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Empty Chancellor's House Raises Questions : Education: Young moved out of UCLA mansion last year. Regents will vote on reforms in executive benefits, including a ban on housing allowances if a university house is provided.

December 08, 1992|LARRY GORDON | TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

The campus residence for the UCLA chancellor bespeaks the power, culture and resources of a great American university.

The elegant Florentine-style house, nearly 11,000 square feet, is surrounded by seven acres of lush landscaping. Inside, walls are lined with valuable paintings, including a Picasso and an Utrillo. The wood-paneled library is stocked with books and sculptures, and there are beautiful Oriental rugs throughout.

One thing, however, is missing: No chancellor lives there.

After 23 years in the house, UCLA chief Charles E. Young moved out last year. With the help of a $41,700 annual housing allowance awarded by UC regents and $995,000 in subsidized UC mortgages, he resides in his own home about 30 miles away, in a gated community in Thousand Oaks.

Young and other officials say the campus house, built in 1930, needs seismic strengthening, new plumbing and wiring, air conditioning and other expensive repairs. Despite those conditions, it is still being used for formal entertaining.

"It is not unlivable, but it is very uncomfortable. And there are very substantial elements of danger in it," Young said during an interview at his campus office. He said water pipes frequently break and that a fire in an electrical generator interrupted a reception for possible donors a few years ago.

Yet several UC officials now concede that Young's move probably would not be approved today. The atmosphere surrounding UC executive benefits has changed since a furor erupted last March over the large severance package for outgoing UC President David P. Gardner. In light of the controversy, some regents are questioning Young's housing arrangement and suggest that his successor should be required to live on campus.

The UC Board of Regents will vote on reforms in executive benefits--including a ban on housing allowances if a university-owned house is provided--at a meeting Thursday in San Francisco.

"We should have provided him with a temporary residence until it was repaired," said regent Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, recently elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The regents' unanimous vote in March, 1991, to allow Young to live off campus and to grant him the housing stipend "just went too far," she added.

"It's a highly sensitive matter," said another regent, who requested anonymity. "You've got this mammoth house that is sitting there vacant and the question is: 'Why?' "

Young contends he moved, in part, to save renovation expenses in case it is decided to replace the estate with academic buildings. In a January, 1991, report, UCLA facilities managers said University House, a two-story structure of unreinforced brick, would need about $1 million in repairs over 10 years. It said another $1.8 million would be required for regular maintenance, staff salaries, utilities and replacement of the extensive landscaping.

Young acknowledged that he and his wife, Sue, also had personal reasons for the move to a $1.17-million house in the Sherwood Country Club development in Ventura County, where actor Tom Selleck and New York Mets pitcher Bret Saberhagen are among their neighbors.

"We lived on campus for 23 years. I don't know how much longer I'm going to be (chancellor), but it's not going to be 23 years. It's going to be three to seven, somewhere in that neighborhood. . . . We concluded that it makes sense for us to think about where we want to live when I'm no longer chancellor and to begin making that kind of transition," said Young, who will be 62 in a few weeks.

Documents show that Young received a 30-year loan of $497,500 from a systemwide fund that seeks to match interest rates to the rate of return other UC investments garner; the adjustable rates are generally lower than other mortgages. His second $497,000 loan, from a UCLA campus fund, requires a balloon payment for the balance after eight years; at that point, the school shares in any net appreciation of the house's value.

Young received the loans under programs available to many faculty and administrators. Thomas P. Roberson, who helped conduct an audit of UC executive compensation for the state auditor general's office in August, confirmed in an interview last week that Young's arrangement was not unusual. But the audit did not examine whether such loans "are appropriate or inappropriate," he said.

Young's annual salary and deferred income total $204,900 and he also receives use of a leased car.

On Thursday, the UC regents are expected to reaffirm an old, although frequently ignored, rule that chancellors must occupy the official houses "as condition of employment for the convenience of the university."

Under the proposed rules, exceptions still could be made if a house is too small or decayed. But Ronald W. Brady, the UC system's senior vice president for administration, predicted that exemptions will rarely be granted. "We will be more restrictive," he said.

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