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Some UC regents discuss unloading university-owned mansion

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Some University of California regents on Tuesday said it might make more sense to sell off a university-owned mansion that needs a major overhaul rather than restore the Contra Costa County property.

The idea was broached as a regents committee approved initial repairs of Blake House, the estate where most UC presidents had lived since the 1960s but which has been empty for the last five years. The 13,200-square-foot-residence, located about 11 miles north of the UC system's Oakland headquarters, needs a major overhaul, officials say.

Administrators have estimated that a full overhaul of Blake House could cost between $3.5 million and $6 million.

"I think we need to think this thing out very clearly," said regent Frederick Ruiz, who described the house's location in the Kensington hills as inconvenient and its parking inadequate for large gatherings of alumni and donors. He and others suggested selling the property.

Still, the full board on Wednesday is expected to authorize spending $620,000 from a privately funded UC endowment for short-term seismic strengthening and roof repairs and for architectural and engineering studies about the long-range future of the house.

For now, incoming UC President Janet Napolitano will live in a 3,500-square-foot Oakland residence leased by the university for $9,950 a month. The rent is $2,550 per month less than what UC recently has been paying for current President Mark G. Yudof's Lafayette residence.

One of the arguments for restoring Blake House as a presidential home is that it would save money in the long run if UC no longer has to rent housing and entertainment locations elsewhere.

Napolitano, the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and governor of Arizona, is to begin her UC presidency Sept. 30, with her office at the UC headquarters in Oakland. In addition to the free housing, Napolitano will receive her annual $570,000 salary, $8,916 a year for car expenses and $142,500 for one-time relocation costs.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

Twitter: @larrygordonLAT

 

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