New Parking Ordinance to Affect Claremont Colleges

The Claremont City Council passed a parking ordinance Sept. 28 that would lower the number of parking spaces each of the 5Cs is required to have, on the condition that the colleges agree to ban one or more classes from bringing cars to campus.

Under the current Claremont Municipal Code, each of the 5Cs is required to have one parking space for every two full-time students. The ordinance would permit the colleges to provide 20 percent less parking if freshmen are barred from having cars on campus and by 40 percent if sophomores are included in the ban.

Claremont Mayor Linda Elderkin, a former Dean at Pitzer and Pomona, was a proponent of the ordinance.

“This seems to be a quick and direct way to address the issue [of parking at the 5Cs],” Elderkin said. “Does it really make sense to have parking for people who aren’t going to be allowed to use cars?”

The ordinance received widespread support from students and administrators at the 5Cs.

Andrew Dorantes, Harvey Mudd College Treasurer and Vice President for Administration and Finance, wrote a letter to the City Council Sept. 6 expressing his support.

“Harvey Mudd believes this amendment is a progressive way to address parking needs within the city by managing the demand side of the equation,” Dorantes wrote.

Robin Aspinall, Claremont McKenna College Treasurer and Vice President for Business Administration, agreed.

“The code’s presumption that one parking space is required for every two members of the campus community has been shown to result in [CMC] providing about 16% more parking spaces than are actually needed,” Aspinall wrote in a Sept. 2 letter to the Council.

Tim Morrison, Vice President for Facilities and Planning for the Claremont University Consortium (CUC), confirmed this parking surplus in a July 20 meeting of the Claremont Planning Commission.

“Overall, the Claremont Colleges had a surplus in 2009 of 165 [parking] spaces,” Morrison said. These numbers include the graduate schools, which have a net deficit of parking spaces.

Prior to the ordinance, HMC, CMC, and Pomona had already barred freshmen from having cars on campus. In Pomona’s case, the ban stemmed from a temporary shortage of parking spaces in light of the construction on the new south campus parking structure and north campus dormitory.

According to Pomona President David Oxtoby, the college has no plans at present to change this policy after the construction is completed.

“We expect to continue the current ban on cars for first-year students, unless they have a special reason and get permission,” Oxtoby said. “The city parking ordinance is one factor in this, but more broadly we want to make this a pedestrian friendly campus and, for sustainability reasons, to encourage use of public transportation, bicycles, and Zipcars.”

Supporters of the ordinance also pointed to the environmental benefits of the change. In an Aug. 29 letter to the city council, recent HMC graduate Robert Best HM ’10 pointed to the negative environmental effects of unused parking spaces.

“Studies have shown that such patches [of unused asphalt over what would otherwise be natural space] can contribute to the ‘heat island effect,’ creating localized heat temperature zones around the area of the asphalt,” Best wrote.

The ordinance should also lead to a “reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from single-occupant vehicles,” Dorantes wrote in a July 14 letter to the council.

Part of the broad student support for the ordinance stemmed from a connection between the city’s parking requirements and the student effort to preserve the Bernard Field Station (BFS), which is owned by HMC.

HMC, which is in the midst of updating its 10-year master plan, is exploring options for a new Teaching and Learning Building on its campus, which would have required more parking spaces under the former Municipal Code. In the past, HMC administrators have considered the BFS a potential location for this additional parking.

“The proposed amendment to the parking code would eliminate the need for HMC to build additional parking … thus obviating the need for HMC to develop parking on the parcel of land we own north of Foothill Boulevard,” Dorantes wrote.

Some students and administrators expressed their frustration with the city for not adopting such a policy before the colleges designed their new buildings, which were planned with the former parking requirements in mind.

“The design of the new dorms was heavily impacted by the needs for parking, which were essentially dictated not by what the college perceived that it needed, but more by what the city required in its building codes,” said Derek Schaible PO ’11, who was on the committee that helped design the new dorm and parking structure at Pomona.“If we hadn’t needed to create as many parking spaces as the city required [three years ago], it would have made it a lot easier for the college and probably saved the college some money.”At the time, the college internally discussed the possibility of working with the city to modify the parking requirements, but no action was ever taken, according to Andrea Ramella, Project Manager for Facilities and Campus Services, who is overseeing the construction of the new dorm.

“During schematic design … we based our parking counts on the minimum allowable number of spaces required by the city at that time,” she said.

Elderkin said the delay in the city’s response to excessive parking requirements might have been the result of protests from community members who oppose such amendments.

“There are groups within the city that are not happy with what they consider to be the encroachment of college parking in the neighborhoods,” she said. “[Some of them] actively oppose anything that looks like the slightest imposition from college parking on the surrounding neighborhoods.”

“We have had several attempts to deal with the parking requirements in the colleges, and several of those have come to a halt and failed to go forward because they’ve been legally challenged or they’ve been held up by environmental impact reports,” Elderkin added. “My only regret [with the ordinance] is that it seems like it took us longer than it should have to get it done.”

According to Elderkin, community activists’ main concern regarding college parking relates to the graduate schools.

“CGU is the biggest target of the college parking opponents,” she said. “This ordinance doesn’t really address them because at CGU, no one is really residential [and] the number of students is in flux all the time.”

This ambiguity, Elderkin said, makes it difficult to set a parking requirement for CGU or to implement an ordinance like the one passed last week that would have an effect on the graduate school.

“The graduate school is going to have to be taken on in a different way,” Elderkin said.

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