A bit of claustrophobia is not a unique experience in on-campus housing. With UC-mandated enrollment increases, UCLA is going to have to start spreading students out instead of cramming them in.
Last week, UCLA revealed five proposed sites where it could add residence halls or apartment buildings to provide room for 6,900 new undergraduate beds. The expansion will help accommodate the UC Board of Regents’ 2015 vote to admit 10,000 more California students into the system and the increasing demand for greater on-campus housing guarantees.
The regents will discuss UCLA’s proposals Wednesday and choose from the variety of projects to add at least 4,200 new beds. Instead of forcing more residence halls onto the Hill, the regents – and UCLA – should prioritize the proposed off-campus housing options, which are far more practical and affordable solutions for students and administrators alike.
UCLA’s five proposed housing developments include three residence halls and two apartment buildings. The residence halls would be constructed near the Tom Bradley International Hall, the Lot 15 parking lot near the Saxon and Hitch Residential Suites and along the upper-west portion of Drake Stadium. The apartment developments would replace the UCLA Extension building and Warren Hall with two-bedroom apartment units, creating room for about 3,500 beds.
The apartment projects are the most necessary additions to student housing options. UCLA’s university apartment inventory is limited, with only nine buildings, but they tend to be more affordable than regular apartments. In its housing report, UCLA officials said a January 2017 study found university apartments are about 20 percent cheaper than privately owned apartments. Apartment hunting has never been easy for UCLA students, especially since the Westwood rental market is the most expensive in the city.
The addition of university apartments would help alleviate the stress on students looking to move off the Hill. Prioritizing the Extension and Warren university apartment projects would provide housing for 3,500 students, and expanding this inventory is necessary for helping students attain affordable housing – a rarity in the North Village.
While the university should focus on apartment units in the near future, more dormitories are inevitable. Of the three residence hall proposals, UCLA and the regents should prioritize the Lot 15 project. It perfectly fits in the Hill’s current configuration, makes use of an undeveloped lot and seems least likely to disturb the balance of the Hill’s resources.
The Drake and Bradley sites, on the other hand, would dramatically cut green space on the Hill – not to mention the projects would inconveniently encroach on existing facilities. Moreover, the Hill is already crowded with its more than 11,000 residents, and adding more than one residence hall would further congest students’ dining and study space options.
UCLA’s proposals as a whole are not without their problems. Building on Lot 15 would erase 136 parking spots, and the proposals solely focus on undergraduate housing concerns – leaving graduate students out of the equation. Graduate students constitute a sizable portion of UCLA’s population and ultimately spend more time at UCLA than undergraduates, and the current graduate housing guarantees are minimal in the face of Westwood’s brutal housing market.
UCLA has always been creative in terms of housing, and it has made room for more than 8,000 additional students in the past 30 years. While the impending enrollment increases have placed a burden on campus housing, UCLA is not without its options.
Expansion is inevitable, but building wisely to accommodate affordability, balance resources and serve all students should be at the forefront of the regents’ minds Wednesday.