Board of Trustees considers privately-funded SBCC dorms

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TAYLOR WILLIAMS, Associate Editor

City College’s  Board of Trustees discussed building privately funded dorms on campus to create more housing for students in a city where there is very little.

At the meeting on Thursday, Chairman Michael Towbes and President Craig Zimmerman of the Towbes Group proposed the dorms to the board.

“It would be a great step forward for [City College] and the relationship with the community,” said Chairman Towbes. “We think that this would be a win-win for the college and its neighbors.”

The college’s image is hurt by the view the community has on the students taking up housing, which affected the passing of Measure S. The measure would have given City College $288 million in bonds to repair and upgrade campus facilities.

“Measure S surfaced a variety of concerns within the community,” said Superintendent-President Lori Gaskin. “But a notable one was our student housing, or what is seen as our impact on available housing within the community.”

The severe lack of housing is largely caused by the growing number of non-local City College students moving to Santa Barbara. The community has continuously asked the college to build dorms, but community colleges in California are not funded for student housing.

“We’ve talked about [on-campus housing] at the City Council for about 20 years,” said board member Marty Blum. “The low number of housing right now is very serious. If someone was coming out here from Bakersfield, I would want them to feel safe when moving here.”

The Towbes Group built several affordable apartment complexes and senior communities in Santa Barbara. The group also built UC Santa Barbara’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The dorms would provide little or no parking to its residents to discourage them from owning cars. This would lessen the impact on street parking for the local residents, they said.

The dorms would provide a residential dining hall, gym and study lounge to promote a quiet atmosphere for 200 to 300 residents, Towbes said. The monthly rates of the dorms would be determined based on how many units would be built.

“We are very good property managers in terms of keeping the noise down,” said Towbes.

Santa Barbara recently implemented a noise ordinance because of the impact large amounts of City College students have had in the surrounding Mesa neighborhood. The board’s view on the dorms was divided.

“We don’t have a lot of extra space,” said Vice President Craig Neilson. “When we get to that number of 200 to 300 residents, it makes a dent, but not a very big one.”

The conversation was left open-ended on whether the board will move forward with the plan.