Calif. Senate Votes Air Base to College, Schools.
By a 21-13 vote, senators approved a bill to require Tustin to transfer the land to the Santa Ana Unified School District and Rancho Santiago Community College District before selling or developing the rest of the station's 1,600 acres.
Part of the station is in the Santa Ana school district, the district's schools are badly overcrowded and Santa Ana is short of land, said Sen. Joseph Dunn, D-Santa Ana.
"If they do not get a small portion of this free (federal) land that's going to Tustin, this body is going to be asked to assist Santa Ana and every taxpayer in California is going to have to resolve this problem," he said.
But Sen. Ross Johnson, R-Irvine, said Santa Ana schools had backed out of three agreements with Tustin on how to resolve the dispute.
"This legislation really represents the worse thing the Legislature can do in any dispute," he said. "We are proposing to hold a gun to one party's head and say, `Do whatever it takes to make the other party happy."
He predicted that enactment of the bill would lead to a long court fight that would tie up development of the air station for years.
Sen. Bill Morrow, R-Oceanside, used stronger language, calling the bill "an open, blatant theft of property."
Dunn said school officials backed out of the Tustin deals because the land the city offered was contaminated. He said Tustin wasn't willing to negotiate until lawmakers representing Santa Ana introduced legislation requiring the land transfer.
"A gun to the head? No, this legislation simply levels the playing field," he said, predicting moving the bill would encourage new talks.
The Senate rejected amendments by Johnson that would have given the school and community college districts 37 acres plus cash, a package worth $78 million.
Another rejected Johnson amendment would have barred the city of Santa Ana from approving new developments in the two districts unless the deals also included free land for schools.
The bill, by Assemblyman Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, now goes back to the Assembly for consideration of earlier Senate amendments. Final approval by the Assembly would send the bill to the governor.