December 4, 2022
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VCCCD seeks new campus on Limoneira land

By Madeleine Benn

Staff Writer

The Ventura County Community College District has been quietly exploring launching a satellite campus in the Santa Clara River Valley, the Business Times has learned. 

“We’ve been actively working with the community college for over a decade to find land to help them develop a campus in Santa Paula,” Harold Edwards, CEO of Santa Paula-based Limoneira Co., said in an interview.

The negotiations for 20 acres of land were also confirmed by Kimberly Hoffmans, president of the school district, in an interview, following the Business Times’ discovery of an agenda item in the minutes of a Ventura County Academic Senate Council Meeting. The body represents Ventura College’s faculty in academic and professional matters.

Limoneira, a producer, seller and marketer of citrus and avocados, and a substantial real estate developer, has extensive land holdings on the Central Coast.

The new campus would be part of an ongoing expansion by the community college district. Its campuses currently include Ventura College, Moorpark College or Oxnard College. 

Although the district recently added 2,000 square feet of life sciences classrooms and labs, it has already outgrown the space, Hoffmans said.

“We currently have an east campus located in a strip mall in Santa Paula,” she said. “But… it’s not meeting the demands of the community’s students and classes.”

She said the district would like to acquire a spot adjacent to the Route 126 land corridor. 

The district has also approached the Santa Paula Unified School District (SPUSD) about purchasing a property occupied by SPUSD, but not in use, she said. 

According to Hoffmans, Jeff Weinstein, the superintendent of SPUSD, said SPUSD has not yet decided how and if it’s going to use the plot. Weinstein could not be reached for comment prior to press time.

“We hosted a town hall so parents could attend and say whether they wanted a school built on that property,” said a SPUSD spokeswoman, Nancy Gonzalez. 

Limoneira’s Edwards said, “We have land Limoneira is interested in having VCCCD buy, but they haven’t been able to commit for over a decade. 

“We’re supportive of their efforts, but they’re having a hard time figuring out what they can do,” he said.

Indeed, the district’s expansion plan has what appear to be major hurdles to overcome. The faculty minutes state that additional research is required, as well as the approval of two key bodies. 

However county supervisors might decide, the faculty’s opposition seems strong.

Hoffmans said the council’s main concern has been sufficient student demand to justify the proposed expenditure. Council members have voiced questions about inflated enrollment projections by the district’s administration. They have requested figures as to the number of students living in Santa Paula, Fillmore and Piru currently associated with Ventura College as their primary campus, as well as evidence that the proposed campus is desired by the Santa Clara community. They expressed concern about spreading resources more thinly during a time of what they characterized as declining demand.

Faculty have also called the planning incomplete and even expressed doubt as to the administration’s ability to create adequate plans. And some council members have alleged a history of broken administration promises.