Construction of new Police Safety Center intensifies parking problem


Michael Santone

Traffic halted in Lot 1 and 2 across from the tennis courts after construction of new Police Safety Center takes over Lot 4.

By Michael Santone, Editor-in-Chief

All 45 parking spots in Lot 4 have been permanently relinquished due to construction of the new Police Safety Center across from the Gymnasium.

With parking already an annual struggle during the first couple of weeks of the fall semester, students are finding themselves with two options — arrive extremely early or park farther away in the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We know that parking is limited, everyone understands that now,” Contra Costa College Senior Parking Officer Michael Hotton said. “We will always show leniency to cars because we want them on our campus. It’s better for us to contain and patrol than for them to be on city streets.”

Hotton said it’s the students arriving for the 8 and 9 a.m. classes who are over taking the parking.

“We see this district wide, at the 11 o’clock hour we have a huge influx of cars leaving the college and coming back in for 12:30 p.m. classes which is a little less congested than the 8 or 9 a.m. classes.”

Lot 4, which is now the foundation for the new Police Safety Center set to open in November, was once a designated parking area for students who were a part of the carpool program. However, because of the lack of participation in the carpool program, Lot 4 became an overflow parking lot.

“Internally for us, our police aids in the morning will get on the golf carts and go to the upper section of campus and in front of the new buildings and tell us what the parking lots are looking like,” Hotton said. “What that does is allows us to direct traffic from the full parking lots to lots with spaces available.”

Hotton said there are multiple layers of what has to be done to get people in and out of campus. Most importantly, the process includes aides communicating with other parking officers and police aids to make sure students are getting accurate information.

“Patrol officers are in and out all over the place, constantly and obviously. We have our police aids that you see on the golf carts rolling through the parking lots trying to get traffic flowing, trying to get people into parking spots and open parking areas,” he said. “At the end of the day it allows students to get a parking spot and get to class quicker.”

For those students who can’t make it early, alternative parking in surrounding neighborhoods such as Shane Drive and Mission Bell Drive are far from convenient. Furthermore, they offer no reliable assurances that students will not be late because of the scarcity of parking.

This past February, during the first couple of week of the spring semester, a string of car break-ins stretched across the CCC campus including two on Mission Bell Drive.

“We can’t foresee any break-ins or criminal activity but we do our best to be visible, be outside and know what’s going on in the college community,” Hotton said. “Presence is a huge part and being visible and letting the public know we are out and about and if stuff like break-ins happen. We’re gonna try our best to prevent any of that from happening.”

Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said Lt. Thomas Holt of Police Services is looking for opportunities to open up new spots and additional parking.

“He (Holt) is trying to encourage the use of the parking annex where the old El Portal school used to be,” he said. “A lot of times this gets overlooked but there is parking there.”

King said that CCC President Katrina VanderWoude has also been working closely with Holt to ensure the parking problem is handled.

“The president took this as a high priority even though she just started in August,” King said.

Nursing major Angelina Vasquez who has been a student at CCC for two semesters said this semester has been one of the worst she has seen the parking.

“On the first day I was here I had to park along Shane Drive and even that was a problem with all of the cars,” she said. “It’s really an inconvenience to park on these streets because it’s still so far away. You have to rush to make it to class on time.”

Vasquez said the thought of her car being broken into has not crossed her mind because she normally parks in the neighborhood and in front of houses.

“I have to drop my daughter off at school in the morning so I can’t make it on time for good parking,” Vasquez said. “I stopped wasting my time driving around the parking lots on campus looking for a spot and now I just go straight to Shane Drive and hope I find something reasonably close.”