University administrators will scale back the pace on a proposed Residential Conference Center and Faculty Club after a report by members of the Academic Senate advised against it.
The report by the Academic Senate’s Council on Planning and Budget raised concerns about the hotel’s feasibility, concluding that “demand from the UCLA academic community is and will remain far too low to support a facility of this size and at these high price levels.”
The 276-room, $160 million center would provide high-tech meeting space and lodging for campus departments to host international conferences on campus at a projected rate of $270 per night. A consultant’s report to the administration considers two potential sites for the hotel ““ in place of the current Faculty Center building or where Chancellor Gene Block’s residence stands in North Campus.
Since its announcement last summer, the project has been criticized by a number of professors and Westwood residents, who have cited concerns about protecting the current Faculty Center, limiting construction noise and traffic, and the financial sense of having a hotel on campus. The university says it has taken steps to mitigate these concerns.
The CPB’s report reflects its opposition to the proposed hotel, although that position is strictly advisory, said senate Chairwoman Ann Karagozian.
The report argues the hotel’s rates are based on “corporate-style conference centers, not university facilities.”
Locally, the W Hotel on Hilgard Avenue and the Hotel Angeleno offer lower per-night rates, as do comparable conference facilities at the University of Texas at Austin and UC Davis, the report stated. The CPB did not investigate competitive rates for conference space.
UCLA administrators responded in a letter to the Academic Senate on Monday, stating that the councils’s report did not account for additional demand for the center from other arms of campus, including the administration and athletic departments. The report also left out potential overflow demand from UCLA’s two other hotel operations, the UCLA Guest House and the Tiverton Patient Guest House, wrote Steven Olsen, vice chancellor of finance, budget and capital programs, in the letter.
The university, however, is taking the senate’s concerns seriously, Olsen said in a phone interview. Administrators will hold off on bringing the proposal up for approval by the UC Board of Regents, Olsen said.
He added that the administration will “take the time necessary to” further evaluate demand for the hotel, room pricing and the feasibility of an alternate building site.”