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Finding the Money

The donor voyage began in the fall of 2004, but by January 2005 it had gone nowhere. The Union-Tribune reported on March 10, 2005, that since fund-raising had foundered, the school had sought an extension. The Union-Tribune also reported that “some on campus” were bothered by the “secrecy” of the fund-raising effort: “If the university is successful in raising the necessary money, it will need to deal with complex archaeological issues.” Among these were the disruption of “prehistoric burial sites that were found on the property decades ago.”

Sometime in April 2005, UCSD had changed course: the university decided to sell the home and property. But once a sale became known, warning shots were fired. The La Jolla Historical Society announced it would fight any new owner’s attempt to demolish the home. A neighborhood homeowners’ group was investigating how it might get the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The group also cautioned any buyer that it would take years of hearings to get permits issued to make changes to the property.

Then, on April 30, the editorial board of the Union-Tribune came athwart: “It would be a shame if this public structure, the venue for countless public events, reverted to a private residence or, worse, were demolished by a new owner. The only way to ensure the future of the house as a public building is for UCSD to retain it and make the necessary repairs.” The piece concluded: give the fund-raisers more time.

Voilà, another shift: the university retooled its sales pitch, and nearly $5 million rained down. Using the Public Records Act, the Reader obtained documents that show $1 million gifts came from Richard and Rita Atkinson, Audrey Geisel, John and Rebecca Moores, and Irwin and Joan Jacobs, given through foundations and trusts. (The $1 million gifts were split between 2006 and 2007.) One $500,000 check was given by Mrs. Pauline Foster of Rancho Santa Fe. Arthur Brody, Malin and Roberta Burnham, and Jerome and Miriam Katzin, through their foundations, gave $100,000 each. And Donald and Darlene Shiley kicked in $100,197.

With these funds secured, plus Dynes’s adding $1.45 million from his office and a pledge from the university to raise another $1 million, UCSD vice chancellor John Woods sent a letter to UCSD’s office of business and finance requesting that the pending sale of the University House be canceled. In November 2005, Woods wrote to John Moores that Moores’s and others’ gifts would “allow us to retain” the property. By December 2007, Woods noted, the funds would be “in hand by the time construction is nearing completion.”

Attorney Coyle says in an email that she believes the university’s fund-raising activity has been unethical: “In essence, UC went out and fund-raised for a project prior to examining all constraints and performing environmental due diligence.” Coyle has also seen invoices showing that architect Wally Cunningham was paid $440,000 for work which included the design of a new residence on the University House site.

The struggle over house and remains, though, was just getting started.

Land of the Dead

The Native American dead have been at rest in San Diego County for thousands of years. Some still lie in the sandy soils of La Jolla. Until the last century only a garden hoe ever broke a clod around their heads, jostling a breastbone or femur. But, inevitably, the hoes became shovels, and the shovels became gas-powered. In our day, when coastal homeowners unearth 100 cubic yards for a swimming pool, bones pop up — a skull, a vertebra, a hand. In such an event, the law says the coroner must be called.

If the coroner decides the bones have been there a long time, he calls a Native American monitor like Carmen Lucas to oversee the find. When the 72-year-old Laguna Indian arrives at the site, she says she can feel the disturbed spirit, wailing at being unloosed. “The poor soul,” Lucas tells me, has been rudely returned from the afterlife, her long journey interrupted. “I can’t tell you how painful it is,” she says. There’s as much anguish for Lucas as there is for the disinterred. Neither can rest until the bones are reburied.

Lucas is devoted to keeping the ancestors’ burial sites untouched. In La Jolla that means reminding anyone who’ll listen that much of the enclave sits on known and unknown Indian graves. When she has the floor, Lucas talks without stopping; her monotone sidles from legal issues to creation myths. She’s tired of seeing mounds of dirt with “human remains in it, whether it’s arms, legs, or femur bone.”

One excavation in La Jolla that Lucas was monitoring yielded a frightening find. She reports that she heard an archaeologist who was “beating a clod of dirt to death in her hand,” let go a scream that “I will never forget." She "realized she was holding in her hand the full skull of a 5000-year-old inhumation.”

Lucas’s ancestry is complicated. She’s a member of the Laguna Band of Mission Indians and owns a 320-acre ranch in the Laguna Mountains, her band’s ancestral home. Mission Indians were those under the jurisdiction of the Spanish. When anyone asked her father where he and his band were from, Lucas says, “He’d always say, ‘Right here. This dirt.’ ”

Though the gray-haired Lucas is not a Kumeyaay, she works with them on repatriation causes. She often scolds nonnatives who want, as she says, “only jewels, diamonds, and money.” She advocates for “our cultural resources and our spiritual connections to the land.” One La Jolla site she is contesting is along Spindrift Drive, which parallels the coast. Digging there unearthed remains in excess of 5000 years.

On Roseland Drive, which intersects Spindrift, Lucas was watching a San Diego Gas and Electric backhoe cut a trench for new utility lines. “It chopped an inhumation in half,” she says. “It was a woman. They didn’t know what to do. ‘Should we take half of her out and leave the rest?’ ” Lucas told them to stop.

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delmargal March 8, 2009 @ 10:36 p.m.

As a UCSD alum I can't say I understand this. Recently I received a letter to donate money for scholarships. I understand the need for donations, but with the Ms. Fox making all that money (400k from the UC and another 400k in board seats, 6k housing allowance and a car-not to mention her husband has a job teaching chemistry) it is a mockery. I'll donate when she makes a reasonable salary. This school had so many issues while I was in attendance I can't help but feel bad for the students attending for the UC name where industry won't hire UCSD graduates because the teaching system is so poor. Let's thank the unions for letting incompetents stay in their jobs and good teaches get the boot because they are too hard. What a joke.


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