Planning process for Canada College gym ‘hi-jacked,’ college trustee says

Canada College students and faculty fear that the proposed Kinesiology and Wellness building, shown here, will become a private athletic club.
Canada College students and faculty fear that the proposed Kinesiology and Wellness building, shown here, will become a private athletic club.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A member of the San Mateo County Community College District board agreed last night with a dozen students, teachers and residents in saying that the gym being built at Canada College is being taken over by a for-profit gym.

“We presented this building to the voters as a students first and centered building. It’s been hi-jacked,” Trustee Richard Holober said.

A group of members of the Kinesiology, Athletics and Dance Department voiced their concerns to the board about the new 105,916-square-foot gym being built at the Redwood City campus.

According to plans for the Canada project, 25,685-square feet are reserved for academic space, 11,379-square feet is reserved just for the private gym and 68,732-square feet will be shared by students and the athletic club members.

Student Kyle Eliot said that while he is excited the new building is going up, he feels that the private club is the priority, not the students.

“It’s our campus. Students should be at the forefront,” Eliot said.

Second-class citizens

Another student, who only went by Vanessa, said she had gone to the gym at CSM, which has a private club associated with it, and she felt like a second-class citizen.

“Most of the premium spaces were for gym members and not students,” she said.

Head soccer coach and kinesiology professor Erik Gaspar and Assistant Professor Vera Quijano presented the concerns of their program, saying that because of all of the turnover in the administration at Canada, things have been left unsettled for five years.

Planning process criticized

Gaspar added that the professors feel there were disingenuous aspects of the planning process for the gym.

He pointed to meeting minutes between administrators who decided that the student locker rooms ought to be simple and get the job done, and the membership locker rooms to be “high-quality.”

Trustee Holober was met with cheers from the crowd after his hi-jacking comment, but trustees Karen Schwarz and Thomas Nuris were met with objections. Those two trustees were apprehensive that the athletics department at Canada would not settle for compromises, and would only be happy once they got the entire building.

A list of 13 items

Interim Chancellor Mike Claire said he had a list of 13 items that the athletic department wants to have settled, which he felt were all achievable.

Ultimately, Board President Maurice Goodman said he wants for Canada College President Jamillah Moore to work with the athletics department and district administration to make the needed changes in order to accomplish the 13 items.

Moore to return with more

Moore is expected to come back to the board at its Dec. 9 meeting with an update on where things are on the new building.

Goodman, Holober and Mandelkern all expressed interest in discussing some of the policies related to the shared gym, and hiring a dean for the athletics department, all which came up last night, but decided those topics could be handled after issues with the building, which is being built now, are dealt with first.


  1. Everyone needs to just go to CSM – The San Mateo ‘Athletic Club’ area (Building #5)and get a free pass to try out the gym. At first, I was very skeptical, but it’s not even remotely what you think. The majority portion of time the facilities are clearly being used by older community members and in another large section, people with disabilities are doing adaptive therapy or yoga upstairs. A HUGE disabled neighborhood population uses this community resource. I see many people who are clearly working on rehab type conditioning. This is not a ‘pick-up gym’ and I am sure students who mix in the facility are good with it, but I have been there dozens of times now and it is very clearly in the best interests of our known aging adult community. It was a brilliant idea with forethought and planning to adapt the aging college facilities for this and I know it takes the allure away, but it is more of a serious facility being used by our “ignored” community, then a “gym”, and it is housed at the nursing and dental building at CSM which dovetails nicely. Canada will be an awesome facility for the entire community. In case you have forgotten, Seniors are students too.

  2. There is no doubt that facilities for seniors and the disabled should be a high priority. But, did the residents of San Mateo County vote to tax themselves with a bond for SMCCCD to provide a facility for that purpose? I think the issues are more complex than just who is using the “gym.”

    There were many divergent views expressed the evening of October 20 in the SMCCCD Board room. I, for one, appreciate the opposing positions, as open discussion and transparency is one way to achieve truth, albeit a method that can be discordant, though at the heart of a democracy.

    Being a relatively new resident in San Mateo county, my knowledge of the history of this issue and the constituents seeking truth is limited, so if I make mistakes in the following narrative, please correct me without ad hominem attacks:

    1. There is concern by some members of the community that the District did not engage in full disclosure when presenting the bond issue for Building 1 at Cañada. The language was at best “ambiguous,” and there was no direct mention that a significant percentage of the facility would be for a private-membership health club (not a private gym, as the facility will be wholly owned by the District, with management of the facility outsourced). As newspaper stories reported when SMAC was built at the College of San Mateo, public outcry now appears to replicate that situation. To me, this is not an unreasonable concern for taxpayers who voted for the bond.
    2. There is question as to how a project awarded to Blach and ELS Architects, originally designed to cost about $60 million dollars in 2016, has skyrocketed to $120 million. While a trustee noted that rising costs of construction in the Bay Area is responsible, certain watch-dog citizens have been asking for documentation which has not been forthcoming. I have not, to date, reviewed the District’s Measure H bond as approved by voters in November 2014, so perhaps I’ll find answers there.
    3. A two-story building has become much larger with a retractable undulating roof to mimic the outline of the mountains; that is, if you stand exactly in one place. This probably cost a pretty penny.
    4. Most important, the building is to house the department of Kinesiology, Athletics and Dance (KAD), as the taxpayers approved a bond for educational purposes. However, faculty and staff believe their instructional needs have taken second place to the space for the fee-paying community health club, and that students will suffer. Of course, if voters approved to issue a bond for such purposes, then the people have spoken.
    5. Finally, some have commented that the three campuses have undergone a building boom and changed for the better. While this is true, bigger is not necessarily better (especially with declining enrollment) and prettier buildings doth not an education make. The SMCCCD three-year graduation rate for a two-year associates degree is about 18%, significantly below the national average of 27% at community colleges. As the San Mateo Community College District is among the best resourced in the state, given that property taxes fund the district, it is surprising to some citizens that we can’t do better.

    I am an educational researcher studying student achievement over the past two decades at SMCCCD (I’d be happy to present this data in another venue, if interested). While I can see with my own eyes new, gorgeous buildings, I’d prefer to think we are focused on building students’ minds.

    • The DA is investigating campaign contributions involving the District. Constructions costs on a project double. The Chancellor, who dictated how construction projects would go, is forced out but gets paid handsomely to keep his mouth shut. Are the dots really so hard to connect?

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