Recently, I was privileged to host my first on-campus community meeting. We invited campus neighbors to give them an overview of various capital plans and information about projects that are underway at The Beach.
We hope this meeting launches a new era of open communication between us and our neighbors. The projects we presented were East Campus development, new Student Housing, Alumni and Community Center, and the Puvungna Study.
We shared information about completed and ongoing work along East Campus Drive including the recently completed Student Success Center, the ongoing hot water infrastructure upgrade, and construction of a bicycle path. These projects, although separate, were overlapping in time and subjected our Bixby neighbors to a few years of noise. Not good. Further, in order to complete the bicycle lane shrubs were removed to the surprise of our neighbors. Also, not good. An additional meeting with our Bixby neighbors is planned to gather feedback to inform a decision as to the future of East Campus Drive.
On the Atherton side of campus, we presented two projects. One is for housing for about 450 students. This is planned for the corner of Atherton and Earl Warren where the Student Housing Office now stands. New housing has been in our 10-year plan for quite a while and responds to a growing demand for residential options.
A more recently conceptualized project is a 7,000-square-foot, one-story Alumni and Community Center. One plan is to build that between the Pyramid and Atherton. This project causes concern among our valued neighbors especially because they were confident that after the Pyramid was built about 28 years ago the green-space between it and Atherton would be permanently undeveloped. Good to know. Further study of its potential environmental impact may be in order.
Finally, despite limited information, we gave an update of the first stage of a study that had been requested by our American Indian Studies Program. This work is meant to develop concepts of culturally sensitive improvements on the 22 acres of the campus we call Puvungna. This report generated a lively conversation. Puvungna represents a sacred space to our Native American neighbors and to others in the community as well as a link to our past as a "learning place" that we find singular and important.
What I learned from that discussion was, despite significant efforts, some community members feel shut out of the discussion. Possible changes (and lack of changes) to the Puvungna site generate many conflicting memories and feelings; so we’ll redouble our efforts to reach a consensus with more inclusive input. Our goal is to honor the past while meeting a compelling social need to attract and graduate more Native American students from Cal State Long Beach.
We’ll have more meetings like the one on Saturday, the 19th. Importantly, we’ve also launched an initial version of a website, www.csulb.edu/beachcommunity that will serve as a way to keep neighbors informed about construction schedules, new capital plans, opportunities for engagement, and an updated listing of events and services at The Beach. The current version is still evolving, but, with feedback, our goal is for it to serve as a continual two-way link to our neighbors.
I’m sure some neighbors left the meeting still frustrated by our university’s disruption to their peace and quiet and still unsure about our commitment to openness. It’s a hassle to live next to a little city of about 40,000 faculty, staff and students. We strive to be a community asset, not an irritation. We’ll keep working on minimizing surprises, noise, and traffic while pursuing our mission to educate the next generation of California leaders.