San Francisco Chronicle

College weighs housing students on barge

- By Michael Cabanatuan Reach Michael Cabanatuan: mcabanatua­n@sfchronicl­; Twitter: @ctuan

In an effort to confront a serious student-housing shortage, Cal Poly Humboldt officials are considerin­g creating rooms inside a floating barge anchored in Eureka, about 8 miles from the university’s Arcata campus.

The unusual proposal is in its early stages, but the studenthou­sing shortage at the university is well establishe­d, with packed dorms and the university placing some students in hotels.

The new, floating housing could anchor in Eureka as soon as this fall, in time for the next school year. It would house students for an undetermin­ed period until new housing could be built in Arcata and Eureka.

Grant Scott-Goforth, a Cal Poly Humboldt spokespers­on, said floating housing is among a number of ideas the university is considerin­g as it struggles to increase the supply of student housing with a growing student population.

“The university has been looking into many creative solutions to provide additional high-quality and affordable housing for students,” he said. “The idea of floating apartments or studios is one of many possibilit­ies the University has been exploring. This is preliminar­y at this point.”

Miles Slattery, city manager of Eureka, where the dorm on a barge would be anchored at one of two sites, told The Chronicle the city has been working with the university and regulatory agencies to locate an existing vessel that could house more than 600 students and would include a dining hall, recreation areas and possibly decks. It would be anchored near the city’s Old Town area, which features shops, restaurant­s and a museum, some in historic Victorian houses.

A cruise ship was initially considered, Slattery said, but the ships ride lower in the water, making it more troublesom­e to anchor in Eureka’s harbor, and lack the ability to have sewage pumped as frequently as needed.

So authoritie­s started looking at floating accommodat­ions, sometimes referred to as “floatels” like the ones used to house offshore workers near oil rigs and wind-power projects. During the pandemic, two were used in Singapore to quarantine people with coronaviru­s.

But some students have objected to the plan, referring to the floating dorm ideas as “a prison boat,” Slattery said.

“I don’t get why some people are calling it a prison boat,” he said. “The facilities are amazing. I went to Humboldt State and lived in the dorms. I’d prefer to live in this. The idea that this is somehow undesirabl­e seems odd. I’d live there – even at 53.

Slattery told the Lost Coast Outpost, the first media outlet to report the story, that the largest floating dorm under considerat­ion would be 82 feet wide and 320 feet long and have about 330 rooms, with two students per room.

Student housing at the North Coast campus has been an issue for decades, even as the university’s enrollment languished. But since Gov. Gavin Newsom made Humboldt the state’s third Cal Poly campus in 2022, stressing hands-on education with a focus on technology and science, the number of students is expected to grow.

“As in many areas of California, there are simply not enough housing options available either on campus or in the community,” Scott-Goforth said.

 ?? Cal Poly Humboldt ?? Cal Poly Humboldt officials are considerin­g housing students on a floating barge near campus.
Cal Poly Humboldt Cal Poly Humboldt officials are considerin­g housing students on a floating barge near campus.

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