Building moratorium’s conclusion unknown

By Rodolfo Trujillo

New construction projects at East Los Angeles College will be delayed. At last week’s LACCD Board of Trustees Meeting, Chancellor Daniel LaVista said that he and his advisers are still looking at how they can comply with state regulations on construction conformity, which at this point, most of the campuses approach being overbuilt or are already at that point.

La Vista gave a presentation, along with his ad hoc committee, comprised of Tom Loyd and Jim O’ Reily during the Capital Construction Committee meeting. It detailed why the moratorium was instituted, what the district has done to continue construction projects, how it has addressed the concerns of the cost of maintaining and operating the new buildings and how enrollment was impacting construction.

The presentation did not contain any news about when the moratorium would end, but attempted to justify it to the board, who had entrusted La Vista with that decision. According to La Vista, 7,525 classes have been cut since 2007.  During the 2011-12 school year, 25,000 students were turned away from attending a Los Angeles Community College District.  That is taking money away from colleges, which rely on student tuition for maintenance and operation.

La Vista said that the lack of state financial support for higher education was the strongest reason why the moratorium was enacted. “Our open door policy is deeply corroded,” said La Vista. “The building program is outpacing enrollment,” said La Vista.  La Vista said that the increase in space on campuses has grown tremendously districtwide.  He does not discount that having a new building feels good, but said, “I think the risk here is opening buildings that cannot be appropriately utilized and spending sparse operative funds on facility of maintenance, instead of on staff.”

Individual trustees expressed appreciation about the work the chancellor is doing, but were concerned with when the construction program would start again. “We want to move forward, but I do appreciate the way we’ve moved on this,” said Trustee Miguel Santiago.  “There has to be a creative way to move on this (though),” said Santiago.

“When can turn this program back on and begin to go full throttle to finish it,” said Trustee Scott Svonkin.  He and other trustees were concerned that the project managers at each college were still getting paid, while they waited for the funds to start building again.  “I don’t want people sitting idle if it’s costing money,” said Svonkin.

La Vista and his team said that they have asked the project managers to scale back their operations while the colleges are able to access money.
For now, La Vista said that there is classroom space for students that each college has developed, unfortunately it is just not the most desirable space.

“The harder job for staff is trying to read the tea leaves of the state budget,” said La Vista.  He said that’s a longer term solution rather than a short term one.  If there are projects that the board feels that they should move  on, then they can see if they can budget it in.

Corrections were made to this story from the print edition.

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