Minutes of the Science Center Subcommittee

29 May 2001

Present: Mara Baird, Betsy Bolton, Lisa Meeden, James Peyton Jones, Charles Ricciardi, Larry Schall, Ken Sharpe, Mark Wallace

Ken introduced Mark to the group as his 'alternate': the person who would take his place on the committee after today's meeting.

Mara began the meeting by presenting Plan D: designs for increased efficiency in the Dupont and rugby lots. Her new drawing of the Dupont lot, like the C drawing, extended the asphalt (bituminous surface) out roughly 30 feet along the widest side of the lot, and roughly 10 feet along its narrow end (away from the Science Center). With a new use of one edge, based on a suggestion from James, she came up with a total of 114 spaces, up from 95 spaces in its current state (up 4 spaces from Plan C). Mara noted two important caveats: ADA spaces need to be included, and lighting would need to be adjusted. Two lights would have to be moved, and one electric circuit modified. She suggested that we might sacrifice one parking space to an existing light to save a little money.

James presented a slightly different drawing, with an additional 9-foot extension along the diagonal edge of the lot, and a slightly different use of the narrow-end extension. This drawing showed 122 available spaces. Mara agreed to consider its feasibility, and to see if there were ways of combining the strengths of the two drawings.

Mara then presented a new design for the rugby field lot. This design presented 141 available spaces, began 150 feet from the fence line, and maintained the access road to Dupont parking through the middle of the lot, starting with the existing curb cut. The design was based on certain assumptions: that paving the area around the drainage pipe would still allow adequate drainage; that the topsoil needing storage space could be used to make the berm; that the grading of this parking area would not interfere with placing the excavated dirt from the Science Center on the field. Mara noted that the plan would need to be reengineered, both from the point of view of the swale, and from the point of view of the landfill.

Since the revised Dupont plan and the revised rugby plan together produced 159 spaces, more than the needed 144 spaces, Mara then recommended cutting the final row of parking from the rugby lot design (Plan E). This would leave us with a smaller lot, a total of 144 spaces, a final aisle which would allow for easy snow plowing, and a distance of 168 feet (including the berm) from the fence line.

James asked about moving the access road to separate the access road from parking aisles; he noted that the distance between trees was the same along the side of the field, and so a road could presumably be placed between two different trees with no greater impact. Mara stressed the presence of a gravel path between the trees at the site of the current curb cut, arguing that the trees in that place would already be used to the compacting of the soil involved in laying a road.

James then suggested that the construction trailers be moved from behind Dupont (where they take up 15 parking spaces) to the grass verge beside the newly finished road. This move could potentially knock another 40 feet off the rugby field lot (18 ft. of parking row, 22 ft. of aisle). It would also establish a wall between heavy construction traffic and the pedestrian walkway/parking area.

Chas explained that the current plan was to place 4 trailers together behind Dupont: two on the grass, two on the parking spaces. The trailers on the asphalt would be raised to meet the other two facing trailers, and decks would be built between each pair of trailers. Roofs might even be built over these decks to provide storage areas for signs, cones, etc. This would be impossible to do with two trailers behind Dupont and two by the road. Objections to moving two of the trailers thus included the following: interference with the work of the construction managers, the cost of making utilities available at two sites, the visibility of the trailers in Phase 2 (they'd be more hidden behind Dupont). Mara also thought the wall of the trailers would separate the parking from the campus, causing more night-time security concerns. Mara also noted the difference in grade between the finished road and the lower, unfinished grass verge, and thought this would create problems for placing the trailers. Chas said he'd need to cut out or build up the grass verge. Lisa asked if the placement wasn't less convenient: Chas suggested it might be more convenient for Phase 1, less convenient for Phase 2.

We returned to a discussion of Dupont and the rugby field. Lisa said she assumed that 15 new spots in Dupont would cost more money than an equal number of spots in the rugby field. Chas agreed that there were some economies of scale. Lisa asked for an estimate of costs.

Chas returned to our last discussion of costs to correct some figures. The figure of $27,000 mentioned in our last meeting was actually the savings achieved by using the field for landfill from Science Center excavations. Chas had figures only for the originally proposed lot (Plan A) which is substantially larger than what we're looking at now. But for that lot, an asphalt surface would cost $146,000 to install, and roughly $50,000 to remove. A gravel surface would cost $111,000 with roughly $8,000 maintenance (refreshing) over the course of three years ($119,000); it would cost roughly $30,000 to remove. Chas translated these figures into asphalt costing roughly $22 per square yard.

The cost of reconfiguring Dupont comes to 416 square yards x $22, or roughly $9000, plus about a few thousand dollars (estimated) for moving lights, redrawing lines, etc., Not especially significant given the total numbers we're working with.

James noted that $6000 could be saved by moving the trailers out of the Dupont strip (14 spaces x $400 per parking space). Larry said that while moving the trailers might save some money and some space, it would create major inefficiencies in the life of a construction manager for three years, and this put it beyond consideration.

