A proposed facilities bond to pay for much needed renovations at City College of San Francisco could be increased to $845 million and still pass at the ballot box, according to a recent poll conducted to gauge the success of a potential November ballot initiative.
But a new proposal to scale down the design of the long-planned Performing Arts and Education Center (PAEC) in an effort to spread the bond funds across multiple projects could meet with resistance from members of the City College community.
City College has said it has more than $450 million in deferred maintenance, including at its Civic Center campus, which has been shuttered since 2015 over code violations and seismic concerns.
In the coming months, City College leaders will weigh whether to place a bond, which would require a 55 percent approval to pass, on the November 2019 or March 2020 ballot. In order for it to be placed on the November ballot, it would need approval by August 6.
In an April poll presented to the City College board on Thursday, 73 percent of 800 potential voters surveyed said they would vote “yes” on the bond at the higher rate, with only 16 percent indicating that they would reject it. A previous poll also indicated that voters would react favorably to a proposed facilities bond measure, which was initially proposed at around $800 million.
Trustee Tom Temprano said that he has long heard from students about “flooded classrooms and toilets that didn’t work.”
“We as a college should unanimously say that we have really desperate facility needs. They have an impact on students’ ability to learn and desire to be here,” said Temprano. “This data for a second time makes me hopeful that we will be able to make the investment that everyone in our campus and in our facilities deserves.”
Board President Alex Randolph said that having “broken facilities” places the college at a “competitive disadvantage.”
The bond would pay for a number of priority projects, including a new student development center, a child care center, repairs at Evans Campus in the Bayview District and the PAEC.
However the board is now also weighing some changes to the design for that center.
Originally envisioned to house the college’s Diego Rivera theater and mural, a black box theater and a recital room, as well as arts classroom and office space, the PAEC was budgeted at about a quarter of the proposed bond money. The initial design called for the construction of a new parking garage, at an estimated cost of about $90 million.
Combined, the two projects would command close half of the proposed bond money, said Randolph.
“That was not a good pill for us to swallow,” he said.
In order to maximize the bond money, the college’s administration on Thursday proposed an alternative plan that calls for the construction of the theater and auditorium only, for about $102 million.
The performing arts center’s proposed arts classroom and office spaces would be reworked into current plans for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math building, which would be increased in size to up to six stories.
“If we build out the entire PAEC, it triggers the need for a parking structure,” said Facilities Vice Chancellor Rueben Smith. “With this plan, by reimagining what the STEM center could be, which includes performing arts and visual arts, [we are] avoiding [the need for] a parking garage.”
But some members of the City College community, some of whom have been lobbying for years for the performing arts center, balked at the new proposal.
“It’s disrespectful to the students who may or may not be getting a performing arts degree and are seriously working in their performing arts classes. It’s disrespectful to not give them facilities,” said advocate Chris Hansen, who attended Thursday’s meeting.
Hansen said that she voted for two previous bonds in 2001 and 2005, which initially set aside funding to build the PAEC. However the project was shut down during the college’s 2012 accreditation crisis, which caused enrollment to plummet and placed the college on the brink of closure.
Since then, plans to develop the adjacent Lower Balboa reservoir, which currently provides some 1,100 parking spaces to students and faculty, into market-rate housing have inched forward, while the PAEC’s construction has remained on hold.
Trustee John Rizzo said the proposed alternative design for the performing arts center does not conform with a 10-year Facilities Master Plan previously passed by the board, which he said the college “spent a lot of money and staff time creating.’
“I think it’s too late for these kind of radical changes,” said Rizzo. “We have been talking about the master plan for three years now and it’s gone through several revisions. We passed the final master plan and I don’t think we should revise it again with just a month left to decide. It feels like we are constantly reinventing the wheel. It’s very frustrating.”
Randolph said that “the benefit of not spending $300 million on two buildings” is that it “frees up additional funding” for other projects,” specifically at the Bayview campus.
“You want to be equitable. The Bayview will see significant employment growth and people moving into the neighborhood,” he said. “ And the current community that has always been neglected and underserved.”
Different scenarios for the PAEC’s design and construction will be presented to the board on June 27 board for a vote.