University of California to purchase Westside house for UCSC chancellors

The Westside Santa Cruz home the University of California will purchase as residence for UC Santa Cruz chancellors
The University of California Board of Regents approved the purchase of a home for UC Santa Cruz chancellors on Santa Cruz’s Westside. UCSC first started leasing the home in 2019.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The UC Office of the President is purchasing the Westside home in which Chancellor Cynthia Larive and her husband have lived since 2019, to be used as UCSC’s official chancellor’s residence. Officials didn’t confirm the purchase price for the home, which most recently sold for $1.8 million in 2018. For decades, UCSC chancellors lived in University House, which was built on campus in 1967. That house, which was a source of protest and tragedy, was deemed uninhabitable in 2015, and estimates to repair the home reached $10 million in 2019.

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The University of California Board of Regents has approved a plan to buy a home on Santa Cruz’s Westside to serve as the official residence for the UC Santa Cruz chancellor.

UCSC spokesperson Marc DesJardins said the UC Office of the President is purchasing the home in which Chancellor Cynthia Larive and her husband have been living since 2019.

He added that UCSC isn’t providing any funding toward the purchase of the house. “We do not have the money as a campus to go buy that property,” said DesJardins.

The UC’s purchase of the home was approved in a closed session of the regents’ meeting last week. Ryan King, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, told Lookout that the office isn’t providing additional information about the purchase until the close of escrow.

King didn’t confirm the purchase price, whether UCSC will pay the UC to lease the property, the reason why the UC was purchasing the home for UCSC, or the escrow closing date.

For decades, UCSC chancellors lived in University House, which was built on the school’s campus in 1967. George Blumenthal was the last chancellor to live there, as the residence was deemed uninhabitable in 2015. Blumenthal finished his tenure as chancellor in 2019 while living in his Saratoga home.

After UC regents rejected an estimated $10 million budget to renovate University House in 2019, the campus announced it would lease a home for Larive, the incoming chancellor.

Neither King nor DesJardins would confirm the address of the house. However, using public records, Lookout confirmed the home near West Cliff Drive was most recently purchased in 2018 for $1.8 million. In 2019, UCSC officials said the university was leasing the home for $6,700 a month. DesJardins said he didn’t know if the lease agreement had changed since then.

Across the UC system, chancellors have a variety of living situations. UC San Diego’s chancellor lives in that school’s University House — which required a $10.5 million renovation — located in a neighborhood adjacent to the university. That project was funded by donations, including $1.5 million from the UC Office of the President. The $1.5 million donation came out of the Searles Fund, an endowment that supports university expenses that can’t be covered by state funds.

At UC Berkeley, University House is used as a campus reception venue and the chancellor lives in her own home near campus.

The former official residence of the UCSC chancellor was built in 1967 and deemed uninhabitable in 2015.
UC Santa Cruz’s University House — the former official residence of the UCSC chancellor on the school’s campus. It was built in 1967 and deemed uninhabitable in 2015 due to structural issues.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

As for UCSC’s 56-year-old University House, DesJardins added that university officials haven’t yet decided what to do with it. The university will go through a campus reimagining process to help decide the future use of the land.

“The importance of University House was clear to me well before my days as chancellor,” Blumenthal said in a 2019 news release. “For students, staff, and faculty, attending an event at U House was always so memorable. It felt almost like being invited to the university’s living room — a comfortable and personal space for special friends and for the campus family.”

In a 2019 announcement about the plans to renovate the house, UCSC officials said it previously hosted an average of 60 events with a total of 1,500 guests annually.

UCSC officials said at the time that the UC Office of the President was committed to paying up to half of the project’s $10 million budget. The rest of the funding would have come from an internal loan, and no tuition or state dollars would have gone toward the project. However, the regents told UCSC officials that $10 million was far too expensive.

University House — which sits idle across Meyer Drive from the Department of Music — has also been a source of protest and tragedy for UCSC.

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Chancellor Denice Denton, who served from February 2005 until her death in June 2006, was heavily criticized by media and students for her recruitment package and a reported $600,000 in renovations made to University House — some at her request.

As part of Denton’s recruitment, the UC Office of President also hired Denton’s partner, Gretchen Kalonji. Anti-LGBTQ newspaper headlines and columns targeted Denton for the recruitment package that included Kalonji’s hire.

While Kalonji lived in an apartment in San Francisco, Denton lived in University House alone and feared for her safety, according to an oral history of UCSC, “Seeds of Something Different.” “Student protesters barricaded her car,” per that oral history, a sign was thrown through her window, and a UCSC student wrote a City on a Hill column saying she would park her car on Denton’s lawn.

“Seeds” lists “unrelenting attacks,” personal struggles and health problems as great challenges in the months leading up to her death. Denton was suffering from depression in addition to these struggles, according to the Sentinel, when she died by suicide on June 24, 2006.

In “Seeds of Something Different,” longtime UCSC Public Affairs Director Jim Burns said the “extensive negative coverage” of the entire UC system at the time about budget issues likely didn’t help Denton.

“Those were very difficult times for UC as a whole, a fact that probably didn’t help Chancellor Denton,” he said, according to “Seeds.” “The president at the time, Robert Dynes, rightly or wrongly, had been pulled into a lot of media coverage about UC executive compensation.”

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