UCSB’s vanity is showing and it is ugly as sin.

UCSB has made the first steps towards building Munger Gulag, oops, I mean Munger Hall. There has been ample coverage of what makes this proposed building a blight on the South Coast and threat to the mental wellbeing of students. I want to point out a different perspective.

The UC has a long history of accepting private financial contributions to partially fund vanity projects for the donor. For example, individuals “donate” their archives to (1) clear out their attics and (2) get a hefty tax deduction. Another example would be a donor who makes a minimal donation to name an endowed chair in the study of a topic that is of interest to one person: the donor. This produces a nice tax benefit and a huge vanity boost for the person whose name is on the chair in perpetuity.

The problem is that these vanity naming projects are subsidized by public tax monies and take those limited funds away from better projects.

Munger’s vanity project should be rejected by the UC Regents and the UCSB leadership. The cost to the taxpayers for Munger’s monstrosity is $1.5 billion (and certainly more, with typical overage costs).

Munger is making a gift pledge of $200 million to get his name listed as amateur architect on the building. UCSB’s Development and PR departments get to crow about a $200 million grift, oops, I mean gift.

I was on the Santa Barbara Planning Commission when UCSB submitted its long-range plan for a courtesy review. The UC is not required to pass through the normal development channels of the city and county. UC can pretty much build whatever it wants, despite potential impacts to water, traffic, circulation, public utilities, and community resources. One impact that was unavoidable in the UCSB long-range plan was the connection between adding some 40,000, I think, people to the campus region and the need for their housing. Unwanted commuter traffic jams and spikes in rental costs were balanced by the offer of new housing in Goleta.

Housing and development have stepped up to meet the need. But the Munger vanity project was never anticipated. An 11-story grey prison-like building is unnecessary in every way.

Munger said: “People are mad because (I am) forcing a design down their throats they don’t agree with, and (I am) not willing to budge.”

Actually, I am mad that $1,499,800,000 California taxpayer dollars will be spent on an ugly vanity project — that is the California taxpayer matching $7,500 to Munger’s miserly $1.

Make your voice heard at the California Coastal Commission and the UC Board of Regents, where there will be opportunities for public comment and final findings and approvals must be made.

Take your ball and go home Charlie.


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