Government Spending

Broke Educational Institution Stumped By What to Do With Empty Mansion


Is this what The Boss was singing about?

How do we know that the powers that be still don't realize that We Are Out of Money? Stories like this–The University of California, which, as the name implies, is propped up by state taxpayers, is sitting on an empty chancellor's mansion that gets more expensive by the minute, and no one knows what to do about it.

The future of the 13,200-square-foot house and more than 10 acres of gardens in the unincorporated Contra Costa County neighborhood of Kensington are under scrutiny against a backdrop of deep funding cuts to the university and criticism by UC staff and students over perks for its highly paid executives.

UC leaders are trying to decide whether to make repairs at Blake House that are estimated at $2 million, let alone a more ambitious $10-million renovation proposal to bring the 84-year-old mansion up to date.

Its disuse has also been costly. Since he arrived from the University of Texas two years ago, UC President Mark G. Yudof has lived elsewhere, in two successive houses leased by the university. The current one rents for $11,500 a month. And if he'd lived at Blake House, the university would have avoided an unresolved dispute with Yudof's first landlord over $50,000 in alleged damage, followed by a $40,000 moving bill.

It's true, though, that Yudof has to make do with a $591,000 salary, so it's understandable that taxpayers and undergrads would need to pay for his used housing, his unused housing, his damaging ways, his moving expenses….This quote is special:

Finding the right option is "challenging," said Jennifer Wolch, dean of UC Berkeley's College of Environmental Design.

Yeah, not really. SELL THE DAMNED HOUSE. Seriously, I am trying to imagine any kind of sensible organization sitting on beautiful, unused, expensive, and decaying property, while just being stumped about what to do with it. These are managers who don't adequately feel the consequences of spending money unwisely.

Link via Rough&Tumble.

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  1. Are these ‘managers’ all products of the UC system? Or would that be merely viewed as a coincidence?

  2. In an “industry” that is based on incompetent boobery, the UC system still manages to stand out.

  3. I had an idea today to replace the university system with private library systems. My town library spends $40 per resident. Over a life time, that’s less than $4,000. Can we really justify spending $100,000 at the start of adulthood for knowledge that will become outdated before the student retires?

    1. Get rid of public higher education (and research) and let the market replace it with private universities, community colleges, trade schools, online programs, institutes, apprenticeships, work-study and research programs, etc. funded by private philanthropy and business partnerships.

      1. Cool idea. Cutting out all public research funding will result in the US having the most cutting edge science on the planet. Not.

        1. So you are saying that currently we do have the most cutting edge science?

          And that is producing jobs and wealth in the US currently?

          So many people think snark equals comprehension. Can you demonstrate that this equation is valid?

        2. Juice, Israel has the lowest paid teachers among industrialized countries. It also ranks near bottom in student science test scores among this group. Despite this, Israelis produce more inventions per capita than any other nation. Of course, this argument for slashing spending on science education would only convince the empiricists in the audience.

        3. There is no good reason why more research can not be done in the private sector. Public research subsidies benefit private businesses at little cost to them, but at massive taxpayer expense. Companies also conduct less of their own research because of the possibility that government regulation will make their investment worthless, either by outlawing it or by failing to keep up with innovation when old standards remain codified, usually because it benefits some politically connected interests.

        4. This is, of course, proven by the fact that there were no useful inventions or scientific advances until government started funding research.

  4. In before some moron who doesn’t understand voluntary action cries about “BUT OMG TEH CEOs!!1”

    1. Irrelevant. This isn’t a story about fat bennies. This is a story about how to unwind fat bennies. Any company in America looking to disgorge their executive corporate jet wouldn’t spend 2 microseconds debating storing it for future good times vs. selling it. It would be sold, at a loss, and off the books ASAP.

      1. Exactly. Try explaining that to my friend who refuses to sell a house he doesn’t live in anymore, which produces rental income that doesn’t cover the mortgage, because the market is going to come back some day and it would be better to sell it then, after about a decade more of already deferred maintenance.

  5. Option 1: Sell the Damn House.

    Option 2: Force your prez to live in it, if he wants to live elsewhere, he can do it on his own dime.

