• GUEST OPINION

      an entrance to a building

      PCC’s W Building (Photo – Melissa Michelson)

      In November 2022, Pasadena City College area voters agreed to raise taxes to pay for upgrades and rehabilitation of classrooms, and gave PCC $565M to do so.

      By Melissa Michelson

      Tied to the bond was the 2020 Facilities Master Plan of renovations and facilities changes across campus. And then the pandemic hit. Since then, PCC along with community colleges everywhere, have been struggling to recoup enrollment, both online and face to face.

      On Wednesday, April 10, the college administration put an update overview aka “Facilities Master Plan 2024” before the PCC Board of Trustees.

      It is devoid of meaningful data, cost comparisons, and relevant support. It has some charts, but even these are without legends. It has some quotes, but it’s unclear who said them or when. It has lists of classrooms and attempts to make correlations between the value of a classroom and its past utilization.

      In the meantime, it’s clear what the administration’s ongoing pet project is: demolish the W building to make way for a temporary bungalow space that would hold the L-building student services offices while the L building (which was originally PCC’s library) and Harbeson Hall (a historic streamlined modern auditorium) both get demolished for a larger building – with no assurance that there will be sufficient money to re-build.

      In the update, the administrators go out of their way to spotlight the W building’s inadequacy, trying to show it’s being ‘underutilized’. But this has occurred through their own authority and action over the years. The sub-text of the document is “under-utilized buildings deserve demolition.”

      a band with a conductor practicing

      A band practicing in the W building (Photo – Melissa Michelson)

      All of PCC’s classrooms are underutilized, according to their charts. If the goal is to have buildings and classrooms satisfy an arbitrary threshold of utilization, then why not make a plan to improve the underperforming spaces by proper maintenance and renovation? Instead the argument is to wipe the slate clean and dispose of all of the years of neglect. Building demolition is inherently antithetical to PCC’s claims of sustainability. (See PCC’s Resolution to go Carbon-Free by 2030 approved by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 13, 2023.)

      Since last year, the facilities managers at the college have been ignoring the 2020 Master Plan timeline and have already been taking the W building ‘off line’ with an intent to demolish it four years early. In late November 2023, they shuffled several board members through on a site visit of the building to shock and awe them into believing the building needs to be demolished, as they directed them to the areas that need the most TLC and ignored all the other adequate spaces currently in use.

      For years, the administration has been calling the W building “obsolete”, as they gradually displaced Kinesiology classes like fencing, self-defense, table tennis, spinning, or general fitness classes for students who aren’t necessarily enrolled in collegiate competitive sports. They have neglected the pool to the point of it sitting unused for the last four years, forcing swim students to use off-site pools and completely discontinuing the community summer swim program. Now the only thing that’s left on their chopping block is the yoga and dance program.

      students practicing yoga

      Yoga at the W Building (Photo – Melissa Michelson)

      Like the E building (sciences) that is currently being retrofitted thanks to Measure PCC, the W could also benefit from retrofitting, like reinforcing six columns and 18 feet of wall as recommended in the seismic reports from 2021 and 2008, and now PCC has the funding and public mandate to do so.

      No funding allocation for a replacement

      If the 1961 mid-century modern building gets fully demolished, along go three large multi-use classrooms, large indoor and outdoor spaces designed for fitness and movement, lockers for students and faculty, specialized dance classrooms, faculty office spaces, and the Veteran’s Center that recently moved in. To date, there has been no funding allocation for a replacement building and it is unclear, if there is money left in the bond to re-build, what programs or kinds of spaces would be reconstructed.

      What a perfect way to kill another set of programs at PCC. Can anyone say “Graphics Program Elimination 2021“?

      Is that really what the public signed up for when they voted “yes” on Measure PCC?

      Melissa Michelson is a tenured professor at Pasadena City College.


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