Caf expansion postponed by city approval delays

Outdoor additions to the Caf, including a removable cover, have been delayed until later this semester.

Katie Nelson and Katie Nelson

During lunch, students search for a place to sit in the crowded cafeteria. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES

Though the year picks up and the Caf once again bustles with students cramming meals in between classes, a plan to increase space will have to wait until next semester. The construction project to build a covered patio adjacent to the Caf before fall 2012 has been pushed back due to delays in the approval of the building plans by Los Angeles County.

“It was beyond our control,” said senior director of Auxiliary Services Don Sims. “We’re just trying to get approvals … from the county.”

Sims hopes to receive the go-ahead from county officials within a week. Based on that time estimate, construction should begin in approximately one month.

Future improvements to seating

As mentioned in a previous Chimes article, the plans for the additional seating area include 120 new seats and an automatic cover that can be raised and lowered depending on outdoor conditions. The motivation behind the project is overcrowding at the Caf during inclement weather, when students who would normally sit outside are forced to search for tables indoors.

“We experience a shortage of seats on rainy days,” said Bon Appétit Management Company Biola general manager Steve Rall. “The new seating will have a roof and heaters for year-round use.”

Some students expressed their disappointment that the renovations have not been completed on schedule.

“It’s a little bothering because it’s kind of packed right now, and I think the expansion would have really helped it not be so crowded inside,” said senior film major Ethan DuBois.

Concerns during construction

In addition to the postponement of construction, there are concerns about the amount of space available during the actual building time. One worry voiced by students is whether the expansion project would cause a temporary loss of seating at the Caf, a theory Sims quickly dispelled.

“There will be quite a bit of noise as they do some grading out in the street … the first few weeks for sure,” he said. “[But] we’re not losing any current eating space.”

In addition to clamor during building, Sims noted that the project would also mean a reduction in natural light at the Caf because of the need to board up the windows currently in front of the construction site.

Sims added that some work will be done at night or at times when the Caf is closed in order to reduce inconvenience to students.

“There’s going to be scheduled at some point in time some water that has to be cut off, but we’ll do that around meals,” he said.

Financial stewardship considered

The funding for this project — which will cost approximately $700,000 — is slated to come out of the Auxiliary Services budget, according to Sims. For some students, who believe the money could go toward other, more pressing needs, this is troubling news.

“I think if we’re stewarding money, [the Caf expansion] is kind of an unnecessary thing,” said freshman art major Rachel Funk. “I think we have a better Caf than any school I’ve seen. … We can definitely make do with what we have.”

Despite the mixed student opinions, Rall has high hopes that the space updates to the Caf will be beneficial for everyone who eats there.

“It will create a new dining atmosphere in the Caf,” he said.

If the plans are approved and construction begins on the current timetable, the new addition should be fully functional by the beginning of the spring 2013 semester.

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