    1. Option 2 probably isn’t really an option, considering the $2mil refurb pricetag and the likelihood that ongoing maintenance is exorbitant anyhow.

      1. Does the whole house need to be refurbished so one person (and maybe his spouse/SO) can live there? Hell I bet the guest house or servant’s quarters would be bigger than my house.

        1. He needs a nanny, an au pair, a babysitter, and maybe someone to look after his kids.

  6. Sell the house? That might violate local zoning ordinances. We can’t have that. Someone might want to grow vegetables on the property.

    1. If Prop 19 passes, they can use the 10 acre grounds to grow MJ. It will be right near to a prime market (which should please those urging “buy local”) and help pay for the university.

  7. Why does a university chancellor need a 13,200 square foot house?

    1. Probably the same reason I need a 2011 Mustang GT Convertible.

      Wait – the taxpayers aren’t handling payments on my Mustang – nevermind…

      1. The convertible? Why add the extra weight?

    2. Status, bitch.

      Frankly, I can’t believe he makes 600 grand a year.

      1. I can’t believe he makes 600 grand a year.

        Me, neither.

      2. That’s on the low end for most big university presidents/chancellors. Most make closer to a million.

    3. He has an on campus mansion too!

      1. Plus the master key to all the dorms.

  8. I always love it when folks criticize school superintendents and public college presidents for the “outrageous” salaries. The UC chancellor oversees over 200,000 students and 134,000 employees. Now, it’s a fair question as to why the student:employee ratio is 1.5:1. But, find me a CEO of a company with 300,000 plus employees and I’ll show you a paycheck significantly higher than $591,000.

    1. That $591,000 doesn’t cover his entire compensation which include bennies like leasing properties.

    2. No way the university chancellor (whose position is mostly a formality anyway) is actually “overseeing” all those students and employees. Certainly nowhere near as much as a CEO actually oversees a company’s operations.

    3. Would a CEO of a company with 300,000 plus employees keep an unused, multi-million dollar asset on its books if that company was in the red?

    4. I always love it when folks criticize school superintendents and public college presidents for the “outrageous” salaries.

      If they don’t like it, then they can get a job in the private sector instead of leeching off of me.

      1. In before and after some moron who doesn’t understand voluntary action cries about “BUT OMG TEH CEOs!!1”

    5. Are students equivalent to employees now? I’d consider them more like customers.

    6. Actually, a chancellor oversees one campus. That’s why there are ten of them. The president is over the whole UC system.

      Kind of a moot point, though, for a house that no one lives in.

    7. Costco-
      142,000 employees, CEO $350,000 salary in 2009.

      Students are not employees. If you want to compare a university to the private sector, they’re more like customers (unless on work-study).

  9. “The current one rents for $11,500 a month”

    Isn’t that comparable to a 30 yr monthly mortgage of a $2 million home?

  10. Thread jack:

    Salon is feeling bitchy because some fire department let a house burn rather than set a precedent for free-riders.…..department

    Source article…..52668.html

    1. Cool. I really don’t understand why anyone has a problem with this.

      1. The general liberal response was that it was immoral for the firefighters to let this house burn . . . . .

        1. Is anyone else’s fist involuntarily curling in to a fist and seeking a smug hipster to punch in the face?

          1. Shit. It’s always the nanosecond after hitting submit you notice the mistake.

          2. This smug hipster takes offense to being lumped in with the ill-informed, left leaning, MORE smug hipsters.

        2. My favorite so far is “Privitization = legalized extortion.” Because taxation is what?

          Teh stupid is very strong over there.

      2. Jesus, there’s a lot of panicked screeching going on over there.

        The idea of personal responsibility has died.

      3. Because it’s so mean to make people suffer the consequences of their actions.

    2. That’s awesomne. I seriously don’t have an issue w/that. “No ticky, no fire protection…”

      1. The city offers protection to residents of the county for a mere $75 per year.

        Fuck the dumbass.

        1. Exactly. Cheap insurance, that.

        2. The city isn’t even under any obligation to provide fire services to the unincorporated area. In a way the residents are all freeriders. If they are outraged, they should think about starting a volunteer brigade or something.

