Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

One of Cal Poly’s ongoing construction projects, the yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community, will open to freshmen Fall 2018. The residential community’s name honors the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini, a tribe native to San Luis Obispo and known post-colonially as the Northern Chumash, and each of the seven residence halls within the community will be named for one of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini’s local tribal sites. Additionally, the residential community itself will feature tributes to the first people’s culture.

Video by Austin Linthicum

Juliette Duke, the director of residential life and education, works closely with the tribe to design and plan the student living spaces.

“They take it very seriously,” Duke said. “They don’t put their name on something just to have it. They want to make sure it’s representing them and they see it as an opportunity [for others] to learn more about their culture.”

Duke and other housing officials participate in monthly meetings with members of the yak titʸu titʸu yak tiłhini tribe to coordinate their efforts. One of the results of these meetings is the inclusion of murals in every building.

Along with honoring the legacy and history of the Central Coast’s first people, the residential community has many other notable qualities.

Environmentally friendly

Cal Poly is aiming for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, a green building rating system that measures a building’s sustainability levels. Levels range from silver and gold to platinum. Scott Bloom, the associate director of housing and director of facilities, is gunning for gold by installing a 1.1 megawatt solar system atop the buildings, parking structure and bike racks.

The solar panels will give the residential community net zero energy consumption, allowing it to consume as much energy as it generates. The residential community will also utilize low-flow shower heads in restrooms to reduce water usage.

Bloom also detailed plans to add a bioswale, a landscape element that catches runoff water and removes particulates and other pollutants. The sifted water would then be distributed to the San Luis Obispo creek system.


The restrooms for each building are gender-neutral. Each stall has a long door that prevents people from seeing who is on the other side, guaranteeing privacy in these gender-neutral bathrooms. Each individual shower stall will also include a changing area.

“In our design we want to be inclusive to all folks,” Bloom said.

The rooms

Coming in at about 120 square feet, each individual room can accommodate either two or four students. The rooms are square in shape with the exception of rooms that have cutouts due to the buildings’ outward design. A FOB system will replace the standard room key entry of college dorm rooms. All students need to do is touch their key fobs to a surface beside the door to gain access to their rooms.

Inside the dorms

Every building in the yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community is three to five stories tall with study lounges on each floor. Bloom said one amenity he is particularly excited about is the inclusion of elevators in the residence halls.

“It will facilitate some of the move-in, move-out activities students have going on,” Bloom said. “It will also provide the ability for those with disabilities to live on various floors.”

The residential community will include 1,475 beds, according to the Cal Poly Facilities website. With less freshmen living in the on-campus apartments at Poly Canyon Village and Cerro Vista Apartments, University Housing will be able to accommodate more non-freshmen into the on-campus apartments.

Duke acknowledged that some of Cal Poly’s current residence halls are lacking in color. However, accent colors are being added to the doors and hallways, separating the yakʔitʸutʸu community from others on campus.

At the bottom of each residential building, students will find a multi-level living room area. The second story, furnished with couches, TVs and more, overlooks a kitchen area on the lower story.

Space to unwind

Duke said the top story of each building will offer students a place to unwind. Tentatively called “quiet reflection rooms,” the top floors are dedicated spaces to pray, meditate or enjoy quiet space. Students frequenting this space can relax while looking out through floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of campus.

“I don’t think there’s a bad room in this place, either bedroom or study room,” Duke said.

The cost of the new residence halls comes to roughly $198 million, including the 12 acres of land that accommodate nearly 500 parking spaces, 700 rooms and 900 bicycle spaces.

The yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community will not only include housing for freshmen students, but will also offer services for prospective students.

Cal Poly’s first welcome center will be added for admissions purposes, and tours will take off from this building. Other non-residential related spaces include a small cafe, a 140-person capacity hall and university housing offices.

The project is on schedule to be finished by August 2018. With plenty of features, the new yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community is intended to give both Cal Poly and the northern Chumash tribes something to be proud of.

“As long as Cal Poly is around, their language is going to live through the name of these buildings,” Duke said.

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