A Montecito-based philanthropist pledged at least $200 million to build new student housing on the UC Santa Barbara campus and possibly create a new model for the entire UC system.
Charles Munger, the 92-year-old vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, presented his plan at a recent UC Board of Regents meeting to replace existing dorms on a 28-acre plot of the UCSB campus with two tall student housing buildings. It also included a small housing project for about 300 students on a 5-acre maintenance yard site.
While the exact size and scope wasn’t specified, Regent Hadi Makarechian said at the meeting that the estimated $1.4 billion project would alone satisfy UC President Janet Napolitano’s Student Housing Initiative that strives to add 14,000 beds by 2020.
The board and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang enthusiastically backed the proposal, lauding the student-centric approach to the development and Munger’s continued generosity.
The construction would reduce cost and create building efficiency so 60 percent of the students it houses would pay “way below” the occupancy costs at current UCSB dorms, Munger said. They would be built with pre-cast concrete and premade steal. The buildings would have communal kitchens to reduce meal plan costs and communal space that would facilitate “mutual propinquities,” or opportunities to learn from each other, he said. Munger would also want UCSB to assign mentors to the units.
“I think it would be the best undergraduate facility in the world. If I didn’t think so I wouldn’t have the slightest interest in giving it any money,” Munger said at the meeting.
It would be the largest housing of its type on any college campus in the U.S., the board said.
“As we add in-state undergraduates, it ties in perfectly with our ongoing housing initiative and couldn’t come at a better time,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “It’s just a great partnership we will have as we continue to build out Santa Barbara.”
The vacancy rate is below 1 percent in Isla Vista, said Steve Golis of Radius Commercial Real Estate and Investments. Even with an influx of student housing, enrollment increases would likely offset the new supply, he said.
“It’s a blessing if it does happen and it would absolutely help in the short run but that would likely be absorbed by enrollment increases,” Golis said.
In 2014, Munger provided a $65.9-million gift to build and furnish the Charles T. Munger Physics Residence for visiting scholars at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Munger is determined to build the development at UCSB, but would look elsewhere if it wasn’t permitted, he said. It would need approval from the California Coastal Commission.
“If it makes sense to revolutionize housing for the better on one campus, it can be done at other campuses,” Munger said.
More space for Yardi
The Santa Barbara-based real estate and property management software developer Yardi is expanding into The Offices at The Collection in Oxnard.
Yardi will move into about 29,000 square feet of space on Park View Court, occupying two floors in the building. The office space wasn’t built out so Yardi can design it to its liking.
There are only two suites remaining totaling 7,000 square feet at the property, according to Tom Dwyer of CBRE. The retail, office space and housing communities at The Collection are all doing well, he said.
Yardi has grown more than 25 percent each year since its 1984 inception. The company employs about 4,800 employees in 34 offices worldwide.
Speaking of The Collection…
The Johnston Group recently purchased the six-story office building adjacent to The Collection at 1000 Town Center Drive from Equity Office Properties for about $23 million.
The 115,000-square-foot building was 97 percent occupied at the time of sale.
CBRE’s Michael Slater and Dwyer represented the sellers in the transaction.
While the West Ventura County office market has been sluggish as of late and has a 20 percent vacancy, Class A space has been in high demand, Dwyer said.
Agoura Hills-based Johnston Group is a real estate development and management firm with more than 50 years of experience throughout the western United States.
• Contact Alex Kacik at [email protected]