Packed parking lot (copy)

On the heels of student opposition to a plan to widen spaces and reduce parking spots in Merrimac Way Parking Lot, Orange Coast College administrators have apparently have put the brakes on the plan.

Several student groups gathered for a College Council meeting Tuesday afternoon to protest the recent approval to widen parking spots located in the Merrimac Way Parking Lot.

“They (students) presented over 1,000 signatures and made a good case for the struggles of students and the desire not to decrease any student parking,” Rich Pagel, vice president of Administrative Services at OCC said. “It was important to hear the students loud and clear. We are not going to lose any more spots on campus.”

Concerned about the repercussions of closing down 98 parking spots in addition to the current 897 spots already closed due to construction this semester, the OCC Young Democrats, OCC Young Republicans and Omega Psi Sigma political honors society were unified in their opposition to the proposal. 

“The administration needs to learn that students are fed up with the parking situation. At some point, enough is enough,” Omega Psi Sigma political honors society president and 21-year-old political science major Noah Ritter said. “I’ve been here for about 2 1/2 years and I’ve seen this campus parking situation here get worse and worse. We’re building new housing, a planetarium and student buildings but we’re not adding a single parking spot.”

Over the course of two days leading up to the meeting, Ritter alongside the OCC Young Republicans and OCC Young Democrats collected over 1,000 combined student and faculty signatures outside of the Math, Business and Computing Center that opposed the plan.

The proposal voted on last Friday by the Associated Students of Orange Coast College called for a restriping and widening of the spots from their current size of 8-feet to 8.6-foot-wide spots. In widening and striping the parking spots, the college hopes to cut down on the amount of dings and scratches obtained by vehicles parked in the lot.

Held in Legacy Hall room 101, the meeting opened with a call to order by OCC Interim President Kevin Ballinger as he immediately addressed the recent proposal passed to resurface and restripe in the Merrimac lot, eventually opening up the discussion to student questions.

Rebecca Whitehead, president of OCC’s Young Democrats club and 20-year-old communications major was the first student to address the council.

“At the end of the day we’re trying to get an education, but when we arrive at school and don’t even have parking, it tells us our education is not being taken seriously,” Whitehead said. “We’re finding that parking gets filled so much already that now disabled students aren’t able to get spots and it’s harming them.”

In response to Whitehead, Ballinger addressed the lack of parking spots as he describing them as “growing pains.”

Not all the students were against the proposal however. Jesse Lopez, president of the Student Government of OCC, said the larger parking spaces will help prevent damage to students’ cars in the parking lots.

Jim Rudy, Chief of Campus Safety at OCC, said during the meeting that Campus Public Safety would try to raise more awareness to help handicapped and other students travel from the Orange County Fairgrounds to campus.

“We had a parking lot advisor come to the college and say 8.6-foot-wide in width was standard in the area for parking spots. The OCC student senate was presented the plan, then voted upon it,” Rudy said. “I park in the Theatre Parking Lot so I don’t have any room to complain, but my daughter goes here and I hear her challenges of parking constantly.”

David Sonnenberg contributed to this report.

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