New Plans for an Old Campus
May 3, 2017
With more than $500 million in their pocket to spend, the State Center Community College District is exploring ways to proceed with proposed construction projects.
To address concerns and conflicting visions for future projects across town, the district held dual events on April 24 and 25.
Trustees Eric Payne, Miguel Arias, Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith and Fresno City Council Vice President Esmeralda Soria walked door to door to invite members of the community to voice their opinions and suggestions on upcoming projects.
Faculty from across the district were invited to attend the forum on April 25 to get specific details on their departments.
Money from Measure C — totalling $485 million, plus approximately $30 million remaining from Measure E, are enabling the board of trustees to begin making plans for new construction, including the West Fresno campus, a new math and science building, an expanded Career and Technology Center as well as the much awaited parking structure.
“We have to find space, whether it is down the way, across the street or up,” Carole Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College, said.
Including the CTC, more than 33,000 students were enrolled at FCC during the 2016 school year; many of those students are taking classes in buildings made in the 1970s.
“Being the first community college in California, [designers] never anticipated having that many students or offering that many degrees,” Miguel Arias, member of the board of trustees, said. “FCC is on 49 acres and it served 33,000 students last semester. Fresno State is on 400 acres, and it served fewer students than we did.”
Being an urban college, one of the biggest limitations to growth is being surrounded by neighborhoods on all sides and the problems that arise.
“Sometimes my husband has to park across the street,” Chantal Jescien, who lives on College Street, just south of the campus, said. “[Sometimes, we have to park] around the corner or sometimes down at my son’s house because there’s no place to park.”
Parking has been an issue since the 1970s, when the campus built parking lots B, C and D, using eminent domain – a way through which a government or its agent can acquire private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Eminent domain is costly as it requires paying the displaced a fair market value for their properties as well as relocation fees for every resident that has to move.
However, some board members say they are considering the positive impacts eminent domain may bring to underserved areas of town.
One of the areas the district is considering to acquire through eminent domain is the area immediately north of the Health Science Building.
Of the 170 properties between East Cambridge and Clinton Avenue, only seven of them are owner occupied, according to Arias.
“If we coordinate our plans with the community stakeholders and invest in a way that propels the public and private investment near us,” Arias said, “we can change the trajectory of that neighborhood for the decades to come.”
Expansion was also a hot topic back in 2002, when Measure E was passed and the city was pushing the campus to move to the southeast. The district used funds from the bond to purchase land which it still holds.
Christine Miktarian, assistant vice chancellor for Business and Operations, said one of the reasons the project never moved forward is because the district had planned to use both local and state bonds to build.
Applications for partial state funding for the Southeast Campus were submitted and approved, but California never passed another statewide facilities bond.
“One of the things we wanted to do with Measure C was to make sure we funded that project in full without having to wait on state funding,” Miktarian said.
While the district knows where the money needs to go, the question still remains as to where and how the FCC will expand its footprint.
Parking represents the most universal prerequisite for any effective expansion on the FCC campus. According to Alan Kroeker, principal agent for PMSM Architects, the firm handling the planning stage of construction, 95 percent of parking in Lots B, C and D is utilized throughout the day.
Being landlocked, FCC’s options are limited.
The district has allocated $50 million for parking around campus, but there is no consensus on the best way to bring in new parking.
One line of thinking is to put a parking structure near Ratcliffe Stadium.
“You could see a parking structure of 1,500 spots done like most modern parking structures,” said Arias. “The first floor is office spaces where we could relocate students services, financial aid and the bookstore. It would directly serve Ratcliffe Stadium.”
However, cost is a major factor. According to Miktarian, a parking structure costs up to 20 times more than ground level parking. The advantage of a multi-level parking structure is that the district does not expand its footprint as much.
Another consideration is how technology will affect parking in the coming decades.
During the public forum, members of the community brought up a concern that a parking structure may be obsolete in the coming years.
“If your car drops you off and finds parking in the lesser used parking lots, then the need is met,” Kroeker said.
While not funded by Measure C, the solar project which was approved in the March meeting of the board of trustees will be the first of the upcoming construction projects over the next few years and will bear drastic effects for students in the upcoming years.
