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Tuesday, December 08, 2009
6:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Event Type:
479 1888
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FROM IJ College of Marin trustees will vote Tuesday on plans to move forward with the last - and most controversial - construction project in the school's $249.5 million overhaul. The new Gateway complex will replace four academic buildings and is intended to be the public face of the school's Kentfield campus. "If you go around Kentfield right now, all you see is either the backs of buildings or a parking lot," said Bill Scott, chairman of the college's bond oversight committee. "The Gateway would be what you see as you're coming down Sir Francis Drake (Boulevard). It's going to change the whole look of the campus." But critics of the plan - including some members of the Board of Trustees - have expressed concerns about the project's cost, while others have questioned whether the complex should be built at all. "I think the Gateway Center is ill-advised and unnecessary," said former Assemblywoman Vivien Bronshvag, a Kentfield resident who takes classes at College of Marin. "It is my opinion that (the trustees) did not spend the $249 million wisely, and that the Gateway Center will be the folly that caps this whole misconstruction." The new, 55,000-square-foot Gateway complex would sit at the corner of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and College Avenue in the space currently occupied by four academic buildings - the Harlan Center, Olney Hall and auditorium, Business and Management Center and Administrative Center - as well as the Taqueria Mexican Grill de Marin, a popular Advertisement restaurant. The building would include about 15 classrooms, three to four computer labs, faculty offices for the English, communications and social science departments and a 200-seat auditorium. It would also include offices for the college district administration. Replace or repair? With the exception of the taqueria, the buildings the Gateway would replace are among those identified by a 2004 consultant's report as those most in need of repair. The report noted that more than 90 percent of the state's community college buildings were in better shape than those at the College of Marin, and that the college's Administrative Center was in the worst condition of all. "All of those buildings are pretty degraded and not seismically sound," said Scott, a labor-management consultant who has worked with the Sonoma-Lake Building Trades Council. "Those two up front that will be going (the Administrative Center and Olney Hall) would be almost impossible to rehabilitate without tearing them down." Those buildings are in such poor shape, said Scott and other officials, that it makes better financial sense to replace them than to repair them. "There's a rule of thumb that says if the cost of renovation exceeds 50 percent of the cost to replace a building, then it makes more sense to replace it," said V-Anne Chernock, who heads the building program as the college's director of modernization. Not everyone agrees. In her campaign for the college board, trustee-elect Diana Conti questioned why the college was using the $249.5 million voters approved in a 2004 facilities bond to pay for new buildings rather than repairing the school's existing structures. "When the board made the decision to put its bond money into a few buildings, rather than spread it over all the buildings on both campuses, that was predicated on the assumption that there would be matching state funds," said Conti, who will take her seat on the board Tuesday - just in time to choose one of two architects for the project. "It's obvious to me that the state is in such dire shape that that's not going to happen. I'm not opposed to the Gateway project per se, but I believe it needs to be looked at more carefully." Loss of state funding Chernock acknowledged that the school had hoped to pay for almost half the cost of the project with state funding. That funding fell through, Chernock said, when the California Community College chancellor's office determined that the College of Marin already had more buildings than it needed. "Based on the information the district submitted to us, they're at 225 percent of the standard for office space and at 187 percent of the standard for lecture space," said Frederick G. Harris, assistant vice chancellor for college finance and facilities planning with the state Community College chancellor's office. "Now, you can be over a 100 percent capacity load to qualify for a modernization project, but you need to be bringing that 'overbuilt' status down by consolidating and utilizing space in more efficient ways," Harris said. "There's been no evidence given to us" that the district is doing so, he added. While Chernock expects the Gateway to cost about $33.6 million, only $17.5 million remains in bond funds committed to the project. Yet Chernock believes another $16.1 million could be made available through money saved from some of the college's earlier building projects, thanks to lower-than-expected construction bids and quicker completion times. For example, the TransTech Complex at the college's Indian Valley Campus in Novato, which was scheduled to be completed next summer, is now on track to be finished in January or February, Chernock said. In addition to the project's cost, critics have bemoaned the loss of parking - Chernock expects all construction on the Kentfield campus to result in the loss of about 200 spaces - and the taqueria. "Parking is an enormous issue," Bronshvag said. "You can end up coming to class 10 or 20 minutes late because you're looking for a space." Yet college officials say their own studies suggest only 60 percent of the school's parking spaces are occupied, even during peak hours. "We've done our counts at around 10:30 a.m., at the time of the most impact," Chernock said. "There's no need for more parking." As for the taqueria, Chernock said the college would help the Mexican restaurant to relocate, but had no plans to find a place for it on campus. The college owns the land where the restaurant sits. "The taqueria operators are well aware that they will be evicted," Chernock said. "We'll do the best we can to help them find a spot to land, but we can't promise anything." College trustees authorized the Gateway project on Jan. 20 and began the process of choosing an architect on June 23. While the college relied on district staff to choose designs and architects for the other six structures in its building program, the board chose to hold a design competition for the Gateway. After screening 29 applicants, the college gave $25,000 each to four architects to come up with a "design concept" for the building. On Tuesday, the board will choose between two of those applicants - a joint effort between TLCD of Santa Rosa and Mark Cavagnero Associates of San Francisco; and ED 2 International of San Francisco, whose architects designed the College of Marin's new Science/Math complex. The board viewed both designs at a Nov. 17 workshop, although trustee-elect Conti was not present for that meeting. "It's interesting that the final two firms both won awards in 2009 from AIA (American Institute of Architects)," said Peter Wong, senior principal for design for ED 2 International. "This building is going to be a landmark." Should the board select an architect on Tuesday, Chernock expects the design for the Gateway to be finished in 2010, reviewed by the Division of the State Architect throughout 2011 and built between 2012 and 2014. Read more Ross, Kentfield & Greenbrae stories at the IJ's Ross, Kentfield & Greenbrae section. I am student senate rep. for novato campus (IVC) FROM
Added to the calendar on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 9:41AM
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