CSUC parking structure plan to clear next hurdle

By this time next year, Chico State officials hope to begin construction on a new campus parking structure, but for some the addition is unwelcome in downtown Chico.

The construction of a new parking structure has been a goal of the university since at least 2005, when the master plan for campus facilities was approved by the California State University board of trustees.

Momentum for the parking structure, which will be located on Second Street between Normal and Chestnut streets, has picked up in the past few months.

By the end of January, the college expects to release environmental documents related to the potential impacts of the proposed structure.

The release of the report will likely bring the structure one step closer to completion. Speaking to the Chico Economic Planning Corporation Thursday morning, Lori Hoffman, Chico State vice president of business and finance, called the parking structure the "highest priority" project for the college this next year.

Hoffman said with plans to renovate First Street's Taylor Hall with a new performing arts center, additional parking in downtown Chico will be necessary.

"If we are bringing people to that side of campus, we really need to provide more parking," Hoffman said.

She said the structure will span 3 1/2 stories and will have a minimum of 325 parking spaces.

The structure will primarily be utilized by campus staff and students, Hoffman said, but added that the public will be able to purchase parking in the structure as well, just as they do in the parking lot at Nettleton Stadium or the campus' current parking structure at Second and Warner streets.

On the weekends and during evenings, Hoffman said parking will be more readily available for downtown Chico visitors not associated with the college.

Hoffman added that Chico State has the lowest number of parking spaces per capita, compared to the other CSU campuses. But Mark Stemen, a Chico State professor and sustainability advocate, thinks that is a distinction that should be commended and maintained.

Stemen opposes the construction of the parking structure and has circulated an open letter throughout the community arguing against the construction of the structure.

In a Thursday phone interview, Stemen said the parking structure does little to promote alternative transportation and fails to take into consideration the larger picture of what he called a transportation problem, rather than a parking problem. "This is a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem," Stemen said. "A three-story rock is not a solution."

Stemen said the college should dedicate more effort to implementing the recommendations proposed in the campus 2008 Transportation Demand Management Plan before building a parking structure.

The 15 goals in the 2008 plan include the improvement of several bike paths in and around the campus, increased and improved bicycle parking and a geographical restriction on parking permits issued to students.

Stemen said the parking structure should not come to light until all 15 measures are implemented.

He said he is looking for a "total solution" to Chico's transportation issues.

"We do not want to force people out of their cars. We want to enable the people who want to get out of their cars to do so," Stemen said. Hoffman said the college plans to implement the demand management plan strategies in the near future, claiming the college has already worked to implement six of the 15 measures.

But even with all of the recommendations in place, Hoffman said parking will still be needed in the campus area. Hoffman said there are an estimated 18,000 students, faculty and staff associated with the college.

Chico State currently has 1,876 parking spaces available to accommodate those potential drivers.

Although it may not be the only solution, based on the numbers, Hoffman said it is clear that there is a parking space deficit that will be met in part by a parking structure.

"We have every indication that we need more parking," Hoffman said. 
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