Betsy asked Mara how many ADA spaces were needed. Code requires 5 spaces for each lot of 100-150 spaces. Chas suggested counting the two lots as one -- Mara agreed this was possible since they were connected -- which would reduce the ADA spaces to 7. Ken asked if we actually needed all of these spaces. Larry said it was hard to judge: someone might sprain their ankle or break a leg and need a spot for a couple of months, but generally code was accurate. He thought it might be possible to establish part of a lot as temporary construction parking, not constrained by code, since there was low likelihood of disabled construction workers needing to park.

We then talked about the Hicks lot. In summary, we could save 10 of the 11 Hicks spots for one and a half years in the middle of the project. There might be some awkwardness involved in this, but it would be possible. In the last year of the project, however, site work is scheduled for this area. Postponing this site work until, say, the undoing of the rugby field lot would interfere with the aesthetic impact of the area in the last year of the project; it would also create some construction difficulties (where exactly to stop work?) and some cost through the loss of economies of scale.

James summarized the trailers and the Hicks issues as a question of priority, balancing inconvenience against the shrinking of the parking lot. Together, these two changes could reduce parking needs by 26 spaces, or about $10,000. With this reduction in spaces, one could also subtract an aisle for further savings in space and money.

Ken asked about using the grass verge not for trailers but for parking. Mara cautioned us against reducing our margins too far on this project. Chas cautioned that parking has only been planned on a one-for-one replacement basis with no safety factor added. Chas mentioned an engineer's traditional safety margins. James said he wasn't sure whether or not Chas's figures included such a safety margin. Chas said when he said he'd have 100 workers, he might have 85. If there were fewer construction workers parking, the extra spaces would be visible by 7:30 a.m.

Lisa summarized the points in question: putting trailers on the grass, retaining the Hicks spots, extending Dupont. She noted that Dupont costs money, but the other two options created too much disruption. She asked to see where Plan E placed us proportionally on the rugby field. Mara showed us that 168 feet from the fence line takes us up to the current driveway of 5 Whittier. (Mark later noted that this is roughly the midpoint of the rugby field.)

Betsy made a pitch for retaining the Hicks places, framing this as a choice of inelegance during construction in order to limit the amount of parking required.

Larry offered his perspective on the Hicks issue: at the end of Phase 1, the new Science Center will be open in part (all the new construction) . The site work involving Hicks is not just landscaping but includes grading, paving, and the planting of trees. Holding off on Hicks would leave the most prominent corner of the project a mess: this idea doesn't even get to the point of feasible in Larry's view. Instead, Larry asked Mara to redraw the Dupont and rugby plans one more time: Plan F.

We spoke briefly about the need to avoid foreclosing the possibility of the rugby field serving as a playing field in the future, since some believe that greenspace will not remain greenspace unless it has some institutional use. James suggested moving the new road slightly nearer the Science Center to allow the rugby field to retain its current size. Mara responded that the new road was already in close proximity to the building. Larry noted that the rugby team would have to decide that it wanted to remain on the north campus rather than having a field closer to the other teams. He also noted that the field is currently undersized, and suggested that a few additional lost feet might not make that much difference. We thought briefly about other possibilities, but couldn't come up with a sport that would fit the field well.

Mara, James, and Chas left; Betsy, Lisa, Larry, Ken and Mark remained to discuss the memo from Ken, Mark, and Betsy on the issue of temporariness (see attached). Larry suggested one paragraph be deleted (agreed), and that a 'punchline' or 'executive summary' be provided. We decided to meet next Monday at 3:00 (after graduation) to try to settle on a final report. Mara will send us final drawings; Betsy will then draft a summary of our parking deliberations. Mark will meet with Carr and draft a proposal for noise abatement and ongoing construction problem-solving. We agreed to circulate documents ahead of time: I would suggest by Saturday evening or Sunday morning at the latest.

To: Larry Schall, Lisa Meeden

Re: Rugby Field Parking Lot Temporary Status

Date: 28 May 2001

From: Ken Sharpe, Betsy Bolton and Mark Wallace

We think we are making good progress towards a compromise on the parking issues we have been analyzing for the last two meetings. And we have been trying to figure out ways that we might move forward to closure on these issues so we can then handle the more tractable issues of noise abatement and problem solving during construction.

In trying to build a consensus among the North Campus community, we think the direction we are going is the right one. As you know, many of us were not convinced that the parking lot on the rugby field was the only or best solution to the parking problems created by the building of the Science Center. Although there is still a strong sentiment that other alternatives could have been found had we started much earlier the kind of participatory process now being undertaken by the Subcommittee, there is now widespread willingness to work out a compromise solution. There is also widespread consensus about the need in the future for a deliberative, broad-based body of mutual decision makers -- such as a Land Use Planning Committee -- to work together on land use and facilities issues. Such a body is necessary to avoid a repeat of the recent fear and mistrust that emerged regarding the College and its development designs.

