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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Cooperative housing properties to be renovated

The Domes and Tri-Cooperative Housing – on campus cooperative housing communities – will undergo renovations from now until fall 2011 in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

One of the Tri Co-op houses will have to be made ADA accessible, said Ramona Hernandez, associate director of Student Housing, which has led to new concerns for co-op residents.

“We have a revised estimate [of $278,290] in terms of what has to be done, but we don’t get any money from the state,” she said. “The students pay all of the expenses. Now that we have the revised estimate, we’ll have to reevaluate what it costs to live there.”

The Tri Co-op community is familiar with financial worries. Last year Student Housing threatened to shut down one of the houses, the Davis Student Cooperative (DSC), due to budgetary issues and costly upkeep. However, the house was later granted a one-year extension.

All three houses are safe for now, according to Student Housing, but the renovation costs may become an issue.

“We’ll do everything we can to market the program to attract students, but ultimately, as with any other program, if students can’t or won’t participate, a business decision has to be made if we want to continue that program,” Hernandez said. “We hope that won’t happen, but that will be part of our evaluation.”

In addition to renovations at the Tri Co-op properties, the Domes must also meet ADA requirements, but that may not be the only change for them.

With the Domes, the question now is if the dome structures have reached the end of their life spans. If they have, then Student Housing will have to decide what the next step will be, Hernandez said.

Ron Swenson constructed the Domes in 1972 as an innovative housing project. The 14 domes that make up the community are the oldest known fiberglass structures in the nation.

Right now the community is in a transition period. If changes need to be made, they will be made in order to keep the community alive, said Veronica Pardo, a community development graduate student and current Domes resident.

Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Fred Wood created the Sustainable Living/Learning task force to help foster ideas for the Sustainable Research Area (SRA), with Bob Seger, assistant vice chancellor for Campus Planning and Community Resources, at the head of the group. Students from the Domes, staff from Student Housing and UC Davis professors are all working together to create ideas of what the SRA will do for the next generation of the Domes and other co-op housing on campus.

Ryan Galt, a human and community development professor, is teaching a Community Processes for Sustainability (CRD 198 or ECI 189) this quarter with Frank Loge, a civil and environmental engineering professor, that is geared toward getting students involved in the creation and visioning process of the SRA.

“The class is based around projects that students are interested in doing,” Galt said. “This can be everything from what you would want the co-ops to look like in 10 years, to how the co-ops should interact with the rest of the campus. It’s a way to involve the co-ops and the Domes to make sure of their existence on campus.”

Pardo and Galt are both involved with the task force and are committed to the future of the Domes.

“We are very interested in alternative living structures,” Pardo said. “There are lots of different things we have been talking about. If we’re going to be rebuilding, we could practice building houses that could be replicated in third-world countries. That’s the beauty of living [at the Domes], it’s experimental living.”

Renovations or rebuilding or may have to take place, but the almost 39-year-old community cannot disappear, Pardo said.

“These communities provide a valuable place for students to live and learn,” Galt said. “They should be able to continue for the indefinite future, because they have a lot to give not only to the campus, but to society as well.”

An open forum for the Domes is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. in the Tercero Main Lounge. The latest information regarding the Domes and the Sustainable Living/Learning task force will be discussed during the forum.

MICHELLE MURPHY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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