Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Dormzilla Descends on UCSB title=
The Munger Residence Hall would stand 159 feet tall, just below the height of Storke Tower. | Credit: Courtesy
Reads 8049

This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Amid threats of litigation and increasing public pressure over its acute housing shortage, UCSB has resurrected plans for a massive, 11-story dormitory on the northwest edge of campus that would accommodate up to 4,536 undergraduate students. 

The structure ― to be named the Munger Residence Hall after its designer and financier, investor-billionaire Charlie Munger ― would replace an existing complex of maintenance facilities at the corner of Mesa and Stadium roads and provide a whopping 1.68 million square feet of work-live space, including single-occupancy bedrooms, communal “great rooms,” and plenty of amenities. No parking for the building is planned, but more than 3,000 spaces for bicycles would be provided.

A public review of the proposal is scheduled for later this month. For final approval, it must get the green light from the County of Santa Barbara, the University of California Regents, and the California Coastal Commission. If all goes smoothly ― an unlikely scenario given the scope of the undertaking ― the soonest the residence hall would be open for occupancy is fall 2025.

Above is a detailed look at two eight-bedroom suites that compose a “house” (six more suites fall out the frame) alongside their common areas. | Credit: Courtesy

While the project was first announced in 2016 alongside a $200 million donation from Munger, little progress had been made since then. That is, until an alliance of government officials and citizen housing advocates recently started pressuring UCSB to comply with its legally binding housing mandate, which the university has fallen far behind on, to the tune of some 3,500 beds for students and 1,500 units for faculty and staff. The group argues UCSB has repeatedly kicked the can down the road, with the shortfall exacerbating Santa Barbara’s existing housing crisis, manifested for local residents by rising prices, overcrowding, and longer commutes.

Campus planners announced the public review of the mega-dorm last Thursday, just three weeks after the citizen arm of the alliance ― who call themselves SUN, or Sustainable University Now ― sent Chancellor Henry Yang a not-so-veiled threat to sue if UCSB didn’t act, and fast. SUN gave Yang a deadline of July 18 to provide a detailed plan for how the school’s housing problem would be solved. The Munger venture appears to be part of that solution, though negotiations continue.

Paula Perotte, the mayor of nearby Goleta, said while she and her colleagues were glad to see UCSB moving forward with more beds for students, “we are disappointed in the lack of progress made in providing on-campus housing for faculty, staff, and their families.” The city is especially concerned “about the impacts to the regional housing supply and traffic,” she said. As part of the Munger project, UCSB said it would implement a new requirement prohibiting first-year students from bringing cars to campus.

In response to questions from the Independent about UCSB’s long-delayed 540-unit faculty housing project slated for Ocean Road, spokesperson Andrea Estrada said the university is “currently working with our developer partner to complete campus consultation over the summer with the goal of seeking UC Regents approval in fall 2021 or early winter 2022.” 

Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose district includes the university, said she and the county “look forward to UCSB and the UC Board of Regents making meaningful progress on this long-standing obligation to mitigate campus growth and prior student enrollment increases. They also, she said, “look forward to a clear timeline” for completion of the Munger project.

The new residence hall ― which would stand 159 feet tall, just a shade under the height of Storke Tower ― is not Munger’s first foray into college dormitory design. The Berkshire Hathaway vice president, whose grandson attended UCSB, planned and backed new graduate housing in 2013 at the University of Michigan, where he studied mathematics. In both instances, his multimillion-dollar gifts came with a catch ― the schools could only have his money if they followed his designs.

Charlie Munger previously donated $65 million to develop UCSB’s Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics. Here he stands with Lars Bildsten, UCSB’s theoretical physics director, in 2016. | Credit: Courtesy

Munger, who is 97 years old, blind in one eye, and losing vision in the other, has no formal training in architecture, but over the last decade has developed a passion for creating unconventional yet highly efficient blueprints for college living. Most of the bedrooms in his UCSB residence hall, for example, don’t have windows in order to coax students into common spaces where they can mingle and collaborate. The rooms would instead be fitted with artificial windows modeled after portholes on Disney cruise ships.

