California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, is a global leader in exploring the universe. Caltech now confronts a space question in its own backyard. The conundrum: down-to-earth daycare.
To replace the aging structures now used, construction for a new 13,000-foot childcare complex is planned across campus. Residents, who only recently learned the details, worry that a new load of traffic will end up on quiet Arden Road.
"Caltech has got to work together and we have together collectively as good neighbors, and that has not happened here," said area resident Jim Thomson.
Caltech wants to build undergrad housing where daycare currently operates.
"Lots of us actually work right on campus, so having this here means that we can drop our kids off, they're right next door, we know they're safe, they're happy," said Heather Knutson, Caltech professor of planetary science.
And for an institution that sends missions to Mars and probes the mysteries of earthquakes, Caltech says childcare is a recruiting tool.
"We are trying to attract the most extraordinary faculty and staff to Caltech and they have a lot of options out there since they are such great professors," said Caltech Communications Director Lawren Markle.
Caltech says they will increase the number of children enrolled to 128, about a 30-percent increase. Yet the city says the additional traffic flow to the complex from California Boulevard will be negligible.
Thomson disagrees. "I have represented this area for 16 years. I know better than that because I know exactly what California Boulevard is like in the morning and the evenings," he said.
Residents do not rule out a legal challenge as Caltech plans to start construction next week. Caltech's president says he will meet with neighbors Thursday before proceeding.