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Saturday, Jun 10, 2023


By SARA FISHER Staff Reporter Pierce College in Woodland Hills is under attack by community groups for considering a plan to sell or lease part of its 240-acre farm for commercial activity. Much is at stake in the battle. The community faces the loss of one of its last large pieces of open space, while the financial viability of Pierce College may hinge on the fate of its farm. “After seeing our enrollment decline for the last 16 years, we need to change our basic educational delivery,” Pierce College President Bing Inocencio told the Los Angeles Community College District’s Board of Trustees last month. “I want to offer more educational opportunities in technology. Careers that involve technology show where our country is going, and our responsibility to the students is to reflect this,” Inocencio said. But the school, which suffered a $4.8 million budget cut this year, is hard pressed to fund such courses, let alone pay existing operational costs. Consequently, the college’s Board of Trustees is eyeing the school’s most lucrative resource its land. Founded in 1947 as an agricultural school, Pierce maintains a working farm that owns tillable and range land, as well as an orchard and herds of livestock. Currently, though, fewer than 300 of Pierce’s 15,000 full-time students take classes in the agricultural department. The campus as a whole encompasses 435 acres and is the largest community college in the district. The college will not take any action regarding the land until it finishes its Facilities Master Plan, which is projected to be completed in 15 months. In September, however, the board voted to re-examine the feasibility of developing the land as a means to raise funds for the school. Upset about the loss of a working farm’s educational opportunities, a disruption to the habitats of migratory animals and of course the loss of some much-vaunted open space that adds property value to the surrounding neighborhoods, community groups have sprung to action organizing protests, letter-writing campaigns and petition drives. “I recognize the terrible financial shortage facing Pierce, but there is a massive need for agricultural education,” Dorian Keyser, a representative of the Sierra Club, told the Board of Trustees during a public hearing last month. “Agriculture is California’s largest industry and we need to continue training and educating people for this industry.”

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