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Upgrades coming to SRJC Petaluma

More details are emerging for upgrades planned at the Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma campus, as college officials chart the spending of $410 million in bond funding from the passage of 2014’s Measure H.

The 40-acre campus off Sonoma Mountain Parkway is slated for $15.7 million in improvements as part of a first round of projects, money that will fund construction of improved science labs and lay the groundwork for a future student services center. The college district’s board of trustees approved a total of $77.4 million in so-called “early start” projects, which included the Petaluma upgrades, at a meeting in November.

The labs will eliminate the need for students to travel to Santa Rosa for some necessary classes in chemistry and physics in particular, said Jane Saldaña-Talley, the Petaluma campus’s top administrator.

“The one thing we absolutely do know though is that chemistry and physics are courses that are really needed in Petaluma for our students. We’re really trying to provide a well-rounded education content in Petaluma, and keeping students from having to run up and down the freeway to get their education,” she said.

The college district outlined its vision for the Petaluma campus as part of a 236-page master plan unveiled late last month. The plan also includes projects at the district’s Santa Rosa campus, its public safety training center in Windsor, the agricultural education-focused Shone Farm in Forestville and a facility in southwest Santa Rosa.

The bond dollars will also help chip away at deferred maintenance costs reported at about $1 billion. The Santa Rosa campus moved to its current location in 1925.

“I think repairing the aging facilities — some of the classrooms are so worn, to see them get internet access with high-speed internet,” SRJC President Frank Chong said during a meeting unveiling those plans last month. “Practical things that students need right now: furniture and lighting.”

Other “early start” projects include a $28 million modernization of the Burbank Auditorium in Santa Rosa, $32.5 million in energy and sustainability projects and a $1.2 million lab at the Windsor campus.

SRJC began offering classes in Petaluma in 1964, and acquired the current campus site two decades later. A first phase of construction at the site was completed in 1995, and a second phase wrapped up in 2010.

Saldaña-Talley noted that the Petaluma campus received a significant share of money from a previous bond issuance, 2002’s Measure A, which helped fuel $78 million in upgrades. The share from Measure H is relatively small, but still aims for some key projects like the lab facility.

“After almost a decade in the facilities that were planned through Measure A, things have changed, and student needs have changed,” she said.

A location and design for the lab facility will be determined as part of the planning process, she said. The project is projected to wrap up in 2018.

A new student center is not expected to go forward as part of Measure H, but early planning will occur to lay the groundwork of that project. Campus officials are meanwhile looking at remodeling an existing bookstore and student center to serve its population of around 5,000 students.

“The idea is to maybe, as we are considering how we use our bookstore, and whether or not we can’t make a connection between that and our existing student center and to really revitalize that area,” Saldaña-Talley said, noting that the work would include improvements to the campus’s main entryway.

The master plan also recommends new outdoor learning spaces and an improved frontage facing Sonoma Mountain Parkway. A new solar photovoltaic array is proposed over some parking spaces, as well as new classroom buildings.

The new buildings would be configured to use highly-treated wastewater from Petaluma’s Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility for non-potable uses like flushing toilets. The city has plans to extend the so-called purple pipe infrastructure to the Petaluma campus in the future, and so far, only the water facility’s offices implement the recycled water for non-irrigation uses.

(Contact Eric Gneckow at eric.gneckow@arguscourier.com. On Twitter @Eric_Reports. Press Democrat Staff Writer Christi Warren contributed to this report.)