          1. Exactly. There is no “privatization” going on here at all. If somebody has a beef, they have it with the elected officials (as in GOVERNMENT) of the town.

    3. Meh. Guy probably didn’t have house insurance anyway, because it probably would have covered the fee (or made him pay the fee) as a condition. So even if the fire department extinguished the fire, what the fuck is he going to do with a half burned house and no fire insurance anyway?

    4. To score points he had to scrabble conservatives and libertarians. The same sort of lazy thinking that has to mistake libertarianism for warlord-anarchism for a measure of rhetorical gain.

      Pathetic thinking from the left, as usual.

      1. SOMALIA!!!!!

    5. Isn’t that cute. The leftarded douchnozzles at Salon thing that fire departments typically run on unicorns and rainbows.

      Of course, it overlooks the very salient point that from all appearances this was a gummint fire dept and not a private service. But, let’s not let facts get in the way of a good smugasm.

      1. Well. It was a city fire department. City folk pay taxes and are covered automatically. People who live outside the city can opt in for $75. So it was a government FD, but not his government.

    6. “I thought they’d come out and put it out, even if you hadn’t paid your $75, but I was wrong,” said Gene “Unclear on the Concept” Cranick.

      1. Well, that is the way ObamaCare works, so maybe his confusion is not so pathetic after all.

      2. Laugh or cry.

        And there are too many worse things going on in the world for me to cry.

    7. They should think of all the utility this generated. How many other people who thought “fuck those guys, my house will never burn down” will now pay $75/year. It helps the greater good.

      Did I translate that into liberal right?

    8. Don’t read the comments. Most are even stupider than what dumbshit Tony comes up with. They aren’t even funny. They just make me sad that these people are allowed to vote.

      1. It’s funny watching how hateful they are towards libertarians and then proclaiming themselves lovers of humankind in the next breath.

        They’re unhinged like fundies.

      2. I quit reading the comments a long time ago.

        There was a time when Salon was a worthwhile webzine. But they came unglued with W and never straightenend out.

        1. The only thing worth reading there is, “Ask the Pilot,” which is still quite good. Otherwise, the articles and commentary are ridiculously lefty and not well thought out.

          1. Ask the pilot has been great for years. The only real reason that I still frequent the place.

      3. Reading comments on lefty sites is a form of self-hate.

    9. BTW, there were a few TEH EXTERNALITIES!*! comments too.

    10. The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.

      He should have gone with a “pre-existing condition” argument. I mean what could be the problem with people only having to pay the fee once the problem arises?

    11. Ahahahaha! That made my day. Their tears are so sweet. But I don’t understand this:
      So some self-interested rational actor decided not to pay for fire protection — an optional service — and then his house burned down, because the firefighters obviously didn’t want to open the firefighting program up to a bunch of free riders.

      That paragraph sounds reasonable to me. It sounds like he gets it, so what’s his problem?

      1. It’s frustrating when someone apparently actually understands the libertarian point of view on a particular topic and then rejects anyway.

        Progressive always reject reason and focus on emotion.

      2. The problem is that he thinks its so blindingly obvious that there’s a moral obligation to save the house that he doesn’t even bother to state it.

      3. His problem is that something bad happened to someone somewhere, and liberals think that with Teh Right Laws and Teh Right Rulers, nothing bad will ever happen to anyone anywhere.

        Bad things happening are a sign of the laws needing to be tweaked, or more liberals needed running things.

  11. Yudof was in my homeroom during high school. Anyone know if he’s trying to rein in UC costs or just coasting along sucking up more taxpayer money?

    1. Yudof was the President at U of MN when I went there. He spent a lot of money on campus beautification. I think that may have been his number one priority. Every September and May we got to look at really great flower beds as we walked to class!

  12. He was the dean at the University of Texas law school while I was there. He must have gained his love for flowers after he left, though some of the shrubbery looked nice and wasn’t too expensive.

  13. You’d think a $591,000 annual salary would be sufficient to afford adequate housing for one’s family in California.

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