City College aims to construct affordable housing for students, employees

As the statewide eviction moratorium comes to an end, City President Ricky Shabazz announces preparations at Sept. 28 College Council meeting

Aerial view of former San Diego City College Child Development Center

The former Child Development Center is the potential site for future affordable housing at San Diego City College. Photo by Philip Salata/City Times Media

Philip Salata, Multimedia Journalist

President Ricky Shabazz sees the soon-vacant property of the former San Diego City College child development center as an ideal location to construct affordable housing not only for students, but potentially also for lower income City College employees.

At the Sept. 28 College Council meeting Shabazz announced the initiative, which would require quick action to make the Oct. 31 deadline for the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, Senate Bill 169.

Shabazz’s plan, however, would also require collaboration with the city of San Diego to draw on its affordable housing funds.

Teaming up with the city could augment the potential for serving not only the student population but also staff who are forced to commute due to being priced-out of the downtown area.

The decision to pursue SB 169 funding comes at a symbolic time, as the statewide eviction moratorium ended on Sept. 30. Meanwhile San Diego is seeing record median home prices that continue to increase.

“Notice I am not using the word ‘dorms,’” Shabazz said.

Distinguishing between tightly packed multi-person units administered by an educational institution, Shabazz explained his plan is to focus on affordable apartments, as well as single-resident occupancy units, built by City College and managed by a contracted community agency. 

The California grant program SB 169 appropriates $500,000,000 for building out student housing for the California State University system, the University of California system, as well as for community colleges –  to whom fifty percent of the budget is allocated.

The bill mandates that funds be used for justice-impacted students, as well as veterans and foster youth. 

“We have programs in all three of those areas,” Shabazz said. 

Vice President of Administrative Services Dr. John Parker has been charged with spearheading efforts to collaborate with the appropriate college organizations such as City Scholars, Next Up, and Veteran Services with the application process.

According to a 2019 survey by KQED, only 11 out of 114 community college campuses offer student housing. 

Depending on the design, City College’s current plan could yield anywhere between 200-500 units to be built on the lot located at B and 16th streets.

The timeline for building will depend on which of two applications is accepted. The “shovel ready” application requires the project can be ready for construction within a year. 

Though this option may be too ambitious, according to Shabazz, the fact that there is already a facilities master plan that includes student housing in its agenda makes him think it’s possible. 

The second option amounts to funding for a planning grant, which would eventually pave the way for preparing the building site.

Among other concerns discussed at the College Council meeting were the  allocation of minority-serving institution funds, specifically MSI 3, which provides funding for students of color to travel abroad.

Concerns were raised by the committee reviewing the budget regarding sending students abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Shabazz pointed out that many of the countries to which the students may be traveling have tighter COVID-19 restrictions than the United States. He also insisted that there are established  protocols that make for the possibility of traveling safely.

Professor Darius Spearman, chair of the Black studies program, supported Shabazz, underlining the importance of travel abroad programs for students of color. 

“It’s not just the students that benefit from it, it’s the campus as a whole,” Spearman said.

Final decisions will be made after further discussion among the committee. 

Additionally, from Sept. 15 through Oct.15 City College celebrates Chicanx/Latinx Heritage month. Events will also be held in the name of Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander-serving institutions during this time period, including an Employee panel Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.