State Assemblyman Marc Berman attended Monday’s Foothill-De Anza Community College District board meeting to discuss Assembly Bill 302, legislation he authored that would require community colleges to allow homeless students sleep in their cars overnight on campus.
“AB 302 is not a solution to the homelessness crisis – building more housing is,” Berman told board members. “But that will take years, and in the meantime there are hundreds of thousands of community college students who are experiencing homelessness this year and we need to do everything we can to make their situation a little better.”
Berman is a Democrat whose District 24 includes Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View.
In the past few months the bill has generated substantial controversy, with many community colleges around the state coming out against the measure. However, Foothill-De Anza officials haven’t taken an official stance.
Instead, administrators and trustees have acknowledged the seriousness of student homelessness, while also pointing out potential problems with the bill.
After Berman spoke at Monday’s meeting, Chancellor Judy Miner told him about some of the concerns community colleges have, including the fact that the bill doesn’t provide any funding to implement its requirements.
“There will be no additional dollars despite the additional costs that will be out there,” Miner said.
Berman responded that he was sympathetic to the cost issue and intends to work with fellow legislators to address it, but can’t promise he will be successful.
The bill does allow colleges to opt out of the overnight parking requirement if they provide a number of other support services to students.
Miner said her preference was to provide resources for students rather than paying campus police to patrol parking lots at night. Although the colleges already provide support for homeless students, Miner said the district plans to allocate additional funds for additional services.
Nearly a dozen students spoke at the meeting about the need to address student homelessness. Some held signs with slogans like “Support AB 302 prioritize housing.”
Shelly Michael, De Anza’s student body president, said AB 302 isn’t mutually exclusive with permanent housing solutions, but rather is a starting point.
“It’s a step and a very important first step,” Michael said. “I think that it’s the bare minimum to ask – to have a safe place for students to be sleeping.”
However, some local residents have voiced opposition to the bill. A town hall meeting with Berman in Los Altos Hills last month got heated, with some residents raising their voices as they spoke in opposition to the measure.
The State Assembly passed the bill in May and it is currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
For more information on student homelessness and AB 302, check out the Town Crier’s Aug. 14 print issue.