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Saturday, Dec 9, 2023

COLLEGE—Valley Community Colleges Take Advantage of Bond

What could be sweeter than the sound of hammers and nails echoing through the corridors of neglected college campuses where trailers stand in for classrooms and just getting a parking space in the morning marks the start of a very good day? Well, the money to pay for those sweet sounds. And that’s exactly what all three of the Los Angeles Community College District’s Valley campuses are getting, thanks to overwhelming voter support in April of a $1.2 billion facilities modernization bond. In fact, all nine colleges in the district, the largest community college district in the country, are in line to receive Proposition A rehabilitation funding over the course of the next 10 years. And the money has already started trickling in. “The reality is this district has probably gone close to 40 years without any major upgrades,” said LACCD Chancellor Mark Drummond. “We’ve had bits and pieces here and there, but it’s a huge district, and many of the buildings are 50 years old or older. And when you haven’t invested in that kind of real estate in many, many years, you have to take drastic measures to bring it up to date.” Pierce College in Woodland Hills broke ground on a new $6 million student store and student services building earlier this month. That project is one of many planned for the campus. Pierce will get a total of $166 million of Prop. A funding to pay for classroom and library renovations, a new science/agriculture/nursing building, a new technology center building, a new parking lot, fences and the removal of trailers that have served as temporary sites for instruction and academic resource centers. Van Nuys-based Valley College will get $165 million to remodel its gymnasium to accommodate disabled students’ needs and pay for construction of a new library building, a media arts building and a new allied health sciences center. Mission College in Sylmar, the newest of the nine campuses, has already begun work on its new student services wing of the Instructional Building, one of several projects the campus plans to complete with its $111 million in Prop A funding. That project, expected to be completed by June of 2002, aims to double the amount of space available for student services including admissions, registration, counseling and financial aid. It will cost approximately $1.2 million. Future projects at Mission College include a new parking structure, media arts facility, child development center and a new police station and safety center. Mission College was originally established in 1975 and moved to Sylmar in 1991 after operating out of several temporary sites. The campus serves approximately 7,800 students a year. Its biggest struggle to date has been getting approval to expand on nearby property, some of which the district owns, some it does not. “That campus was never completed, so it’s sort of half a college,” said Drummond. “So most of the focus there has been on how to get enough land to build the facilities it needs. There are different ways to use the land we own, and some of it we will trade out. But one way or another, Mission has to have a larger footprint.” Misson College public relations director Eduardo Pardo said for now the campus is working on the assumption that all of the projects to be built with Prop A funds will go on the existing 22-acre site. “We are in the process of developing a master plan for all those projects to come, and it should be completed in about nine months,” he said. “It would be great to expand before these projects are completed, but it’s so iffy. The college has tried to acquire adjacent land in the past and those efforts haven’t gone very well.” The land is near a flood control project and partly owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Drummond said the district intends to allocate approximately $446 million between now and 2004 to the nine campuses, and anticipates that a large percentage of the projects will actually be completed in less than the 10-year timeframe originally established. To ensure accountability, the district established an independent, 15-member District Citizens’ Oversight committee and separate Citizens’ Oversight Committees for each of the nine campuses. “None of this money is going to the administration or to the district,” said Drummond. “The language in the proposition completely isolates this money. There’s no way that anybody, including me, can get their hands on it.”

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