Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Board of Directors
Friends of Sunset Park 

Neighborhood Organization Opposes SMC $345 Bond Measure

The FOSP Board of Directors urges the SMC Board of Trustees NOT to place the proposed $345 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.

 

SMC is a leading two year liberal arts college. The FOSP Board of Directors urges the SMC Board of Trustees NOT to place the proposed $345 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.

To: Board of Trustees, Santa Monica College (SMC)

RE: 7/5/16 agenda item V-2: Call for Election. The Board hereby orders an election and submits to the electors of the District the question of whether general obligation bonds of the District shall be issued and sold...not to exceed $345,000,000 for the purpose of raising money for construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation and replacement of District facilities, including the furnishing or equipping of District facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for District facilities...."

Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) is the city-recognized neighborhood organization for the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. The SMC Main Campus, Administration Building, and Airport Arts Campus are all located within our neighborhood, which has approximately 13,000 residents.

The FOSP Board of Directors urges the SMC Board of Trustees NOT to place the proposed $345 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Cost: If passed, this proposed $345 million bond measure, combined with the last four SMC bond measures (1992, 2002, 2004, and 2008 = $613 million), would total nearly $1 billion of indebtedness for property owners in Santa Monica and Malibu. They would ultimately cost us about $2 billion to pay off. College officials may talk about $9 per month for homeowners, but the real cost is $2 billion.

No senior exemption: While the median income in Santa Monica is $74,534, there are residents whose income is lower than that, including seniors with limited incomes, and there will be no senior exemption.

Who pays and who benefits? If this were all for the benefit of local college students from Santa Monica and Malibu, that would be one thing. But SMC has not been a local community college for many years. SMC is a state institution, similar to CSUN and UCLA. The state provides facilities construction funds for California's community colleges, the CSU system, and the UC system. Why are local property owners expected to pay for SMC?

Who attends SMC? As of 2014, only 4% of SMC students listed Santa Monica High School as the last high school they had attended.

-- 50% listed high schools outside of Santa Monica and Malibu.

-- 30% listed high schools outside of California.

-- 17% listed high schools outside the United States.

How many students attend SMC, and is the campus large enough? Having a diverse student body is an admirable goal, but the SMC enrollment seems too large for the tiny Main Campus! To put this in perspective:

Santa Monica High School enrolled 2,990 students in Fall 2014 on a 26-acre campus.

Santa Monica College enrolled 32,166 students in Fall 2014 on a 38-acre Main Campus.

And a total of 45,215 students attended SMC during the 2014-15 school year. http://datamart.cccco.edu/Students/Student_Term_Annual_Count.aspx

What's the impact on the Sunset Park neighborhood? Friends of Sunset Park members express on their membership forms, year after year, concerns about the impact of the large enrollment at SMC on traffic and parking throughout our neighborhood.

When SMC classes begin or end, or when the college offices close, traffic on many Sunset Park streets grind to a halt. And since the college does not provide adequate parking for its students, nearly the entire Sunset Park neighborhood has been forced to move to preferential parking, with its attendant cost and inconvenience to residents.

What about the housing shortage in Santa Monica? We've been told for years that there's a shortage of affordable housing in Santa Monica for people who work in the city (the jobs/housing imbalance). Is it possible that this problem is made worse by thousands of out-of-state and international SMC students renting apartments in Santa Monica? (FOSP received an email this year from a father in Sweden looking for an apartment for his daughter, who was planning to attend SMC.)

What other options are there for students? If SMC were the only community college in the Los Angeles area, that would be one thing. But SMC spends more than $1 million per year on marketing and recruiting students who live in the Los Angeles Community College District, which has 9 campuses.

West LA College, for example, with a 70-acre campus (nearly twice the size of SMC's 38-acre Main Campus) had only 9,998 students in Fall 2014, while SMC had 32,166.

Transfers to UC? What about SMC's repeated claim that it's "California's #1 Transfer College to UC"? In Fall 2014, there were 32,166 students at SMC. According to the Santa Monica Mirror, "In 2014-15, SMC transferred a total of 1,074 students to the UC," including "43 African-American [students], and 184 who identified as Chicano/Latino." If this is enough to qualify as #1 in total transfers and in minority student transfers, it seems like a sad reflection on California's 113 community colleges, and perhaps not really something to brag about.

SMC's traffic impact on other neighborhoods: Regarding traffic once more, Sunset Park is not the only neighborhood affected by SMC's large enrollment and daily vehicle trips. The SMC 2010 Master Plan estimated that it would create significant traffic impacts at 36 intersections in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, including the following:

-- Lincoln Blvd. at Santa Monica Blvd., Colorado, Olympic, Pico, and Ocean Park Blvd.

-- Wilshire Blvd. at 20th and 26th

-- Santa Monica Blvd. at 9th. 10th, 12th, and Euclid

-- Colorado Avenue at 11th and Yale

-- Olympic Blvd. at 20th, Centinela, and Bundy

-- Exposition Blvd. at Stewart and Centinela

-- Pico Blvd. at 18th, 23rd, Centinela, and Bundy

-- Pearl Street at 20th and 23rd

-- Ocean Park Blvd. at 18th, 21st, 22nd, and 23rd

-- Walgrove Avenue and Rose Avenue

-- Cloverfield Blvd. at Olympic, the I-10 Fwy, and Pearl Street

-- Centinela Avenue at the I-10- Fwy

-- Bundy Drive at the I-10 Fwy and National

SMC is a leading two year liberal arts college. The FOSP Board of Directors urges the SMC Board of Trustees NOT to place the proposed $345 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.

http://www2.smc.edu/planning/facilities_masterplan/pdfs/Appendices_to_the_Draft_EIR/Appendix_F_Traffic_and_Parking_Study.pdf

The FOSP Board realizes that if the Board of Trustees decides to go forward with a bond measure, it has already had paid for surveys to refine the winning "persuasion messages" for voters (page 27 of http://www2.smc.edu/planning/facilityneeds/default.html) -- and it will probably be able to raise a campaign war chest of $468,000 from various foundations, architects, construction firms, and law firms, as it did in 2008 -- http://smvote.org/Content.aspx?id=26353. Residents who oppose such a bond measure will probably not be able to compete with that. However, we ask the Trustees to reflect on the college's impact on the local community before making this decision.

Again, the FOSP Board of Directors urges the SMC Board of Trustees NOT to place the proposed $345 million bond measure on the November 2016 ballot.

 

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