Parking at the Junior College

Parking has been a problem at Santa Rosa Junior College for years.  Although the College had previously rejected the idea of a parking structure [link- earlier rejection of pkg garage idea by Groninga] and had tried several ways of providing off-site parking for its students, nothing seemed satisfactory.

The possibility of getting capital funds with a large bond measure (Measure A in [year]) seemed to bring a new perspective. After the measure passed, a small and vague item at the bottom of the measure's list of projects, [parking space statement from the ballot measure] quickly became the centerpiece of what had been called an [educational improvement program?].  Only then did it become known that it was to be a huge parking garage on the Santa Rosa campus.

The driving force behind the local bond measure had been said to be the possibility of matching State funds that would become available.  Although the parking structure would become the first project, it would not be eligible for State money.

The EIR process began immediately, and the scoping session was well attended.  Many alternatives were offered at that time, but essentially all of them were rejected on the basis that they didn't provide the parking spaces wanted by the college.  In other words, the goal of the administration was parking spaces per se, rather than the best mix of means for accessing the campus.

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition (SCBC)

The SCBC began discussions with the college before the EIR process commenced, urging construction of a bridge connection between the campus and the planned rail station on the opposite side of Hwy 101, and a variety of low cost options for making bicycle and pedestrian access more effective.

Subsequent to the approval of the EIR by the college trustees, with no acknowledgement of SCBC concerns, the SCBC filed a lawsuit.  It was subsequently settled out of court, with no compromise on the parking structure itself.

Junior College Neighborhood Association (JCNA)

The other organization with the most pressing objections to what the College is doing is the JCNA. They didn't oppose the parking garage outright, but they objected strenuously to its effect on the neighborhood, and on Mendocino Avenue specifically.

They arranged for Dan Burden of Walkable Communities to come for a couple of days to conduct a public walk on Mendocino, and other public meetings in nearby locations.  Following his final report, cooperation from the city of Santa Rosa was minimal, so they hired a consulting engineer more versed in Complete Streets than the city's consultants and staff.

As of this date, September 4, 2005, there is no conclusion to this issue.

Sonoma County Transportation & Land-use Coalition (SCTLC)

The SCTLC also participated in the discussion of the parking garage, beginning prior to Measure A.  It has never accepted the premise that a parking structure is needed to solve the problems of access to the college. [link to letter re scoping of EIR] It offered a number of alternatives at the time of the scoping session that were rejected out of hand bases on the same circular logic, that they wouldn't result in more parking spaces.

There are many reasons not to build a parking structure as planned, but uppermost is fiscal irresponsibility. The Board of Trustees are pushing forward in spite of the fact that there are more effective means of solving the access problem for far less cost.

The Matter of Cost

Proper calculation of per space cost.  Once the College administration decided to pursue the garage, the EIR was simply a barrier to be overcome, and cost was not a serious consideration.  Cost per added space was estimated to be [$33,000?] prior to going out for construction bids.  The bid that was ultimately accepted was over $50,000 per space added. See how this amount was calculated by David Harris in "Parking vs Classroom ROI" .

Opportunity cost.  Any responsible Trustee would want to know if other uses of the money would provide greater benefit.  As an educational institution, benefits would have to be viewed in terms of education made possible or accomplished. Also in the Parking vs Classroom ROI analysis:

  • A comparison of parking costs with the system of "stack" parking used at UC Davis
  • A comparison of marginal rate of return of investment, classrooms vs the parking garage
  • The land-equivalent cost of this parking garage

The student parking pass of $60/semester is the next thing to free parking. The taxpayers are being asked to give the equivalent of 2 Doyle Scholarships every YEAR to each of the spaces the parking structure will add! A waste of taxpayer money??? On top of that, many students that park in those will be spending their real Doyle scholarship for gas and insurance, with nothing left for tuition and books. That means more than 2 Doyle Scholarships are wiped out by each space!!

Comparison of expansion of Petaluma campus with the main campus parking garage

The College will pay $30,400,000 to construct the parking garage.  It will also begin a $60 million project to triple the size of the Petaluma campus, doubling the current capacity and making room for 12,000 students.  Because parking garages aren't eligible for state bond funds like classroom facilities are, the expenditures coming from local Measure A are about the same -- $32 million in the case of the Petaluma campus expansion.

In terms of local taxpayer investment, this is a stark contrast in terms of public benefit.