MERCED - The University of California, Merced today (Nov. 7)
released two major planning documents that provide the most
detailed preview to date of the proposed layout, character and
sustainability objectives for the campus, as well as environmental
impacts of its fully developed campus and associated university community.
The publication of the 2009 Draft Long Range Development Plan
(LRDP) and a corresponding Draft Environmental Impact
Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) is the latest step
in the process of developing a model 21st century campus and
securing regulatory authorization for construction of the campus
and university community, a contiguous development of housing and
commercial services supporting the campus.
Both documents are updates of earlier reports, necessitated by
the university’s decision,
announced in October 2007, to modify the size and configuration
of its planned development to reduce impacts on vernal pool
wetlands, achieve greater land-use efficiency and accommodate
future needs of the planned 25,000-student campus.
“We are extremely pleased to provide this fresh and more
comprehensive look at the type of campus and community we intend to
build over the next 20 to 30 years,” said Steve Kang, UC Merced
chancellor. “The thoughtfully revised layout makes excellent use of
space and natural features of the campus topography while reducing
impacts on wetlands by about one-third, compared with the previous
plan. We believe it will create a rich, attractive, highly
interactive learning environment for our students and a welcoming
atmosphere for all who visit.”
Kang said the new plans also reinforce UC Merced’s stated
objective of setting new standards for environmental stewardship
“UC Merced has already earned recognition from the U.S. Green
Building Council and the American Institute of Architects for the
design and construction of facilities that make wise and efficient
use of water, energy, light, building materials and other
resources. The progressive planning framework, policies and
processes reflected in these documents will accelerate that trend
during the remaining phases of development.”
LRDP presents form, character, quality of planned campus at
The 2009 Draft Campus LRDP revises the footprint and expands
upon the sustainable planning principles of the original LRDP
published in 2002, three years before the campus officially opened.
The revisions incorporate the input of students, faculty, staff,
community members and local elected officials solicited through an
extensive series of planning workshops held over the past academic year.
The plan addresses not only the form and character of future
development but also establishes ambitious new objectives for
sustainability and environmental stewardship. The university
believes the plan can serve as a model of sustainable,
higher-density development for the region, with its projected rapid
population growth and environmental challenges.
The draft LRDP describes a campus built around a 200-acre
“academic core” that includes classrooms, laboratories,
administration, research and development and related activities.
The core will be developed in four parts - the Gateway District
(the primary campus entrance and “public face” of the campus), the
North Campus (the current campus, which will be largely complete by
2012), the Central West Campus (phase 2) and the Central East
Campus (phases 3 and 4).
Embracing the academic core to the north, northwest and
northeast will be four student neighborhoods built on 225 acres.
These areas are commonly served by a major open space and
recreation area formed by the North and South Bowls. Each
neighborhood will house about 2,000 to 3,000 students and will be
served by a defined central open space flanked by dining,
recreation and other student services and support.
Two other neighborhoods will be housed along north-south Main
Streets connecting through the academic core to the adjacent town
center of the community. These will be linear mixed-use districts
with housing above student services, dining, recreation and other
street-activating uses. Housing options will include traditional
residence halls and apartments in various density configurations.
The goal is to accommodate approximately half of the UC Merced
student population on campus.
The balance of the 815-acre campus complex will be allocated to
athletics and recreation, passive and active open space, campus
services and parking.
The entire campus will be interconnected through a series of
broad sidewalks, bike paths, limited-access streets and transit
options for convenience and ease of navigation. The layout will
make it possible to walk from the academic core to most other
locations on campus within 10 minutes. Streets will be lined with
trees for shade and aesthetic and environmental value.
“One of the most intriguing aspects of the plan is how its
physical form and pattern of development distinguishes itself from
traditional campus models,” said Thomas E. Lollini, FAIA, associate
vice chancellor for design and construction. “While located next to
an expansive natural landscape, its form and density are urban in
character, with interior park spaces formed by the natural
topography and linked by canals meandering through the grid to
create variety and interest.”
Lollini said planned densities for the future campus and
community are considerably higher than typical in the Central
Valley, allowing for a more accessible campus by foot or bicycle,
minimizing environmental impacts and modeling future growth in a
region projected to see its population increase very rapidly, while
also conserving its rich agricultural resources.
