SMC Assures Student Safety, Malibu Campus Progress Amidst Climate Concerns

The unrelenting sound of last Friday’s downpour complemented the monotony of abandoned construction trucks and empty site offices surrounding a large, flooded mud hole at its center. This scene was the result of a flash flood warning halting construction progress on Santa Monica College’s (SMC) awaited Malibu Campus. In light of the Woolsey fire in November and mudslides closing the Pacific Coast Highway in January, the recent storm is the latest in the trend of severe weather conditions affecting the beach city of Malibu. This has caused some student concern on student safety, and doubts on plans to open the Malibu campus by 2022.

Construction on Santa Monica College's Malibu Campus halts due to continuous heavy rainfall on February 14, 2019 in Malibu, California. Photo By: Oskar Zinnemann/The Corsair

Construction on Santa Monica College's Malibu Campus halts due to continuous heavy rainfall on February 14, 2019 in Malibu, California. Photo By: Oskar Zinnemann/The Corsair

The possibility of mudslides occurring, directly behind the campus site is the most evident risk factor for the Malibu campus. The risk of Malibu mudslides has become more likely in recent times, considering a Nature: International Journal of Science study published in December 2018 suggesting that the steadily increasing temperatures brought by the climate change phenomenon will result in stronger storm seasons for California.

Despite this, the college is confident that these factors will not put their 2022 deadline, or the safety of their future students, at risk.

“The college conducted a tremendous amount of research—including studies such as environmental impact studies, geohazard studies, floor zone analysis, and more—prior to the commencement of the building design,” said the college’s Public Information Officer, Grace Smith on behalf of the college’s Director of Events and Contract Services, Charlie Yen. Smith explained that because of the environmental research, the college was able to take the rising frequency of severe weather conditions into account.

Construction on Santa Monica College's Malibu Campus halts due to continuous heavy rainfall on February 14, 2019 in Malibu, California. The Camps is expected to be finished by 2020, and open to students the following year. Photo By: Oskar Zinnemann/The Corsair

Construction on Santa Monica College's Malibu Campus halts due to continuous heavy rainfall on February 14, 2019 in Malibu, California. The Camps is expected to be finished by 2020, and open to students the following year. Photo By: Oskar Zinnemann/The Corsair

“A certain amount of ‘rain delay days’ and a contingency fund was included in the construction schedule and budget,” she disclosed. She then clarified that “the college also works closely with the contractor onsite to employ different measures in order to mitigate the impacts on the construction schedule and budget caused by severe weather conditions,” emphasizing that through this, the college would be adaptable enough to deal with unforeseen interruptions to the construction schedule.

On the topic of student safety, Smith revealed that after numerous studies conducted by the college, “the project site was determined safe and approved for proposed educational use by state agencies such as the Division of the State Architect and California Geological Survey.” Smith also noted that the college would still make additional efforts to ensure student safety on the Malibu campus through features such as a Los Angeles County Sheriff Substation near the campus grounds, a “concrete masonry wall” as a precaution against potential mudslides, and a Malibu Emergency Operations center within the campus.

While concerns over student safety in light of recent, environmental conditions were valid, Smith was quick to remind students that these events would always be taken into consideration because “the safety of our students has been and will always be the college’s top priority.”

The SMC Malibu Campus is still scheduled to open for students by 2022.

_