ASUCI and AGS students give a “Zot” with Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, center, in Aldrich Hall.
ASUCI and AGS students give a “Zot” with Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, center, in Aldrich Hall. Steve Zylius / UCI

As part of her tour of California universities and colleges, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis visited UCI on Monday, April 10.

Her outing culminated with a tour of the Mesa Court housing community led by five Mesa Court resident advisers. Kounalakis was shown a suite in the Mesa Court Tower, and she viewed the site in parking lot 5 that will house the Mesa Court Residence Hall Expansion project – a new dorm for first- and second-year undergraduates. This project is supported by funds from California’s Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, which was established to finance construction of affordable student housing at the state’s three public higher education systems.

Joining her on the tour of Mesa Court were Chancellor Howard Gillman, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, Vice Mayor Tammy Kim and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Willie Banks Jr.

The Mesa Court Residence Hall Expansion will provide housing for 300 students when it opens in 2026. Kounalakis said projects funded by the state’s grant program at the UC, Cal State and community college levels will meet the need for more on-campus housing.

“One out of 20 students in the UC system reported at some point or another not having a place to live on campus,” she said. “That is not OK.”

In the $80 million budget for the expansion project, $65 million is being funded through the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program.

“We need more housing everywhere that it’s appropriate, especially for the higher education system,” Kounalakis said. “The billions of dollars allocated in 2021 toward basic needs is poised to make a significant impact across all three [California public college] systems.”

The resident advisers who led the tour said they were pleased that the funding will go toward on-campus housing that directly serves students, rather than off-campus housing options that can make campus resources less accessible.

“Having this [expansion] will definitely lessen the pressure of housing insecurity and anxiety that we see from a lot of our residents who have trouble even with the guaranteed housing,” said Celina Tiqui, a Mesa Court resident adviser.

Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Housing Tim Trevan, who was part of the tour, emphasized on-campus housing as a means to provide affordable housing that is close and convenient to non-local students, especially for those who don’t have a car.

“Living on campus is so important for accessibility,” said resident adviser Kylie Halliday, echoing Trevan’s point. “Not only so all students can access communal spaces, but also for students who use resources from the Disability Services Center. It makes it a lot easier for them even just to get to their classes.”

Before visiting the planned construction site, Kounalakis met with UCI student leaders and heard about some of the challenges students are facing, including not enough on-campus housing.

“Housing is a critical basic need,” Kounalakis said. “Students deserve to be able to focus on their studies without worrying about its availability.”

The lieutenant governor also visited the UCI Health Medical Center – Irvine construction site and the forensic exam facility managed by the Office of Equal Opportunity & Diversity.

About the Mesa Court Residence Hall Expansion project

In March, the UC Regents approved the Mesa Court Residence Hall Expansion project, which will help meet current and projected demand for on-campus housing. The project’s location near the Mesa Court Towers takes advantage of existing dining and community facilities, making it a cost-efficient solution for accommodating more students. The project supports diversity, equity and inclusion by expanding student access to the many academic and social resources available on campus.

Overall, UC Irvine provides on-campus, under-market-cost housing for more than 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the third most among UC campuses.