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Strategic Planning For a New Century: An Interview with Tom Lollini

Posted February 9, 2000

Tom Lollini, director of physical and environmental planning, spoke recently with Berkeleyan Associate Editor Cathy Cockrell about the New Century Plan and its regional approach to strategic planning for the campus's future needs.

Q: The campus is currently involved in a number of intense and involved planning projects, and there's a fair amount of confusion about them. Could you give an overview of planning projects currently in the works?

A: The big overarching process that we're involved in is the New Century Plan, a strategic facilities master plan, which will inform decision making on campus projects. It incorporates our planning associated with seismic retrofits of buildings vulnerable to earthquakes and with deferred maintenance for our aging buildings and infrastructure. The plan looks at the highest and best use of our facilities and our properties and funding strategies to pay for needed improvements, as well as addressing our programmatic needs for new academic initiatives and technology. And then finally we're looking at quality of campus life, how to create a setting that truly fosters the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

Q: Past planning efforts looked primarily at the core campus, but the New Century Plan goes further.

A: Yes. The New Century Plan is not just looking at the core campus. We're also looking at all the campus properties in the environs -- the south side, west side, the Hill area, Richmond and Albany, as well as potential possibilities in downtown Oakland.

Q: Misconceptions about the plan?

A: For the New Century Plan, we brought private consultants in, who are used to doing broad, strategic planning. One of the components of that kind of process is to put all possible options out on the table, as a vehicle to engage people in a dialogue and reaffirm people's views and values. What is really a document to enable that process to take place has been mistaken by some for a plan.

We're currently in the early stages of this strategic planning process, and what we're doing is identifying opportunities, possibilities and defining the campus values: what's most important to the campus and to the various constituencies -- faculty, staff, students, as well as members of the community. And the community that we're talking to is not just Berkeley; it's Albany, it's Richmond, it's Oakland.

Q: So with an expanding number of players involved, it sounds like the planning process is quite complex.

A: Yes. Because there are many other activities going on in planning, and in construction as well. We've been engaged in the development of a Southside Plan with the city for over two and a half years. The draft Southside Plan was just released Jan. 18, and there was a public meeting on it Jan. 26. That same week we had our second community meeting on the New Century Plan. The Southside Plan is an attempt to create a common vision between university, community and city about the future of the Southside. Q: And within the area south of campus, you also have the Underhill project. How is that related to the Southside Plan?

A: Within the Southside area, the university has initiated the Underhill Area Master Plan, which includes housing for 700 to 900 students, as well as new dining to replace the facilities at Units 1 and 2. That has been moving along on a separate but parallel track with the Southside Plan. Meaning that it's a university planning process, not a joint university-city process. However, we have had five public meetings on Underhill over the past few years, and comments from these meetings have influenced the plan considerably. Additionally, the planning we've been doing regarding Southside has informed the Underhill area planning. These processes all began a few years before we began the New Century Plan.

Q: You mentioned downtown Oakland. Does the campus own property there?

A: No, but we jointly funded a study with the city of Oakland to explore the feasibility of creating housing there -- housing for students, faculty, researchers. We are looking at several sample sites, seeing how many units you could fit, as well as the financial feasibility. A key issue over the longer horizon is that the university's ability to recruit and retain the world's best faculty and researchers is affected, in part, by those people's ability to obtain housing they can afford.

Q: Would that be part of Mayor Jerry Brown's plan to bring 10,000 new residents to downtown Oakland?

A: Yes. We were contacted by the Oakland Redevelopment Agency on this. We're beginning a conversation about the possibility of mechanisms for private-public funding of a project or projects that would include the university and the city of Oakland as public partners. The results of the current study are expected in the next month, at which point we will bring the findings into the conversation about the New Century Plan.

Q: While we're jammed for space on the central campus, just a few miles away, in Richmond, is a large chunk of campus-owned land. Now there's talk, of developing that property, and of its under-appreciated assets.

A: The campus has long looked at Richmond as a future possibility, but has never come to closure as to what the campus would like to achieve in Richmond. For the first time, we are looking at a wide variety of options to develop a critical mass of activity to make it attractive.

At the Richmond Research Campus, or what was once called the Richmond Field Station, we have nearly 100 acres of usable space with glorious views of San Francisco across the Bay. It's located at the bend in 580, about a mile north of its intersection with I-80. So we're talking about very good access from the regional interstate highway system. And with the new regional ferry system being planned, under a new authority, Richmond and Berkeley are both likely sites for ferry terminals. It's also located in the heart of a developing research corridor in the south shoreline area -- research in biotechnology and high tech.

Q: In Albany -- besides replacing graduate student housing at University Village, are there other plans in mind?

A: We're replacing or renovating all 920 housing units in two major phases. The first phase, replacing approximately 400 units that date to 1940, we will complete later this year. What we do with the newer units, built in the 1960s, depends on a study to see which option -- replacing or renovating the units -- is more cost effective.

In terms of other projects, we're reconsidering a land lease of portions of the property, along San Pablo Avenue, for external development. And we're very near completion of the sale of more than seven acres, the parcel at 4th and Harrison, to the city of Berkeley, for a skateboard and soccer recreation complex. We're working with the city of Albany, which wants to do the same with another seven acres located near the railroad tracks. Between those two, you'd have a 14-acre complex, which would be great for the cities and for the more than 3,000 people who live at Albany Village.

Q: Does the New Century Plan's "regional approach" -- looking at options from Richmond all the way south to Oakland -- represent a move toward conceiving of the campus community differently?

A: You can think of a triangle, consisting of Oakland, Richmond and central campus. Between Oakland and Richmond, connecting them, is I-80, which is becoming a research corridor, primarily for biotechnology and software companies. The university has been a primary contributor to formation of that technology, feeding brain power into these industries of the Bay Area.

So it's worthwhile to consider: How can we integrate the university's basic research into what is happening with industry? How can we develop stronger partnerships, and are there opportunities there, especially in light of a major new research initiative that the campus is undertaking, the Health Sciences Initiative?

Can Richmond, or Oakland for that matter, be a place where the university and the private sector come together in jointly funded research partnerships? Should we develop live/learn environments that are different than the traditional Berkeley experience of living in or near the central campus, but equally rewarding?

The campus has never done this strategic approach before. Using strategic planning for an academic institution -- where you look at the most effective ways to achieve its core mission -- is very innovative.


February 9 - 15, 2000 (Volume 28, Number 21)
Copyright 2000, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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