State Center Community College District approved two major purchases in the last month using money from Measure C, the $485 million bond passed in 2016. But a parking structure at Fresno City College, a proposal included in the first draft of the measure, is not coming this year and may not be built at all.
Measure C's early drafts included $50 million for a 1,500-space parking structure at Fresno City College, where parking is a critical need for students. The final language of the measure did not state that a structure would be built, nor did it specify how many spaces would be added at the campus, where there are about 3,000 stalls for 22,000 students.
Instead, the ballot listed "parking improvements or structures" as part of the projects planned for Fresno City College.
Still, as recently as February, the district board expected to spend $50 million on improving the parking situation on campus. That number was an estimate based on the typical cost of parking structures, according to district spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz.
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But $20 million of the parking fund was reallocated in March toward a new math and science building on the campus, another priority listed among the bond measure's projects.
Also in March, the board approved the $10.6 million purchase of a landmark downtown Fresno building to serve as the new district headquarters. The former Guarantee Savings on Fulton Street comes with a 642-stall parking garage next door.
Money for the headquarters came out of both the general fund and Measure C contingency funds, the latter of which is used as a cushion for the unknown costs of building.
District Trustee Miguel Arias said that the additional money needed for the math and science building also could have come out of the contingency fund, but the board determined that too much money had been allocated toward a parking solution.
Conversely, the initial $50 million budgeted for the science building was too low based on current construction estimates, according to Arias. The board now has $70 million to spend on a replacement for the existing building, which was constructed in 1973 and frequently runs short on lab space for students.
Arias also said Fresno City is commissioning a new parking study that will determine whether the campus still needs 1,500 more spaces, as determined in in 2012. The city's expanded bus system might mean that fewer students are driving to campus and thus the need for parking is not as dire as it was when the bond was first drafted, Arias said.
Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith added that the school's new Bolt to College program, a rideshare service for students in west Fresno County, could also mean that fewer students drive to campus. Bolt to College is an 18-month initiative that uses electric vehicles to serve a route from Kerman to Fresno City. It employs students as drivers for fellow students.
The completion of the solar power project in the college's parking lot should also make more spaces available as equipment is removed.
Parking is still very much needed at the college, according to Goldsmith, but so is a new math and science building.
"The academic part of the bond was paramount," Goldsmith said. "We're talking about career opportunities."
Instead of the five-story parking structure that was first proposed, the district is considering a smaller two-level building among other solutions, according to Arias.
"We could acquire enough land for surface parking without needing to build a structure," Arias said.
Lot parking would cost significantly less than a structure, at approximately $1 versus $1,000 per stall.
The district is looking at a plot of land on Blackstone and McKinley avenues as a possible site for both the new science building and additional parking.
Arias said the new parking study will be key in determining what is eventually built, but that the college is also working with an architect and soliciting community input for its first-ever campus master plan. That could put a new parking area closer to the interior of the school.
Moving the district headquarters off of the Fresno City College campus could free up between 120 and 180 parking spaces that are currently used by employees. The stalls may be available by the end of summer when the district office moves.
There are no other plans to add parking to the campus this year.
Tal Cloud, political director of the Fresno County Lincoln Club, opposed Measure C when it was on the ballot. He told the Bee in 2016 that he did not believe the bond guaranteed anything would get built.
He said the problem with a broad spending initiative like Measure C is that by the time the proposed projects are ready to build, there is new leadership with different goals.
"If it's not written in stone in the measure, this is what happens," Cloud said, adding that there is no recourse now for voters.
Fresno City College's new parking study is expected to be released within 30 days.
The board also approved Tuesday the purchase of land for a West Fresno campus. The district spent nearly $1.8 million on half of a parcel of land; the other half was donated by the Shehadey family of Producers Dairy.
Aleksandra Appleton, 559-341-3747, @aleksappleton