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Reaching Out UCSB: A Vibrant source for community spirit, partnership and pride

By Leslie Dinaberg on Apr 05, 2008 at 03:53 PM in Goleta Schools and Education

Goleta's proximity to UCSB helps enrich the community in a myriad of ways.

UCSB

As Santa Barbara County's largest employer, with almost 10,000 people on staff, UCSB obviously brings tremendous financial resources to the area. The university provides at least 5 percent of the county's economy and more than 8 percent of the South Coast's economy, according to Bill Watkins, executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

A critical point about UCSB's economic impact, Watkins says, is that “it's not a volatile source of economic activity ... Agriculture can be volatile, certainly manufacturing can, lots of industries can be very cyclical, and for the most part this is not particularly cyclical and it also has a fair number of pretty well-paying jobs.”

UCSB

But the dollars UCSB brings in are just a small part of its contributions to Goleta.

“In addition to being a leading research university recognized around the world, UC Santa Barbara is an integral part of our community,” said Chancellor Henry Yang. “Our public service mission includes working with our local partners to develop programs and projects to enhance the quality of life in this region. Our reach extends into many areas of activity, from educational outreach and economic forecasting to community health and technology transfer.

“We feel fortunate to be located in such a special, beautiful place, and our community is very supportive of our mission,” he continued. “In return we offer community members a rich variety of activities to sample and enjoy, from lectures and performances to athletic events, recreational programs and facilities, extension courses, and personal development classes.”

Vice Chancellor John M. Wiemann sounds a similar theme. “We are part of this community. We're here, we're your neighbors, just like you're our neighbors,” he said. “We breathe the same air, drive on the same roads, our kids go to the same schools. So we're really part of the community. We're people who coach Little League teams, participate in PTAs, do all the things that everybody else does who have other jobs, we just happen to work at the university.” The student body is another source of strength.

UCSB

“Probably the best thing we do is we bring 20,000 really smart, interesting kids here every year that contribute in a variety of ways to the local area, just by being who they are,” Wiemann said. “They volunteer here. … Students also provide a work force for local businesses, especially local merchants and hotels.”

UCSB also offers diverse cultural resources. Itzhak Perlman, Jon Stewart, Garry Trudeau, Bobby McFerrin, Amy Tan and Yo Yo Ma are just a few of the talented head-liners who will appear this year as part of the popular UCSB Arts & Lectures series.

“It is just a stunning list of people that otherwise wouldn't be in Santa Barbara,” Wiemann said. “No matter what your intellectual interest is, you can find somebody at UCSB talking about it every month.”

In addition, the university and the UCSB Affiliates share a wealth of enrichment with the community. Recent programs include “Health Care, Mortality and Obesity” “Nuclear Nations,” “Sustainability,” and visits to the Los Angeles Opera.

Sports are also a big draw. In December, thousands of fans cheered on the men's soccer team to the national championship. The school also fields teams in women's soccer and softball; men's and women's basketball, cross country, golf, swimming, tennis, track and field, volleyball and water polo; and men's baseball and golf.

Along with the full spectrum of spectator sports, the UCSB Recreation Center is the workout site of choice for many Goleta Valley residents who use its swimming pools, gymnasiums, weight rooms, squash courts, racquetball courts and climbing wall. The university also runs several after-school and summer recreation programs for children, including community athletic coaching, aquatics classes, gymnastics school, junior lifeguards and a surf and kayak camp.

With all of the vibrancy, energy and resources that UCSB brings to Goleta, the university also shares in one of the community's biggest challenges, the high cost of housing. “The most pressing issue for the campus is the issue of faculty and staff housing,” said Marc Fisher, associate vice chancellor for campus design and facilities. “We are anticipating about 400 retirements over the next 10 years. Of course, we'll have some new hires as well. But that's a big number.

“If you think about the housing situation in Santa Barbara and Goleta, when those faculty members retire or go on to another position, the house that they purchased when they purchased it would be unaffordable to incoming faculty. We need to have a supply of housing that's available for faculty and staff that is affordable so we can make sure that we can continue to retain high quality faculty and staff,” he said.

Wiemann agreed that it is an issue of recruiting. “Just like any other company in town will tell you, it's tough to recruit people into a community where the median house price is over a million dollars,” he said. With the goal of affordable housing for employees in mind, Fisher and his team of architects, designers and planners have developed an extensive long-term plan for potential housing sites on campus.

The primary goal is “to use campus properties effectively to assist in resolving some of the university's most pressing problems: the need for affordable work-force housing for faculty and staff, and for expansion of the stock of housing for students,” explains the document, which acknowledges that booming regional real estate prices have made it “extremely difficult for the university to recruit and retain high quality faculty and staff” so long as employees alone bear the housing burden.

The principles that will guide future housing decisions include: building affordable housing; building diverse housing types (including for-sale single-family houses, condominiums and townhouses, and for-rent apartments) for faculty, staff and students; incorporating principles of sustainability so new buildings will meet or exceed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Standards; building neighborhoods, not projects; preserving and celebrating the environment; and minimizing car dependency.

“I think the thing that this study showed is that we have quite a bit of additional capacity on site and that before we really went out and purchased property we would try to use what we have already,” Fisher said. “We think it's the most sustainable model.”

“There's a wonderful term, self-mitigating … that lets the campus be here and work very closely with the community but lets the campus keep a lot of its impacts very close to the community,” he added. “We think that actually has the potential to turn into a very rich academic community in and around the campus.”

