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It's Time to Buckle Up



buckle up (verb)

Definition: 1) To fasten a seatbelt; 2) to prepare oneself for something exciting or intense. slang Prepare for what is about to happen, such as danger, excitement, trouble, etc.

Much attention has been focused lately on housing challenges for future increased numbers of Cal Poly Humboldt students, thanks to the students' recent loud and successful on-campus protest and lots of local and national media coverage of the barge-for-dorm idea (thanks to Stephen Colbert and others). But CPH's tightly packed construction timeline between March 2023 and August of 2027 for its planned infrastructure projects (including student housing) strongly suggests everyone — especially Arcata residents — needs to be prepared for what is about to happen. Indeed, "It's time to buckle up."

Why? From now until August of 2027 or longer, CPH's planned infrastructure construction projects will greatly impact our quality of life with increased traffic problems, blocked streets and sidewalks, construction noise and dust, increased demand for parking and rentals for worker housing and more.

With the infusion of state support to transform Humboldt State University into Cal Poly Humboldt ($433 million of one-time funding and $25 million in annual base support), Cal Poly Humboldt administrators predicted they will increase enrollment by 50 percent over three years and double enrollment within seven years as part of the deal. The latest CPH enrollment projection for the Fall of 2023 is 7,449 or higher (up from Spring 2023 enrollment of 5,739)!

Much of the $433 million will go toward new academic buildings on campus (some with student housing), non-academic buildings and projects, and off-campus student housing. The remaining money will go to "improving the technology and broadband support which is vital to our rural campus, toward lab and classroom renovations, equipment modernization, and infrastructure for mixed-use space for housing and other basic needs, academic instruction, and the support of students' success," according to the CPH website.

Timeline for when we will need to buckle up:

Five major construction projects will begin on or around campus starting now and with projected completion dates by August of 2027 (in addition to the new Children's Center and Child Development Lab already underway and slated for completion in June).

• Starting spring of 2023 and planned opening in August of 2025 — Craftsman's Student Housing (located off campus): The project will construct two main buildings consisting of 950 total beds connected by courtyard and surrounded with parking, usable grounds, recreation facilities and other intermodal support. A central community space will include a marketplace, gym, game rooms, conference rooms and student life services. Total project budget: $200 million.

• Starting spring of 2024 and planned opening in January of 2026 — Engineering & Technology - Learning Community Building: A new 90,000-square-foot building for instruction and adjacent 250-bed residence hall located on the campus events field. It will include academic departments, lecture, lab research, office, student space, communal space, conference space and other student experience space. Total project budget: $135 million.

• Starting spring of 2024 and planned opening in August of 2025 — Microgrid and Sustainability Building: A new 25,000-square-foot building located on the south edge of campus will include academic departments, lab research, office, student space, communal space and conference space. The building will primarily serve as a testing facility for energy systems and a home for sustainability on campus. Total project budget: $24 million.

• Starting summer of 2024 and planned opening in August of 2026 — Library Circle Student Housing, Health, & Dining Building and Parking Structure: The project would build approximately 200,000-square-foot at the northwest corner of the campus library circle and L.K. Wood Boulevard. The building would contain a new health center and main dining services for housing with 650-bed residential units. The project will also construct a new parking structure located north of the building along Granite Avenue. Total project budget: $175 million.

• Start time TBA and planned opening in summer of 2027 – Campus Apartments Student Housing and Parking Structure: The project will construct a building complex consisting of 600-plus-beds of residential units next to a new parking structure. The project will include additional site amenities for housing and gathering spaces. Total project budget: $110 million.

Needless, to say, the impacts of these construction projects will also have a negative effect on campus teaching and learning experiences, and the campus visits of prospective students and their parents, along with community members attending on-campus events.

Given CPH's plans to grow to 11,000 (or more?) students, we need to collectively address these concerns, as well as the student-housing shortages. CPH should admit fewer additional students each year to reduce the student enrollment increases until after 2027 because it's very optimistic to believe that CPH's timelines for on- and off-campus housing projects will be completed on time due to likely supply-chain shortages and other delays. CPH should also spread out over more years the timeline of infrastructure projects so the building construction projects don't overlap so much to reduce their impacts on the campus and community. Lastly, CPH administrators need to leave their "island" and join the Arcata City Council, Planning Commission and fire departments planning actions to mitigate the impacts of this planned construction, improve housing supply and move forward safely.

And if you want even more reasons to believe it's time to buckle up between now and the end of the decade locally — think about what will happen to our quality of life if construction also begins on the salmon farm, wind-farm technology factory, a new fiber optic facility and other coming projects.

Mark Larson (he/him) is a longtime Arcata resident.


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