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College’s New Campus In Spotlight : SMC holds workshops, offers to fund airport park

Santa Monica College has operated a shuttle parking lot just north of its new satellite campus at Santa Monica Airport since 1988. It is used by more than 1,700 students a day, but the City of Santa Monica has plans to develop its new Airport Park with two soccer fields and an off-leash dog park on the site.

As part of its long-range planning for the new Airport campus,  SMC has proposed that it fund the City park in exchange for the right to build replacement shuttle parking underground at college expense. Funding for the project would come from Measures U and S, bond measures passed by Santa Monica-Malibu voters in March 2002 and November 2004.

“This proposal has several benefits, including the ability to enlarge the available park space sufficiently to build the planned soccer fields to standard size for high school tournament play and adult use,” SMC Interim President Thomas J. Donner said. “This would free city funds for other uses and would free college funds for other field space improvement projects, probably as joint projects with the city. By maintaining the shuttle lot at its current site, traffic between the new airport campus and the main campus is most likely reduced as well.”

The proposal will be among the topics that will be discussed at a pair of “visioning” workshops college officials are holding   with residents of Santa Monica and Mar Vista this week to outline their plans and solicit residents’ views.

The first workshop was held last night and the second  will be held tonight, Wednesday, March 30, at 7 p.m. at the Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Avenue in Santa Monica.

As the new campus is located in Los Angeles, just south of Santa Monica, last night’s workshop had a Santa Monica focus while tonight’s session will have a Mar Vista perspective.

In January, SMC’s Board of Trustees began developing its plans for its new property, authorizing the creation of a master plan and an environmental study to guide college planning and address questions raised during the first phase of renovation, a traffic study and a community outreach program targeting Sunset Park and Mar Vista residents in particular.

“This action demonstrates our commitment to being good neighbors,” said SMC Board of Trustees Chair Carole Currey at the time. “We plan to open and operate a satellite campus that not only will offer crucial nursing and teacher training and other programs, but will also be an excellent community resource for Mar Vista and Santa Monica residents.”

To those ends, the board hired WWCOT, a Santa Monica planning and architectural firm, to prepare the educational and facility master plan for the site. WWCOT is currently planning and designing the college’s new student services building for the main campus.

In addition, Christopher A. Joseph & Associates is preparing a related environmental study, Kaku Associates is conducting a full-traffic study, and Urban Dimensions will handle community outreach.

$335,000 has been allocated for the preparation of the master plan and environmental and traffic studies. Urban Dimensions, former mayor Dennis Zane’s consulting firm, will be paid $27,000 plus expenses.  

The total outlay of $362,000 will come from Measure U, the $160 million bond measure passed by Santa Monica-Malibu voters in 2002.  

The college bought the 10.4-acre site at 3171 South Bundy Drive from BAE Systems in December, 2001 for $30 million.

The four-story West Building is undergoing a renovation bow and will open for classes in mid-June when the summer session begins.

To date, SMC has spent over $1 million on alterations to the property, including burying utility lines, building a sound wall with landscaping on the south side of the property, demolishing a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing building, and adding a new driveway from Bundy. The college has also barred traffic at the rear entrance to the campus, on Stewart Street, which goes through a residential area.

Aside from nursing and teacher training programs, the college plans to move its Continuing and Community Education program – which offers a wide range of career development and other classes – to the Bundy site as well as several general education classes.

Fueled by federal and private grants, both the nursing and teaching program are expanding.The new campus will provide “an opportunity to broaden career programs offered by the college, both for the beginning worker and for the worker looking to improve skills or change careers,” said  Donner. “It is also an opportunity to provide needed community improvements.”

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