Aditi Karadakal is a third-year student living at Oakes College. For Karadakal, there are many parts of Oakes that she loves — the people, the lower lawn, and the cabin-style buildings. However, like many students on the west side of campus, she is often hungry. 

“Oakes is a food desert,” Karadakal said. “There’s not many options for us here.” 

In the middle of winter quarter 2023, two constructions remain unfinished: the Kresge College Renewal and Expansion Project, and the Rachel Carson/Oakes Dining Hall Expansion. 

Both projects have experienced significant delays, and students have had to deal with the repercussions.

The Rachel Carson and Oakes dining hall, which has been closed since 2021 for construction, is slated to open in fall 2023. Photo by Arthur Wei.

Rachel Carson/Oakes Dining Hall Expansion 

The Rachel Carson/Oakes Dining Hall construction project was originally commissioned by UCSC’s Colleges, Housing & Educational Services (CHES) Capital Planning in December 2021. Construction, which began in January 2021, has been ongoing for more than a year.

Originally projected to be finished by fall 2022, the building remains incomplete. Steve Houser, the Director of Employee Housing and Capital Planning for UCSC attributed this to the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages, and equipment delays. 

“[The supply] chain for equipment became a lot longer and, in some cases, extremely long for some pieces of equipment,” Houser said.

Houser explained that a new generator and its equipment took 70 weeks to arrive, a far cry from the estimated 26 weeks at the time of order. This lone piece of equipment, according to Houser, has been majorly driving the delay.

Operations are now projected to resume by fall 2023. The new dining hall is expected to hold 420 students — space for 45 more people than its previous iteration — making it one of the biggest dining halls on campus. It will serve a student population that has doubled since the original dining hall was built in 1990.

The facility will include modernized kitchen equipment to aid service capacity, and will also be reoriented to capture a better view of Monterey Bay. The building will also be updated to comply with the updated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically by making the new building ground level, which would eliminate the need for a wheelchair access route.  

Dining hall accessibility is something Karadakal has had to grapple with during the school year. After injuring her leg earlier in the year, she experienced difficulty accessing campus dining halls. 

“Walking to a bus stop wasn’t an option. I started using the disability van [and] that’s how I got my food,” Karadakal said. “It’s even worse for people who are […] physically impacted in that way.” 

Though construction is underway, food inaccessibility in the immediate area of west campus has been detrimental to students and staff. Porter Market and the Porter/Kresge Dining Hall customers awaiting entry sometimes overwhelm the facilities’ shared building. With the sprawling lines of people, wait times for food at Oakes Cafe often take 30 minutes — and at times, even longer.  

Lindsey Sands, a student shift supervisor at Oakes Cafe, has felt the impacts of the delayed dining hall acutely. She described the cafe’s transformation into a makeshift dining hall, despite the facilities being unequipped for the shift. 

“We don’t have enough space for [all the] customers that we get daily. So, it’s way more stressful than people realize with the huge volume of customers we get, especially with the small facility and the major staffing shortage,” Sands said. 

Due to Oakes’ limited storage capacity, Sands also recounted Oakes staff having to frequently make ingredient runs to other dining halls. 

Sands also attributed the long lines at Oakes Cafe to the Slug Points system, which led to many students bulk-buying products at the cafe last year. Oakes Cafe has since created a five-item policy to prevent a “Black Friday” situation from happening at the already overwhelmed venue. 

“Everyone just floods Oakes [Cafe],” Sands said.

Kresge Project Expansion

The Kresge Expansion project, which was approved in March 2019 by the UC Board of Regents, aims to build three new residential halls. Phase one of the project began in the summer of 2019, and is set to be completed in winter 2023.

Michael Yamauchi-Gleason, the Director of College Student Life, explains the expansion aims to mitigate the housing shortage by creating a total of 1,100 new bed spaces. He also mentioned that student input is a key factor in their development. 

“One of the things that was a part of this project from the very beginning was getting student input on the design elements and the elements of the project,” Yamauchi-Gleason said. “We had student representation on [the construction] committee. [T]hey’ve been engaged from the very beginning.” 

As construction remains ongoing, renovations for the temporarily inoperable North Bridge will be underway in the later phases. Currently, the bridge remains closed. 

“I have no idea what’s going on,” said Samantha Fonseca-Vallejo, a second-year Resident Advisor (RA) in Kresge Proper. “They said they were hopefully going to finish construction on the bridge by winter, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.” 

Additionally, renovations to the Kresge College building will begin in the summer of 2023, bringing five new classrooms with a capacity for 150 students and a 600-seat auditorium lecture hall. 

Similar to the Rachel Carson/Oakes Dining Hall project, the COVID-19 pandemic and the equipment supply chain have posed major obstacles to the construction. The planned completion of the Kresge Expansion has been pushed from 2022 to 2025. 

Three of the residence halls are projected to house students starting in fall 2023. However, due to the completion being delayed another year, there is currently little to no residential space left at Kresge for those who aren’t freshmen with guaranteed housing. 

“If the school really wanted to do something [to address the student housing shortage], they would,” Fonseca-Vallejo said. “But realistically, I’m not sure what they could do.”

Read more City on a Hill Press coverage about the construction projects on campus