innovation Center on San Fernando Road and Fletcher Avenue was supposed to provide a closer location for people of that area to attend college, since they are far away from LACC or any other college.

“You can’t create commercial tenant space with bond money,” said Miki Jackson, a member of the coalition and one of the people mentioned specifically in the suit.

The Van de Kamp’s Bakery was once a thriving business that produced baked goods to sell.

It was left abandoned for years when the coalition formed and saved it from being demolished when the property was to be used as the site of a large store.

In 2001, the coalition, along with Senator Richard Polanco, convinced LACC to take on the site with $3 million of seed money from the state to start off.

That same year, Proposition A was passed.

The District Board of Trustees Approved a master plan for the site the next year and in 2003, Proposition AA was passed.

Eventually the projected budget was more than $73 million, with more than $56 million coming from Proposition A and AA, according to a 2007 report from LACC obtained by Campus News.

The documents said that the building would occupy classrooms along a second, larger building being built to accommodate “administrative, student services and classroom spaces.”

Bond money, which was used to rebuild ELAC and all of the other campuses of the district was intended to, in part, “expand educational centers in underserved communities.”

The propositions did not say that the space could be used for purposes other than repairing, building or improving a community college.

“Because the city was in red (deficit), there was no money to operate the site,” said Richard Arvizu, who was the site manager for LACC.

There are three and half years left on the lease, said Arvizu, and if at that point, LACC is in better financial shape, then the decision will be made to make the site a full satellite campus.

He said that if the site had been left empty, then vandals would eventually damage it.

When asked if there were any college courses being taught at the site, Arvizu said, “There is a small contingency teaching economics and English as a Second Language during the day and evening.”

He admitted that the district is subleasing space at the renovated site to the City of Los Angeles for workforce development and that the newer building is being leased by the Alliance Charter School.

A copy of the 2009 lease obtained by Campus News shows that the Alliance has been leasing the space at $1,000 per student, with a minimum rent of $150,000 annually and a maximum of $500,000 annually.

There are currently 119 students enrolled.

The coalition said the district is putting all the money in a general fund.


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