UCLA announced on Sept. 27 that it would acquire two sites owned by Marymount California University, a private Catholic university in Rancho Palos Verdes, to expand its student enrollment.
UCLA spent $80 million on the two properties: The 24.5-acre main campus of what used to be MCU, which is about 30 miles south of UCLA’s main campus in Westwood, and an 11-acre residential area in San Pedro that previously housed MCU students.
The purchase is the largest land acquisition in UCLA history, and it will provide housing and supporting instruction to about 1,000 students, according to a statement from the university.
“As demand for our academic offerings continues to grow, this acquisition will allow us to expand student access in line with UC’s 2030 goals, strengthen our connections to the greater L.A. region, and deepen our institution’s research and public service impact,” UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block said in a message to the Bruin community.
“The new sites add to existing ones UCLA operates in downtown Los Angeles, Culver City and elsewhere, as well as across the region through UCLA Health,” Block added.
The purchase helps UCLA achieve its goal of adding around 3,000 undergraduate and 350 graduate students. The school drew nearly 140,000 first-year applications for approximately 6,600 spots for the fall of 2021.
The lack of space forced campus administrators to explore other regions in the greater Los Angeles area to expand due to the lack of space in Westwood.
“We do see universities setting up satellite campuses, especially for master’s programs. But, you know, USC has a campus in Catalina for oceanography” John Loper, a professor of real estate at USC, said. “For UCLA, though, like USC, we’re landlocked.”
MCU ceased operations in August 2022, allowing UCLA to integrate its students without impacting the surrounding area, Loper said.
“It really doesn’t matter if they’re Marymount students or UCLA students,” he added. “It’s students and professors who are coming.”
Preston Ball, a Ranchos Palos Verdes resident who lives down the street from MCU, also doesn’t think the change in ownership will have any impact on the community, despite previous concerns from the neighborhood. When Marymount made the transition from a two-year to a four-year university, he said, the community was most concerned that the building of new dorms “would block the view of their house because it kind of sits on a hill where you can see the ocean.”
However, the new campus poses potential problems for UCLA’s own students. As transportation and class scheduling play a crucial role in student life, the two campuses being about 30 miles away from each other creates a clear issue.
“The problem is if you have one class in Westwood, one in Rancho Palos Verdes, and then another class in the evening in Westwood, and you’re trying to bus students back and forth because they need to be on both campuses,” Loper said. “That becomes very problematic and that’s where you get a lot of complaints about traffic.”
UCLA sophomore Zack Apt, who currently lives off-campus in Westwood, said he would have to find a ride to Ranchos Palos Verdes because he doesn’t have his own car.
“Public transportation would be inconvenient and incredibly frustrating for many students,” he said.
Although UCLA has not yet specified how MCU will be used, Block said that the new campus could start up its academic programs by next year.