Although UCSB will not see a parking fee increase this January, the university is likely to encounter a traffic jam as a special advisory committee formed by the chancellor considers how to address the campus’ increasing shortage of parking spaces.
With the construction of new buildings on top of existing parking lots, UCSB needs to decide how to create new spaces, conserve existing spaces or decrease the need for parking. Among the suggestions so far are increasing parking fees to pay for new structures, displacing current users such as residential students to free up space, or initiating a more complete transportation alternative program.
Chancellor Henry Yang picked leaders from various campus groups for the committee, whose first action was to recommend that Yang not increase parking fees by $10 per month in January, which he had considered earlier. Yang agreed not to raise fees in early November.
The committee voted against raising fees because it would be more difficult to objectively consider the fee increase if it were already implemented, said College of Engineering Advancement & Planning Dean Glenn Lucas, who heads the advisory committee.
“I voted for a motion against the increase because we need to do our work before we figure out what we want and how we’re going to pay for it,” said committee member Shawn Landres, president of the Graduate Student Association.
No action on parking fees will be taken until the committee understands and deliberates on all of the pertinent issues involved, Yang wrote in a message to the campus community. The committee will also obtain input from the campus community, and, based on these procedures, make a recommendation to the chancellor, a process taking up to five months, he said.
By deciding to not increase parking fees in January, Yang quelled the fears of the Concerned Faculty, Staff, and Students for Fair Parking Fees group, which had encouraged members of campus to inform Yang and UC President Richard Atkinson of their opinions on the parking fee increase. Campus members have sent over 150 messages opposing the increase in response to that request.
“The extension of the moratorium would not have happened without the pressures we generated,” history and Chicano studies professor Mario Garcia, who is the head of the Concerned Faculty, Staff, and Students group, said. “Because the chancellor met this key demand from us I have accepted his invitation for me to serve on the new parking committee. Although I continue to have reservations about the committee, I feel it important to continue to represent your interests and the many who have supported our cause.”
Advisory committee rejects fee increase, moves forward with duties
Residence Halls Association President Jacob Haik was the only person on the advisory committee who voted in favor of raising parking fees in January. He said over the years there was not enough planning to create a surplus of funding needed for future projects, and that now that the future is here, fees need to be increased to compensate.
“I’m kind of disappointed by the committee,” Haik said. “If we had raised fees by $10 in January, we would have made half a million dollars by June. It’s inevitable that we’re gonna have to raise prices; it’s just a matter of time. We need to get a start on that … we’re gonna have to bite the bullet because of all the bad planning in the past.”
Landres said the university should know what, exactly, it is saving the money for before it starts collecting it.
“If we’re hedging against the future with surplus savings, we need to have a system that works [already in place],” Landres said. “It’s not that it [would be] a bad investment, it’s that we don’t know yet what we’re investing in.”
Without the fee increase hanging over the heads of the advisory committee, it is getting its members up to speed on the background of parking issues and concentrating efforts on its four charges, Lucas said.
The charges are to establish communication links with campus constituencies, evaluate current parking rate policies and recommend plausible alternatives to them, assess and recommend needed long-term capital improvements and possible means for financing them, and recommend methods for improving campus consultation related to parking and transportation.
On-campus students may have to give up spots
Among the many various alternatives to simply raising parking fees in order to pay for parking structures are possibilities of curtailing resident student parking, thereby opening space for UCSB employees and resulting in smaller structures, and advocating alternative methods of transportation, such as biking and public transportation.
“We could solve a lot of problems by curtailing [resident] student parking,” advisory committee member John Doner, who is also the chair of the Parking and Transportation Committee, said.
Since 1978, 200 parking spaces were removed from the on-campus freshman residence halls area in order to give space to new buildings. There are currently a total of 790 parking spaces for students living on campus. Less than 100 spots are in the main residence hall area, 200 are next to San Rafael Hall and the remaining ones are in lots toward the boundaries of campus, near Harder Stadium.
“We don’t want to give up student parking,” Haik said. “We have students that work, travel and have needs for cars … We’ve lost so many spaces over the years. It’s just not fair.”
Although the advisory committee does plan on discussing decreasing resident student parking, needs for new parking structures will not be completely alleviated even if all resident student spots are taken away, Lucas said.
“There are a number of students that need an automobile for work, familial responsibilities [etc.] so they will need to be accommodated for,” he said. “I know some students don’t need a car. It would be nice to have but not a necessary thing.”
There is no policy or standard requiring the campus to supply parking for students who live on campus, Lucas said.
“But certainly in terms of making the campus an attractive place for students to come, transportation is something to take into consideration,” he said.
“Parking crisis” leads to question over who should have priority to spots
Due to what he termed a “parking crisis” situation currently on campus, Landres said he hopes resident student parking is removed.
“I realize that there is a need for students on campus to have access to their vehicles but I see no reason to keep in place what’s now an anachronism that only lasts at one other [UC] campus,” Landres said.
“I’m being steamrolled on the issue,” Haik said. “[The rest of the advisory committee members] already have their agenda: give parking to faculty and staff. They think it’s their right and they deserve to not have to pay for it and that students should [pay for parking]. … [Employees] want to park as close to their offices as possible, at the expense of the students.”
In order to allow staff and faculty to be able to come to work and have parking available, students should be able to walk 10 minutes to their cars, Landres said.
“I think the university needs to have a basic commitment to getting its employees to and from campus safely and conveniently, with respect to people who are paid really a wide range of salaries, from next to nothing to a lot,” he said.
Employees feel state workers should not pay to park
One of the focuses of the Concerned Faculty, Staff, and Students group for fair parking fees was that parking should be seen as intrinsic to one’s job and that fees should be as low as possible, if not ceased completely, especially for those at the lower end of the pay scale.
“There’s certainly a population on campus that thinks they shouldn’t have to pay to go to work,” Lucas said. “One in 10 employees in the country pays to park where they work. Ninety percent don’t.”
The possibility of charging different rates for students and different populations of staff and faculty is also being considered, Lucas said.
“We’re the only campus in the [UC] system that doesn’t have differential rates right now,” he said.
Parking rates could be differentiated by salary scale, by population or by geography – location of the parking space on campus with closest spots being the most expensive – which is how most campuses stratify their parking fees, Lucas said.
Last month, the Concerned Faculty, Staff, and Students group brought up state monies as possible sources of funding for new parking structures, as they found no law prohibiting use of state funding for employee parking.
“It’s UC policy to not use state funds for parking structures,” Lucas said. “For UCSB to do it, [the policy] would have to change for the whole UC system.”
Advisory committee represents campus community
Although this possibility is being discussed at individual UC campuses, it has not yet been brought collectively to the UC president for approval.
“But even if [approval] happened, parking structure financing would be competing with academic funds for whatever funds came to the campus,” Lucas said. Also, “it’s not clear that the school would choose to use the money for parking instead of an academic structure.”
In addition to holding off on the parking fee increase, Yang also took the proposed 825-space parking structure that would be placed on Lot 10 with the California NanoSystems Institute building off the agenda for the Nov. 14-15 regents meeting. This will not be brought up there again until the advisory committee makes a recommendation to Yang on it, Lucas said.
Associated Students Internal President Brian Hampton, who is on the committee, said the group functions well together and all members have equal opportunity for input, even though some have much more background knowledge than others.
“The committee is formed of leaders from every part of the campus so every part of the community has a voice in the committee representing them,” Hampton said. “And like everything else, faculty has more people on the committee. That’s how things work.”