Street closure marks end to expansion

City wants concessions for street closure.

ROAD BLOCK<br>Chico State has proposed the closure of Orange Street, between First and Second streets. The lots on both sides of the short block have been razed for construction of the Wildcat Activity Center.

Chico State has proposed the closure of Orange Street, between First and Second streets. The lots on both sides of the short block have been razed for construction of the Wildcat Activity Center.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

A request by Chico State University that the city abandon Orange Street between West First and West Second streets will be up for discussion at the Jan. 16 City Council meeting.

The university and the Associated Students plan to build the Wildcat Activity Center on the site. While the impacts and costs involved are not major, the street’s closure is significant because in all likelihood it will be the last campus expansion into the city for some time. Campus enrollment is slowing, and future growth will be accommodated within existing campus borders, President Paul Zingg has said.

City studies of auto, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic show the one-block closure will require a detour to Cherry Street, so a traffic light costing some $300,000 will be needed at Second and Cherry, reported Fritz McKinley, director of engineering for the city. The university will need to pay about half that amount as its fair share, he added.

A further condition is that Chico State must pay the city $22,500 per year to compensate for lost revenue from 17 high-use parking meters on the closed street. McKinley said the amount could increase if the city goes to extended meter hours in the future.

The city will also require the university not to sell too many permits for the number of existing parking spaces—so-called “licenses to hunt"—in order to “better utilize available parking in university lots.” The university may go to a pay-and-park system with a charge for a ticket upon driving into the facility, he said.

Finally, the university must conduct a transportation demand study to see how students get to campus and how they get around once there. McKinley said more and better bike parking might emerge from such a study, with even the possibility of bikes once again being ridden in bike lanes on campus. He pointed to UC Davis as a successful example of bike use on campus but stressed that such a move is up to Chico State officials following their study.

Activities center construction is tentatively set to begin in summer 2008 but must wait upon Chico State’s meeting the above-mentioned impact demands and upon the realignment of utilities, according to Joel Trenalone, interim campus director of facilities planning. He said these changes would involve sewer and storm drain facilities, PG&E electric and gas service, and water supply through California Water Service Co. Trenalone had no cost estimates yet for the realignments.

The growth changes that have emerged as a sidelight of the Orange Street closure show Chico State enrollment increases moving at a slower rate than those of the CSU system as a whole.

CSU Executive Vice Chancellor Richard West said the CSU is committed to 2.5 percent growth—10,000 students per year—over the next five years, but Chico State is not one of the rural schools expected to absorb overflow from growth-impacted campuses elsewhere. West added that a shrinking high school graduation pool has made it unrealistic to project beyond five years.

John Swiney, Chico State’s director of admissions, revealed that campus enrollment increased 2.1 percent for 2005-06 but is expected to drop to 1.8 percent next year and to 1.5 the following year. After that it’s expected to hold steady for two or three years. The growth drop and the short projection period reflect the dwindling number of high school grads academically qualified to attend a CSU campus, Swiney said. Thus the trend is toward junior college enrollment.