Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OCC Trims Expansion Plans

In the fourth and not the final such meeting, last night officials from Orange Coast College provided insight into the current status of their optimistic planning for their Vision 2020 Master Plan.  Unlike some of the previous meetings, this was not a public hearing with all the formality that entails.  Rather, it was a chance for the college officials to provide feedback to the community and acknowledge their concerns, suggestions, observations and recommendations made at previous meetings.
Doug Bennett, Executive Director, College Advancement, kicked the meeting off, introduced the various OCC staff members and consultants present, then promptly tossed the ball to President Dennis Harkins, who took us through a slide presentation, shown below, assisted by Vice President Rich Pagel.


Perhaps the biggest surprise to most in attendance last night was the fact that OCC has made a major shift in their plans and have removed two major elements - those that seemed to be the most controversial and troublesome to community members at previous meetings.  After going through a prioritizing exercise they decided to REMOVE the OCC Village (including the hotel) and the Parking Structure on the grounds of the Orange County Fair and Event Center from their plans.
They also decided to recirculate the New Environmental Impact Report this summer; review and recommend alternatives for repurpose of Student Services and Administration and to continue to engage the Campus Community.
 There are a couple "shovel-ready" projects ready to go - the Planetarium and the Recycling Center.



More than five dozen people showed up for this meeting, including City of Costa Mesa Staffers Gary Armstrong - Director of Economic and Development Services and Deputy CEO - and Ernesto Munoz - Director of Public Services.  Councilwoman Sandra Genis was also present, as were representatives from the Orange County Fair Board.

For nearly an hour Harkins and Pagel fielded questions regarding a wide variety of issues, including Measure M funding; campus housing; enrollment projections; the recycling center improvements; the EIR and the timing for review of that document.  Residents wanted to know if OCC will become a 4-year school; whether the proposed on-campus housing would increase or diminish vehicular traffic; whether "bikeability and walkability" were included in their plans and whether the expansion plans and presumed additional traffic might increase pressure from Orange County officials to re-examine the issue of bridges across the Santa Ana River at Gisler and 19th Streets.

We learned, among other things, that the proposed student housing would be operated by a private contractor with experience in that kind of business.  We learned that one of the goals was to provide an affordable "on-campus experience" for students.

Other residents expressed frustration about noise spilling off campus and the traffic new housing may bring.

The revised Environmental Impact Report will be circulated early this summer and all who filled out their contact information last night or previously will be notified.  When asked how it could be reviewed we were told it would be available in the campus library - viewed by most as an unsatisfactory solution.  Several people requested (demanded) that it be made available in an electronic format to help avoid public records requests.  The answer to that question was vague, unfortunately.

There will be at least one more of these meetings - sometime during the summer.  You can read the schedule below.
Oops... almost forgot to mention.  In addition to Bradley Zint from the Daily Pilot and Jordan Graham from the Orange County Register, Barry Friedland was on hand to make a video record of this meeting which will probably appear on his Costa Mesa Brief YouTube Channel within a few days.  Thanks to Barry for continuing to provide the community with important coverage of events.

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Great news. Its a relief to know this huge project isn't going forward, at least at this time. It was again, too much in too little space.

4/28/2015 07:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

Thank you, Geoff,

I appreciate your coverage of this Vision 2020 plan, and the involvement of the College Park residents. I was happy to see Barry cover this community update meeting, as it would not be recorded otherwise (as it was not a CEQA update).

This is a MAJOR update to the OCC Strategic Facilities Master Plan, and the development of the campus affects ALL of Costa Mesa.

I was happy to see Councilwoman Sandy Genis in attendance (again) as well as Jay Humphrey (who has been to ALL meetings). The council majority and all Planning Commissioners were absent (again).

OCC has reconsidered the priority of questionable projects due to the community involvement and LISTENED to residents' input - sadly, a rarity in Costa Mesa.

4/28/2015 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Plus they didn't have enough money to build the hotel and parking structure.

4/29/2015 07:24:00 AM  

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