CSULB officials unveil plans for student housing on Atherton Street, first dorm project in 30 years

Cal State Long Beach officials unveiled plans for a new 476-bed dormitory before skeptical neighbors who voiced concerns over increased noise and parking woes Wednesday.

The $102 million courtyard-style Parkside North Housing, planned for the intersection of Earl Warren Drive and Atherton Street, will break ground in July, said Mark Zakhour, campus manager of design and construction.

Several of the residents who learned of the plans at a community meeting at the Los Altos Library seemed less than thrilled. One man, citing years of parking and other frustrations, called the proposal “a joke” and others suggested officials move the dorms to undeveloped Puvungna, the ancient Tongva village and burial site that borders Bellflower.

Camilla Richter, who has lived across from the site for 45 years, said she feared more traffic and noise on busy Atherton Street. “We have beautiful parks, a church, a daycare there,” she said. “It’s a nice place for them to (build) it. I just wish they’d put it somewhere else.”

Jean Quirk, a 36-year resident, agreed. “We don’t need more traffic.  We don’t need more students on Atherton.”

Residents living in the neighborhood bordering the campus’s northern edge also learned that a planned $8 million alumni center that was to go up near the Walter Pyramid will now be built on the site of the 62-year-old Soroptimist House at the center of campus, Zakhour said. The 6,000-square-foot Anna W. Ngai Alumni Center is scheduled to break ground in September and will eventually house the statue honoring embattled campus mascot Prospector Pete.

The new 210-unit dorm should be completed by 2021 and will largely replace older units on campus, particularly at Hillside College, Zakhour said. CSULB students pay about $12,500 annually for room and board.

Michele Cesca, the vice president for university relations and development, said there’s an 800-student wait list for dorms. “We do want to keep students on campus,” she said. “We know a lot of these neighborhood (houses) have been converted to these weird sort of dormitories on their own.”

Campus planners used drones to help estimate the sightlines for the planned three-story structure. Dorm windows facing Atherton, including homes and Minnie Gant Elementary school, will be small and there will be just one emergency exit onto the street. A resident asked if that exit could be alarmed.

“At the end of the day, we are trying to meet the needs of the students and the community,” Cesca said, who added the new dorms are part of the 2008 university master plan. “We have really been there very thoughtful about it.”

Fourth District Councilman Daryl Supernaw, who hosted the meeting and has long heard neighbor complaints about parking and multiplying student rentals, said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley has met repeatedly with residents. He said the fact the university is moving the alumni center showed officials listened to neighbor concerns. Now, new dorms are coming this summer.

“For people who have been here a long time, it’s just another development on Atherton,” Supernaw said. “It’s just a general consensus, ‘enough is enough. When is it gonna stop?’”

A rendering shows a new dorm set to break ground on Atherton Street in July.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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