UC San Diego comes alive with $6 billion in projects in the pipeline

Jeff Graham, UCSD executive director of real estate, discusses the planned Pepper Canyon West student housing development.
Jeff Graham, UCSD executive director of real estate, presents a rendering of the planned Pepper Canyon West student housing development to Friends of San Diego Architecture.
(Courtesy of Jeff Graham)

The UC San Diego campus in La Jolla is in a major state of change, with $6 billion in projects underway, planned or proposed.

Friends of San Diego Architecture presented UCSD’s executive director of real estate, Jeff Graham, for a Feb. 26 talk on the projects the university has coming down the pike.

Graham said UCSD operates with a strategic plan that “influences a lot of the real estate-related land-use plans and guidelines.” The Long Range Development Plan is updated every 10 to 12 years, he said. The most recent was adopted in 2018.

With rising student enrollment expected to continue, the focus of much of the planned development is on student housing and “enlivening the campus” for students and staff, Graham said.

Housing “has been one of our top priorities; it has been hard to catch up with our growth and student enrollment,” he said. The goal is to have 65 percent of students living on campus, with more than 10,000 new beds planned in the next 10 years.

The university recently completed construction of the North Mesa Graduate Student Housing building with 3,550 beds and the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood with 2,000 beds.

The five-building Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood is under construction and will have 2,000 beds along with a conference center, hotel rooms, classrooms and retail. It is scheduled to open in fall 2023.

In January, the University of California regents approved construction of Pepper Canyon West, which will include 1,300 beds for upper-division and transfer students. Construction is slated to begin in June for a fall 2024 opening. The facility also will have 6,000 square feet of retail, including cafes and shops facing the VA Medical Center.

Also coming this year are completion of the 2,850-seat, open-air Epstein Family Amphitheater, which is expected to host 300 performances a year; Franklin Antonio Hall, a free-standing building that will feature 200,000 square feet of laboratories, classrooms, faculty offices, meeting space, an auditorium and a cafe as part of the Jacobs School of Engineering; and the Marine Conservation and Technology Facility, with laboratories for Scripps Institution of Oceanography students and a two-story building to house a 100-student forum and a cafe.

The next lab that campus leaders plan to develop is tentatively called the Campus Multi-Disciplinary Research Building on a site that is currently VA Medical Center parking. The potentially 300,000-square-foot facility would provide general-purpose wet lab space to support health sciences programs and other campus research needs. Graham said it could be shared by different scientific disciplines.

Along with the new facilities, upcoming efforts are intended to “activate” current outdoor spaces with more seating in landscaped areas, ground-floor retail and games along some of the main walks, and things such as farmers markets, pop-up coffee carts and craft fairs.

Though Graham focused his talk on changes taking place on campus, he said the university also “is a major occupier of commercial property in the county. … We lease about 1.2 million square feet of space off campus in privately owned buildings and we own over 600,000 square feet of buildings we have acquired in the last five years.”

Thus, he was asked how the university would relate to the surrounding community.

Graham said he has lived in San Diego since 1984 and “was always intimidated to come anywhere on or near the UCSD campus. I would get lost, I never knew where to park … it seemed uninviting to someone that wasn’t a student or faculty member. We have been trying to break down these barriers and make it more inviting to the community.”

“One of my goals over the last few years was to attract better-quality restaurants,” he said. “So we’re bringing the restaurateurs that students love to campus. We hope the community will come to experience these amenities.”

Watch the full lecture at ◆