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Glendale residents question GCC’s Garfield parking lot expansion

This is a boarded-up property near the Garfield campus of Glendale Community College.
This is a boarded-up property near the Garfield campus of Glendale Community College.
(Tim Berger/Glendale News-Press)

Concerns about affordable housing, traffic and environmental sustainability in south Glendale boiled to the surface during a Glendale Community College board of trustees meeting last week.

Although the college began efforts to expand its Garfield campus, located at 1122 E. Garfield Ave. about three years ago, the recent addition of wire fencing surrounding 11 vacant properties prompted some residents to question the college’s construction plans.

The campus is tapping into funds from Measure GC, a $325-million facilities bond, to add a surface parking lot with 260 spaces, which would replace houses and apartments along the southeast corner block of Acacia Avenue and Chevy Chase Drive.

A real estate company, contracted by the college, is negotiating with owners to purchase two additional houses along East Acacia Avenue and South Adams Street.

After the 13 properties are acquired, the Division of the State Architect will oversee the community college’s facility plans and construction could start in a year, said Drew Sugars, the college’s director of communications and community relations

“I consider this an utter disregard for our neighborhood and in this area of homelessness and lack of affordable housing,” Mary Baldwin, a member of the Adams Hill Neighborhood Assn., told the board.

“This is really shocking to us and we feel that we should have been somehow more in the loop,” she added.

Although the board couldn’t respond to public comment during the meeting, Sugars reached out to the neighbors who spoke at the meeting to offer opportunities to communicate.

“We respectfully weighed the community’s housing needs and the vital community services offered at Garfield. The 2016 Measure GC campaign ($325-million bond) laid out GCC’s vision for all three campuses (Verdugo, Garfield and Montrose), which more than 72% of Glendale voters approved,” Sugars wrote in an email.

“We worked very hard to accommodate the residents who were relocated at no cost to them. Our goal was to make sure they found equal or better housing than they were leaving in the Garfield neighborhood,” he added.

Another resident pointed out that the student population at the Garfield campus is declining and might not need parking spaces.

According to the college’s website, noncredit students’ annual enrollment dropped from 8,006 in 2016 to 6,881 in 2019.

Andrew Allison, transportation architect and also part of the Adams Hill Neighborhood Assn., brought up concerns about environmental sustainability and traffic.

According to Sugars, the college conducted an initial study in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act.

The study determined the project didn’t require an environmental-impact report and wouldn’t create significant greenhouse emissions in the area.

While Allison pointed out during the meeting the biggest generator of increased car traffic is providing parking at a destination, Sugars later said providing more parking will take more cars off the street instead of students circling the neighborhoods for parking.

Alternative transportation solutions are also expected to launch in the summer.

The Glendale Beeline bus system will begin a one-year trial in July to add bus service from 6:30 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. and extend Route 4, which passes near Garfield to the Glendale train station.

The college is also discussing entering into an agreement with Metro and the Beeline to offer a reduced bus pass for students.

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