The University Housing Office on campus (Lucky Whitburn-Thomas/ Golden Gate Xpress) ( Lucky Whitburn-Thomas)
The University Housing Office on campus (Lucky Whitburn-Thomas/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Lucky Whitburn-Thomas

Gator Talk: Affordable Housing Grants

April 2, 2022

Welcome to Gator Talk, a collaborative CalState podcast that brings city and statewide perspectives to SF State news.

On March 1, the California Department of Finance sent a letter to California’s congress detailing their recommendations for how a $500 million statewide grant for higher education student housing should be divided up. If approved, SF State would receive the largest share of the money–$116.3 million. It’d be used to build a new dorm. Writer and guest Sarah Bowen sat down with associate planner and project manager Nicholas Holmes to learn more about the new dorms.

Check out the story here at Gator Talk.

Intro   

Nic: Happy Friday! I am Nicolas Cholula, multimedia editor for Golden Gate Xpress. Welcome to Gatortalk, the podcast where we mourn the passing of spring break. With me today is Sarah Bowen, staff reporter for Xpress and today’s guest.

Sarah: Hey.

Nic: For more information/coverage, check out goldengatexpress.org or @GGXnews on all social media platforms.

Preview of the show

Chris: Today’s main story focuses on housing grants. I know, I know, you’re already hooked.

California’s Department of Finance sent a letter to the state’s congress of recommendations on how to divide up a previously approved $500 million grant to fund student housing in higher education.

Sarah sat down with associate planner and project manager Nicholas Holmes from the Capital Planning, Design and Construction Department to learn how SF State plans to spend their share of the funds.

Main Story

Chris: So Sarah, where would you say this all started?

Sarah: I’d go back to last fall with SB 169, a California senate bill passed by legislature and then signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last September. And to help explain it, I talked to Holmes. He explains how SF State’s construction proposal relates to it.

[interview audio]

Holmes: This proposal is in relation to SB 169, which identifies $2 billion to encourage construction and acquisition of student housing. 50% of that grant goes to the community colleges, 20% to the UC, and then 30% to CSU or $600 million. And it’s spread over three fiscal years.

[interview audio ends]

Sarah: So it established what’s called the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program. And $500 million of that grant money was approved to be spent this year.

Nic: So, how does SF State come in in all of this?

Sarah: So the UCs, the CSUs and community colleges including SF State, all submitted their proposals for affordable student housing last fall.

Nic: And what did SF State propose?

Sarah: It’d be a new dorm with six floors that would potentially house 750 first-year students.

[interview audio starts]

Holmes: The site itself is 2.5 acres. It’s called the West Campus Green and it currently houses a multi-use recreation field. It’s adjacent to the Recreation Wellness Center, west of the Humanities building.

[interview audio ends]

Sarah: Of its six floors, the first floor would be an “active” space with a dining center and offices. The second floor would be a student health center. And then the third through sixth floor would all be dorms, three beds to a room.

Chris: We’ll take a quick break. We’ll be right back – 

Break

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break ends  – 

Cont. Main Story

Nic: And we’re back!

Nic: Ok. So there’d be a 750-person dorm for first years built. But it’s still just a proposal. What still needs to happen for it to actually be built?

Sarah: That depends, if the state assembly and senate approve what the Department of Finance has recommended.

Nic: And what did the Department of Finance recommend?

Sarah: So on March 1, the Department of Finance sent their recommendations in a letter to the state congress.  And basically, it highlighted their thoughts on how the money that’s already been approved should be divided. So they outlined that out of all the CSUs and UCs and California Community Colleges that submitted proposals, eight of them should get a portion of the $500 million.  $100 million will  potentially go to UC San Diego and $35 million to UCLA for example.  Under this proposal, SF State would get the most money at $116.3 million.

[interview audio starts]

Holmes: The proposals are merit based, and so SF State’s kind of rose to the level and made it through the first round of approvals, and that’s by, to achieve that recommendation by the Department of Finance to the state legislature. So to make the $2 billion identified in Senate Bill 169 stretch a bit further, the CSU asked for campus contributions and so the project is, you know, it’s roughly 65% funded through this grant. And then the remaining part will be financed through other means.

[interview audio ends]

Nic: So you said potentially. How promising is that recommendation? Does it pretty much guarantee that that’s the amount of money the state legislature will approve?

Sarah: That’s the same question I asked Holmes, and he said:

[interview audio starts]

Holmes: No, so it’s not guaranteed. As they finalize their budget, we’ll know more in June, as far as that final approval.

[interview audio ends]

Nick: So it’s not a sure thing?

Sarah: No, The state legislature could still say no to the recommendations. The schools just kind of have to wait and see.

Nic: I think most members of the SF State community would say student housing is a pretty big issue. So how much of the problem would this money and new dorm fix?

Sarah: Well, It would definitely help. Holmes says that:

[interview audio starts]

Holmes: If students are not worried about housing, they can focus more on their studies, and affordable housing is at the top of the President’s list of urgent issues.

[interview audio ends]

Sarah: But, it alone would not solve the shortage of student housing. The associate vice president of Capital Planning, Design and Construction, was quoted in an article for EdSource as saying over 2,500 students were waitlisted for housing this year.

So 750 beds for 750 students would make a dent, but it wouldn’t fix it entirely, no.

Nic: So, it’d have to be two students to a bed then. Just kidding. So are there other plans or projects that would address the other students still waitlisted?

Sarah: Well, maybe?

[interview audio starts]

Holmes: So we do have plans for an incremental increase to the housing program on campus. And so I think we’re looking at doing the West Campus Green building as kind of the first one out of the gate here with this series, and then we’re looking at renovation of the residence halls currently housing the lower division students, and that’s the Mary Park Hall and Mary Ward Hall.

[interview audio ends] 

Sarah: Holmes talks about renovations to existing buildings, but doesn’t quite address if there would be more beds.

Nic: Hm, I see. So, I guess, when would we have this new dorm?

Sarah: We first have to wait for approval and that’ll be decided in June. And if all goes well, Holmes thinks that construction could start December 2022, and it could potentially be done by summer 2024. So it’ll be interesting, as we get closer to June, to see what the state legislature has to say.

News brief

Nic: In other news, on March 23, California State University Board of Trustees appointed Jolene Koester to serve as interim chancellor for the CSUs.

Also, on Wednesday, the California State University system decided it would no longer use SATs or ACTs as a requirement for student admission.

Yesterday, as acting governor of California, lieutenant governor Elaine Kounelakis became the first woman in state history to sign a bill into law. The bill serves to protect hundreds of thousands from eviction.

And, earlier today, warehouse workers at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island voted to join the upstart Amazon Labor Union, making it the first Amazon facility in the US to unionize.

End 

Nic: And that’s the episode. This is Nicolas Choula, multimedia editor and your co-host for Gator Talk. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and thanks for listening. New episodes will premiere every other Friday, so stay tuned! And with that, I’m out.

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