The Mercury News Weekend

CSU approves 3 affordable student housing plans

- By Ashley A. Smith EdSource

Three Cal State campuses — San Francisco State, Dominguez Hills and Cal Poly Humboldt — can move ahead with badly needed student housing.

The Cal State board of trustees has voted to approve plans for all three projects.

They already had been approved to receive funding through the Higher Education Student Housing Grant program.

The Legislatur­e awarded CSU $492.5 million to build nearly 3,100 affordable beds across nine campuses last year. The grant was created to address the high price of rent and living across the state that has impacted students' ability to attend college.

“Our experience shows that housing insecurity is one of the biggest challenges our students face,” San Francisco State President Lynn Mahoney said. “Access to safe, stable and affordable housing is one of the leading predictors for student success. And expanding access to affordable housing to freshmen in the extremely expensive Bay Area market is particular­ly critical.”

Mahoney said it's common for the campus to have more than 2,000 students on their waitlist for housing. Although the campus saw waitlist numbers fall below that this fall, Mahoney said that's because “they've given up asking for campus housing.”

“My enrollment will improve dramatical­ly if I can promise first-year and second-year students campus housing,” said Mahoney, referring to previously disclosed data showing news earlier in the week that SF State was 10% below its target enrollment numbers for the year.

California students, not just within the 23-campus CSU system, but across the state's community colleges and University of California systems, face dire housing challenges. Most CSU campuses don't guarantee housing for any incoming students.

SF State plan

Although SF State is receiving grant dollars for the new housing, the funding doesn't cover the project. The affordable student housing grant will only cover $116.3 million of the $127.6 million project, of which $33.4 million will go to a health center and dining space.

The board approved using CSU revenue bonds to co-fund the housing portion of the project. The total cost of the project is estimated to cost nearly $179 million.

The San Francisco State West Campus Green Student Housing and Health Center plan includes building a 120,000-square-foot, six-story dormitory with beds for 750 students. The project also includes a three-story, 49,900-squarefoot building with dining and a health center.

The dorms would consist of three-person “podconcept” rooms clustered around a common lounge or learning space and shared bathrooms. It will also hold study spaces, meeting rooms, recreation­al areas and office space for residentia­l administra­tors. The health center will house wellness, psychologi­cal and counseling services. SF State estimates constructi­on to start on the project this May, with students occupying the building by December 2024.

Dominguez Hills plan

The student housing planned for Cal State Dominguez Hills would consist of a six-story residence hall and a one-story dining facility. The project also is funded with $48.7 million from the affordable housing grant and $20 million in one-time state funding received in 2021. The total project is expected to cost about $104.5 million.

But already, the plan is over budget.

One problem campus leaders are contending with is escalating constructi­on costs, said Steve Relyea, executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer for the system, adding that the design team on the project is working to reduce costs by making changes. For example, the design team is examining if the residence hall should be fewer stories.

But the campus also will need to go to the trustees in the future for about $26.3 million of additional funding through bonds, Elvyra San Juan, an assistant vice chancellor for the system, said.

“One of the challenges in redesignin­g the facility is that it takes time to redesign,” she said.

By the time the plan has been redesigned, the project still could cost more because constructi­on costs continue to escalate, she said.

The dorm would house 365 students in single, double and triple traditiona­lstyle halls organized in clusters of 36 students and one resident advisor. Each cluster will have communal restrooms, activity rooms and study nooks. Shared student lounges will connect two clusters of students. The project will also be Dominguez HIlls' first “residentce­ntered” dining facility.

The project is expected to start this November and the campus estimates students will move in by February 2026.

Humboldt plan

The project planned at Cal Poly Humboldt includes a 303,000-squarefoot housing complex near Highway 101. The campus would see two new buildings, including a sevenstory building and a sixstory building for a total of 964 apartment-style beds. The dorms would include study rooms, student lounges, and outdoor barbecue area, fitness spaces, indoor bicycle parking and cafe space.

The Humboldt campus is seeing a 140% increase in housing applicatio­ns for this coming fall compared to last year, President Tom Jackson said.

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