The rectangular building’s nine residential floors, the plans show, would be organized into eight “houses” divided by a single interior corridor branched by smaller hallways. Each house would include eight suites, and most suites would contain eight bedrooms, a common area with tables and chairs, a small kitchenette, and a television. Each house in turn would have a large kitchen, a common dining area, a game area, and a laundry room.

In a 2016 interview with the Independent, Munger called the “house” concept “a minor revolution.” And in a 2019 interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said he was confident that students would rather have single rooms and comfortable communal areas than windows. “The minute I saw that, I realized that was the correct solution,” he said. “And everything I thought before is massively stupid.”

The ground floor, the plans also show, includes a mailroom, copy center, classrooms, study areas, two lobbies, a market, and a bakery. The top floor would feature conference rooms and lecture halls, as well as lounges, game areas, a grab-and-go market, and a restaurant with pub-style food and drinks. Those spaces would surround an open-air atrium with landscaping and seating. Planners say the project would aim for at least a LEED “Gold” certification with an all-electric heating and hot water design and other sustainability-minded features.
The public scoping hearing, which opens a 30-day comment period, is scheduled for Wednesday, July 28, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. via Zoom at

Login to add Comments


Show Comments
Dontchaknow Jul 16, 2021 02:49 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Can we make this 97 year old megalomaniac live in a windowless box with nothing but a flat screen TV as a window for the period of time it takes to get this monstrosity built? See if he still thinks it's such a great idea then. Beautiful views in every direction and they are proposing windowless rooms in an 11 story dorm! Find the money elsewhere UCSB, why be forced into such an idiotic plan because one rich old fossil thinks it's a good idea?

LazyJ Jul 16, 2021 04:17 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Compared to what they are living in now in IV it will be quite an improvement. Should also help moderate rents across the region. I say bring it!

Minibeast Jul 16, 2021 05:39 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

DONTCHAKNOW: I think you missed this key bit of info: "Munger, who is 97 years old, blind in one eye, and losing vision in the other, has no formal training in architecture . . ." This nonagenarian with one leg on a banana peel only cares about leaving his mark. Let's hope the Coastal Commission deep-sixes this proposal.------As BDM 1868 pointed out----Water? Not to mention earthquakes + high-rises and swamp land don't mix. Isn't Mesa and Stadium near to Tecolotito Creek/wetlands?

Eggs Ackley Jul 17, 2021 06:33 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

College students don’t need a room with a view to thrive. Charlie’s a pretty smart guy with a bit of life experience. Sounds as though this critic never went to college.

Ahchooo Jul 16, 2021 03:29 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

I’m curious how this would meet building codes. Typically, bedrooms are required to have egress windows.

dukemunson Jul 16, 2021 05:16 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Yeah I don’t get that either… how are they bypassing the window requirement?

FernaldPoint93108 Jul 16, 2021 03:39 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Great design. Private rooms are a great trade off for no windows. I think it will be popular.

Byzantium Jul 16, 2021 03:59 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Temperature controls? Group, corporate or individual units. Have yet to experience a hermetically sealed building that provided universal comfort for all occupants, in different locations. Good start. Hope this makes a huge impact on local housing inventory options.

Dontchaknow Jul 16, 2021 04:29 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

There is absolutely no reason for the rooms not having windows other than Munger wants it that way.
Private rooms with windows could be achieved in the same foot print. Courtyard buildings that allow natural light for all occupants have worked for centuries but one billionaire takes a Disney cruise and thinks he's solved student housing, please. Why would you ever build an 11 story structure on the coast? let alone one without windows in habitable spaces!

FernaldPoint93108 Jul 16, 2021 10:38 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

DONTCHA: Private rooms could have windows with the same foot print of course. But that would require radically reducing the number of beds

BDM 1868 Jul 16, 2021 04:54 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Keep building, Where is the water coming from? Maybe Charlie should donate some for a new water source.

