Dorms at GCC? Stakeholders balk at idea

A proposal to build a dormitory for several hundred international students at Glendale Community College appeared to falter before even making it out of the starting block this week as stakeholders voiced concerns over parking and liability issues.

The concept for the dormitory was born out of a “sister city” relationship forged in 2009 between Glendale and Goseong, South Korea. As part of that tie, Glendale Community College President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay and Goseong Mayor Hak-lul Lee in November signed an agreement to allow Goseong youth to bypass bureaucratic red tape and enroll at the college. It is expected to bring about 20 Korean students to Glendale each semester.

“One of the things that we looked at when we were forming this relationship … was where are the students coming from Korea to be housed?” Chang Lee, a prominent Korean American businessman who has played a key role in the sister-city relationship, said Monday during the college Board of Trustees meeting.

Developers identified a city-owned parking lot at the southwest corner of East Mountain Street and Verdugo Road as a plausible site for the dormitory.

“The concept is, would the city consider doing something with that site, either selling, vesting or ground leasing to the campus,” said Kent Merselis, senior vice president with WAM Development Group. “I don’t think they have much use for it. I think the amount of revenue they derive from parking meters has gone significantly.”

With the college enrolling about 500 international students, there is already a need for housing, Merselis said. The dormitory would be privately financed and operated, he added.

College trustees were pitched a one-year, exclusive right-to-negotiate contract to further explore the project. But stakeholders quickly took aim at the proposal.

Board Vice President Armine Hacopian noted that the intersection at Mountain Street and Verdugo Road is among the most dangerous in the city, adding that she would not support a project that increased congestion in the area.

Mike Scott, president of the Glendale Community College Academic Senate, lambasted the administration for placing the presentation on the agenda before subjecting it to the college’s traditional vetting process.

“The dormitory would be a reflection on us,” Scott said. “What happens there is Glendale Community College — good or bad.”

Others noted that the city-owned parking lot identified for the development is used by an adjacent church during Sunday services. And it is jammed with college students during the spring and fall semesters.

“I am just hoping the students get a say, and I am sure we will because it is our parking lot,” student trustee Suzanna Sargsyan said.

Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services, said the presentation was meant for informational purposes only.

“It seems like people think a decision has been made. That is nowhere near the truth,” Nakasone said. “This presentation that we made to the board was simply an introduction of the project. Now is the time we are going to start soliciting feedback from constituent groups, from the public.”

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