The Munger Residence Hall would stand 159 feet tall, just below the height of UCSB's Storke Tower. | Credit: Courtesy

The war of words is escalating between UC Santa Barbara and a coalition of community groups taking the university to task over its housing shortage and what it called a “far-reaching storm of questions and criticisms” over the proposed Munger Hall project.

In a January 10 letter, SUN (Sustainable University Now) attorney Marc Chytilo repeats a demand for information from UCSB about its legally binding pledge to the organization to provide 5,000 new student beds and 1,800 units for faculty and staff. Chytilo asks for “a detailed description of the planning, permitting, development, and completion of construction” of any new developments as well as “a timeline for performance with specific milestones and guarantees.” He notes the letter is SUN’s fourth formal request for information since 2019 and that the City of Goleta recently filed a lawsuit against UCSB over its chronic housing shortage.

With respect to the controversial Munger Hall plan, which calls for 4,500 undergraduates to be housed in a single massive building with few windows for individual units, Chytilo said SUN wants to know the interim milestones (draft EIR release, project approval, California Coastal Commission review, etc.) that must be met for the dormitory to open in fall 2025 as planned. Also, if any specific restrictions exist on the $200 million in funding offered by billionaire financier Charlie Munger; where the remaining funds will come from to complete the estimated $1.5 billion endeavor; and if potential changes requested by the Coastal Commission would affect the project’s overall viability. In short, Chytilo wonders, if Munger Hall goes down, what is UCSB’s plan B for new housing?

In her response, UCSB attorney Nancy Greenan Hamill never addresses Munger Hall directly, only stating, “Plans are well underway for the addition of 4,500 additional student beds by Fall, 2025.” She notes UCSB has added 1,500 student beds since it signed its Long Range Development Plan agreement with SUN in 2010, and that the university is “continually addressing student housing need in a variety of ways.”

“You should also be aware,” Hamill continues, “that some of our housing problems can be attributed to the failure of an elevator in one of the on-campus dormitories,” which pulled 180 beds out of circulation “The elevator replacement part should be delivered and the repair complete by early Spring, which will free up an additional 180 beds for students,” she explains.

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