It’s 6 a.m. and his alarm shouts at him to wake up. He stops it, groaning for another 10 minutes of sleep. Wiping his eyes, he slowly gets ready to leave for his 8 a.m. class. He wants to have breakfast at home instead of in his car. He wants to make his own coffee and finish it before leaving his house. But he can’t because he needs to find parking.
Some COC students share the same experience as Ronald Molina’s morning routine before school. Like Molina, some students are unaffected by the addition of 1,659 new parking spaces at the college’s Valencia campus.
In April, COC representatives cut the ribbon in celebration of the newly opened, tri-level parking structure that closed 700 spaces in the 11 months it took to build. And while officials made statements sharing their excitement for the positive impact the structure would have on the students, some remain indifferent to the outcome.
Javier Flores, a student at COC, recalled arriving 30 minutes before his class started, but was still late due to parking.
“It still takes the same amount of time to find parking as it did when there wasn’t a structure,” said Flores.
Like COC, parking problems have turned into an epidemic on other college and university campuses. Lots are filled as early as 10 a.m., and the search for a spot has become a daily reality for everyone.
“Students and employees alike found parking to be a challenge at the Valencia campus,” said COC PIO Eric Harnish. “Which is why the college made it a priority to build the new structure.”
The opening marked the end of alternative parking options that were offered during construction. The benefits, that were discontinued in February, included Uber and Lyft discounts, free parking after 2 p.m., and a remote parking lot on Magic Mountain Parkway.
Funding for the $21 million parking structure came from Measure E, a $230 million bond to expand and upgrade college facilities in Santa Clarita. The bond was passed in 2016 and also funds the 55,000 square-foot science center being completed at the Canyon Country campus.
With parking in high demand at the Valencia campus, many believed a new structure would reduce the time and difficulty it takes to find parking.
Vera Barcega-Ramirez, an Associated Student Government member at COC, hoped there would be no more need to drive around for 20 minutes, following students that are walking to their cars in order to snag their spot.
“It was hard to plan and schedule your day because you never know what time you can get parking and go to the activities, or events, or even class,” said the ASG executive liaison officer at the structure’s opening.
Barcega-Ramirez remembered times before the structure was finished, when her friends would be late for class even after arriving an hour early.
But the students benefiting from the structure may rely on the buildings where their classes are located, leaving others to continue their struggle in finding reasonable parking.
“It might help students depending on their classes,” said Juan Beristaian, a student at COC. “People who have classes on that side of the campus, but I’m not one of them.”
The structure stands in a lot that is one of the furthest from the center of campus, where a majority of classes are conducted.
“It’s too far from all of my classes,” said Beristaian. “My only class that’s close to it is in Hasley and I still don’t park there.”
Due to its location, students that are hesitant to park in the structure are even more reluctant to do so for their night classes, when walking through the dimly lit parking lots can turn into an uneasy experience.
“It’s kind of eerie at night,” said COC student Allison Perez. “I don’t like parking there when I have my night class, but sometimes it’s my only option.”
Although the distance of the structure may raise concerns for some students attending evening classes, campus safety provides options that aim to ease student fears.
“We offer an escort service in the evenings, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.,” said Harnish. “By calling the Communication Center/Mailroom (259-7800, ext. 0), students can ask for a ride to their car in any parking lot on campus.”
Practical parking spaces have turned into valuable pieces of real-estate on campus, and it has been that way for years.
According to Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, the idea of a parking structure at COC had been suggested as early as 2009, when complaints about parking became more frequent.
“The beginning of every semester our office would receive emails and calls about parking,” said Van Hook at the unveiling of the parking structure.
Currently, there is a headcount of 32,000 students at COC that contribute to the high demand of parking on campus. The increase of students is notable from the 19,000 in 2013, and has added pressure to solving the parking dilemma.
Adding to the 5,000 parking spaces the campus already had, the structure has boosted available parking by 25 percent. But with the projected 13 percent increase of enrollment in the next four years, one structure will not be enough.
“Know that it’s probably not the first one we will build,” said Van Hook. “We will probably have another parking structure at the Canyon Country campus and maybe even in the South Lot as we go forward.”
With COC now focused on completing the Science Center at the Canyon Country campus, students still struggling with parking at the Valencia campus will have to wait before the issue is solved.
“We’re still several years away from building additional parking structures,” said Harnish.