Humberto Peraza is hoping the stakes in the ground in the notorious corner lot are a stake in the heart of the corruption that has plagued the jinxed chunk of empty land for nearly 15 years.
“Corruption is dead,” said the reformist trustee. “Now something great can come to life.”
New facilities funded by the 2008 Proposition R bond measure are beginning to take shape after five start-and-stop years marked by the South Bay Corruption Case. A Kafkaesque chain of events that have led to a dozen years of turmoil, criminal behavior, prosecutions, churning leadership and delayed construction have left the community bewildered and angry. The corner of East H Street and Otay Lakes Road has swallowed dozens of administrators and board members, as well as tens of millions of tax dollars. Peraza said a new epoch is dawning.
“Would it have been better to go and build everything that the corrupt regime had proposed and supported and just planted it out there, with a lot of contracts that were questionable?” he said. “Should we have just moved forward with that? My answer to that is no. You don’t build a monument to corruption. We needed to redo our master plan to update it.”
Nine of the 15 defendants in the corruption case fueled by former SWC administrators Raj K. Chopra and Nicholas Alioto had SWC ties. All nine pleaded guilty to corruption related crimes, though none received prison time.
Prop R’s first and most visible project, an extensive remodel of DeVore Stadium, is scheduled to be completed by August 15, before the first football game of the 2014 season. (see story here)
New construction projects approved last fall include a wellness center, a performing arts center, and a new math and science building. The wellness center will be built on the west side of DeVore Stadium and includes two new swimming pools and an expanded gym complex.
Peraza said a plaza will be built between the wellness center and the performing arts center as a means to attract and welcome members of the community. Some plans are still in flux, including a possible culinary arts facility.
A new math and science complex will go in the space that is currently the pool and gym.
Construction Program Director Mark Claussen, a college consultant, said all projects are “bottom up,” meaning the facilities will be entirely new.
“We did an outreach to the community, we did a feasibility study on this lot,” he said. “We went out and we figured out (what the community) thinks of all this. Do you like this idea of having a wellness center here? Do you like the idea of a performing arts center? We got a lot of input back on that.”
Reformist trustee Norma Hernandez said she is pleased with the development so far.
“That corner lot has been controversial to say the least,” she said. “I feel that was one of our major accomplishments. I’m pleased with the fact that as a board we were patient, we took time and made sure that we involved all the constituent groups on campus and people from the community so that we could feel good about approving the development of that corner lot.”
Peraza said community input was essential and he hopes the community will come to campus and use the facilities.
“I think that is going to be a huge benefit,” he said. “We’re going to be able to create revenue, we’re going to be able to bring the community to our campus. The community is going to be able to use our fields and we’re going to create a revenue stream to be able to pay for some of the programs that were underfunded during our budget cut times.”