The revised LRDP also sets new standards for sustainability and
environmental stewardship by raising the bar on UC Merced’s
previously stated goal of achieving LEED Silver certification for
all buildings on campus. (LEED, or “Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design,” is a program of the U.S. Green Building
Council that rates structures on various aspects of environmental performance.)
“By early next year we will have achieved LEED Gold ratings on
six of our first nine projects,” said Lollini. “This accomplishment
has led us to set our sights on a minimum of LEED Gold for future projects.”
No other university in the country has established an equivalent
goal, Lollini said.
In addition, the LRDP adds a new “triple-net-zero” goal for
the university: to consume no offsite or nonrenewable energy, to
produce no net carbon emissions, and to produce no landfill waste
by 2020. The campus also commits itself to minimizing water
consumption and exploring the feasibility of achieving water neutrality.
The LRDP may be found at
EIS/EIR addresses wetlands impacts, mitigation measures
The Draft EIS/EIR examines the environmental effects of full
development and notes the reduced impacts the revised footprint
will have on seasonal wetlands found within the 815-acre campus and
the northern and southern portions of the proposed university
community. It specifies that roughly 85 acres of wetlands will be
affected by the combined development, compared with approximately
121 acres in the previous plan.
The improvements are the result of the university’s decision,
announced in 2007, to reduce the size of its fully developed
campus, from an originally proposed 910 acres to 815 acres, and of
the university community, from 2,115 to 1,951 acres. The revised
layout also reduces wetlands impacts by repositioning portions of
the future campus and university community further south and east
of their originally planned locations. The footprint shift is
completely accumulated within the holdings of the University
Community Land Company, LLC (UCLC).
The university said it developed the revised footprint last year
following consultations with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(USACE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which have
jurisdiction over wetlands development under the U.S. Clean Water
Act, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the
California Department of Fish and Game. The County of Merced, the
City of Merced, agricultural representatives and environmental
groups, including the California Endangered Species and Habitat
Alliance, were also key contributors to the process.
Development of the 85 acres of wetlands will be fully offset by
mitigation measures to ensure “no net loss” of wetlands values and
functions, as required under the Clean Water Act. Approximately
2,318 acres of in-kind wetland habitat will be set aside for
permanent preservation, a ratio of 30 acres preserved for every
acre of wetlands developed. In addition, the university in
cooperation with the state has set aside 26,000 acres of grasslands
for permanent conservation.
USACE must issue development permits under Section 404 of the
Clean Water Act before the next phase of campus construction can
begin. In March 2008, the university and the UCLC jointly submitted
a permit application for full development of the campus and the
northern portion of the university community, based on the revised
footprint. UCLC, a not-for-profit organization composed of the
University of California and the Virginia Smith Trust, owns the
land to be developed into the northern portion of the university community.
The northern portion of the university community, totaling 833
acres directly south of the campus, is included in the current
Section 404 permit application for the campus. The southern portion
of the university community, consisting of 1,118 acres directly
south of the northern portion, is privately owned and is not part
of the current application. UC Merced and UCLC are working
cooperatively with the owners of the southern portion of the
community to ensure coordinated and compatible development
consistent with Merced County’s University Community Plan (UCP),
which will need to be revised.
Though separate from the campus’ planning process, the revised
UCP will require an amendment to Merced County’s General Plan. The
university has proactively engaged the County to ensure that the
revisions to the UCP comply with the principles prescribed by the
Merced County Board of Supervisors in 2004 when they approved the
original UCP. Furthermore, the County will prepare a separate EIR
for the revised UCP that is scheduled to be released for public
comment next year.
The Draft EIS/EIR may be found at
Public comment on the Draft EIS/EIR is an integral part of the
permitting process. The comment period starts today and will run
through January 5, 2009. USACE and UC Merced will host a joint
public hearing December 2, 2008 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the
California Room on the UC Merced campus at 5200 North Lake Road.
The general public is invited to attend.
Members of the public will have several methods at the meeting
by which they can present their views: through interaction with
experts, by recording their comments with a court reporter or by
submitting their comments in writing. They can also address
For more information about the University of California, Merced
To view new artistic renderings of future campus development