Santa Monica College Corsair Field on Wednesday. (photo by Brandon Wise)

SMC — Despite concerns about construction projects slated for Santa Monica College raised by the neighborhood group Friends of Sunset Park, the school’s board of trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved a new master plan that envisions construction, building renovations and demolitions at the college’s main campus and satellite properties.

The plan proposes changes that board members said would enhance students’ experience and improve safety at SMC’s 41-acre main campus and at its three much smaller sites: the Academy of Entertainment and Technology Campus, the Olympic shuttle lot and the Performing Arts Campus.

Two of the biggest construction projects that could be on the horizon at SMC involve tearing down and replacing Corsair Stadium and the Liberal Arts Building, both located on the main campus.

Trustee Andrew Walzer noted that any project contemplated in the master plan would require a separate review process and board approval. The master plan, he said, is simply a “road map” for how to think about improvements at the college over a 10 to 15 year time frame.

“Nothing’s set in stone,” he said. “It’s all subject to further review.”

No additional square footage would be added to the main campus, he said, though temporary math and science buildings could be replaced by permanent structures.

But neighborhood activists opposed to the plan said it was a first step toward costly construction projects that would have negative impacts on Sunset Park, the neighborhood that borders SMC’s main campus.

In a letter to the board of trustees, the Friends of Sunset Park board of directors urged the college to reconsider its plan, saying SMC should “retrofit and remodel instead of continuing to tear down and replace every building on the main campus.”

The letter also said the college should “stop spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars recruiting students from the Los Angeles Community College District, from out of state, and from outside the country.”

FOSP chair person Zina Josephs also raised concerns that construction projects at the main campus could result in the loss of mature trees on SMC’s grounds, including a large Morton Bay fig tree that is adjacent to the college’s liberal arts building.

On Tuesday, though, board members said that tree would be spared and they are committed to looking for ways to protect trees during construction projects — a welcome bit of news to activists including Susan Hartley, a co-founder of Santa Monica Treesavers and an FOSP board member.

“I’m grateful for their recognition of the importance of preserving the mature trees,” she said. “I’m sorry to see that they’re going to do so much demolition instead of renovating and retrofitting.”

The capital improvements contemplated in the master plan would be funded under Measure AA, a $295 million local bond measure approved by the voters of the community college district in November, 2008.

The plan involves modernizing and renovating facilities on the main campus and building new facilities and renovating others on the Academy of Entertainment and Technology Campus. Seismic repairs and and an expansion of facilities at the Performing Arts Campus are also included in the plan, as are parking and landscape improvements.

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