Biological sciences freshman Kylie Blair needed a reliable place to park her car. Cal Poly was not about to provide one since freshmen are not allowed to bring cars on campus. So Blair bought a parking spot from a continuing student, who was not using their apartment’s designated parking spot. A 20-minute walk from her Cerro Vista apartment and $200 per quarter shows the lengths Blair was willing to go.
“Honestly, I can’t imagine not having my car,” Blair said.
Blair scored the spot by posting on various Facebook pages. Continuing students were quick to respond, offering to sell their permits.
Blair’s online efforts to secure a parking spot are not unusual for Cal Poly students.
Starting during the 2017-18 academic year, freshmen living in university housing — which they are required to do — are not allowed to bring their vehicles to campus. However, there are exceptions for students with “extenuating circumstances.”
This is largely a result of the removal of 1,326 parking spots, due to construction of the yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community that started in 2015. Now, freshmen have to prepare for life at Cal Poly without a car, and they are having to get creative.
According to the university, the impact of the new policy has been minimal.
“It is important to note that before the implementation of this policy, less than 15 percent of our incoming freshman class each year brought cars,” university spokesperson Matt Lazier wrote in an email to Mustang News. “By and large, the vast majority of incoming freshman students traditionally have not brought cars.”
There are alternatives, too, like Zipcar rentals, public transit or biking — options Cal Poly has heavily advocated for. Cal Poly’s Master Plan details that the school is headed in a more bike-friendly direction, “encouraging a more complete shift to an active transportation approach — one that emphasizes walking, bikes, and buses over cars.”
San Luis Obispo is not quite as friendly to people without cars as some cities. The on-campus solutions of Zipcars requires a fee, $7.50 per hour or $69 per day, plus a membership fee. SLO Transit, which provides free bus rides for Cal Poly students, does not provide routes outside of San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority provides limited service from Cal Poly to surrounding cities, such as Morro Bay, San Simeon and Santa Maria.
“Especially as an out-of-state student, I really appreciate being able to explore the Central Coast much more easily/inexpensively,” Blair wrote in an email to Mustang News.
However, according to Lazier, the university has not received a significant amount of negative feedback regarding the new parking policy.
Blair said the new policy is a symptom of a larger problem.
“Cal Poly has horrific parking availability, but stopping freshmen from bringing their cars is an insensitive policy laid out by a greedy administration who’d rather let the blame fall upon the students than admit Cal Poly is growing at a faster rate than can be maintained,” Blair wrote.
There are almost 5,000 parking spots on Cal Poly’s campus and more than 20,000 students. Something had to give.
As of now, 40 percent of students are housed on campus. According to Cal Poly’s Master Plan, administration is striving for more, with a goal of 65 percent. This would allow the campus to house freshman and sophomore students, along with a decent portion of upperclassmen.
However, to achieve this 65 percent figure, there will have to be more construction, in addition to the yakʔitʸutʸu Residential Community being built at the Grand Avenue entrance to campus.
The Master Plan outlines an additional 6,800 new beds to be designated for North Campus, above Brizzolara Creek.
Construction on North Campus is what suffocated 1,326 parking spaces starting in 2015. With Cal Poly’s vision of a larger student population on-campus, more vehicles may be displaced.
The City of San Luis Obispo is also burdened by Cal Poly’s parking problem, according to Scott Lee, San Luis Obispo’s parking manager.
“The less parking there is on campus, the more students are venturing out into residential parking, and that’s perfectly legal,” Lee said.
Public parking can be used by anyone in San Luis Obispo. However, Lee said with Cal Poly’s increasing population and envisioned Master Plan, city concerns have been broached.
Parking-related calls to police are bound to rise with Cal Poly’s increased population, former City Manager Katie Lichtig wrote in a letter to Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong in 2017. Lichtig cautioned against the growing the student population, as the city cannot facilitate that type of population increase.
“Issues like parking should not be cast aside as insignificant when they are indicative of a more serious administrative judgement error,” Blair wrote.