Envision 2035 planners make impact report public

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Northridge community members and students came together Tuesday night in the Oviatt Library’s Presentation Room to hear a talk on the draft Environmental Impact Report as part of CSUN’s Envision 2035 campus master plan for long-term development.

“The purpose of the meeting is to explain the EIR findings, significant and insignificant issues and to take public comment,” said Colin Donahue, director of Facilities Planning, Design and Construction at CSUN.

Donahue opened the presentation explaining Envision 2035’s background and how and why the EIR was developed.

“The president (Jolene Koester) started a committee of 25 members in 2004,” Donahue said. “(We’ve) spent 18 months on the master plan.”

Envision 2035 is the outline CSUN has mapped out for the campus’s future look, designed to accommodate the growing and developing needs of the university in the next 30 years.

Donahue said there were significant distinctions between the new master plan and previous campus long-term plans.

The first is the goal to increase head count by enrolling 35,000 full-time equivalent students by 2035.

According to a slide show presentation conducted by Ann Doehne, CSUN’s environmental consultant, the CSU Board of Trustees asked the 23-campus CSU system to prepare for a growth of 107,000 full time equivalent students by 2011.

Another difference was the proposed changes to North Campus, located north of Lassen Street between Zelzah and Lindley avenues. Three-hundred thousand square feet will be used for commercial, media development and faculty and staff housing, Donahue said.

“This (EIR) is a milestone in the environmental review process,” Doehne said.

Doehne spoke approximately for the next half hour, reading over a slide show presentation of the EIR findings. She did not speak in detail about the report, but touched on the first two phases of four phases of the report.

Environmental issues such as air quality, noise, population, housing, and traffic were discussed and reviewed in the EIR and at the presentation.

After Doehne’s presentation, the floor was open to an audience of about 40 individuals. Public comments, questions, and suggestions were voiced, and lasted until about 9 p.m.

Two of the biggest concerns among community members were parking and the remaining 30-day timeframe for reviewing and questioning the EIR.

Various members in the audience pointed to the ongoing parking situation at CSUN, saying that students cannot afford to pay for the parking permits, and are thus forced to park in neighborhood and residential areas around the campus.

Between six and seven parking structures are set to be built and spread across the campus in the future, yielding approximately 4,500 new parking spaces, Donahue said.

Most of the community members in attendance agreed that the current Dec. 29 deadline to submit comments on the EIR was too short a timeframe and should be extended.

“If there was any announcement earlier, people would have been prepared,” said Michael Susanto, senior urban studies major.

Due to the holiday season and the detail in the report, community members questioned the deadline and requested an extension of at least 90 days for overview and commentary. CSUN President Koester would be responsible for a decision to extend the deadline, Donahue said.

According to Doehne, the final EIR will be prepared by mid-February 2006, and will be voted upon by the CSU Board of Trustees by mid-March 2006.

This may change if the deadline is extended to the requested 90-day period.

Another important element in the master plan is the proposed 2,688 new student dorm bed spaces and a new faculty and staff housing project.

Matthew Booth, senior urban studies major, was in attendance and shed some positive light amid some negative reactions to parts of the master plan.

“I think the faculty and staff housing will be beneficial to students,” Booth said. He said he believes that by having on-campus housing for faculty and staff, professors will want to teach at CSUN and not have to spend hours commuting to work every day.

“A lot of teachers are discouraged to work here, and students are negatively affected by that,” Booth said.

Booth said he noticed that the student-to-community member ratio was fairly low at the presentation, but he was not surprised by the low student turnout.

“People on campus are not involved,” he said.

Donahue said he would have liked to see more students attend the public hearing.

Booth said an increase in student enrollment is needed, but CSU officials should not increase those numbers until current problems like parking and traffic are fixed.

Donahue reminded those in attendance that all their comments would be reviewed, and that in time, they would receive written answers from planners.

After the presentation, Donahue said he felt that the comments made that night were thoughtful and showed consideration.

“We appreciate all comments we’ve received, and we’re glad we got a good turn out,” he said.

According to the EIR, some of the proposed facilities that will be removed in time include cultural houses like the Black House, the Asian House, the Chicano House and the Women’s Resource and Research Center, all scattered across campus.

“That was a big topic in the master planning committee,” Donahue said.

He said any facility that is to be removed would be temporarily replaced until a new facility is built.

Envision 2035 officials plan to discuss more thoroughly with student organizations in regards to their facility removals as part of the master plan, Donahue said.

Many community members posed comments that Donahue considered lengthy and in depth, and therefore, more time would be needed to properly answer them.

“Comments really need to be addressed in a more thorough manner,” he said.

All the comments and suggestions made at the presentation were recorded on paper by Donahue and Doehne.

Copies of the EIR can be found in several locations, such as the Oviatt Library, University Hall, the Los Angeles Public Library on Darby Avenue, and on the Envision 2035 website linked off the main CSUN page.

Cynthia Ramos can be reached at cmr7871@csun.edu.