UCSB is on the brink of unprecedented growth. The following article, the first in a series, looks at the planning and construction of UCSB as we know it.
In 1953, when University of California, Santa Barbara was a small teachers’ college, planners envisioned one day accommodating 3,500 students on campus. Fifty-five years later, the internationally recognized research institution is planning to tear up whole parts of the campus to accept 25,000 students by the year 2025.
Though it may sound daunting, the major structural upheaval the campus is currently bracing itself for is nothing new. The history of UCSB’s Goleta campus is a storied one, and in the decades that followed its creation, the school has undergone nine distinct campus plans – or Long Range Development Plans, if you want to get technical about it – to help reshape the school.
The newest LRDP, also referred to as Vision 2025, prepares the university for the absorption of an additional 5,000 students a year, and proposes a number of new buildings on campus. Administrators talk of long, unobstructed pathways on campus, a supermarket for the dorms and sweeping views.
(The plan, grandiose as it sounds, has nothing on the 1968 LRDP when administrators bought whole new tracts of land, envisioning that 25,000 students would be on campus by the mid-’80s.)
According to Chancellor Henry T. Yang, these long-term plans have been crucial in shaping the university into the world-class academic institution it is regarded as today.
“From 1949 to the present, the purpose of each successive Long Range Development Plan has been to provide the physical framework for the campus, to develop the capital resources necessary to fulfill the goals of the Campus Academic Plan, to house and support our students, and to provide a physical environment that enriches the lives of our faculty, staff, students and visitors to our campus.” Yang said.
Birth of the Campus
In 1950, the Regents to the University of California initiated development of a 408-acre parcel of land in Goleta located on a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This pristine beachfront property – a former Marine Corps air station – was comprised of Marine officer residences, a hospital, a post office, barracks and mess halls.
Between 1950 and 1954, maps show that the university was designated as a residential campus with academic buildings clustering at the center of the coastal mesa and housing structures defining the shoreline.
In 1954, the UC – at the time located downtown and dedicated to training teachers – was transplanted to the new UC coastal land north of Goleta. At the time, 1,725 students were enrolled.
It wasn’t until 1958 that the UC Regents would decide to open the University of California, Santa Barbara to the scholars of California as a general campus, complete with undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as professional schools.
1958-1990: The Suburban Years
Between 1950 and the present, campus development has been anything but predictable. From decade to decade, there have been sporadic periods of growth interspersed with lulls in campus construction.
During its early blooming stage in the ’60s, UCSB acquired several large tracts of land to tack on to its existing bulk. In 1962, the university purchased the 184-acre Storke Campus to build housing and athletics facilities. In 1967, West Campus was purchased in the mistaken mindset that the ’70s and ’80s would be an era of large increases in enrollment.
Alissa Hummer, a senior planner with the Campus Planning and Design office, said campus development flourished from the university’s inception up until the 1970’s, when enrollment took a dip. However, Hummer said while the ’80s were an improvement in campus growth, the decade failed to rival the explosion of projects on campus that began with the 1990 LRDP.
“The campus has really ebbed and flowed over the years,” Hummer said. “Going back in time, there are periods of overall growth, and periods that are stronger than others. A lot of the ’90s was really just playing catch-up from the ’80s.”
As the current LRDP reports, in 1975 the campus scaled back development and planned for a more realistic growth of 14,000 to 16,000 students on campus.
Dave Bearman, a former 3rd District supervisor candidate and former Isla Vista resident, said he has watched the campus balloon in his time here.
“I came here in 1970,” Bearman said. “The growth in the last 10 years is more than any decade in my recollection. … Prior to my arriving here there was quite a lot of growth. In my perception, this is the greatest number of new buildings that has come about since the 1960s.”
1990 – 2007: Urbanizing Campus
Dennis Whelan, a senior planner with the Campus Planning and Development office, said he feels UCSB has become increasingly impacted since 1990 due to a lack of additional available land.
“In general, because we are so limited in acreage, we are becoming a more urban campus and less suburban campus,” Whelan said. “[From 1990 to present] we have added up to five more parking structures. I wouldn’t have imagined the necessity of those when I was an undergrad here and the enrollment was around 12 or 14,000.”
In addition to shifting its priorities from constructing academic and support facilities to providing additional housing and parking availability, Hummer said the university also underwent a transformation in academic emphasis. In recent years, UCSB has become renowned for its science and engineering disciplines, which consequently led to an increased demand for science classrooms, offices and laboratories, Hummer said.
“The campus a few decades ago had more of an emphasis on the liberal arts, and it has now become much more of a science powerhouse,” Hummer said. “There has been a lot of growth in those facilities.”
According to Yang, sustainability also became a crucial consideration for planners involved in designing new additions to the campus. This modern focus on sustainable building practices, he said, will be adhered to even more strictly in UCSB’s current 2007 LRDP.
“I think one of the significant changes that has occurred over the years is our campus’s growing commitment to sustainability,” Yang said. “In April, we announced our first UC Santa Barbara Campus Sustainability Plan. Among the commitments we have made is our pledge that all campus buildings planned after July 1, 2004 have to obtain a [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] Silver certification. Our ongoing commitment to sustainability is very much reflected in our new draft 2007-2025 Long Range Development Plan.”
Despite decades of change, Whelan said the university’s overarching vision has remained constant.
“It’s got more students, it’s got more square footage, it’s pretty got more of everything,” Whelan said. “But as far as the university’s goals, I don’t think there are significant changes. I think it is still adhering to the goals it has as a University of California to fulfill its mission.”