Biola master plan presented to La Mirada

Biola’s 20-year master plan was presented to the La Mirada Planning Commission.

Julia Henning, Writer

Biola University is awaiting a vote by the La Mirada City Council that would make the 20-year Biola building master plan a city ordinance, allowing Biola’s building square footage to expand from 1 million to 1.7 million square feet by repurposing the acreage Biola currently owns. The city’s Planning Commission approved the plan on Oct. 18, according to the Whittier Daily News.

"Approval [by the city council] is considered a city ordinance,” said Greg Balsano, vice president of University Services. “The city requires that the council vote twice on it.”

The council will vote on Nov. 13 and again at the next council meeting on Nov. 27. Then there is a 30-day waiting period until that ordinance can become law. Balsano projects that the ordinance will be law by Dec. 27. 

Benefits of new building plan

This would allow enrollment to increase by 36 percent through the next 20 years because there will be space for the students, Balsano said. He explained that this could be done by leveling one- and two-story buildings, such as parts of the McNally campus, Marshburn Hall and Soubirou Hall.

In the new plan, there is a measure that would mandate Biola add a turning lane at the Rosecrans Avenue and La Mirada Boulevard intersection. This would be done by shrinking the median and shrinking the lane sizes. Biola will also make improvements to the sidewalks from the Lido apartment building to the La Mirada apartments building, as is mandated in the plan. Biola currently leases these buildings, but the university plans to purchase these apartments after the lease is up, according to Balsano.

Balsano explained that because Biola has been active in pursuing good relationships with its neighbors, the residents surrounding Biola generally support the master plan.

“We have to go the extra mile to try and be the good neighbor; I think they feel like we are trying to be a good neighbor, which is why we didn’t get an outcry on this master plan,” he said.

There are projects that need to approved by Biola’s Board of Trustees in January, according to Balsano. Biola is looking into putting a parking structure in Lot K, opposite Alpha Hall. After the parking structure is built, Biola is planning to possibly build a residence hall north of that new parking structure.

Funding for new master plan

These items would be paid for in bonds; however, since people pay to live in residence halls, the bonds are paid off quickly, according to Balsano. Parking structure bonds are paid for via student parking permits.

“I’m not anticipating that we’re going to jack up the fees to pay for the new parking structure but as we add cars and as we add parking because we have new students we will naturally get more money by selling those permits,” Balsano said.

Biola may pay for projects out of its own operating budget, Balsano said. He explained that Biola’s budget pays for small projects such as reconfiguring a building.

The buildings on the master plan will be financed either by fundraising or bonds, Balsano said.

Reuben Arceo, director of La Mirada’s Community Development, helped Biola put their plans into a form that the city wanted, Balsano said.

“La Mirada has been a beneficiary of the University's academic and economic success and its [sic] anticipated that the developing partnership between the City and University will lead to future business and land use development ventures that can serve as a precedent for other cities to emulate,” Arceo wrote in an email.

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