Time to Speak out for Use of Van de Kamps

On June 13, 2012, the LACCD Board will make a decision about the future use of the New Education Building at the Van de Kamps Satellite campus. Your silence and apathy could equal permission to the Los Angeles Community College Board to continue to collect about $100 per year in property taxes from you while offering no adult community college or community service class opportunities at the Northeast LA VDK site.
Even though the state budget cuts have severely curtailed community college opportunities at other LACCD colleges, LACCD is receiving enough rental income from other buildings at the VDK Campus to cover operating costs. On June 13, it could chose to implement a portion of the vision for the VDK Campus,
The original plan for the VDK Campus was premised on LACCD offering a mixture of fee-based community service courses that pay for themselves and some level of traditional academic classes that give young adults a pathway out of poverty and lost opportunity. Now is the time for you to raise your voice in support of opening half of Van de Kamps for the purpose for which it was built! Raising your voice can persuade the LACCD to move in a direction to correct three years of needless discrimination against the young adults of Northeast when LACCD offered our community nothing at all while taking our property taxes.
Here are the facts. The VDK Campus has two buildings: the New Education Building and the Bakery Building. The VDK Campus also includes the land beneath Pollo Loco, Denny’s Restaurant, and Auto Zone which was purchased with bond funds. The City of Los Angeles is renting the Bakery Building for $150,000 per year. The business tenants are paying land rent of about $335,000 per year to LACCD. All of this money is deposited into the VDK Campus operating fund and amounts to about $485,000.
In 2009, Board of Trustee members Mona Field and Sylvia Scott-Hayes and LA City College President Jamillah Moore came to Northeast community meetings and claimed that because of the state’s budget mess, they could not open the $91 million VDK Campus as it neared construction completion. Instead, they later claimed LACCD was “forced” to lease the New Education Building to a K-12 charter high school and the Bakery Building to the City of Los Angeles in order to “cover” the $500,000 annual operating cost of the site. At the time, the LACCD was not receiving the rent from the commercial tenants.
Now, three years later, the situation has changed dramatically. Almost all of the annual cost of operating the VDK Campus is covered by the rent from the commercial tenants and the City of Los Angeles’ rent of the Bakery Building. This presents an opportunity for the faculty of either Los Angeles City College or East LA College to program the New Education Building with a mix of fee-based community-oriented classes for business entrepreneurs, foreign language, music, and other things to meet the needs identified in the original VDK Campus feasibility studies.
The District no longer “needs” to rent the New Education Building out to cover operational costs because those costs are covered by the rent already flowing into LACCD’s general operating fund from the other tenants.
For three years, the LACCD, in temporarily renting the New Education Building to a charter high school, ignored Education Code restrictions against placing such students in close proximity to ex-offenders (including sex offenders) and other adults using the City’s workforce services in the Bakery Building.
The most appropriate and responsible action of LACCD would be to move the 9-12 grade charter school students just down San Fernando Road to the new high school in Taylor Yard where they will have athletic fields, and after-school clubs that simply are not available at the community-college-designed VDK Campus. That high school was built with K-12 school bonds which is where this charter school belongs. This would be a win for the charter school students and a win for Northeast adults and taxpayers who intended the VDK Campus to serve adult education needs.
But LACCD staff presented “options” to the Board that point toward an effort to continue the illegal diversion of community college bond-financed assets into the hands of Richard Riordan and Eli Broad, whose representatives sit on the 9-12 charter school’s board. Taxpayers are already outraged that the City Council gave Eli Broad $50 million of Community Redevelopment monies to build his museum in downtown. Should he also deprive our young adults of the educational opportunities they should be getting at the VDK Campus by grabbing half the VDK Campus for his charter school?
Will Northeast’s taxpayers sit by quietly while the wealthy interests lobby the Board to hand the New Education Building back to them in a sweetheart, no-bid deal? Or, will Northeast taxpayers pick up the phone or write an email and urge the Board to demonstrate leadership by opening at least half of the VDK Campus for its original purpose?
Let the President of LACCD, Miguel Santiago, know which direction the Board should take on June 13, 2012. Board of Trustees: (213) 891-2044 (ask to leave a message) or msantiago@email.laccd.edu. More information: www.VandeKamps.org