Cal Poly’s vision for a campus of the future — unveiled Friday as part of the university’s 20-year master planning process — is nothing if not ambitious.
It’s also a lot to digest, so we’re glad the university is involving the community early in the process, before the plan is finalized.
We strongly urge members of the public — especially those who live near campus — to become involved by reviewing plans and attending upcoming workshops.
Don’t wait until bulldozers start up to make objections; raise questions and concerns now, while the master plan is a work in progress.
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At this point, myriad options are on the table. For example, there are multiple possible locations for a proposed hotel/conference center.
We aren’t going to weigh in now on the logistics of this particular plan compared to that one. But there are several concepts we believe the university should pursue:
Expanding to the north, away from existing residential neighborhoods. That should help resolve conflicts between the university and its neighbors.
Adding housing for students, faculty and staff. Additional campus housing for students should also alleviate town-gown tensions. And adding reasonably priced housing for employees in a city with soaring real estate prices will help attract topnotch job candidates, while improving the jobs-housing imbalance in San Luis Obispo.
Housing fraternities and sororities on campus, in a Greek row, and adding amenities — including a pub for students 21 and older — to offer an alternative to offcampus house parties.
Making the interior core of the campus more pedestrian friendly by prohibiting most private vehicles. Instead, students would ride shuttles, bike or walk. That’s better for the environment, and makes for a less congested campus.
Phasing out surface parking lots and, where possible, building up rather than out. Squat, one-story buildings are awaste of valuable space. Also, if the trend away from cars continues (currently, only 18 percent of freshmen bring cars to campus) the need for parking will be reduced.
We want more details, but we see benefits to building a hotel/conference center. That would provide experience for students in the hospitality program, as well as convenient lodging for parents attending graduations, open houses and other events.
Building an on-campus winer y for production and sales. That’s a necessar y component of any viticulture program, and a natural for a wine region like ours.
Year-round school. The university plans to study the possibility of running full academic programs for four quarters, rather than three. That’s a much better use of taxpayer-funded classrooms, and will allow the university to boost enrollment without crowding the campus.
All of the above programs — including year-round education — will be costly.
While the university has no hard estimate at this point, officials say adding all the master plan projects will run in the billions of dollars. Public/ private partnerships and donations would fund some of that, but increased financial support from Sacramento will likely be necessary.
In other words, the financial feasibility of the projects is a big unknown.
Other unknowns include:
How will students react, especially to housing plans? The university houses 38 percent of students on campus, and would like to increase that to 65 percent by adding 5,000 beds. Of ficials say they’d like to have all freshmen and sophomores live on campus, but student leaders have not been receptive to the idea of mandatory oncampus housing for sophomores. According to the Mustang News, the Associated Students Inc. board of directors will present aresolution against mandatory oncampus housing for sophomores at its meeting Wednesday.
Are there too many bells and whistles? For example, can the campus support the big indoor arena that’s part of the master plan? What events would be held there and how often would it be used?
Will the plan to provide more on-campus retail stores and restaurants affect downtown merchants? While we support some retail expansion for the convenience of students, it shouldn’t come at the expense of the private sector.
As much as we like the idea of a Greek row, we’re not sure how the university will persuade organizations that already have off-campus houses to relocate on campus.
What are the university’s priorities? When asked by The Tribune Editorial Board, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong responded, “Housing, housing, housing.”
Fair enough. But there are many more projects on the drawing board, and we’d like to have a better sense of what the university finds most important.
The university has shared its vision; now it’s time to refine it.