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SMC Exploring Building Housing for Poor and Homeless Students  

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By Jorge Casuso

January 28, 2022 -- Santa Monica College (SMC) is exploring building housing for homeless and low-income students at the edge of its Bundy campus across the LA border, College officials confirmed Friday.

A feasibility study is underway to build a 275-bed student housing facility on a surface parking lot that would "ideally (be) fully furnished with all utilities included," College officials said.

The project would be bankrolled with matching funds from the $2 billion earmarked in the current State budget for housing grants for students in the California Community College (CCC), University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems.

SMC is currently conducting a survey to gauge support for a possible bond measure to help finance the project, convert a half-century-old vocational building and upgrade the nursing and healthcare instructional facilities, among other "real needs," College officials said.

"We have a large number of students who are experiencing homelessness or threatened by it," said SMC Vice President Don Girard. "After all, we are a community college: we are the affordable gateway to higher education.

"Lots of our students are single parents, foster kids and students who have to support themselves at a very young age.

"We have the opportunity to explore housing these vulnerable students on land we already own, just outside the city limits in LA," Girard said. "Of course we have to explore that."

SMC’s Institutional Research has identified 6,590 SMC students who currently meet the qualifications for residency, which is limited to low-income students taking a minimum average of 12 degree-applicable units per semester term.

The students would be allowed to live in the building -- which would likely include in-unit bathrooms, kitchenette and Internet access -- for the full academic year as long as they remain enrolled at the College, officials said.

To stay during subsequent academic years, students must "demonstrate compliance with the minimum average unit enrollment requirements," officials said.

"If the College deems a student to demonstrate an exceptional circumstance, SMC is committed to negotiating and/or reducing the minimum credit load requirement temporarily."

SMC expects to begin conducting a feasibility study in March using a $60,000 grant from the state, according to a memo sent from SMC President Kathryn E. Jeffery to Board of Trustees.

According to the October 27 memo, "If the proposed planning grant is approved and a student housing project is determined to be feasible and financially viable, the next steps for SMC will be to determine a size and site location for the proposed student housing facility."

The grant proposal for the feasibility study identifies "an underused parking lot which accounts for most of a 10.4-acre satellite campus" as a tentative site for the project.

If the study finds the project is "feasible," SMC has requested an additional $2.47 million "to complete other planning activities prior to construction," Jeffery wrote.

Assuming the project moves forward, it could take 14 months to design and another 20 to 24 months to build, "resulting in building occupancy by the first quarter of the 2027 calendar year," Jeffery told the Board.

The phone survey SMC is currently conducting is part of an ongoing effort "to see what our community thinks of us and make sure we can be responsive to changing needs and priorities," Girard said.

"Is SMC planning another bond? It’s too early to say that," he said.


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