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LRDP: Crafting a guiding vision

03 September 2003

Professor Bill Webster, vice provost for academic planning, and Ed Denton, vice chancellor for capital projects, recently sat down with the Berkeleyan to discuss the new Long Range Development Plan. Work on the plan officially launched this month and will undergo review and revisions in the coming months. The plan, slated to go to the UC Regents in late 2004, will guide campus growth and development from 2005 through 2020.

What is the 2020 LRDP?

Denton: Simply put, it is a guide to how we’re going to develop our facilities over the next 15 years. It is not dissimilar to a city’s general plan, where they talk about the goals for the future of the city, what those goals mean in terms of the scale of new development, and where this development should take place.

The reach of the areas that we’re looking at covers the central campus, the environs around the campus, and those facilities we have up on the hill. Our existing LRDP expires in 2005, and we have reached the growth limitations established under that plan; so that in itself is a reason why we need a new LRDP.

The LRDP identifies where we envision specific changes will take palce. It’s everything from a recognition of the powerful architecture and significant landscape that exist on this campus —and in some cases the tight proximity of buildings on this campus — and a recognition that there really is limited space for growth.

Explain the role of two important campus documents in shaping the 2020 LRDP — the Strategic Academic Plan and the New Century Plan.

Webster: In the last two years a committee of faculty, staff, students, and administrators developed a Strategic Academic Plan, which is a road map for how we are going to develop the academic component of the university over the next 15 years. In the course of developing the plan, we had more than 20 public forums and presentations, and were able to develop a consensus on our strategy for the future.

The plan identifies the qualities that set Berkeley apart. We found out, for instance, that it was an essential part of the Berkeley experience to have all of the educational academic programs on the single campus footprint. It is very much a part of the Berkeley experience to have students rub shoulders with colleagues, to have them meet one another, talk, share ideas, test ideas. We need to make sure that whenever we build a building or redo some part of the campus, we include places that are inviting for students, faculty, and staff to sit and talk with each other. This is a critical element of the LRDP.

Another goal of the academic plan is to integrate research more and more into our undergraduate teaching. We want our students not only to have the knowledge they would get from a lecture class but to have the experience of participating directly in first-class research with faculty noted for their research. This takes more space than we have now. If we are going to keep our position as one of the world’s top universities, we need to have more and better research facilities.

What was an adequate laboratory 50 years ago just is not adequate today. It’s both the nature of the work as well as the way it is done. We’re dealing with micro-machines, and macro other things. And, increasingly, as research is done by multidisciplinary teams working together on complex problems, the work they do relies more and more on sophisticated technology and infrastructure.

Denton: The New Century Plan builds on the Academic Plan by creating a vision for the physical evolution of the campus. This vision serves as a guide to help ensure that every capital investment we make is the best possible solution for the campus. Above all, we need to preserve the great legacy of landscape and architecture we have at Berkeley. The heart of the campus has the look and feel of a park, and this park-like character is a big part of what makes Berkeley such a memorable place. We need to protect natural areas and ensure that new buildings are sited and designed to enhance the quality of the campus environment.

For example, if we’re going to develop a building in the classical core of campus, we must consider the elements of a classical building. This can be done by respecting the geometry of classical buildings, and by using similar materials and architectural features like sloped tile roofs. The new East Asian Library will be a great example of this.

When we talk about spaces of interaction it’s more than just, say, putting a lounge in a building. It’s grouping offices and grouping labs so that certain interactions take place at the appropriate location. Some older buildings may not lend themselves to that. We’ll take an old Stanley Hall and replace it with a new Stanley Hall; but we’ll take a Giannini Hall and maybe find different uses for it. Maybe old LeConte will be predominantly offices, and we’ll locate research labs in buildings more suited to the type of research that needs to take place.

The Strategic Academic Plan and the New Century Plan provide the LRDP with guiding principles for how we want to change the campus. The new LRDP will focus on the changes we envision over the next 15 years.

The new 2020 LRDP also will have to address some difficult issues involving growth, parking, student housing. How will you address the forceful competing interests?

Denton: We’re never going to make everyone happy. Parking is a great example. There are some people in the city who want to see no new parking spaces. And there are people on campus who say we need to double, triple our parking. So we’ve got to find a balance to build what we need to support the campus but also not minimize the successful programs we have developed with car pools and public transportation. It’s really about finding a balance.

The 2020 LRDP will consider growth options for the campus, including up to an 18 percent increase in academic and support space and an increase of up to 30 percent in both parking space and student housing. What role will the city of Berkeley and its residents have in shaping the new LRDP?

Denton: As we develop the LRDP and its EIR, we must have a lot of interaction with city government and the populace of the city and the campus. We will listen and respond to their concerns. For example, our projections for parking recognize that there are only so many places where we can build it. That’s one issue. A second issue is that we do recognize the city’s concern that if you build more parking spaces, more people will come.

While we have thought very carefully about the amount and types of facilities we believe the campus may need over the next 15 years, we intend to do an equally careful job of figuring out how to accommodate those needs in ways that enhance the quality of life in Berkeley.

Will the state’s economic problems and resulting UC budget cuts affect the 2020 LRDP?

Denton: Many of our buildings are funded through state bonds or contributions from donors, and neither of those are currently affected by the state budget issue. In the long term it’s possible that bonds may become more expensive and there may be less money available for future construction. But for now all of our projects are separate from the state budget crisis.

UC officials have directed Berkeley to enroll 4,000 additional students between 1998 and 2010, yet the new LRDP will seek to limit enrollment. Tell us about planned enrollment limits.

Webster: We already have enrolled 3,200 of the 4,000 additional students. If we were to enroll more than 4,000, we could not accommodate them all on the central campus footprint. That would dramatically change what we have here at Berkeley and would compromise the education we give our students.

Why is the quality of architecture and landscape on campus important to the academic mission?

Webster: There is a subtlety to the interaction between the appearance and feel of the campus and the educational mission. As Ed mentioned earlier, the campus is park-like; it has a feeling of openness and freedom. The classical core of the campus, with its old and elegant buildings, is a very subtle reminder of our history and tradition of excellence. All together, the campus impresses upon our faculty, our students, and our staff the responsibility to uphold our unique heritage. Our special environment truly invigorates the way we approach education.

What will be the main difference between the current LRDP and the new 2020 plan?

Denton: The New Century Plan defines the capacity of the campus to accommodate growth, and — just as important — how we need to guide and shape this growth to preserve and improve the campus environment. The new LRDP will draw upon this vision as it responds to what the Strategic Academic Plan tells us about facility needs. In the past we didn’t have this kind of analysis or guidelines. Now that we have them we’re ensuring that, for the next 50 to 100 years, the campus will grow and develop in away that will make all of us proud.

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