smc: The college is proposing a new $375 million bond for the November ballot. Courtesy photo

Santa Monica College (SMC) has lofty goals: replacing temporary classrooms and an “obsolete” shop-lab, upgrading the Veterans Success Center, adding and expanding facilities for health programs, constructing an SMC Police Department substation, and matching state and private funds toward construction of student housing for homeless students and students at risk of homelessness. 

In order to achieve these objectives, the SMC Board of Trustees recently voted to place a new bond measure on the Nov. 8 ballot — to the tune of $375 million.

The proposed bond text reads:

“SANTA MONICA COLLEGE AFFORDABLE HIGHER EDUCATION, CAREER TRAINING, CLASSROOM UPGRADES. To improve access to affordable education for local students, veterans, first-generation college students; provide affordable housing for homeless students; modernize instructional labs for nursing, healthcare, sustainability, media, science career training; repair/upgrade obsolete vocational classrooms/aging facilities, shall Santa Monica Community College District authorize $375,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, levying 2.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, raising $23,000,000 annually while bonds are outstanding, with citizens oversight, public spending disclosure?”

If you own your home and your property is assessed at $1 million, your annual fee would be $250. 

It has been six years since the last SMC bond — 2016’s Measure V — was up for a vote. That $345 million bond passed overwhelmingly, with 63.9 percent of votes cast in favor. Measure V, together with Measure AA ($295 million passed in 2008), Measure S ($135 million, passed in 2004), and Measure U ($160 million, passed in 2002), have contributed a combined $935 million toward modernizing and expanding facilities on the 38-acre Santa Monica campus (and three acres in Malibu) over the past two decades.

Together, these bonds have funded: a 112,000-square-foot Student Services Building; a major renovation to the 50,000-square-foot Center for Media and Design and a new 30,000-square-foot addition, plus a new 440-space parking structure and 33,000-square-foot building for KCRW; the demolition of a 1958 locker room building, replaced by a 66,000-square-foot athletic facility; a new facility for the music department including rehearsal and special event spaces; and a new 14,000-square-foot information technology center. The Malibu satellite campus is now under construction, as is a new math and science building on the main campus in Santa Monica

A Wednesday press release detailed more specifics about what the new bond is designed to do, including creating “comprehensive green room, virtual reality, and sound stage facilities where faculty can record and stream high-quality, interactive learning content; a health sciences ‘skills lab’ featuring simulated hospital units for Respiratory Care majors; a state-of-the-art language learning center for group study, tutoring, and cultural events; a centralized area for the Photography program with a combined studio/classroom space for photo lab classes; a centralized facility for housing and loaning equipment to students such as Chromebooks, laptops, cameras, art kits, and more; and a Fashion Design digital lab and fabrication space with industry-standard software tools.”

Should the new bond pass, SMC would join a small but growing number of community colleges around California to offer on-campus housing for students. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, just 11 of California’s 116 community colleges offer housing. All but one of the 11 are located in Northern or Central California; just Taft Community College in Kern County currently offers housing to Southern California community college students.

“Students within the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu and surrounding localities are dealing with limited affordable housing stock and monthly rents that are higher than the state average,” Chris Baca, chair of the Santa Monica College General Advisory Board and Executive Director of Meals on Wheels West, said in a statement provided by SMC. “In the last year alone, average rent prices in the Westside area have increased 13.7 percent. The passage of this measure would help SMC meet a crucial need within the community by providing on-campus housing specifically targeted for deserving, eligible, housing-insecure low-income students.”

The bond measure, which has not been formally named, will need to secure 55 percent of votes cast by Santa Monica and Malibu voters during the midterm election on Nov. 8, 2022, in order to go into effect.