Packed parking lot file photo

In an effort to alleviate impacted parking at Orange Coast College, a new parking lot opened just before classes started near the corner of Fairview Road and Monitor Way and expands the existing Fitness Lot.

The new lot contains 377 student spaces, 79 staff spaces, and nine disability spaces, and was built where the tennis courts used to be.

The lot construction was part of a measure to create more than 600 parking spaces ahead of the opening of campus housing in the fall, and was paid for by outside companies associated with the project, according to Rich Pagel, vice president of Administrative Services. He said the plan for the new lot was made before the parking space reductions that impacted lots last semester.

Pagel said he also hopes the new lot will be beneficial and convenient for both students, staff and visitors who attend the OCC Swap Meet, and will help alleviate parking-related stress.  

Students using the new lot said it is useful.

“It’s pretty easy-to-find. It’s a little bit far from the rest of the campus, but compared to street parking, it’s pretty reliable,” 23-year-old food science major Kristi Kawakami said.

Despite the spaces lost in the Adams Avenue Parking Lot due to construction on the aquatics complex, OCC has gained 127 spaces this semester compared to the number of space at the end of last year. There are now 3,830 spaces on-campus.

Even so, some students are still frustrated with the overall parking situation on campus.

“Today I drove around for 25 minutes trying to find a spot. It was pretty obnoxious and I was late to class as well,” 22-year-old accounting major Brian Chelf said. “I used to go to school in Santa Barbara, and this is the only school that I’ve gone to that parking is full.”

Student Lucas Carvallho, a 20-year-old computer science major, said he comes to campus 60 to 90 minutes early to find parking.

“This is like a game for us OCC students. We spend usually 30 minutes to an hour to find a parking spot. This is time-consuming for us.”

Another student said parking has been a struggle even after the first two weeks.

“I have noticed, even last semester, when permits were required, parking was still hectic at Adams Lot,” Everest Ow, a 23-year-old computer science major said.

Student Auggie Pakiser said he often looks for parking off campus or in the residential neighborhoods.

“If I have a class between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. then I’m not going to try to find parking on-campus,” the 24-year-old nutrition major said.

Pagel agrees that the peak time around noon Monday through Thursday is a hassle for students, and thinks that if more classes were offered in evenings and on Fridays and weekends, parking would be less congested.

“Last time I was here was four years ago, and I feel like the parking’s gotten worse,” Lea Pakiser, a 26-year-old psychology major said. “I also feel like there’s an unnecessary amount of staff parking.”

Chief of Campus Safety Jim Rudy said he has noticed the number of staff spaces that are empty during the day, especially in the Theatre Parking Lot.

“We’re evaluating those needs of the students and staff, and looking to find a balance of available parking for both,” Rudy said.

But that balance hasn’t been reached yet, students said.

“It’s really frustrating because I get here [to the Fairgrounds Parking Lot] way earlier than my class is even supposed to start, and I still can’t find parking, and then we get penalized for being late to class when I have to run,” Sydney Kaplan, a 19-year-old film major said. “I have to leave home way earlier, which means I have to sit in the heaviest of traffic than if I didn’t have to walk so far to get to class.”

Despite the number of students who end up parking at the OC Fairgrounds, Rudy said that the free shuttle bus offered last semester was discontinued due to low ridership.

One possible reason for the congestion is students spending more time on campus.

Kevin Ballinger, vice president of instruction, said that the number of students taking full-time loads is increasing due especially to campus programs such as the Pirates’ Promise, which incentivizes students to take larger loads.

Pagel said parking is an issue that is taken seriously by the administration, but encourages students to give themselves enough time to find parking, especially if their classes are during mid-day peak times. He also said that students have access to plenty of parking at the OC Fairgrounds, and advocated for the use of alternative methods of transportation including walking, biking, public transportation and ridesharing services.

More changes are coming, including a new virtual parking management system that will eliminate current parking permit stations and semester pass stickers expected to be implemented for fall 2020.

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