Despite protests by students carrying boxes of lemons to symbolize what they said is a sour deal, parking fees are expected to nearly double or go even higher next year at all 19 California State University campuses as a result of official action taken Tuesday.
Cal State administrators said that students and faculty frequently complain about the shortage of parking spaces on and near campuses. The fee hike, from $7.50 a month now to as high as $18 at some schools, is needed to finance construction of more garages to ease the shortage, those officials said.
Student protesters agreed Tuesday that new garages should be built, but they questioned why they should pay for garages that, in most cases, won't be built until they finish school. Others said they couldn't afford the hike. "Doubling the parking fees is a monumental concern," said Mark Leuteritz, student body president at Cal State Long Beach, who urged a postponement of the increase and more study of how to improve mass transit to campuses.
About 30 Long Beach students, carrying picket signs and chanting "freeze the fees," marched outside the Trustees Conference Center in Long Beach before a meeting Tuesday. Later, about 10 students from Cal State Los Angeles presented the trustees with two boxes of lemons, each fruit signed by a student upset about the increased parking costs.
D. Dale Hanner, vice chancellor in charge of Cal State's business affairs, said the fee increases were "a very well thought out, deliberate but painful proposal." He stressed that, under state law, construction and maintenance of parking facilities can be paid for only with parking fees. The Cal State system plans to build an additional 23,748 parking spaces over the next five years in garages and lots costing $112 million.
There are now about 106,000 parking spaces for the more than 340,000 students and 19,000 teachers and administrators at the 19 campuses. And that means, according to Cal State Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds, that many students have to park in neighborhoods near campuses, annoying residents and businesses. Some neighborhoods have taken steps to limit or even forbid off-campus parking, making life tougher for commuting students, she said.
An official report declared: "Parking availability sometimes determines whether a required class can be taken in one year or the next. In such instances, access costs must be measured as an extension of time to graduation, a cost far greater than any fee ever likely to be contemplated."
The fee increase was unanimously approved by the Cal State Board of Trustees' Committee on Finance, and approval is expected today by the full board. The committee rejected a plan to raise the fees at all campuses to $14 a month. Instead, the panel chose a proposal that would link fees to the amount of existing and planned garages on each campus.
Beginning next September, a monthly parking permit is expected to cost $12 at 13 campuses, including Long Beach, Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Pomona; to $14 at Northridge; to $16 at three schools, including Los Angeles and San Diego, and to $18 at the San Francisco and San Jose campuses.
Faculty members face the increases next September too but were excluded from the measure until the matter is discussed in contract negotiations.