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    College Board Scales Down Bundy Campus Plan

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

July 7 -- After months of negotiating with the City and meeting with nearby residents, Santa Monica College has agreed to scale back plans for its new Bundy Campus at the airport.

At a standing room only meeting Wednesday night that included a former Santa Monica mayor and representatives of L.A City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the College Board approved a Master Plan that reflects major concessions to neighboring communities.

Unlike earlier, more ambitious proposals, the plan eliminates a proposed 800 to 1,000-space parking structure and phases out the College’s shuttle service, which has operated at the airport since 1988.

The new proposal comes after the City and Airport Commission insisted that the College provide a Master Plan before they would consider giving their approval to use Airport Avenue to enter the campus, which opened Tuesday with only limited access.

“What we have done, and why there are so many pieces of paper in front of you, is exactly what we were asked to do,” said Don Girard, executive assistant to the president.

“We know that we have met every request made of us, we have done so with good spirit and good willingness.” Girard said.

The “constrained” campus will ultimately consist of two buildings surrounded by trees and parklike “green spaces” and will include 668 parking spaces, more than enough for staff and students when both buildings are fully occupied.

The board agreed to support a traffic plan that will allow cars to use both Bundy and Airport avenues, but restricts cars exiting on Airport Avenue to a right turn only.

Acting President Thomas J. Donner and Girard both made it clear that the college is recommending the “least intensive” use of the site.

The proposed use, Girard said, “more or less approximates the current use of that corner of the city in terms of its impact on neighborhoods.”

The Board unanimously agreed to the plan and authorized staff to:

  • Proceed with the Bundy Campus Master Plan process as presented Wednesday night,
  • Negotiate with necessary parties for ongoing monitoring,
  • Include the career opportunity center at the Bundy Campus or other designated sites,
  • Refer all future program development at the Bundy site to the Board of Trustees for review, and
  • Hold additional joint meetings with neighbors and elected officials.

Many in the crowded room were members of the Mar Vista Community Council and Friends of Sunset Park, two groups who fear the Bundy campus will bring excessive traffic to their neighborhoods.

Lorraine Sanchez, a member of Friends of Sunset Park, put the problem simply.

“The Mar Vista people want all the traffic to come out in Santa Monica on 23rd Street, and all the Santa Monica people want it to be on Bundy,” Sanchez said.

While Sunset Park residents opposed Airport Avenue access to the campus because they feared it would lead to gridlock on 23rd Street, Mar Vista residents supported it because excess traffic coming out of the Bundy driveway might spill over into their neighborhood.

“Traffic coming from Santa Monica should go back to Santa Monica,” said one Mar Vista resident.

The Mar Vista residents had brought in reinforcements from newly elected Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office.

Rosendahl, who has worked for over a year with the Mar Vista Community Council, was “thrilled” with the new campus and what it will bring to the neighborhood, said Rosendahl’s District Director Norman Kulla.

“Santa Monica College is a community college for all of California, benefiting both of our cities,” Kulla said, adding that he was speaking on behalf of Rosendahl.

“We will work hand in hand, the City of Los Angeles with the City of Santa Monica,” to relieve any impact the campus has on local traffic, Kulla said.

However, if the Master Plan numbers hold true, there may be no need for further action.

If the shuttle is phased out, the increases in local traffic will ultimately be minimal, at most 5 per cent during morning peak hours, and more than likely 1 percent or less the rest of the time, according to a presentation by traffic consultant Tom Gaul of KAKU Associates.

And that’s assuming unlimited access on Airport Avenue. The final vote on the plan included a compromise feature that restricts traffic leaving the campus to a right turn on Airport Avenue, which will lighten the impact on traffic on 23rd Street.

After the meeting, Friends of Sunset Park President Zina Josephs said that her group is likely to support the feature.

The College plans to ask the City Council later this month to approve access to Airport Avenue.

While Girard made it clear that the college is “not able to predict the future actions of other bodies,” the consensus among college officials at the meeting was that they had gone to great lengths to give City officials every assurance they could want and that they expect a favorable outcome.

After that, the college will have to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which will entail a new set of community meetings expected to start in September.

The Board and its consultants ended the meeting in agreement that more needs to be done to involve the community in the College’s decisions.

Former Mayor Denny Zane, speaking as a consultant to the College, said that the community hasn’t been able to see how hard the College has tried to address its neighbors’ needs.

The parking shuttle and satellite campuses in themselves were efforts to alleviate traffic congestion around the main campus on Pico Boulevard, Zane said.

The fact that the neighbors weren’t aware of this “pointed to a lack of consistent dialogue,” Zane said. “There needs to be a relationship built on a continuing basis.”

The Board formalized its agreement by passing an authorization to have repeated meetings with the community as well as with elected officials.

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