“Are the emissions dangerous? Maybe if it’s a long-term exposure,” Facilities Planning and Capital Projects Director Joe Neel said. “But I don’t know if this is considered a long-term exposure.”
Though the university claims the Grand Avenue housing project would improve student success and freshman retention rate as well as the neighborhood’s quality of life, some in the community disagree.
Cal Poly officials are meeting this week and next to determine how the university will move forward on the proposed housing, which would take 31 months to build, according to an environmental impact report (EIR). The university expects to release a decision sometime around Jan. 15, but is accepting comments until Jan. 24.
Facilities Planning and Capital Projects Director Joel Neel said the majority of letters Cal Poly has received in the open comment period have not supported the proposal, though he added that those who normally take the time to respond are upset.
“We generally don’t get letters in response to environmental impact reports in support of the project,” he said.
Cal Poly has been considering a new residence hall since summer 2013, when the university began a preliminary study of potential sites. In late November it released a draft EIR describing the project and its impacts on the surrounding environment.
A significant consequence would be increased traffic in areas already severely burdened: the intersections of Foothill Boulevard and Santa Rosa Street, Walnut Street and Santa Rosa Street, Taft Street and California Boulevard, and the US Highway 101 northbound ramps and California Boulevard.
In addition, construction emissions of reactive organic gases, nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases would exceed the standards set by the Air Pollution Control District.
“Are the emissions dangerous? Maybe if it’s a long-term exposure,” Neel said. “But I don’t know if this is considered a long-term exposure.”
The biggest complaints San Luis Obispo citizens have voiced, however, are about impacts on the local neighborhood.
In open forums on Cal Poly’s campus, residents expressed worries that the additional housing would disturb their quality of life by planting 1,500 freshmen “on their doorstep,” as one resident put it. But the university has maintained that the housing project would actually decrease crime in the area, because the majority of students arrested or given citations live off campus.
The EIR lists several other possibilities for Cal Poly. Instead of one new site, the university could redevelop North Mountain Halls and build three other residence halls, one in the parking lot across from the South Mountain residence halls, one next to Yosemite Hall and one near Alex G. Spanos Stadium.
Another alternative would be the H-12 and H-16 parking lots north of Highland Drive and Brizzolara Creek. This plan was originally rejected because it would demand a new dining complex and would be undesirably close to Poly Canyon Village.
The university could also choose to reduce the scale of the project or cancel it altogether.
As a result of the surrounding controversy, university spokesman Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News that, “there’s a lot up in the air at the moment.”