Yes, I know the architect's preferred drawing shows redwood trees surrounding the structure, masking most of its impressive ugliness from public view. But a few years back, the architect's drawings for the Performing Arts concert hall showed it one storey lower than it actually is . . . what you see is not necessarily what you're gonna get! I think this picture is probably more realistic.
Sometime in the Fall of 1998, the campus Space Policy Committee started an initiative to build a multistory parking garage (the "Core West Parking Structure") on the corner of McLaughlin and Heller, on the site of the existing parking lot number 112. "The 6-deck, approximately 178,000 ASF structure would provide 500 'close-in' parking spaces (a net increase of 290 spaces in the year of project completion)," according to the EIR.
Originally, the campus newsletter represented that the structure would achieve a "parking inventory increase of more than 400 spaces." The estimated cost at that time was 10.7 million dollars. The EIR reveals that in fact, only 290 new spaces would be created; using the $10.7M figure, that's about $37,000 per new space. However, it might be more than that; the EIR does not contain any recent information relating to the projected cost of the structure or how it is to be financed.
Recent unofficial estimates indicate that parking fees for staff and faculty would be raised from the current $380 per year to $500 or more per year to fund this structure. And this is just the first in a series. More parking structures are planned, and if they are funded the same way (by increased parking fees) we may expect yearly 'A' permit fees of around $1000 in a couple of years. However, not everyone whose fees will be increased will benefit from the additional parking. Undergraduates, for example, would not be permitted to use the proposed structures.
Anyway, whatever the weaknesses of the funding model, the project was announced, and selected people were invited to review the site and the exterior appearance of the structure. But there had been no public discussion about the desirability of such a structure. Someone, somewhere, had defined 'the problem' as 'not enough parking spaces' and an eleven million dollar solution was proposed and embarked upon without any real consideration of alternatives. That's one thing that bothers people (like myself) who don't support the project.
Many people (myself for one) would agree that we have some serious traffic and transit problems here at UCSC. One problem that almost everyone I know complains about is how hard it is to get on a bus during peak hours. There just don't seem to be enough buses for all the people who want to use them. Another problem is the twice-a-day gridlock as hundreds of UCSC employees attempt to get to work, and then to leave work, in single-passenger automobiles -- choking all the access roads to the campus and engulfing cyclists and pedestrians in a cloud of concentrated vehicle emissions. This gridlock significantly affects the loop transit time for SCMTD buses, making the bus riders' homeward trip longer and increasing the risk of missing connections at the transit center.
Many people (myself for one) would agree that we have some traffic problems on campus too. There are a lot more cars than there used to be. It's getting more dangerous to cross the street or ride a bike on our campus.
In other words, while most people can agree that UCSC has some transit and traffic issues, there is not a broad consensus that the only problem is "not enough parking spaces." Many of us would say that the problem is really "too many cars." However, no one ever polled the campus community to find out what most people thought were the important problems or to get some feeling for how they could be addressed. Someone somewhere decided that the only real problem was not having enough parking spaces for all those car drivers, and so the project got rolling.
No one I know ever filled out a questionnaire asking them whether they wanted a parking structure. Yet the campus administration states repeatedly that there is "widespread support" for this project among the faculty and staff on Science Hill. I have been a staff member on Science Hill for 20 years, and of my immediate professional acquaintance I don't know one person who is in favour of this structure. Some are indifferent, some are strongly opposed, but I don't know anyone who is really excited about it or even convinced that it's really necessary.
So where is all this "widespread support"? No one spoke passionately in favour of this project at the DEIR hearing or at the more recent City/UCSC meeting on campus. At the larger hearing downtown on April 13, only 8 out 63 speakers spoke favourably of the project; and of those, at least three referred to it as "inevitable" rather than desirable or a good idea. The others were fairly enthusiastic. Of those, the most enthusiastic were Science Hill faculty members.
Only 4 faculty members spoke, 3 in favour and 1 against. All were from Science Hill. One brought a petition bearing 160 signatures of people supporting the structure; 160 people is about 6.5 percent of UCSC's complement of staff, faculty, grads, and postdocs (the people who would be allowed to park in this structure). It's also only about 1/3 of the number of people who would park in the actual structure.
So I've not yet seen any large constituency of people demanding these very costly parking spaces. An $11M project to make just 6 percent of the UCSC employees happy -- especially when it raises everyone's parking fees, annoys the City, upsets Westside residents, and stirs up controversy -- seems like pretty strange planning. This is starting to look (to me) not like a reasoned solution to a collective problem, but more like an expensive bandaid designed to appease a small, vocal, but influential clique of frustrated car drivers -- senior staff and faculty on Science Hill.
The deadline for responding to the EIR is April 5th! The UCSC project planners have forbidden electronic feedback -- all responses must be on paper. There's a certain irony in the fact that feedback in opposition to an environmentally irreponsible project must be made by an environmentally wasteful medium. If you feel strongly that feedback by email should be accepted during UCSC EIR periods, write and tell their contact people so:
Christine Aldecoa firstname.lastname@example.org Steve Ayraud email@example.comTo submit feedback, send your pieces of paper to
Christine Aldecoa, Environmental Assessment Group, c/o Physical Planning and Construction, Barn G, University Of California, Santa Cruz, CA firstname.lastname@example.org