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University Religious Conference to sell Hilgard Avenue property

The University Relgious Conference at UCLA put its building on Hilgard Avenue up for sale after experiencing financial difficulties. (Kathy Chen/Daily Bruin)

By Benjamin Siu

April 8, 2016 1:39 p.m.

The University Religious Conference at UCLA, which houses several student organizations, will vote to sell its Hilgard Avenue property April 14.

The URC building, built in 1951, hosts a variety of religious and campus-affiliated organizations including UCLA UniCamp and Meals on Wheels of West Los Angeles. Janet Doak, URC Board of Directors president, said the URC decided to sell the building after experiencing financial difficulties and declining engagement from students.

Doak said the URC Board of Directors will vote Thursday to ratify the sale of the 22,494 square-foot plot, adjacent to the W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills hotel, after real estate management company NAI Capital finalizes the sale.

The URC is a religious coalition founded in 1928 to foster interfaith cooperation and community service, according to its website. The conference has since expanded from seven to 15 member organizations, including those representing Islam, Hinduism, Baha’ism, Sufism, Buddhism, Judaism, Catholicism and several denominations of Christianity.

Doak said the URC is not dissolving, and the board of directors will find other places to meet.

Randy Sheinbein, senior vice president at NAI Capital and president of the UniCamp Board of Directors, said UniCamp will move out of the URC building and into the John Wooden Center by April 15. He added he thinks a closer location will allow for better engagement with undergraduate students.

Sheinbein said UniCamp will also form an official partnership with UCLA Recreation after its relocation, and UCLA Recreation will provide additional camping and retreat opportunities for participants.

Steve Sann, chair of the Westwood Community Council and former chairman of the Board of UCLA UniCamp, said the URC advocated for social change through projects like Stevens House, a residential co-op that opened in 1948 to provide housing for female students facing racial discrimination.

Project India, a student ambassador program developed out of the URC in 1952, sent UCLA students to counter anti-U.S. propaganda in India by engaging in debate and discourse with locals, Sann said. He added he thinks Project India was instrumental in the creation of the Peace Corps.

Sann also said he thinks the most well-known URC branch is UCLA UniCamp, which was founded by the URC Student Board in 1935, but now runs independently. Every year, UniCamp sends more than 1,000 low-income children and 450 student volunteers to summer camp in the San Gabriel Mountains.

Ellen Horwitz, executive director of Meals on Wheels of West Los Angeles and URC board member, said finding another space is inconvenient, but she is confident she will find a suitable replacement. Horwitz added she thinks the building’s dilapidated infrastructure and appearance has not improved much in the 39 years that she has been there.

“It’s been useful to us, but it’s just not cut out for today,” she said.

The URC will use the money from this sale to continue its mission of interfaith work on the UCLA campus and in the surrounding community, Doak said.

“’The University Religious Conference is not a building, it is a mission,’” Doak said, quoting her husband and former URC executive director Rev. Charles Doak.

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Benjamin Siu | News contributor
Benjamin Siu is currently a news contributor covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles.
Benjamin Siu is currently a news contributor covering Westwood, transportation and Los Angeles.
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