Rendering of the housing project | Credit: Courtesy

The spot where Munger Hall is not being built on the UC Santa Barbara campus, now destined for a traditional building containing 2,250 rooms and lots of windows, was approved for clearing by the state Coastal Commission on June 12. SpaceX’s expansion of launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base was also on calendar for the day, but the review was postponed due to the complexity of the issues, commission staff said.

Seventeen buildings occupy the six-acre site that comprises UCSB Facilities Management’s garages, trailers, storerooms, and fueling station. An 11-story dormitory without bedroom windows was envisioned there by the late Charlie Munger, who offered the school $200 million of the $1.6 billion price tag to raise his concept without alteration. However, the community uproar over a windowless dorm near the ocean and the national outcry against “Dormzilla” resulted in a change of tack. The Coastal Commission approval of the three months of clearing was conditioned on it occurring outside nesting season, which runs February 15 to September 1.

SpaceX launches have been shaking windows from Lompoc to Ventura, and a future of a launch every three days brought out concerns for wildlife impacts, as well as for the nine-volt batteries falling with the five-to-eight weather balloons that accompany each launch. SpaceX and the Department of Defense propose to triple the number of launches from 36 last year to 120 or more in 2026, but the snag for the commission is whether SpaceX is indeed a federal contractor since 75 percent of flights are commercial.

Space Force officials expressed a willingness to compromise by bringing Lompoc elementary students to the beaches annually and to shuttle Jalama Beach visitors away during launches, rather than closing the beach for safety’s sake. This is the second postponed hearing, and the next is tentatively scheduled for August.

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