On a typical day at Orange Coast College, students circle the lots in a frenzy, attempting to beat their peers to a parking spot close to their next class.
If they’re lucky, they might notice another student walking to a car and snag that space once vacated. If not, they prepare themselves for a hike and head to one of six other parking lots available for student use.
But soon a four-story garage could be constructed near Fairview Road and Arlington Drive, making it easier for students to find a place to park near campus.
Coast Community College District trustees voted last week to start drafting a joint-use agreement with the OC Fair & Event Center to build a 2,000-space parking structure.
The agreement would give the college and the fair parking privileges in the structure, said Rich Pagel, vice president of administrative services at OCC.
The additional parking would provide relief for OCC’s 22,000 students, who currently battle over 7,557 parking spaces, Pagel said.
“Thankfully, all 22,000 students don’t come to campus at the same time,” he said.
The structure would be built on fairgrounds land, but the district would provide the $35 million in total anticipated construction costs using Measure M money, said OCC spokesman Doug Bennett.
Measure M was a $698-million bond measure passed by voters in 2012.
“The fair obviously needs extra parking, and we need overflow parking,” he said. “By being able to have those extra spaces in a parking structure, it frees up land on our campus for classroom buildings and other uses.”
The district expects to break ground on the project after the fair ends in 2015 and have the structure ready for use just before the summer 2016 fair.
The Fair Board and the college have had an agreement for several years that allows students to park on fair property during school hours.
Coast and the Fair Board began discussing the possibility of a parking structure in 2007, but the idea was delayed when state embarked on a failed attempt to sell the fairgrounds in 2009, Pagel said.
“We took a step back at that point and let them work out that whole issue,” he said. “But it was part of our master planning effort.”
The project still needs to be approved by the state and Costa Mesa before it can move forward, Bennett said.
Trustees will discuss the terms of negotiations with the fair board during a closed session meeting next week.