UC Board of Regents approves capital project funding

The UC Board of Regents met on Tuesday for the first of three days of meetings, this time to discuss the university’s funding for capital projects and to approve construction projects at various UC campuses.

The board’s Committee on Grounds and Buildings approved the university’s 2013-14 Budget for State Capital Improvements, which requests $788.5 million from the state to fund 39 capital projects across the system.

If approved by the state legislature, approximately $432.7 million would go toward designing and constructing new academic facilities at various campuses while the other $355.8 million would be allocated to improving existing campus infrastructure and to projects addressing seismic-safety issues.

Since the economic crisis in 2008, state funding for university capital projects has slowed to a trickle, halting ongoing capital planning and causing a backup of incomplete construction projects. According to UC Vice President for Budget Patrick Lenz, campuses will have to find other sources of funding for their capital projects if state support remains insufficient.

“We’re at this crossroads where we have to figure out if the state is not willing; we have to seriously look at our ability to take on these external loans,” said Lenz.

Since 1990, the state’s contribution to the university per student has fallen by more than 60 percent. For the first time, in 2011-12, funds from student tuition and fees exceeded funds to the university from the state.

Lenz said the passage of Proposition 30 last week could put the state legislature in a better place to accept the university’s funding request.

Later in the meeting, the board also evaluated a proposal presented by representatives from UC Santa Barbara to develop more student housing on the campus.

UC Santa Barbara Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas estimated that the campus would need to provide an additional 5,000 beds by 2025 to match projections of growing student enrollment. According to Lucas, the campus will eventually have to freeze enrollment unless more housing is developed to meet the growing demand.

“We’re really up against the wall with new housing,” Lucas said. “Since it takes time to build residence facilities, the time for us to be doing this is now.”

The board also approved a design for a new academic building to be constructed at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. With an estimated budget of $118.6 million, the new building would house faculty and staff offices and would save the campus approximately $331 million by consolidating expiring leases on commercial properties currently being used.

Protesters have planned a demonstration for Thursday’s meeting, when the board will discuss issues related to the UC budget and compensation for senior management officials.

Justin Abraham covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected]