Adriana Catanzarite and Elyse Lopez
Special to Mustang News
The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees approved the final environmental impact report and master plan for Cal Poly’s Grand Avenue housing project on Wednesday at its Long Beach headquarters.
The proposed plan would implement a 1,475-person residence hall specifically for freshmen near the Grand Avenue entrance to the campus.
Board member Hugh Morales abstained from the vote, but the project was unanimously approved with 11 votes.
While the university will still have to seek the Board’s approval for the final design and financial plan, the project is on track to break ground in 2015.
The meeting addressed the concerns of the community regarding the effect the new residence halls will have on the surrounding community. Though having new housing will allow more students to live on campus and have better access to campus amenities, the surrounding neighborhood is worried about the noise level, traffic and enrollment growth.
The university is taking precautions to ensure the project will move forward by proposing more security to reduce the noise level as well as landscape screening to block the residence halls from the view of the residential neighborhood.
But CSU spokesperson Liz Chapin said there is still a chance the Board will reject the proposal.
“Ultimately, the decision will be made by the Board,” Chapin said. “They have the final say in the matter.”
Pending final approval, the university hopes to complete the project by 2018.
Speakers from the surrounding neighborhood came Tuesday to voice their concerns with the proposed site, and several students spoke in favor of the project. Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong repeatedly told the Board the university is working with student organizations to help mitigate concerns.
“We also have ongoing efforts that have enhanced programs related to student behavior, established rules for the greek community and we’re currently hiring two additional police officers assigned to this area of campus,” Armstrong said.
The proposed project would cost $198.8 million and includes various environmental impacts, Armstrong told the committee.
“There are three areas of the environmental impact report that are identified as having the potential for significant and unavoidable environmental impacts,” Armstrong said.
The concerns involve air quality because of construction and traffic to the site, the loss of scenic views and traffic at the surrounding intersection, he said.
“The impacts would remain significant and unavoidable,” Armstrong said.
The neighbors that spoke cited increased noise as an issue. A man who identified himself as the president of a San Luis Obispo neighborhood association pointed out a circulating petition with more than 250 signatures against the project.
“Five-story institutional-style buildings housing over 1,400 students,” he said. “Square footage of four super Wal-Marts do not belong across the street from single-story, single-family homes.”
Board member Adam Day praised Armstrong’s leadership in the Board’s closing remarks.
“I am confident — based on the history and, President Armstrong, your particular stewardship of the university and the campus — that you will continue to do the requisite outreach and address these concerns and mitigations as it relates to traffic,” he said. “Prove us wrong, don’t assume us wrong.”