California in the 1950s and 1960s: A spirit of endless possibility

By the 1950s, the California dream was attracting national attention. In October 1957 The Regents of the University of California authorized planning for three new campuses, including one to serve the central coast. After exploratory visits to four Santa Cruz County sites by University administrators, an enthusiastic citizens’ committee formally offered the lands of the Cowell Ranch for a new campus site. In January 1958 a faculty committee published extensive site selection criteria that were used to identify 74 potential sites, evaluate 15 of them, and investigate four in greater detail.

In addition to the Santa Cruz site, the Regents approved “conditional consideration” in December 1959 of a site seven miles south of central San Jose, at the north end of the Almaden Valley.

A spirited lobbying effort.

A Regental site selection committee visited both sites in July 1960, and the Santa Cruz community prepared a detailed prospectus that included a site plan for a campus of 25,000 students. University President Clark Kerr asked three UC Berkeley faculty members to advise him on the choice of the new South Central Coast Campus site; noting especially the natural beauty of the Cowell Ranch site, the committee unanimously recommended it in preference to Almaden Valley.

In addition to the beauty of the site, the fine weather, and the enthusiasm of the local community, the ease of buying the property from the S.H. Cowell Foundation played a role in the decision. Plus, the Foundation agreed to donate a significant part of the purchase price back to the University.

A Decision is Made

On Friday, March 17, 1961, The Regents chose the Cowell Ranch in Santa Cruz as the site for its new campus, by a vote of 16 to 2. The two dissenting votes were cast by Governor Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown and Lieutenant Governor Glenn M. Anderson.

Read Pioneer faculty member William T. Doyle’s recent book, The Origin of UC Santa Cruz, to learn more about  the selection process and the many community members involved.