UCLA diverts student fees from Pauley Pavilion renovation

UCLA officials have decided not to use all of the $25 million in student fees that they were planning to spend on a $185-million renovation of Pauley Pavilion, home of the school’s legendary basketball team.

Vice Chancellor Steven A. Olsen said in a letter to The Times that $15 million of the student funds would go to other uses.

The letter followed a Sunday article detailing how, in a time of crippling budget cuts, administrators throughout the state have tapped funds meant for classrooms and student services to help pay for ill-timed land deals, loans to high-ranking officials and, at UCLA, the Pauley renovation.

Olsen said Wednesday that bids for the project came in lower than anticipated, bringing the expected cost down to $135 million.

The school still plans to use $10 million in student fees to help finance the renovation; those fees are earmarked for seismic improvements to student facilities.

“The seismic fee is not merely for support of seismic improvements, it’s also for fire and safety issues,” Olsen said. “There are a number of safety issues related to the uneven gait of the steps down to the bowl” at Pauley.

The structure also needs seismic braces, wheelchair platforms to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and upgrades to the fire alarm system, among other improvements, according to UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton.

The $15 million would have come from a fee approved in a student referendum in 2000 to renovate two other campus buildings: the student activities center and the aging John Wooden Recreation Center.

“I think it’s good that they’re not using those fees,” said Cindy Mosqueda, a UCLA doctoral candidate who, as a sophomore, campaigned in favor of the assessment.

Mosqueda had been critical of the plan to use the $15 million to help renovate Pauley, saying she never would have urged fellow students to tax themselves to fix up the basketball arena.

“As someone who worked to get that fee implemented and approved by students,” she said, “I think it should be used more for its intended purpose.”

Release of the funds “is going to provide a reduced burden on the students, and the student fees can be used for other purposes to benefit them,” Olsen said.

How the fee money will be used has not been decided yet, he said.

“They could return it to students,” said Richard Bergman, a former co-chair of the committee formed to raise private money for the renovation. He had been critical of using the fee for Pauley.

Jamie Arneson, who had been president of UCLA’s official student fan group and just graduated, said she thinks Pauley would be a great place to spend the money.

“I’m so excited for Pauley to be renovated,” she said. “I go there a lot, and the chairs we sit on are kind of old; people get splinters in their shins.”