Billionaire will give UCSB big bucks to build innovative dorms

Written by

Capture9At a time when UCSB is trying to get more students to live on campus, Montecito billionaire and Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger has pledged $200 million to build new oceanfront dorms to house thousands of students. His plan is very specific (some call it unwieldy) and Munger has threatened to pull the funding if it’s not followed. 

This would be the largest gift in the university’s history, although Munger already holds that title. In 2014, he donated $65 million of his company’s stock to UCSB to fund a housing facility for physicists.

Noozhawk reporter Joshua Molina has been covering the story and spoke with KCRW.

Charles Munger speaks at the UC Board of Regents meeting on March 24th, 2016. Screenshot: UC Board of Regents

“He has a passion for building student housing and being part of the next generation of creative thinking,” Molina said about Charles Munger. In 2013, he donated $110 million to the University of Michigan for a similar housing project. In addition to being from Montecito, Munger has a grandson who went to UCSB.

This proposal comes at a time when the UC system is trying to increase the number of students who live on campus. According to Molina, this is especially important to UCSB officials, who worry the high density of students living in Isla Vista can often negatively impact the community.

“The university would love to bring those students out of those houses and apartments and back onto campus, and they see this project as part of that solution,” he said.

Munger wants to fit thousands of students into two oceanfront buildings on campus. The units would be shared, complete with shared kitchens.

“He’s got a philosophical take on it. He thinks if people live in shared environments, they are more creative. They learn from each other,” said Molina. “He thinks we need to separate from pods, and bring everyone together.”

At the meeting with the UC Regents in March, Munger made it clear he will take his money and go elsewhere if met with opposition.

“They’re going to want to work with him,” said Molina of the UC Board of Regents, “to make this project work.”

Munger wants to erect two tall buildings on 28 acres of oceanfront campus property. The site currently houses about 2,000 students in five undergraduate residence halls and includes a dining commons area. Screenshot: UC Board of Regents
The footprint of the proposed new student housing at UC Santa Barbara. Screenshot: UC Board of Regents