During the ongoing extreme drought in the Western United States, Pasadena City College has taken little concrete action to mitigate the impact their lawns have on the current drought, insisting the school’s character is more important than adapting to a changing environment.
“When it comes specifically to the green spaces on campus, that’s a major part of what makes PCC who we are,” School Spokesperson Alex Boekelheide said.
Despite the one day a week watering restrictions and a growing movement for sustainable watering and the replacement of grasses, Pasadena City College has done little in the short term to make changes to the unsustainable practices, besides altering their watering schedules to once a week. Long term plans show that the school plans to improve sustainability as detailed by the The Facilities Master plan, which outlines PCC’s goals over the next several years. However, it barely touches on sustainability, only highlighting a few major points on water conservation, reductions on energy consumption at the very end of the two-hundred and ten page document.
“[The Facilities Master Plan is] our chance to say these are the things we’re going to value, and sustainability definitely had a seat at that table,” Boekelheide said.
It was also noted that PCC does not have to follow the watering restrictions that residents have to follow in Pasadena, because of how the lawns are used.
“Since our lawns are utilized for events and they are utilized by the public they fall into this category, and there certain exemptions for civic use and plantings, which are functional,” Executive Director of Facilities and Construction Services Richard Laret said.
The Facilities Master Plan in total will cost more than what the new ballot initiative Measure PCC will bring in, but there was specification that some of the money would be put towards “improving energy efficiency and water conservation,” according to Measure PCC’s website.
What exactly those steps are is unclear when it comes to changes to the front lawn and other green spaces on campus.
“PCC is committed to being diligent stewards of the environment and collaborative partners with the City of Pasadena. Water conservation plays an important role in the College’s planning initiates as it relates to the long-term Facilities Master Plan,” The Assistant Superintendent, Vice President of Business and Administrative Services Candace Jones said
During a recent Board of Trustees meeting, a landscaping project on the southern end of campus was approved by the board as a completed project which included plants that are climate conscious and drought tolerant, which could be a model for projects across campus.
“The choice of plants will be more, you know, water sustainable and responsible than others [and it will be used as a] sustainability experiment,” Boekelheide said.
Boekelheide did not clarify on when or where other planting projects like this would be planned and executed at various locations around campus.
The Facilities Master Plan, which was approved in 2020, by the Board of Trustees only contained a single page out of the two-hundred and seven pages, and a few bullet points on sustainable practices, which included, water metering, the implementation of native planting projects which require less water, and the use of greywater as an alternative source for watering the grass and other non-potable uses.
“The primary goal of the Facilities Master Plan is to estimate demand for particular facilities and then propose methods to meet that demand over a 10-15 year timeframe,” Boekelheide said when asked to explain why sustainability is such a small portion of FMP. ”The sustainability component of the FMP is a crucial part of those methods and a priority for PCC.”
The implementation of these goals remains open and the timeline for these projects is contingent on funding to the school, once provided by Measure PCC or other funding sources.
“Facilities Services is cooperatively working with the City of Pasadena and has implemented water conservation efforts,” Laret stated, when asked whether PCC is abiding by local water restrictions.
Curtis, a PCC student, believes that Artificial Turf could be used as an alternative to the lawn.
“I think having a little green around is nice, but it does definitely use up a lot of water in an area where we don’t get much water,” said Curtis. “The grass provides a nice aesthetic, albeit unsustainable. Artificial turf wouldn’t be as visually pleasing, but it’s still something akin to grass and it looks nice.”
Administration, however, have yet to implement artificial grass beyond the Robinson Stadium, which hosts both the soccer and football teams at the school. Boekelheide said he wasn’t sure artificial grass proposals had been submitted for the rest of the green spaces on campus.
PCC, though, could not commit to making quick changes to the environmental and sustainability issues on campus, constantly emphasizing that each sustainability or climate priority of the school has to conform to specific bureaucratic processes, which at times could take years.
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