The Coastal Commission, which must approve all construction projects on the UCSB campus, recently approved one such housing proposal. The North Campus faculty and Sierra Madre family housing developments eventually will supply a total of 323 units. The two projects are north and east of Ocean Meadows Golf Course.

Currently under construction is an additional student housing project, San Clemente Housing. Graduate students will be the first ones eligible to live in the 327 apartments along El Colegio Road.

“We'll be occupying that in summer 2008,” Fisher said. While Goleta has had its share of arguments about growth, Fisher says the community has been generally supportive of UCSB's need to create more housing.

“We're not building on open space or building on areas that aren't already developed, we're not taking the agricultural lands,” he said. “Plus, the housing is really close to work, so it's kind of an ideal model in terms of development.

“I think it's going to be a very strong community, frankly. There has been generally a pretty good reaction to it.”

An added benefit is the blending of faculty and staff with the student population. “It's going to make it a richer environment, a more traditional college town,” he said.

Also popping up soon - in March - is the new Mosher Alumni House. “I think it's going to be a fantastic building,” Fisher said.

Designed by local architect Barry Berkus — a former UCSB student who was named by Residential Architect Magazine as one of the 10 top residential architects of the 20th century — the project takes full advantage of its spectacular location at the formal entrance to the campus on Mesa Road.

Expansive, 180-degree views can be seen from the roof of the building, from Hope Ranch to the Channel Islands to the Santa Ynez Mountains all the way to the Gaviota coastline. “It's pushed out so far from the north edge of campus that it really has sweeping views,” Fisher said. “It's quite striking.”

Expected to break ground in February is the first fully donor-funded complex at UCSB, the new Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television & New Media. The facility will be connected with two other new academic buildings, a social science building and the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Located across from Robb Gym in parking lots 20 and 21, the three buildings constitute about $100 million worth of work, according to Fisher.

There are also several projects nearing completion on Pardall Road, including a parking structure on the west side of campus, a student resource building and a new theater and dance building, said Fisher.
“The master plan really tries to build buildings in a very logical fashion,” he explained. “It tries to build better social breezes between the buildings and a much richer landscape, and I think we've done that. There's a nice open plaza we just put in, and it's a much different entry sequence from Isla Vista into the campus now. Now you come in it's not just a parking lot, it's actually a very pleasant walkway into campus.

“Starting next fall we're going to make an addition to the Engineering Two building,” he added. “We have about $870 million worth of work on the campus. It's quite a package of construction.”

It is indeed a lot of construction. There are also some renovations of existing buildings taking place, with UCSB's commitment to environmentalism behind its recent agreement with the U.S. Green Building Council to use LEED for Existing Building standards in 25 of its existing buildings over the next five years. LEED is the national benchmark for high performance green buildings.

UCSB already has completed one successful LEED project in Girvetz Hall, and plans to eventually make all of its existing buildings LEED-certified. Bren Hall, home of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, is a leading example of sustainable architecture and is the only laboratory building in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's Platinum Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design accreditation. The program sets the highest standard for sustainable buildings for the future and is being used as a model for facilities and operations throughout California.

The Marine Sciences Building is UCSB's second LEED for New Construction-certified building. Featuring ultra-low water-use fixtures, preserves natural landscapes and habitat, and the building is 25 percent more energy-efficient than mandated by California's strict codes. The Student Resource Building, which is nearing completion, also will be LEED-certified.

Within those buildings, UCSB's connection to its environment is even more evident. “The local environment presents … interesting teaching and research opportunities and we try to take advantage of that,” Wiemann said. “We have a very strong marine science program, strong ecology in various places all over the campus. The students, like the rest of our community, are very concerned about the environment.”
A highlight of UCSB's strong environmental studies program, Wiemann said, is the Bren School, “one of the three best in the country.”
“The Bren School was started by a group of scientists and biologists in different departments who were interested in environmental issues,” he said. “They wanted to create a professional school that was training people at the graduate level to … work in environmental areas, giving them the training and credentials to work either for government or nonprofits or industry.”

Many of UCSB's professors also are involved in Goleta's local industries, particularly the high-tech sector.

UCSB

“We have a very entrepreneurial faculty,” Wiemann said, “especially in science and engineering. Many of them have started companies or developed technologies that have gone out and been commercialized.”
In fact, UCSB faculty, staff, students and alumni have been fundamental in the development of the Central Coast Region's high-tech nology economy. According to the Technology Management Program, a business program within the College of Engineering, more than $650 million in venture capital funding for UCSB spin-offs has been generated in the past 36 months and, during that same period, more than $7 billion in mergers and acquisitions has come from UCSB spin-offs. More than 30 percent of the UCSB engineering faculty are entrepreneurs and more than 175 UCSB alumni or faculty have founded high-tech companies, primarily in Goleta and adjacent areas.

Thanks to its academic, environmental, athletic and entrepreneurial accomplishments, UCSB is becoming more prestigious and renowned all over the world.

“People are recognizing the quality of this place,” Wiemann said. “It's always been very good, but our reputation is catching up with our reality.”

As UCSB's top official, Chancellor Henry Yang is justifiably proud. “I think it's fair to say that UC Santa Barbara's presence is a vital part of this region's well-deserved reputation as one of the most desirable living and working environments in the country.”

For more information about UCSB and resources available to the Goleta Valley community, visit www.ia.ucsb.edu/ps/index.aspx

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Reaching Out UCSB: Une source vive pour l'esprit de solidarité, de partenariat et de fierté
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