August 31, 2001


Zasueta's Dream, the right dream for Southwestern College?

While community colleges are bemoaning the recent loss of $126 million in the budget signed by Governor Davis, Southwestern College under the direction of the board of trustees and Superintendent Serafin Zasueta, are currently in the midst of a spending/planning frenzy the likes of which are unprecedented in local community college circles.

The recent rash of spending can be traced back to the passage of a $89 million bond last year at which time Southwestern College pluncked down $1 million as part of their commitment to a collaboration with San Diego State University and National University. The plan is to finance an educational outreach program in National City that includes ground level retail space.

More recently, Southwestern College spent $8.5 million to purchase property in Otay Mesa for an Educational Collaborative, a program that is designed for grades 9-16.

And now, Dr. Zasueta and the community college board of trustees has designs on the 15- acre corner lot adjacent to Southwestern College to develop the property into a $35 million retail center.

Before Southwestern College can move forward, the City of Chula Vista must approve the general plan amendment, a rezoning of the property and environmental review.

Beyond these zoning questions the community should take a look at this proposed retail center and ask themselves several questions, such as: is it competitively fair to other businesses to compete with subsidized businesses? Is Southwestern indebting itself to the point where taxpayers will have to eventually bail out the college? Zasueta has already spent more time on the job than the average superintendent, but will his dream be shared by the next superintendent or will Southwestern be stuck with an albatross? Who will ultimately be held responsible if the retail center goes belly-up, the taxpayers? Can Southwestern College manage three new projects while ensuring a quality education for their students and adequate funding for their main campus?

These questions and many more must be raised and addressed by the community before the city council of Chula Vista gives the go-ahead on this project.

Southwestern College is a community college funded by taxpayer dollars. As such, the community should become involved in the planning and expansion of the college. They should be given the right to determine the direction in which their community college is headed.

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