UCLA, looking to maintain its standing among major research and teaching universities, unveiled an ambitious, long-range development plan Thursday that would increase its total physical plant--including classrooms, residential space, offices and medical facilities--by one third over the next 15 years.
The plan, announced by UCLA Chancellor Charles Young, involves a major foray into university-owned land on the southwest end of Westwood Village. It includes a residential village for 2,700 graduate students and faculty and a much-disputed conference center on what is known as Lot 32, a finger of land that reaches down from the main campus and abuts Wilshire Boulevard, west of Gayley Avenue.
"UCLA has risen quickly to the ranks of the world's premier research universities," Young said. The proposed expansion will enable it to "continue that ascent and remain a valuable asset to the community" while acquiring the staff and technology necessary "for us to make a contribution which is needed in the 21st Century."
Despite assurances from Young that the plans would not adversely affect the area, the announcement immediately raised concerns in the community about traffic congestion and livability in one of Los Angeles' most crowded and popular areas.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 15, 1990 Home Edition Part A Page 3 Column 1 Metro Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
UCLA Growth--A March 9 story about UCLA's long-range development plan misstated the school's estimated growth in student enrollment. By 2005, the university estimates that enrollment will reach 35,200 students, an increase of 526 from the current level.
"The amount and the intensity of the plan may be more than the area can handle," said Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, a UCLA graduate whose district includes Westwood.
Young insisted, however, that the university's goals can be achieved without increasing traffic. "We're prepared not only to state that can be done, but we are prepared to live with the restriction" that there be no increase in traffic, Young said.
The blueprint--essentially a land-use plan--also envisions building a new 600-patient hospital, with the existing Medical Center converted into offices and auxiliary health services, including research space.
No dollar figure has been placed on the facilities, as each one must be approved and funded separately over the years. The total, Young said, would be "a lot. It's more than I'd like to go out and raise immediately."
The proposed UCLA construction must compete for limited state education funds. The UC system is also pushing an ambitious plan to build three new campuses that could drain away resources. Despite the planned building boom that could add 4.45 million square feet to the current 13.3 million square feet of facilities, Young denied that it is a plan for growth.
"It's not an expansion plan," Young said at a news conference on campus. "UCLA is not in an expansion mode."
Only a minor increase in the student population is anticipated, he said. The student body is expected to grow by about 1,500 from its 34,674 students now. Faculty and staff population is expected to rise by about 4,000 in the next 15 years.
Young said the proposals are a necessity in UCLA's mission to continue to attract top faculty and students by providing state-of-the art research facilities and an intellectual milieu that fosters excellence. Faculty and students are now squeezed into space that has long been inadequate, he said.
Community leaders, many of whom are among the Westside's slow-growth activists, are not convinced that such major development would leave Westwood Village and its neighbors untouched. Representatives of two homeowners' groups called Young's assurances "ludicrous" and "a bad joke."
While applauding UCLA's goal of retaining its standing as a preeminent university, Yaroslavsky said the goal must be accomplished in a "way that does not undermine the quality of life of their neighbors."
Yaroslavsky said he is not convinced by Young's contentions that the plan would not detract from the area.
"I think UCLA clearly has to be poised for some skepticism on the part of the city and the community," he said. "It is impossible that 4 million square feet of building is not going to generate traffic. It's hard to fathom."
According to a 1987 city transportation study, Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue just east of the San Diego Freeway was the busiest intersection in Los Angeles with 126,000 cars passing each day. Ed Rowe, general manager of the city's Department of Transportation, estimated that the figure has grown between 5% and 10% since then, with no end in sight.
In its promise not to add to this glut of cars, Young said the university will gear up its already successful programs of car- and van-pooling. In addition, the residential village, which was suggested to the school by community groups, will reduce traffic because people who now commute to the campus will be able to walk.
Young also noted that the long-range plan does not provide any new parking spaces because "construction of parking places will generate more trips." However, 3,000 already-approved parking spaces will be constructed; and where parking lots are used for construction sites, those spaces will be replaced elsewhere.