Ahchooo Jul 16, 2021 07:00 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Theoretically this housing is for the students that are already here, taking up housing that non-students could have (like some of the people who currently commute from Lompoc and Ventura). It’s part of the housing that the U agreed to build awhile ago, but didn’t.

Bird Jul 17, 2021 07:53 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

AACHOO, but you're not taking into consideration that UCSB is expanding its student population. This will be housing not just the numbers of those who are here now but the intended increase. That being so, there will be an effect on water; however, residential usage, especially dorm usage without gardens and other landscaping consumes much less water than a house, duplex or other such housing with a yard.

Ahchooo Jul 17, 2021 11:26 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Of course. More people means more water use. Even with low flow plumbing fixtures, people use water. We use less per person than we did in 1995, but we have so many more people, we are still using more overall. I wish UCSB would just stop growing.

SBSand Jul 16, 2021 05:25 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

No windows means that depressed or high students can't jump out of them so although it is sad to waste such a gorgeous view at the same time it may actually be a good thing.

What does concern me is the height so close to the airport. You can't even fly a dang kite at Goleta Beach and 11 stories sounds SO crazy tall for our coastal earthquake area. Yay for more housing though, it is so needed, lets get those students living on campus, it's about time!

a-1626487281 Jul 16, 2021 07:01 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

I don’t think I could live in it. I’d get claustrophobic.

shorebird Jul 17, 2021 11:12 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

I agree. A tiny room with no window is just a slightly bigger casket.

bicyclist Jul 16, 2021 07:19 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

And I thought I was good at humor: "he was confident that students would rather have single rooms and comfortable communal areas than windows. “The minute I saw that, I realized that was the correct solution,” he said. “And everything I thought before is massively stupid.”" Sounds as if he got the last part backwards?

a-1626504230 Jul 16, 2021 11:43 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

I'm all for it. Make UCSB responsible for their population. Take 4,500 people out of the rental market. Follow up on UCSB's housing commitment.
These kids will spend most of their time out of dorms on campus and in classes. They'lll have common areas and some recreation. And the outdoors. They are there to work at studying. This is short-term housing for those working at studying. I look forward to it being a working housing center.

What are all you people who complain about students' effect on local housing thinking?!
These students are already here using our water. This may empty out some rental units.
And no organization is better prepared to utilize conservation techniques.

SBSand Jul 17, 2021 06:18 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Totally agree! They can go outside when they want to, the beach is literally RIGHT THERE and it will reduce the students out in the city looking for housing and hopefully that will result in more options for the working people of SB. I don't know why so many people that wouldn't be impacted with the view of it or anything else are weighing in so heavily! UCSB needs more housing, they are finally going to do something to help make it happen, that is a great thing for our citizens outside of UCSB.

dukemunson Jul 17, 2021 11:23 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

This is an 11 story building that’s directly next to the airport… it’s going to stick out like a sore thumb! It’s ridiculous to approve this at 160 feet. Max should be 100’!!

PitMix Jul 19, 2021 11:18 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Not in the airplane landing paths, right?
UCSB is going to grow to accommodate our growing population. No one is volunteering to limit the size of their family below current levels.

If they don't go up, they have to develop horizontally.
Personally I support vertical development like this or the San Francisco Dorms.

dukemunson Jul 19, 2021 11:37 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

It’s not a flight path safety issue… it’s the ridiculousness of a) building this tall of a building in SB and b) doing so next to a huge flat area so it will stick out like crazy. This is wildly incompatible with SB and should be greatly downsized.

yacht rocked Jul 17, 2021 06:40 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Housing students like they are chickens in a factory farm shed is a brilliant commentary on industrial farming, and also reminds one of the second episode of Black Mirror, Fifteen Million Merits,

OAITW Jul 17, 2021 08:07 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Really simple. Admit 3500 fewer students. Problem solved. Save $200,000,000. Eliminate all the detrimental effects those 3500 students cause in our little town. Obviously too simple a solution for the brainiacs of UCSB.

dukemunson Jul 17, 2021 09:09 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