Out of a concern of rising energy costs and its environmental impact, the district purchased a lease through Forefront Power LLC, with an option to buy the panels at a later time.
In the first year, the district is expected to save $120,000, and in 20 years, projected savings for the campus would be $6 million.
The proposed solar panels will be placed in parking lots B, C and D once PG&E accepts the application made by the college.
Being built in the south parking lots will impact parking.
“Best case is we start construction mid-to-late July, but it is probably going to be the later part of August,” Maktirian said. “We’ll probably finish construction by the end of the year.”
The construction will be done piecemeal so as to not eliminate the most heavily used lots on campus. Builders will have to do one portion at a time, limiting efficiency and affecting the timeline.
Once constructed, however, the panels will offset the college’s energy costs by 32 percent, according to a presentation by Miktarian, Kevin Flanagan of the School Program for Utility Rate Reduction and Brian Taylor of Forefront.
Compared to the other colleges in the district, FCC’s energy output is limited by the space surrounding the campus. The average energy offset rate for Clovis, Madera, Reedley and Herndon exceeds 80 percent for each campus.
The plan will also include four charging stations for electric vehicles.
POLICE AND FIRE ACADEMIES
Part of Measure E included money to expand both the Fire Technology and Police Academy Departments.
The $30 million left from the bond was earmarked for the police and fire academies, and so, according to Miktarian, this places the two departments high in the priority list for construction.
The question still remains, however, as to whether the district will keep the training areas near the campus, or whether they would seek out land and find a new home for the department.
CAREER and TECHNOLOGY CENTER
The other part of Measure E would go to funding an expanded CTC, but like FCC, the campus is landlocked. Surrounded by a recycling center, a steel manufacturing plant and an empty lot recently purchased, opportunities for growth are very limited.
Enrollment at the center for spring 2016 stands at 4,100 students, and the college worries about how the center can keep up with developing technologies and growing enlistment, according to PMSM Associate Principal Monisha Adnani.
Part of the problem of expanding the CTC would be the money the district gets for the campus’ center-status.
“We’re only allowed so much square footage per student in order to retain state funding for centerhood,” according to Miktarian. She hopes that growing the center, however, would eventually attract the numbers needed to regain the money from the state that the center is currently qualified to get.
Some on the board fear what waiting around for state funds can do to the timeline of a project.
According to Arias, the board hoped that Measure C would be enough that they would not have to rely on state funds for building.
Others, however, feel that keeping those state funds would be beneficial to the program and to the district.
“There are potentially other resources to leverage the resources we have. There is no direction set by the state in terms of how we do that,” Trustee Eric Payne said. “I don’t want to risk losing center status and the state funding that comes with it.”
Moving CTC might mean other advantages to construction projects.
Some of the proposals introduced in the faculty forum suggested moving CTC to the new West Fresno campus.
“You know you’re going to start out with a certain amount of students who are going to attend,” said Miktarian. “Doing a completely new campus, you have to make sure you have the right programs. You can’t just open it and people will show up, you have to have programs people will show up to.”
The idea of a West Fresno Campus came from a need to address concentrated levels of poverty in that area, and community members there worked to get a West Fresno Campus going, according to Payne.
The area of West Fresno is usually defined as the area south of the 180 Freeway and West of the 99, according to a presentation from Adnani.
“A lot of people think West Fresno is limited to the African-American community,” Goldsmith said. “But it also includes Hmong populations, monolingual Hispanic populations and older white generations.”
A lot of these considerations go into determining what kind of programs the district will offer at the proposed campus.
“In the past what we’ve done is the district has offered credit/non-credit programs and certificates like security guard certificates, office assistant certificates and solar installer certificates,” Payne said. “All of these things have a high success rate.”
In addition to discussing what the West Fresno campus would offer, was where they would put it. According to Arias, surveying for the site begins next month.
One limitation is Chandler Airport, as state law prevents putting schools and colleges near
When talking about what factors would make a good site, faculty members brought up ideas like transportation accessibility, infrastructure, freeway access and proximity to feeders.
One site would place the campus between Gaston Middle School and Edison High School.