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Fate of UCSD chancellor’s house yet to be decided

The school has struggled for the last couple years with the decision of how to procede with the chancellor’s house, which has been empty since the summer of 2004.

The university has determined that the existing residence at 9630 La Jolla Farms Road is in need of extensive repairs and improvements, including seismic retrofitting, a new roof, electrical and plumbing upgrades and ventilation improvements to correct a mold problem.

UCSD has considered renovating the property, demolishing the existing house and building a new one, and selling the property and using the funds to build a new chancellor’s house at another location.

Now the school will begin to prepare an environmental impact report that will determine what impact the renovation or replacement of the house would have on the environment and the surrounding neighborhood. A scoping meeting was held Oct. 24 that allowed residents to offer input on what specific issues the enviromental report should address. Members of the public can also submit comments about the process by the end of the day Thursday, Nov. 2, to the school’s office of physical planning.

Only two members of the public spoke at the meeting, where an intitial report on the possible impacts of construction at the site was also released. The report stated that construction could have an adverse impact on sensitive species in the area, disturb an archaeologically significant site and alter the drainage and runoff characteristics of the bluff on which the property is located.

The archaelogical concerns were brought up at the scoping meeting by Courtney Coyle, an attorney representing a Native American named Carmen Lucas. It is known that there are human remains of the Kumeyaay band of Native Americans at the site of the chancellor’s house, and Coyle expressed concerns about the impact the demolition and replacement of the house would have on the burial area.

“She said that a Native American monitor should be present at all times on the project site when there is any excavation or disturbance of the site,” said Milt Phegley, director of UCSD’s campus planning office. “The Native American groups are looking for no impacts to the site beyond the existing residence, and she also stated that her client believes the original residence on the site now should be restored and preserved rather than being removed.”

La Jolla Shores Association President Sherri Lightner also spoke at the scoping meeting to express her hope that the original home would be preserved.

The home was designed in 1949 by Santa Fe-based architecht William Lumpkins, who designed several buildings around La Jolla, including the portion of the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library that includes its distinct rotunda.

The initial report on the project states that the house could meet eligibility requirements for listing in the California Register as an important work of a master architecht.

But Lightner’s comments focused more on the impacts of the use of the house on the surrounding neighborhood. In addition to serving as the chancellor’s actual residence, the house is also used for receptions and fund-raising events that can draw large numbers of people.

Lightner asked that the school consider renovating the existing house to make it suitable for the chancellor and look to hold the public events elsewhere.

“Any public functions over 12 to 20 people should be done elsewhere, off site,” Lightner said. “The neighborhood up there is a single-family neighborhood, and functions with 200 people could have impacts.”

Phegley said the environmental report will examine the impacts that large public events have on the area, including parking concerns. School representatives at the scoping meeting said that events at the chancellor’s house draw a maximum of 200 people.

The university plans to complete a draft environmental impact report by summer 2007, then complete a final report by fall 2007. It has also set a construction schedule that calls for work to begin in July 2008 and be completed in late 2009.

“That’s assuming a replacement of the existing residence,” Phegley said.

Phegley said the university would not make a decision about whether to replace or renovate the existing house until the environmental report is complete. The University of California regents approved a $7.85 million plan in July 2006 to replace the home, but Phegley said no decision has been made.

Comments on the environmental review process can be submitted until the end of the day on Thursday, Nov. 2, to Catherine Presmyk at the school’s Pepper Canyon Hall, suite 464.

For detailed information about the plan, visit physicalplanning.

ucsd.edu/pubnotice.html.