San Diego State University
San Diego State University / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Over the past decade, student parking rates at San Diego State University have increased by nearly 29 percent. But a new state audit shows the availability of parking for SDSU students has decreased, while the college sits on a surplus of $28 million in unused parking revenue that can be spent on facility maintenance, parking construction and alternative transportation.

The most explosive revelation in the audit was the discovery that the CSU system accumulated a $1.5 billion surplus that it did not disclose to the public as it argued that it needed to hike student tuition. The audit shows that as of June 2018, SDSU had by far the biggest surplus of any campus – more than $456 million.

But the audit also examined parking programs on four CSU campuses: Fullerton, Channel Islands, Sacramento State and San Diego State.

At SDSU, parking for a single semester costs $174, or $276 with the option to park overnight.

The campus does not restrict the number of permits it sells. During the 2017-18 school year, SDSU had about 14,200 spaces available to students and sold more than 48,000 permits. Faculty and staff are also allowed to use their permits to park in student parking spaces.

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The university does have one new parking structure, the audit notes, but it’s not intended for students. Yet student parking permit fees are being used to pay for $900,000 in annual debt payments on a bond used to finance the construction costs of the structure.

The 300-space parking lot is used for adjacent housing and visitors to the campus Trader Joe’s and nearby restaurants.

In the report, State Auditor Elaine Howle said the chancellor failed to ensure that CSU campuses follow policy requiring them to plan for alternate transportation, such as public transportation, shuttles and bike-sharing programs.

Instead, Howle said all the campuses her office visited relied on expanding parking capacity to keep up with increasing enrollment, subsequently passing on the costs to students.

“Many of whom pay increased sums for parking permits but experience little or no improvement in parking availability,” she wrote.

In a 2013 transportation management plan, SDSU found parking facilities were the most expensive way to accommodate each commuter compared to other modes of transportation.

University officials declined an interview request.

In a written response online, the college said it has not reached its maximum capacity for parking and has seen a reduced reliance on cars for transportation, specifically pointing to trolley and bus access on campus.

Officials did not address student fees being used to pay for the parking garage for retail and housing, but said added amenities, like restaurants and a grocery store reduce students’ need for parking.

Last school year, faculty and staff semester permits cost $171.

A bill introduced in the state Legislature this year by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber would have require California State Universities to make student permits lower than the cost of employee permits, but it was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Starting next semester, freshmen living on campus won’t be allowed to bring a car with them to campus. The college says this is meant to increase student success, decrease emissions and open up more parking for commuters.

Megan is Voice of San Diego’s director of marketing. She is responsible for producing and overseeing strategies that extend the reach of the organization....

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