Details of New Dorm Emerge

By Morgan Springer
Stanford Daily Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The new Law School residence, set to house roughly 670 students in a group of five- and six-story buildings, may result in the widening of Campus Drive to four lanes near Mayfield, the demolition of Casa Zapata’s resident fellow cottage and the construction of two new parking garages, according to Law School representatives who met last night at Chi Theta Chi with students, faculty and other interested parties.

Plans for the complex have the dorms set up as three buildings, with units ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments. The buildings, the tallest of which would be 68 feet high, would stretch from Lane C, near Vaden Health Center, to the Law School. They would require the relocation of the Drell House, Rogers House (the location of the Bridge Peer Counseling Center), Owen House and the Bike Shop, as well as the demolition of the Casa Zapata Resident Fellowcottage.

The current design has it set at 500,000 square feet, more than twice the size originally planned.

According to Frank Brucato, associate dean of finance and chief financial officer for the Law School, the project has grown larger since the donor became involved.

“We found a potential donor to whom we showed our capital plan and he started coming back with his ideas of what Stanford needed,” he said. “As it got bigger and bigger, the Law School said, ‘We didn’t need this many rooms.’”

The donor will be funding a significant amount of the $115 million cost of the building, according to Brucato. The rest will be funded in debt, which is currently limited by the University to no more than $24 million.

Brucato explained that the donor seeks to improve University building in general and has specific ideas about how the residence should be built.

“He does not think Stanford knows how to build for the long life of a building,” Brucato said. “He would like to show Stanford how to construct a building that will be successful and meet our needs for 100 years.”

Community concerns

However, some community members saw the donor’s modus operandi as less than benign.

“One of the things that disturbs me here is that we do have campus planners, and we do have campus architects and the phrase that you have used repeatedly is ‘the donor’s architect,’ ” said German Studies Prof. Elizabeth Bernhardt, dean of the Lower Row. “If you look just across the street, you see the regulations that 579 Alvarado had to commit to in order to be X, Y or Z, and then suddenly there’s somebody else who has the privilege of his or her own architect.”

Senior Lauren Dietrich of Students for a Sustainable Stanford expressed concern that the building will hinder the University’s progress toward a more energy-efficient and ecologically integrated campus.

“Compromising the process by catering to the one who holds the purse strings is disgraceful,” she said. “I hope that the top administrators of the University recognize their obligation to the Stanford community and respect community feedback and concern.”

Students for a Sustainable Stanford have worked with the University over the past four years to increase the sustainability of University development practices and participated in writing The Guideline for Sustainable Buildings last year, Dietrich said.

“We believe in the importance of process and are wary of donor-driven design that may compromise the integrity of our University and may leave us with fancy buildings with high maintenance costs,” she said. “The meeting confirmed that the Law School housing project is driven by the whims of a donor.”

Brucato said that the current design is just a proposal, and the goal of the current round of meetings is to gather community input.

Future plans

The initial plan was significantly smaller, calling for 240,000 square feet.

“The project, when it went for site and concept was approved for 300 to 400 beds for the Law School,” said Susan Rozakis, project manager for the residence.

There are only 580 students in the Law School, and according to estimates, no more than 400 would want housing. Brucato said that the Graduate School of Business has expressed interest in the remaining bed spaces. Once the new residence is complete, Crothers, the current law residence, would begin housing undergraduates.

Currently the decision-making process is at the upper levels of the University.

“Due to changes in the project since the original site and concept approval, the project will go back to the Board of Trustees for revised site and concept approval,” Rovakis said.

Bernhardt, as well as other attendees, raised concerns about the maintenance of the campus’ architectural style.

“We have a really beautiful corner here,” Bernhardt said, referring to the outdoor space near Chi Theta Chi. “We have a beautiful house here; it’s funky and weird, but it’s beautiful. What none of us want to see is the beauty of this side of campus destroyed.”

Brucato emphasized that the Law School also seeks an aesthetically pleasing residence.

“We’re an advocate for making something fit in,” he said.

Upper-level administrators have also been involved in the aesthetic issues. According to Brucato, Hennessy has insisted that the building not shade Stern Hall.

Open dialogue

The new residence would provide the Law School with a greater sense of community, said Cathy Glaze, associate dean of student services at the Law School.

“The original vision for the dorm was to create an environment that added to the intellectual vigor of the school,” she said. “Law school is sort of an all-consuming experience. The idea was to create a community where people can have study groups and sort of live the law a little more.”

Glaze predicted that the residence would help focus the community, drawing in students who live off campus or are scattered in other dorms.

“We have 335 law students living on campus and some more living in subsidized housing,” she said. “We think a dorm would attract more students to campus.”

She further emphasized that input is needed to make the building a success.

“I am confident that this can be a wonderful project,” Glaze said. “We want to work with all of you to make sure that it is.”

The meeting at Chi Theta Chi was on of the first of a round of outreach efforts that the Law School is conducting. It was facilitated by law student and Chi Theta Chi resident Maya Sen, with the help of the Chi Theta Chi staff.

“I was basically concerned that there was some amount of misinformation going around, and because of that there was some distrust building,” she said. “I wanted to set up a meeting where I could get some real information about what was going on direct from the Law School. As both a law student and a resident of the neighborhood, it is important to me that residents are happy with the project and there’s an open dialogue.”