UC Santa Barbara
Ucsb Munger 64c8d83c7d324

University of California Santa Barbara appears to back away from controversial student housing proposal

Aug. 1, 2023
The university is seeking new proposals for the site where the 3,500-bed Munger Hall was to be built.

The University of California, Santa Barbara, has begun to back away from a controversial plan to build a massive student housing development that has been dubbed "Dormzilla."

The Santa Barbara Independent reports that the university has issued a formal “request for qualifications” this week for architectural firms to design a new student housing project at the same campus location previously reserved for Munger Hall.

The overall project, it says, will deliver 3,500 undergraduate student beds ― the same amount promised by investor-billionaire-turned-amateur-architect Charlie Munger in his plans ― and cost between $600 million and $750 million.

Munger Hall plans called for a nine-story residence hall for 3,500 students. Billionaire Charlie Munger said he would donate $200 million toward the $1.4 billion project under the condition that he call the shots when it came to design.

Munger’s unorthodox blueprints of the nine-story, hyper-dense structure placed residents in small, single-occupancy bedrooms, more than 90% of which did not include windows and instead featured LED fixtures meant to mimic daylight. 

Last December, after five months of review, UC Santa Barbara’s Faculty Senate released a 200-page report that said Munger’s vision posed “significant safety risks that are predictable enough, probable enough, and consequential enough that it would be unwise for UCSB to proceed without significant modification to the design.”

The panel expressed serious concerns about the mental-health consequences of packing so many students into such small rooms without natural light or fresh air. And it insisted the project needed to be changed in five key ways before it could be deemed acceptable:

― “Operable windows” added to each multi-bedroom suite

― Bedroom sizes increased “to match or exceed” that of existing on-campus single bedrooms

― Size and mass of building reduced

― Population density reduced

― Cooking appliances and kitchenettes added to each suite

Based on survey responses from hundreds of students who toured the display model of a Munger Hall floor, the panel concluded Munger’s plans for communal kitchens were impractical in the extreme.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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