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"Rethinking the First UC Campus and Designing the Tenth at Merced"
February 10, 2000

Brian Boxer


CHANCELLOR TOMLINSON-KEASEY: Brian, would you like to enlighten us with two minutes of wisdom and thought?

BRIAN D. BOXER: I'll be happy to. Good afternoon.

I'd like to take just a couple of minutes and talk with you a little bit about some of the unique challenges that those involved in the physical planning of the new UC Merced campus face and which will ultimately affect the vision of that campus. We spent a lot of time today looking at visions of many of our existing campuses of which we are so proud, and which truly have created over many years unique spaces. And I as an environmental planner have looked at those and have worked on these campuses, and gone to school on a number of the campuses, have experienced over the years the ways in which the campus community, the campus development interacts and embraces the key features of the physical environment on each of these campuses is often what is some of the most unique and special character of the campus.

I just want to pick up, then, and move from that onto some of these special challenges. Regent Kosberg earlier today made reference to UC Merced as the first campus that will be designed and constructed under SEQA. And it just starts right there--it's the first campus that will be designed and implemented under SEQA, under the Endangered Species Act, under the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the myriad environmental and land use regulations that we have today. And those present and combined with the resources that exist on the Merced site as Chris mentioned earlier, truly do create some unique challenges.

Having worked with the University through first the site selection process, and then the more recent conceptual planning for the campus and its adjacent community, one of the things that I struggled with the planners, particularly in the siting, was a fundamental value issue, environmental value issue that is present in the San Joaquin Valley. And that is, if one chooses as a society to value prime agricultural land and preserve prime agricultural land, which the State of California and essentially every local community in the San Joaquin Valley has done through policy and ordinance, it forces you, and from a development pattern, into the low foothills. And so the fact that the site of UC Merced is in this general geographic area of the emerging Sierra Nevada, at that edge, where you have myriad vernal pools, wetlands, and other natural resource issues is not a surprise.

But in looking at these lands and in planning these lands, and in implementing the laws that we as planners must do, I often see and I guess I'm here today expressing concern, that often the method of implementing these laws is to turn our back on these features, to say, 'Let's stay away, let's stop, let's not embrace these.' And, in fact, the regulators that implement the laws often try to push us as planners and designers to do so. And certainly, in the case of UC Merced, that dynamic exists and is part of the challenge. In this case, the requirements of these laws will require permits to be issued by federal and state agencies before the first dirt is turned in order to implement UC Merced. And so the burden on the University and on the local community to implement these laws is paramount, in particular, given the time schedules that have been laid out.

So these regulations require us to prioritize the environmental resources in a way that goes beyond, I think, anything that has often been characterized through and implemented through campus plans. In fact, as those of us involved with UC Merced are working with some of the regulatory agencies, we have to go through a process to literally show that we are avoiding the impacts to the aquatic resources on the site, the vernal pools and the wetlands, to the maximum extent possible, independent of any other priority that may exist. That doesn't mean we have to adopt those same priorities, but we have to justify it under that same rationale. And so it truly creates a challenge in planning to try to bring forward some of the bold ideas to keep you prepared for innovation that's going to come in the 21st century, and to be able to reflect the character and plan for the character of campus that we saw earlier today in some of those other campuses.

So I'm going to close very quickly because I know we are short on time. But I'm just suggesting that these regulations truly are challenges that we have to meet. They are not such that we cannot overcome them, but I think they are such that they are going to require a new paradigm of planning from both the campus and community perspective, such that by implementing them, we don't turn our backs on the resources and the features of this site that is so special, a paradigm in which we embrace these regulations, we embrace these resources, but we don't acquiesce to them; we embrace them but we don't obliterate them--we obviously cannot do that. And in order to do that, I think it poses a challenge to Carol and her team of planners for a process that reaches out to balance the values of the campus and its community, of the local community, and of this broader community that is reflected in state and federal regulation. Thank you.

CHANCELLOR TOMLINSON-KEASEY: Thank you, Brian.



As Regional Vice President in EIP’s Sacramento office, Brian Boxer, AICP, specializes in the environmental and land use analysis of urban and downtown specific plans, redevelopment plans and major development projects for educational institutions, private developers, and public sector clients. He has extensive experience with the public presentation process. He served as Project Director for the University Community Concept Planning Process which laid the planning foundation for the future community that will develop around the UC Merced campus, and is currently serving as Project Director for the Merced University Community Plan and EIR. He has served as project manager or director for such diverse higher education projects as the award-winning Site Selection Study and EIR for the California State University in Ventura, the Stanford University San Hill Corridor Projects EIR, the UC San Joaquin Campus Site Selection EIR, the UC Davis LRDP EIR, the UC Davis Environmental Design Building EIR, The UC Davis CARTS Facility EIR, the Stanford University General Use Permit EIR, and the New Children’s Hospital EIR at Stanford. He holds an M.A. in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, Princeton University, and a BA in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

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