Editorial: UC Board of Regents should approve proposal for new affordable housing
Aug. 6, 2023 11:21 a.m.
Editor’s note: Editorials do not represent the Daily Bruin as a whole. The board encourages readers to respond to our editorials at dailybruin.com/submit.
Faced with some of the highest rent prices in the nation, students are left scrambling to find limited affordable housing in Westwood.
Starting spring 2024, the demolition of Gayley Towers – the oldest university apartment complex and the site of 565 Gayley Ave – is projected to begin to accommodate space for new university co-living units. According to Urbanize LA, the eight-level building, designed by architecture firm Mithun, will have 187 bedrooms and up to 545 beds provided.
Of these beds, 65% will be set aside at lower-than-market-value rates of $600 per month, while the remaining 35% are to remain at standard pricing. The building is expected to open its doors to students in fall quarter of 2026.
That is, if the UC Board of Regents approves the proposal when the university presents it to the board in September.
Of course, the Regents should approve this project next month as a necessary part of UCLA’s efforts to make student housing more accessible. However, we also believe it’s pressing to address not only the implications of approving this project, but also to approach the core issue of affordable housing in Westwood.
For one, the new dorm-esque triple unit residence containing over 500 students, in which tenants on each floor will share kitchen, living room space and communal bathrooms, starkly contrasts Gayley Towers’ current occupancy plan, which only houses approximately 100 undergraduate students in 51 studio-style units.
The university’s ability to house 400 more students, with 358 at more affordable rates, cannot be understated. That’s at least 358 incoming or returning Bruins who might worry a bit less about having a roof over their heads.
The redevelopment plan of Gayley Towers comes amid the university’s already significant progress to house more undergraduate students. While other UC campuses face various legal challenges in attempting to mitigate the housing crisis, UCLA has made great strides to further increase its housing occupancy less than a year after its completion of four new apartments: Gayley Heights, Tipuana, Palo Verde and Laurel.
Previously, UCLA became the first UC campus to guarantee four-year housing for incoming first-year students and two-year housing for transfer students as part of the 2016-2026 Student Housing Master Plan. According to the June 26 Public Meeting on the project, completed student university housing projects from 2018 to 2023 have added 5,300 beds to UCLA’s total housing inventory, which now stands at 18,800 beds.
The redevelopment of 565 Gayley Ave. is the university’s newest effort to focus more on affordable housing to continue its decades-long transition from being a commuter campus to being a residential campus.
This new objective comes at a much-needed time as Westwood is known to be one of the neighborhoods in California with the highest apartment rent rates. In 2019, Westwood was named California’s most expensive place to rent an apartment for the second consecutive year at a whopping average rental price of $4,994 a month.
According to UCLA Transportation’s annual report, over 15,000 undergraduates commuted to campus in 2022, a 3% decrease from previous years. Further developments like Gayley Towers are likely to decrease the number of students commuting.
By planning to also reduce housing costs by nearly 60% compared to the average market-rate in Westwood will ease further financial burdens for low-income students, allowing them to focus on academics and success at the university.
Although lower rent and more beds to accommodate more students do seem like they are needed, there are also other issues that need to be considered about this new project.
According to the preliminary plan, the new building will not be equipped with a parking garage for its residents.
Currently, Gayley Towers offers 63 parking spaces with its three-level parking garage. The demolition project means one of the eight existing university apartment parking garages that are desperately sought after by student drivers will be eliminated.
Another potential issue has to do with the co-living style of the building. If all goes to plan, residents on each floor will have to manage making three meals a day while sharing a “large” kitchen with more than 70 students; a setup for conflict and disaster.
Offering students a meal plan can help mitigate this problem. However, in the past UCLA has barred students living off-campus from purchasing meal plans.
Despite the plan’s imperfections, the Board finds no significant reason as to why this project should not move forward as any progress to make Westwood a more livable place for students is urgently needed.
Come fall 2026, we hope to see not only Gayley Towers – but also other university-owned residences across Westwood – as a safe haven for so many more Bruins.