The Santa Clarita Community College District, which administers College of the Canyons, will consider approval of two contracts totaling approximately $2.8 million as part of the early planning for an affordable student housing project.
According to COC’s agenda, the board of trustees on Wednesday will consider approving a contract with Westberg White Architects for $2,763,940, and the trustees will also consider approving a contract for $38,640 with Michael Baker International to complete an environmental analysis, which will then be submitted for state approval.
“These are standard board items. It’s part of the process to move forward with developing the project,” said Eric Harnish, vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations for COC. “The board agenda item is to confirm hiring the architecture firm that will design the building, as well as a consultant to perform the environmental analysis.”
There were four other firms that were considered, according to Harnish, but COC staff decided to move ahead with Westberg White Architects and Michael Baker International.
“These are firms that we’ve worked with before, and have a good working relationship,” Harnish said. “We have a good track record of delivering similar projects.”
In May, the state, through its Affordable Student Housing Grant, awarded COC approximately $62 million for the purpose of developing student housing, which COC applied for. This project prioritizes the needs of low-income, disproportionately impacted students who would benefit from affordable housing to help those students to focus on their education, according to the agenda.
The one-time grant will be distributed in two parts. COC was awarded its first allocation of approximately $23 million earlier this year, and the second distribution will be during the 2023-24 fiscal year.
The one-time grant will be used for planning, construction, furnishing and equipping of the project, which would include 100 bedrooms, lobbies, study spaces, lounges, a gaming room, offices, laundry facilities and a student support space.
According to COC staff, the project will be a three-story building located on the Valencia campus, adjacent to parking lot No. 6 at the corner of Valencia Boulevard and Rockwell Canyon Road.
“This project is exempt from city review and is subject to the California State Architect for review and approval since it serves the COC campus and operations,” wrote city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan in a statement to The Signal.
Jim Schrage, assistant superintendent/vice president of facilities, planning, operation and construction for COC, told the board of trustees during a presentation on Feb. 22 that they expect to fast track this project to the Division of the State Architect by midsummer.
However, Joan MacGregor, a member of the board of trustees, expressed her frustration with the process and said the project would most likely move forward without her approval. She noted that it was the first time that the project was brought forth to the board during the meeting on Feb. 22.
“There’s just so many questions, and so many comments that I would rather see us return the money at this point,” MacGregor said during the meeting on Feb. 22. “They give you money, but they don’t give you any ability to go forward, and now it’s rush, rush, rush.”
“But this is going far beyond that,” she continued. “This is going into a facility structural commitment by this board, and I’m just mortified that this is the first time the board has had a presentation.”
Her fellow board members showed surprise during the presentation but expressed their excitement at the opportunity to provide housing for low-income students.
The board of trustees is scheduled to consider both contracts Wednesday at 5 p.m. at COC’s University Center, located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Santa Clarita.