Officials Plan University House Renovations

    John Hanacek/UCSD Guardian

    Plans for the renovation of the University House — the official residence of UCSD chancellors since 1967 — are in full swing after the university received a $2-million donation from Audrey Geisel in December.

    The house — located at 9360 La Jolla Farms Rd., across the street from Revelle College — was closed in 2004 due to structural damage and the discovery of Native American artifacts under its foundation.

    Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, who has held her position since April 2004, has never lived in the house and currently lives in her own private residence.

    UCSD’s physical planning department released an environmental impact report on Jan. 28. According to the report, the 60-year-old house does not meet current safety standards for natural disasters, and its roof and plumbing need replacement. In addition, the bluff on the south side of the property is eroding due to water runoff, tree roots and major winter storms.

    In 2008, the campus created a University House advisory group with local community members to oversee reconstruction of the house and to be culturally respectful to the Kumeyaay — the Native American tribe whose ancestors were buried on the site.

    The advisory board decided the house should be rehabilitated instead of being demolished. Currently, the renovation is estimated to cost between $8 to $10 million.

    The cost is due to the necessity of attaching a roof. The remodel will also update the house’s drainage program and build a wall along the adjacent bluff to halt erosion. Renovators will also have to work around the Kumeyaay remains on site.

    The university attempted to fix the damage and received $5 million in donations from San Diego philanthropists such as Geisel and Irwin Jacobs.

    The university spent $440,000 on an architect, but the prospect of repair was met with protest and animosity from the public and alumni due to the bones buried under the house.

    In early December 2010, Geisel — the widow of Theodor Geisel, or Dr. Seuss — donated $2 million for the house’s reconstruction project in honor of the university’s 50th anniversary celebration. This donation revived reconstruction plans.

    “The $2 million gift from Audrey Geisel will help to pay for the renovation to University House,” UCSD spokesperson Judy Piercey said. “All costs for the renovation will be paid by philanthropic donations and other non-state resources.”

    This renovation will be monitored by the advisory board. According to advisory group chair Brian Gregory, the group includes representatives from the Native American community at large, the Native American community of the Kumeyaay Nation, university faculty, the Office of the President, the La Jolla Historical Society, the Executive Architect and campus staff.

    “Our plans will be to disturb as little of the soil as possible, so we are not planning to ‘excavate the Indian artifacts,’” Piercey said. “We are working closely with Kumeyaay observers.”

    The advisory group estimates that construction could start as soon as Fall Quarter 2011 and finish within a year. Rehabilitation of the house is believed to show the university’s respect for the Native American culture.

    “Rehabilitation will allow UC San Diego to enhance, respect and celebrate the cultural and historic significance of the property in such a way that it maintains its integrity and the respect for the Native American community,” Piercey said.

    Attorney at law Courtney Coyle — speaking on behalf of her client Carmen Lucas, a member of the Laguna Band Indians and a Native American monitor — expressed concerns regarding the project at a public hearing on Feb. 24. She said that the cultural precautions already set out may be insufficient, as Kumeyaay bones have previously been removed from the site.

    “I feel that the university has hoped to let it decline and rot on purpose in place of filling it in,” community member Pat Granger said at the same meeting.

    When fixed, the house will also serve as a public reception forum for members and friends of the university.

    The university house is currently on the California Register of Historic Resources, the National Register of Historic Places and is classified as a sanctified Native American cemetery and sacred site.

    The environmental impact report draft is now available online. Public input based on the draft and its recommendations will continue through March 31.

    The final report will be released in April and design approval will be determined in May.

    The project and design plan will be submitted to the UC Board of Regents this spring. If the plan passes all stages of advisory board approval, construction will begin in Fall Quarter 2011.

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