When opportunity knocks, answer. The more the urgency on land deals. Property is, of course, finite and available East County real estate scarce.
One such golden opportunity will be discussed at the Sept. 10 Community College Board meeting in Martinez. BART Board President Joel Keller will propose a land swap for the community college extension in Brentwood.
The Brentwood LMC satellite is currently at Sand Creek off Brentwood Boulevard. This strained facility is leased at $450,00 yearly, but the wisdom of that expenditure is another subject. Given the ticking lease clock, land was purchased for future construction off Marsh Road in the southernmost section of Trilogy.
Keller proposes -- and I will speak at the meeting supporting his bold idea -- to swap this parcel for land off Mokelumne Trail at the proposed e-BART station between Lone Tree Way and Sand Creek Road off Highway 4. Future expansion options would exist as there are parcels for 27 and 31 acres currently for sale.
So what's the big deal?
1. CONVENIENCE: The current site is inconvenient enough as is but a dream compared with the Marsh Creek site. That site at the Trilogy resort/retirement development is not central to the area high schools and is most vastly inconvenient to Antioch students having to cross to the outermost point of Brentwood. The site is off a dangerous two-way highway stretch with no direct exit.
Students would have to rely on car as bus service would probably be hourly. I can guarantee they and Trilogy residents wouldn't be thrilled by having little choice but motoring. Imagine 5,000-plus cars in a retirement neighborhood with students rushing to class and many taking off highway roads?
On the other hand, the Mokelumne site could afford public transit. It is win-win, for both students and for helping swell BART numbers. Students could bus to Hillcrest and then e-BART over to the proposed new station.
Note also that all students in certificated and degree programs will have to eventually take some classes in Pittsburg. How much better if they could eBART to the Pittsburg Railroad Avenue station and then shuttle to the Leland campus.
No less an authority than Tri-Delta Transit has expressed dismay at the currently proposed site. I drove out to the sites in question today and clearly saw why experts and lay people alike are baffled.
2. ROOM TO GROW: The proposed Marsh Creek site is 17 acres. Compare that with LMC at 110 acres. The new campus would be locked in and soon outstrip itself.
Recently, many concurrent high school students were turned away from LMC due to facility limits. Fact is, if you want to encourage kids to go on to college then taking a class with a real professor in a real college environment can't be beat for lasting impression.
As further incentive to an option of future purchase, consider renewed construction starts. It isn't far-fetched to see the need for eventual add-ons, or possibly someday even a full blown college campus. Why not be prepared for any contingency?
Antioch residents in the 1990s suffered years of overcrowded schools. All East County has suffered bottle necked roads. Best plan ahead and not paint ourselves in a corner.
LMC has done a lot for Pittsburg's vitality. Colleges create transitional jobs and long-term careers. They spur local businesses. They allow local residents access to continued learning, libraries, lectures, theater, music and arts. They provide adults volunteering opportunities. They simply enrich communities.
I wished that Antioch could have gotten an LMC, JFK or Saint Mary's. Though we certainly can't redo what we missed, we can at least make sure this new school is accessible. We owe good stewardship to future generations.
By the College Chancellor's own admission, there was no community input on this proposed campus extension. it is not too late, though, for input. Common sense can still rule.
I look forward to Keller's presentation. It could be a slice of history in the making.
Walter Ruehlig is a longtime Antioch resident.