|Expansion of Petaluma SRJC campus shows urban-rural blend
Old time Petaluma residents remember the big statue of a White Leghorn chicken at the entrance to the Sonoma-Marin County Fairgrounds. They might not remember a cluster of portable classrooms nearby, but for 16 years they served as Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma Center. This was in 1979.
Well, actually SRJC classes in Petaluma go back to 1964 when pressure for a southern Sonoma County post-high school campus became too persistent to ignore. Classes were held in rented buildings in several locations near downtown Petaluma. But more and more high school grads flocked to this handier location and the fairgrounds temporary site soon became inadequate.
Those “early times” students should see the campus now.
In 1985, SRJC trustees approved the purchase of a 40-acre ranch on a two-lane blacktop road in the mostly rural corner of the city for $800,000. A few years later it became the Santa Rosa Junior College Petaluma Center. Later its name was changed to a genuine Campus.
“By May 1993 we had 2,800 students with four buildings around a small quad,” said Jane Saldana-Talley, vice-president and executive dean. “Now we have 7,049 enrolled as of this September.”
The last few years have been a busy construction season. The new Herold Mahoney Library was built and the former library was converted to the Carole B. Ellis Auditorium. Another and larger quad was built called Rotary Plaza making the campus one of those rarities, a junior college with two quads. A new bookstore, Mike Smith Hall, was added, plus the sprawling Richard W. Call Building housing administration offices and classrooms, a gymnasium, more classroom space (the new buildings are two-stories in height), Courtyard Café and a Maintenance Compound.
Saldana-Talley said, “No, we have no plans right now for any more buildings. In truth, we have the capacity to accommodate about 12,000 students.” She was raised in Fresno and holds a doctorate in education from Fresno State University.
The Petaluma campus has a Technology Academy providing courses for area businesses and industry plus a volunteer organization, Friends of the Petaluma Campus, whose major function is to raise funds for scholarships and “enhance the image of the campus” in the community.
The former two-lane road became a signalized four-lane artery, Sonoma Mountain Parkway. The campus is within easy walking distance of a shopping center anchored by a supermarket. This northeast section of Petaluma soon became filed with singe family homes, condos and apartments, slowly edging closer to Penngrove.
There’s no student housing on campus but plenty of parking (with a fee) and metered parking spaces near the administration offices in Richard W. Call building.