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Sunday, August 14, 2022

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SDSU’s Response to State Auditor’s June 20 Report

By SDSU News Team
 

Through years of investment in alternative and sustainable transportation options, SDSU is working to reduce the need for vehicles on campus and its carbon footprint. The university is also committed, by recommendation of the CSU, to reach a reserve target to appropriately manage economic uncertainties that could have an adverse impact on the campus. 
 
The California State Auditor released a report on June 20 after auditing the California State University system’s parking programs and bank accounts held outside of the state treasury. San Diego State University was among four campuses randomly reviewed as part of the audit. 

In a report released today, June 20, the State Auditor reviewed a period of fiscal years 2008-09 through 2017-18. The report references SDSU’s newest parking garage and designated reserves.

Chancellor Timothy P. White issued a statement in response to a Parking Program and Outside Accounts Audit Report by the California State Auditor, indicating that the system and its campuses are transparent in its financial operations, established appropriate practices to safeguard the accounts and is an exceptional steward of the financial resources entrusted to the system by the state.


The following pertains to specific San Diego State University references in the report: 

SDSU Parking Portfolio 

SDSU has made a commitment to offering parking and transportation alternatives to meet the varying needs of our campus community and visitors, while working toward reducing its overall carbon footprint. More than 15,000 parking spots are located throughout campus via surface lots and parking structures, and the university has not reached its max capacity for students, faculty and staff parking. However, by introducing alternative transportation and amenities, such as those found at South Campus Plaza, the university is encouraging and, in some areas, seeing a reduced reliance on vehicles on and around campus. 

For example, SDSU has a transit center at one of the most utilized junction points on campus. Located in front of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, the campus community and campus visitors have access to the trolley, buses and both pick-up and drop-off locations for ridesharing and carpools. While SDSU had a pilot bike sharing program, this was discontinued in 2018 after the sponsoring company opted to leave the program. 

South Campus Plaza 

Initial Development 

South Campus Plaza was purposefully designed with student access to needed, nearby amenities and student success in mind. The mixed-use development was designed as a pedestrian, transit and bicycle-friendly plaza with sustainability features. The plaza was created specifically to add necessary food and service options to both students and neighboring community members, and also housing to SDSU students. For example, the addition of a grocery store was significantly important to the campus and neighboring communities, as such an amenity was previously not within walking distance of campus. Also, many eateries in the plaza area are included as part of student meal plans. 

Community Input 

The plan, aligned with CEQA procedures, included a comment period. Information generated from students, faculty, staff and general community members informed the final plan. 

South Campus Parking Garage 

The plaza includes a parking facility, which is specifically intended to serve retail customers and campus visitors who pay hourly parking fees to help fund the parking facility. 

The introduction of the plaza also reduced the need for students to have a vehicle by making amenities more accessible to the campus, and also reduced the need for students to commit to parking or permit fees. The retail amenities also serve the neighborhoods adjacent to the university. During the summer when the number of students living on campus drops significantly, the retail establishments rely on customers within the local community to sustain their businesses. 

Alternative Transportation 

SDSU has, for years, invested in programs and services that support alternative transportation options. The greater emphasis on such transportation options have been to encourage students to remain on campus, to reduce the need for vehicles on and near campus and, overall, to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Data indicates that vehicles account for about 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the County of San Diego and it is SDSU’s commitment to help reduce that percentage. 

At SDSU, alternative transportation options include the trolley and bus system, through a partnership with San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). The trolley and bus stops located in front of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union serve as a transit center. The campus community and visitors have access to the trolley, buses and both pick-up and drop-off locations for ridesharing and carpools in that area. Other options exist on campus to aid in eliminating the use of a car and need for parking, and to reduce the university’s carbon footprint: 
  • Zipcar is a car sharing service available to students 18 and older. SDSU will be expanding its Zipcar fleet this year. 
  • In addition to partnerships with MTS, SDSU has a partnership with Enterprise to offer vanpool services and Zimride, and also with Waze Carpool for an additional carpool option, resulting in more carpools being created.
  • Zimride is a ridesharing service, which allows students of all ages (and also faculty and staff) to post rides or request rides through the ease of a webpage.
  • SDSU has partnered with several car dealerships to provide discounts to faculty, staff, and students when purchasing electric vehicles.
  • SDSU provides EV Charging Stalls throughout campus. 
Other information is available via the Commuting & Transportation site: 
https://bfa.sdsu.edu/campus/parkingtrans/commuting.aspx
 
 
Most recently, SDSU implemented a restriction on freshman parking. Beginning in fall 2019, freshmen living in an on-campus residence hall will not be permitted to bring a car to campus. This is meant to help further student success, decrease emissions and increase the amount of available parking on campus for those commuting daily. Learn more about the policy online: https://bfa.sdsu.edu/campus/parkingtrans/fpr.aspx

In further efforts to develop alternative transportation options for students, faculty and staff, in the fall of 2018, SDSU created a shared governance parking and transportation group. The purpose of this group is to discuss and develop other options for parking on and getting to and from campus. This includes the use of electric scooters, a partnership with the San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System and the freshman parking restriction. 

Also, SDSU had a pilot bike sharing program with ofo but the program was discontinued in 2018 after the sponsoring company opted to leave the program. And while electric scooters are currently prohibited on campus, they can be used by those living in the surrounding communities to commute to and from campus. 

Fiscal Responsibility 

The audit report indicates that the CSU has amassed $1.5 billion in “surplus” funds. Of the $1.5 billion noted, SDSU’s portion is $149 million. These funds are one-time and are not discretionary funds. The funds cannot be used for regular and ongoing expenses the university incurs in fulfilling its educational mission, such as employee compensation or energy costs.

As of June 30, 2018, the majority of the funds at SDSU represent dollars which are committed or encumbered. Thus, while these are unrestricted funds, they are designated for specific purposes. These financial commitments are earmarked for uses to include student financial aid, capital improvements, deferred maintenance, equipment acquisition, faculty start-up packages, and program development.

Additionally, of the $149 million, only $34 million is reserved for economic uncertainty, amounting to a 4-week period during which SDSU could sustain campus operations without major interruptions. The university is, however, moving toward improving the amount of economic uncertainty reserves available.  

Related, according to CSU guidelines since 2016-17, all 23 campuses within the system are also expected to contribute 10 percent of capital project costs from reserves. The CSU also adopted a policy that encourages each of its 23 campuses to reach a reserve target of five to six months of operating costs. The intention of the policy is to ensure that each campus has a reserve of money to appropriately manage economic uncertainties that could have an adverse impact on the campuses, including catastrophic events and economic uncertainties. SDSU’s reserve sits at a 4-week target and it is working to build a reserve at recommended target level.