As we try to bring about closure on parking plans, we see two issues. The first is the issue of minimizing the size and the environmental impact of the lot that will be built, and we think our current collaborative efforts are already resulting in design improvements. We have every confidence that we can work this through, and fairly quickly.

But our ability to reach closure on design issues is integrally tied with a second issue which we have discussed only briefly: the issue of the 'temporariness' of the lot--will it be temporary and for how long?

One partial solution is to build it so it is visibly temporary--gravel instead of asphalt--and perhaps find a way to put the vehicles of the workmen on the temporary lot and have the staff and faculty continue to park in the Dupont lot.

Another solution, one we want to sketch below, would clarify the meaning of temporary in ways that (1) recognize the College's institutional needs to keep its future options open and (2) recognize the community's need for assurances that the 'temporary' disappearance of greenspace and athletic fields (or of faculty housing for temporary office space) does not create, de facto, something that will be presumed permanent.

Let us elaborate on (1) and (2), and then suggest a way we can satisfy both needs.

The fundamental point in (1) is that the College as a whole has important and legitimate interests in institutional development. Some of this development may include future proposals involving plans to build on present day green space--or to change its rental housing policy. It is legitimate for the College to make such proposals based on its perceived long-term needs and interests.

The fundamental point in (2) is that incremental changes taken with the intention of being temporary can begin to create a presumption of permanence. For example, we all know that the College has long-term parking needs. Once a new lot is built, however much it is intended to be temporary, its very existence could easily create the presumption that it will be the solution to long-term parking needs and thus slip into becoming permanent--without any decision or debate ever taking place.

A Compromise Between (1) and (2)

The May 2 report of the Science Center Planning Committee already began to lay the groundwork for a compromise. Throughout this report the Rugby lot and Whittier Place conversions are referred to as 'temporary.' And the report begins with the position that '[a]part from the Science Center itself . . . [we] are suggesting here no permanent changes to open space or residential properties.'

The presumption here, and one that we can accept, is that upon completion of the Science Center the parking lot will be re-converted to greenspace/athletic fields and the converted faculty houses will be reconverted.

In discussions with Al Bloom it was clear that he did not want to tie the College's hands by 'guaranteeing' that such reconversions would take place at the end of the Science Center Building process because there might be other institutional needs--like refurbishing Parrish--which would demand worker parking.

We accept that it is legitimate not to tie the College's hands. At the same time, we want to insure that the current parking and faculty housing conversions do not automatically get extended to solve other college needs. And we want to insure that post-Science Center decisions about land use and faculty housing--including decisions about using parking on the rugby field and the use of faculty houses for office space--are made through an inclusive and transparent planning process. Our presumption, then, is that temporary means that these conversions will last until the Science Center is completed, and that any future use of the rugby field or faculty housing on 3 and 5 Whittier will be revisited through an inclusive and transparent planning process.

What would this mean concretely in terms of parking?

a. It would mean, for example, that the existence of the temporary rugby field lot would not simply be assumed to be the solution to long-term parking needs at Swarthmore. Rather the presumption would be that this land is slated to be returned to greenspace or athletic fields, and that the money to remove the lot is in the budget. And any decision to use this, or any other college land, for more parking would be fully considered by the College's Land Use Planning Committee and involve those members of the College community who are affected by these changes in a process that is transparent and fair.

b. It would mean that parking for workers for the Parrish construction (as well as parking for other projects like the new dorm) would be considered early on in the planning process, and would be fully considered by the Land Use Planning Committee. This would demand, for example: (1) careful calculations of the amount of new parking that will be needed due to construction; (2) careful, timely, and full consideration of alternative parking options for construction workers, staff and faculty that will minimize inconvenience, maximize green space, minimize negative environmental effects, minimize costs, and, more generally, be integrated into long term land use planning at the College; and (3) the question of whether or not parking will continue to be needed on the rugby field (as well as the capacity of any such parking) will be an open decision--not one that simply presumes an extension of the temporary parking we are now considering.

What would this mean in terms of future College needs for temporary office space after the completion of the Science Center? The answer, again, would need to be part of a new planning process.

a. This planning process would start with the rebuttable presumption that these are faculty houses awaiting reconversion back to their original use and not simply 'available office spaces.' It will not start with the assumption that the temporary faculty house conversions are now permanently in place.

b. This also means that the expense of reconverting the temporary office space to faculty housing will not be used to block the consideration of other alternatives.

c. This also means that temporary office space decisions involving faculty housing will be fully considered by the College's Land Use Planning Committee and will involve those members of the College community who are effected by these changes in a process that is transparent and fair.

We are hoping that these suggestions about resolving the temporariness issue can be the basis for a Subcommittee consensus and recommendation.

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Send message to the chair of the Science Project User's Group , Rachel Merz (rmerz1@swarthmore.edu)

last updated 6/11/01