The university is proposing a 42 percent parking fee increase in January to fund a $26 million parking structure on Lot 10.
The fee increase, which would raise the monthly rate from $35 to $50, would pay for an 825-spot parking structure on Lot 10 next to the new California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI).
Coming at the same time as a smaller than expected cost of living increase for academic personnel, the proposed hikes have angered faculty and staff members, who sent over 150 complaints to Chancellor Henry Yang in the past few weeks.
The university is trying to form an advisory committee, while a group of faculty, staff and students opposed to the increase has been meeting since the beginning of the quarter.
The Concerned Faculty, Staff and Students for Fair Parking Fees, headed by history and Chicano studies professor Mario Garcia, is threatening to sue the university for imposing unjust costs on its employees and students.
“It’s the callousness of the administration that’s forcing us to look at this as a way to combat this injustice,” Garcia said.
In a position paper, the committee wrote, “Parking should not be seen as ancillary to one’s work here at UCSB as the administration suggests. … Parking is a vital part of one’s job. It should be part of the campus budget and paid for by state funds, not by employees.”
Yang, who has the final say on the raise, is working to establish a special advisory committee to address parking fee issues and to look for ways to reduce the proposed increase. He said he is “optimistic” the committee will be successful.
“The welfare of our staff, faculty and students are of foremost priority and extremely important to our university,” Yang said. “By working together diligently, thoroughly and sensitively on addressing and responding to all our campus community’s concerns, I am hopeful we can avoid divisive action.”
Some faculty and staff members say the state should pay for parking, since University of California personnel are state employees.
According to the position paper of the group opposing the fees, there is no law prohibiting use of state funds for faculty and staff parking since “parking lots are public property and state employees should not have to pay exorbitant fees to park.”
Although there is no rule governing where the funding of parking structures must come from, the UC set up regulations with the State Dept. of Finance whereby the University would fund its own parking. This has been in place and in practice since the 1960s, Parking and Transportation Committee Chair John Doner said.
According to the University’s accounting manual, “[Parking] systems are financed from parking fees collected from students, faculty and staff.”
The committees have looked for other funding sources, but unless money is taken from the CNSI building funds, the amount is limited, Transportation Alternatives Program Manager James Wagner said.
“You either get less buildings or less parking,” he said. “People want both: low parking rates and having it available. … It would be ideal if the buildings had parking costs built into them.”
The Special Advisory Committee, once organized, will focus on finding alternatives to the parking fee increase and eventually review the long-term campus parking policy, Yang said. Yang appointed College of Engineering Advancement and Planning Dean Glenn Lucas to head the committee.
Lucas has chaired the Parking and Transportation Committee and a committee that developed plans for the Mesa parking structure.
“Professor Lucas’ service to our campus has been exemplary, and we are fortunate to have such a dedicated faculty member agree to contribute his time and expertise to this effort,” Yang said.
The group opposed to the fee increase said Lucas is biased because the Engineering Dept. is heavily tied to the CNSI and the new parking structure. They also oppose the establishment of the Special Advisory Committee because they say the committee will not be able to make an objective decision with a $15 fee increase hanging over their heads in January.
Lucas said there would be no conflict of interest, since the College of Engineering is only one of many departments to benefit from the CNSI.
“We are going into this with no preconceived notions or biases,” he said.
Although the committee has not yet been established, Lucas said he believes the focus will be on keeping the rate increase to a minimum, including working with the architects of the structure to reduce costs. He said that the committee’s goal would be to advise the administration on what the campus population wants and not to make decisions.
UCSB’s current parking fees are the lowest of all the UC campuses, Budget and Planning Capital Development Director Martha Levy said. If the fee increase was held off until after the new advisory committee made its recommendations, the structure would not have built up equity, making payments even higher in the long run, she said.
“If we start paying for it now, as opposed to when it’s done, it’s like a down payment,” Doner said.
The faculty, staff and students who wrote to the chancellor didn’t buy that argument.
“It is very likely that the absolute unaffordability of on-campus parking resulting from your proposal will definitely lead to a serious damage to the university’s image, in particular, to its attractiveness for prospective employees and students,” Institute for Theoretical Physics post-doctoral researcher Dmitri Uzdensky wrote to Yang.
Anthropology graduate student Melissa Chatfield expressed “shock and disbelief” in another message to Yang, saying she found the rate increase “insulting.”
“In effect, you are asking faculty, staff and grad students to take cuts in pay … working part-time on campus will no longer be worth it,” she said.
The outpouring of sentiment from concerned family and staff to Yang, Doner and UC President Richard Atkinson has brought up many good points and suggestions and “injected new life” into their ideas, Doner said.
The Special Advisory Committee will be consulting broadly by holding public hearings and forums to find out the campus population’s varying perspectives, Lucas said.
“The … CNSI is extremely important to our campus, and we must not jeopardize the ability of this project to move forward,” Yang wrote in an e-mail addressed to the campus community. “No further rate increases will be considered [after this increase for the Lot 10 structure] until we have had time for a full campus-wide review and development of long-term policies.”