- (Video) Spending $1 Billion Dollars In 24 Hours
News // Education
Tanya Schevitz, Todd Wallack,Chronicle Staff Writers
This is a carousel. Use Next and Previous buttons to navigate
University of California President Robert Dynes and his wife live in one of the East Bay's most impressive homes, a 13,239-square-foot mansion in Kensington with 10 acres of land, gorgeous Mediterranean gardens and sweeping views of the bay. An extensive staff meticulously maintains the estate at a cost of close to $300,000 a year.
The best part for Dynes: like many other university presidents, he doesn't pay a cent.
For all the attention paid to university salaries, some of the biggest perks at the university are noncash items, such as free housing. At UC, the system spends about $1 million a year to maintain spacious homes for Dynes and the 10 campus chancellors.
"I think taxpayers would be outraged to discover the nature of this extraordinary perk," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers' Association. "We certainly do not expect a university president who has substantial responsibility to be living in a very modest home. But does it take a $10 million mansion requiring this much maintenance to attract a competent UC president?"
Providing free housing for college presidents is a long tradition in academia. Universities say it's an important recruiting tool because housing is often expensive near campus. In addition, college presidents' homes are frequently used to hold campus fundraisers, parties and other university events.
"Some of the presidents I know have maybe five to six events a week," said Marlene Ross, director of the American Council on Education fellows. "If anybody did a good economic cost analysis, it is possible that this would turn out to be cost-effective."
At the University of Virginia, the college uses its presidential mansion for events nearly twice a week. At the University of Michigan, the president's home is used an average of two to three times a month for events.
But at UC, it turns out that some of the homes are rarely (and sometimes never) used for campus events.
UC San Diego officials say the 3,600-square-foot residence leased for Chancellor Marye Anne Fox can't be used for events because the home has inadequate parking and is too far from campus. The 12,040-square-foot university home that was closed in May 2004 was used for fewer than two events a month in the year before it was vacated.
UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop has rarely hosted more than one event a month since October 2003.
And the Dynes' mansion in Kensington was used for only three official events in 2004, according to house manager Lupe Jimenez and a calendar provided by the university.
"It has been dwindling," said Jimenez, who works part time doing administrative work and overseeing the house. She also does the laundry for the president and his wife.
Not all UC homes are used so sparingly. At UC Berkeley, the home used by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau has been used for several dozen events annually over the last few years, including dinners and receptions with faculty, staff, students and dignitaries. UC Berkeley spokeswoman Marie Felde said there are no other places on campus to hold such events other than the Faculty Club, which is smaller and often booked. In addition, the UC Berkeley chancellor holds frequent meetings with his staff at the house, Felde said. The university home of UC Davis Chancellor Larry N. Vanderhoef was also used frequently, the site for an average of four events a month in the last fiscal year -- ranging from lunch with local leaders to an ice cream social for 497 people.
Regent Judith Hopkinson said the UC homes are important for university business, in addition to serving as private residences.
"It's not like they can get rid of the houses," Hopkinson said. "There are a huge number of events. They are a great benefit to the university."
UC spokesman Paul Schwartz said expenses and upkeep of the homes are paid out of the proceeds of an endowment set up from private donations that were given to the university to be used as it wishes.
Schwartz also said the homes are important to help chancellors cover the high cost of living in California, where many chancellors otherwise wouldn't be able to afford homes on their university salaries.
Public records show that many of the chancellors already own their homes, sometimes close to campus. And at least two chancellors earned tens of thousands of dollars in extra annual income by moving into university-owned residences and renting out their own nearby homes.
In financial disclosure forms, UC Davis Chancellor Vanderhoef reported he earns between $10,000 and $100,000 a year by renting out a home he owns in Davis. Similarly, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale reported renting out his Los Angeles home and earning between $10,000 and $100,000 a year in rental income.
In addition, records show hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on maintaining some of the estates -- many of which are old and need frequent maintenance.
UC Riverside spent $662,397 on maintenance and renovations alone in one recent year.
In addition, university records show the system spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on payroll, supplies and other expenses to maintain the president's home, known as the Blake House and built in Kensington in 1926. UC spent $294,559 on the home in fiscal 2003-2004 alone.
The costs include landscaping, weekly cleaning, decorations, safety upgrades, hired help, household supplies and food and alcohol for events. The landscaping costs alone totaled more than $19,000 -- not counting money UC Berkeley's school of landscape architecture spent maintaining the gardens.
The university even picked up the tab for small items, such as $75 for a teakettle and $80 for a doormat.
Most of the three-story, 10-bathroom house is available for university events. But UC also spends thousands of dollars to maintain the portion of the house reserved exclusively for the Dynes -- a 4,328-square-foot area that includes four bedrooms.
Records show that the university spent $30,903 in 2004 to construct a kitchenette in the upstairs quarters, even though the president has access to a private kitchen just down a flight of stairs.
"I suspect this will make it in our 2005 piglet book" of examples of government waste, Coupal said. "This is the kind of stuff that shows that at some point (government leaders sometimes) lose touch with reality."
Home, sweet home, for some top UC administrators
system: President Robert Dynes lives in the Blake House mansion in Kensington.
UC Berkeley: Chancellor Robert Birgeneau lives in the University House, host to dozens of events yearly.
UC Santa Cruz: Chancellor Denice Denton lives in her house for free, a perk common to university presidents.
UCSF: Chancellor J. Michael Bishop has rarely hosted more than one event a month since October 2003.
UC Merced: Carol Tomlinson-Keasey is chancellor of the UC system's newest campus.
Success measured by square feet UC provides spacious homes for its president and 10 chancellors. Here is the size of each home: Campus Total square feet Berkeley 15,850 Davis 7,700 Irvine 10,068 Los Angeles 10,998 Merced 5,038 Riverside 6,900 San Diego* 3,600 San Francisco 6,147 Santa Barbara 5,764 Santa Cruz 6,894 UC president 13,239 Note: The old UCSD 12,040-squarefoot mansion was recently abandoned because of safety concerns. The university is temporarily renting a smaller home for its chancellor, but plans to establish a new, larger home.