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Cal Poly Pomona student protesters earlier this year.

Cal Poly Pomona student protesters earlier this year.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

POMONA — Cal Poly Pomona administrators decided in August to put future students out to pasture. A crunch for student housing had led school officials to examine 10 sites on which a new phase of student lodging would be built, and despite protests by students and others, 13 of 45 acres of on-campus pasture got the nod.

The property, for decades an iconic emblem with grazing Arabian horses from the school’s venerable program, was not the first choice of ag students and horse enthusiasts who called the designation for housing “short-sighted.” A protest last January caused school officials to pause, but the plan is back on track after a six-month reevaluation.

University spokeswoman Esther Chou Tanaka said new President Soraya M. Coley, who took the reins of the university in January, paused the project in February, mindful of a need for additional student housing.

“She heard about (the proposal) and kind of paused the whole project,” Tanaka said in published reports.

Options were reviewed, Marquez added, and a decision was made to move away from multiple two- or three-story structures and, instead, to build up.

“We’ll have to go up higher than what we envisioned,” Marquez said, to allow “for the preservation of land for the future.”

Megan Stang, executive director of university housing services, told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin that about 400 students currently are on a waiting list for housing during the 2015-16 school year that starts Sept. 24, adding that 700 students seeking campus housing were turned away in the last two semesters. Construction will be financed by issuing bonds, which will be paid back with fees that students pay to live on campus, she said. Building at the chosen location will put the project near existing student housing and within proximity of the library, the Bronco Student Center and other university services, Stang said.

The land on the southeast corner of Kellogg Drive and Eucalyptus Lane will accommodate between 800 and 1,000 students, according to administrators. Many questions remain about the project, including the cost and the selection of the architecture and construction company, remain.

In January, students held demonstrations protesting a proposal to build housing on pasture land. They said to do so would cut space for the horses, have a negative effect on the environment and reduce agricultural resources important to the university’s history tied to agriculture.

“Students who live on campus are more likely to get involved” in campus activities, Stang said, adding studies show a strong link between living on campus and academic success.

Another factor in moving ahead with new housing is that most current on-campus housing dates to the 1960s.

“We’d like to be able to offer housing that meets the needs of modern students,” Stang said.

In addition to the new residence halls, a dining facility will be part of the project, as will a feature designed to reinforce the school’s agricultural culture: an area dedicated to urban agriculture where students will be able to grow their own produce.

Current estimates of acreage used by the university’s Arabian horses is 45 acres. The College of Agriculture, which has about 527 acres of land across campus, has land near the horse pasture used for hay production and cattle grazing. Chou Tanaka said that eight acres of that land will be reassigned for the horses, giving them 40 total acres.

A permanent irrigation system using recycled water will replace an older moveable one, she added, along with other improvements that will cost more than $200,000.

Kellogg Drive will be realigned in the project, according to Marquez, who said the street will be relocated east of its current location. Street realignment is set to begin in late 2016, and work on the housing is expected to begin in 2017, according to published reports.

More online: http://bit.ly/509A_Poly

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