It’s a donation that they really REALLY want… but yeah why not halve the project as this thing is massive… 160 feet just doesn’t seem appropriate.

dukemunson Jul 17, 2021 09:07 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

I don’t think the lack of windows is a deal breaker, but 11 stories seems too high… I’d much prefer to see this capped at 7-8 stories. There are obviously tons of strings attached to the $200 million, but I wonder if there is a minimum number of students housed (in addition to the slightly bizarre no windows requirement) to get the money. Seems like a 2000 person dorm that’s only 100’ tall would fit in quite a bit better and have a much better chance of actually being approved and built.

mtndriver Jul 17, 2021 09:07 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

No way I could live in a room without windows. Ugh. Nice layout, apart from that.

a-1626538782 Jul 17, 2021 09:19 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Problem is if it is donated, people turn a blind eye. This is a ridiculous solution to a simple problem. Reduce UCSB admissions. We do not have the water.

NotReallyDave Jul 17, 2021 07:10 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Somebody, somewhere, needs to put the brakes on the what the State University system wants to do at each campus. Growth, growth, growth means the system gets bigger and more expensive for all taxpayers everywhere. "Get a job in government, a growth industry", now applies to the university system as well. We have pretty much lost control over our own governments. This is the next one we will lose to.

a-1626637838 Jul 18, 2021 12:50 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Well yes, but the state thinks that a certain percentage of high school graduates should be able to attend out state institutions, and the population keeps growing, so the colleges get bigger to accommodate the population. Our society seems to think growth is good. Personally, I’d be pleased if a good number of our population moved to Texas or wherever, but no body asked me.

FollowingScienc... Jul 17, 2021 10:02 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Absolutely horrific monstrosity with zero sensitivity to the landscape, site or views. Find another architect and start over.

chico berkeley Jul 17, 2021 10:22 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Belongs in Chicago,LA,or some other vertical community.

NostraChumash Jul 17, 2021 10:48 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Hold on..
Giant building..
No windows..
Circulated air..
That's a gawddamn Casino!!!

scott14 Jul 17, 2021 11:00 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

What happened to..."a legally binding 2010 Long Range Development Plan in which the university pledged to cap its enrollment at 25,000 students through the year 2025...???

In 2021 they've already grown the headcount above that. Where's our ENFORCEMENT of the "legally binding" cap on headcount?

bad427 Jul 17, 2021 11:02 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

As per our governors orders, minimum 8 story’s. UCSB, who never listens to its neighbors,arbitrailery will build this. No permits, no coastal commission, no county input. I just want to make sure everybody in goletagets their fair share of water. After UCSB gets done, our ration of h2o will be 7thimbles a week. Sound about right?

dukemunson Jul 17, 2021 11:23 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Where did governor say a project has to be at least “8 stories”?

Byzantium Jul 17, 2021 11:36 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Are elevators for these tall buildings still restricted to single party occupants only? How will that translate in time daily spent per student waiting and going up and down elevators.

bumblebee Jul 19, 2021 04:18 PM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Looks like Munger is building a giant lab to study air borne pathogens.

mp805 Oct 29, 2021 08:57 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Update to this story....

Byzantium Oct 29, 2021 09:10 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

Jobs-housing balance is a matter of municipal policy. Santa Barbara is not creating new jobs like Goleta area is. Santa Barbara has no duty to build "affordable" or 'workforce housing" for a housing demand it is not even creating. Just because those who work in Goleta would. rather live in Santa Barbara than Goleta, is no reason whatsoever to demand we destroy our communities quality of life just to respond to their continual and noisy demands. Keep it up UCSB - you enroll them, you house them.

Byzantium Oct 29, 2021 09:13 AM
Dormzilla Descends on UCSB

People choose to cruise in inside cabins all the time. Windowless rooms is not an off the wall suggestion- you use the room to change clothes and to sleep in, just like a cruise ship inside cabins. The rest of the time you can engage being out doors or in windowed social rooms. This plan works. Build it.

Please Login or Register to comment on this.