Building the future: updates on SMC construction

Here at Santa Monica College, construction is an all too familiar sight. From fenced-off areas and altered pathways, to the now legendary pit, the SMC community is used to views of ongoing construction projects as signs of both progress and stagnation. At the Main Campus as well as the satellites, there are so many construction projects underway that it can be difficult to keep track of what’s going on and where. To give you an overview of what can be expected, here is an update on the major current and proposed facility projects having an impact on campus' in the coming months and years.

The Student Services Building

In just over two years, in place of what is now known as “The Pit” on the north-east corner of Main Campus, will stand the long ago proposed Student Services Building. In addition to Student Services, the 100,000 square foot, three-story complex will also house a new auditorium and an underground parking lot that should have space for roughly 500 cars, according to the SMC Bond Program website.

In 2009, while waiting for approval from the Division of the State Architect (DSA), The Pit was created in preparation for the next phase of construction to save time and allow them to begin the project immediately after it was approved.

However, the approval process, which was expected to take only one year, ended up taking three. This was followed by the contracting companies' bids also exceeding their expectations.

“The bids came back far too high — 25 percent over budget,” said Gregory Brown, Co-Chair of the Facilities Planning Subcommittee. “So the board decided to redesign the building completely.”

It took another couple years to redesign, get DSA approval again and go to bid. Recently, at the May 3 Board of Trustees meeting, the $77.4 million bid from Bernards Brothers Inc. was approved.

After about seven years of waiting, on June 1, construction at The Pit will be underway once again. The project is currently scheduled to take 27 months.

“A lot of times we get unforeseen conditions,” said Brown. “You always find things that you don’t know about. Here, we already dug the hole, so we’re not looking at any unforeseen concerns.”

Funding will come from a combination of the 2002 Bond Measure U, the 2004 Bond Measure S and the 2008 Bond Measure AA.


A woman exercises in front of the Health, PE, Fitness, Dance Central Plant Facility, which is still under construction at the Santa Monica College Main Campus on Tuesday May 17, 2016.

The Health and Fitness Building

Some of the construction taking place near Corsair Field will be coming to an end in October with the completion of the first phase of a two-part project intending to create new health and fitness facilities.

The new 63,500 square foot, three-story building will include offices, classrooms, bathrooms, locker rooms, a fitness center, dance studios and a climbing wall. It will also house a thermal energy storage facility and a central plant for the chilled water air-conditioning distribution loop.

The second phase of the project involves remodeling part of the Corsair Gym, previously known as the Pavilion.

Funding for the project came from Bond Measures U and AA and, as of the May 3 Board of Trustees meeting, the cost of the project will total $40.5 million.

The Academy of Entertainment & Technology (AET), now Center for Media & Design (CMD)

The extensive construction project on Stewart Street, including two new buildings and the remodeling of the existing AET building, is scheduled to be complete in October. After which, the installation of the technical equipment is expected to take about three months and will be ready for students for the Spring 2017 semester.

The new buildings include an addition to the existing building with a new parking structure, as well as the new KCRW Building.

The cost of the entire project was $61.2 million, with funds coming from both Bond Measure AA and the KCRW Foundation.

Performing Arts Center (PAC) – East Wing

Another project to be completed in the fall is the renovation of the PAC’s East Wing.

Originally constructed in the 1930’s, the wing had seismic deficiencies that needed to be fixed. The one-story, 4,500 square foot structure is being replaced by a two-story facility with about 12,000 square feet that will contain a multi-purpose room, offices and music classrooms.

Funding was again provided by Measure AA with costs totaling $19.3 million.

Temporary AC units

In an effort to provide relief to overheated students, faculty and staff during the hottest months, the DPAC Facilities and Planning Subcommittee are also working to rent temporary air-conditioning units to be installed in the Liberal Arts, Letters and Science, Counseling, Cayton and Music buildings.

For the four months proposed (July through October), the total cost will amount to about $1 million. The subcommittee will propose their plan at the next Board of Trustees meeting on June 7.

For some, this seems like a no-brainer. “Who wants to go to a college in the summer that has no air-conditioning,” said Heather Haro, Director of Sustainability for the Associated Students. “If they dealt with any enrollment issue, it seems like the most logical thing to do is not make your students suffer and make people want to come. I definitely think that’s a priority.”

Chilled Water Loop

For some buildings, a more permanent solution to the heat has already been in the works with the installation of a chilled water line that will provide air-conditioning to connected buildings.

“At night time they’re going to chill a bunch of water, and during the day it’s going to flow throughout the college,” said Haro. “It’s basically using that cold water to cool the campus.”

The first building to be connected and functioning will be the Life and Physical Science Complex, which will have it up and running sometime this summer.

“We understand that the science building has been having cooling issues recently,” said Lee Peterson, member of the Facilities Planning Committee. “They have been complaining in the Science Learning Resource Center about temperatures above 80 degrees.”

In October, they plan to have both the library and the Humanities and Social Science Building connected, followed by the Business Building possibly in the winter. In total, this project has cost $8.1 million dollars, coming from from Bond Measure AA.

Concept art of the proposed Malibu Campus.

Malibu Center

Plans for the new satellite campus in Malibu have recently hit a roadblock caused by two Malibu slow-growth community groups.

While the DSA has approved the plans for the new building and the project has been approved by both the County of Los Angeles and the City of Malibu, the slow-growth groups have gone to the California Coastal Commission to appeal the City of Malibu’s approval.

“The Coalition would love to have the college satellite in Malibu,” said Patt Healy, co-founder of the Malibu Coalition for Slow Growth. “We appealed the project to the Coastal Commission because it didn’t meet the requirements of the Malibu Local Coastal Plan which sets forth the criteria for development in Malibu. The project, as currently designed, most notably doesn’t meet the height limitations and landscaping requirements. It is just too large for our fragile infrastructure.”

Richard Lawrence, president of the Malibu Township Council, echoes the Coalition’s concerns about not meeting the district’s code and also appealed. “We voiced our opinion and we’ll see if it’s recognized,” said Lawrence.

The current plan is to demolish the existing sheriff’s building and construct a 25,600 square foot, two-story building in its place.

Its purpose will not only be for college students, but for the community as a whole. Along with classrooms, science labs and an art studio, it will include a multi-purpose physical activity space, interpretive center, Emeritus college and sheriff’s substation.

“We designed a thing that most people in Malibu think is very attractive and most people in Malibu want a community college and support Santa Monica College,” said Brown. “The problem is… you can’t build a one-story building and still provide all the parking and landscaping that they want. Once you cut off half the building, it doesn’t become a viable project anymore.”

As of publication, the California Coastal Commission has yet to decide whether to approve or deny their appeals. If approved, it will take another six to eight months to go through the approval process again.

Funding for the Center will come from Bond Measures S and AA and is estimated to cost $26.8 million.