The Rachel Carson (RCC) and Oakes Dining Hall has not been renovated since it was built in 1990.

However, a new $34 million project will create more convenient wheelchair access options, increase dining room seating and kitchen capacity, and offer expanded views of Monterey Bay with new outdoor seating. 

The project is a collaboration between the UCSC Colleges, Housing, and Educational Services (CHES) Capital Planning department and the Physical Planning, Development, and Operations department. CHES Capital Planning director Steve Houser said construction will continue through the 2021-22 academic year and is set to be completed by fall 2022.

Increased indoor seating and improvements to the kitchen space will accommodate more students.

“That dining hall was built in 1990 for a campus population that has almost doubled,” Houser said. ”It’s hard to get enough food production out so that people can get their food quickly and enjoy themselves.” 

The Americans with Disabilities Act was updated in 2010 and now has recommendations for better wheelchair access than the 1994 version legally required. Although compliant with 2010 legal standards, the current RCC access route requires a wheelchair user to follow a longer path from the main plaza to the dining hall entrance than those using the main entrance. 

Houser stated the renovations will remove the current wheelchair accessible ramp route to meet the recommendations. As of now, planned renovations to the dining area entrance will eliminate the need for a wheelchair access route by leveling the main Rachel Carson Plaza with the dining hall building. One project proposal includes a full demolition of the existing dining hall to make these changes.

Changing working protocols as a result of the coronavirus could cause delays, but Houser said COVID-19 has not had a significant impact on the project. 

“It’s possible that the construction timelines slow down but many students aren’t going to have to be inconvenienced by the closure,” Houser said. ”We would want it open for that class coming in, and it’s obviously much easier to be done before the students get here.”

Starting Jan. 11, construction management firms will present proposals to oversee construction, which will begin later this month. The project is expected to be completed before the incoming class of 2022 arrives on campus.