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UCLA Magazine Winter 2003
The Rising
Honorable Intentions
The Cardinal of Westwood
The Littlest Bruin
Sensing the Future
Dershowitz, For the Defense
Bruin Walk

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Winter 2003 Bruin Walk

The Dorm That Time Forgot

Answering the call
Illustration by Aaron Meshon

By Sandy Siegel '72

The foliage-covered exterior, the taxicabs lined up waiting for fares and the bustling valets parking cars are familiar sights to anyone who's cruised past Westwood's posh W Hotel. But few know that this neighborhood landmark started as lodging of a different sort.

The 15-story structure at 930 Hilgard began its existence in 1969 as a private dorm. Named La Mancha, the building was still under construction when students arrived for Fall Quarter. Anxious students — many of whom had been lured by promises of deluxe accommodations and a new sense of community — unexpectedly found themselves having to make alternate arrangements, such as commuting from home or shuttling to campus from nearby motels.

When the doors finally did open in mid-October, only nine floors were available for occupancy as construction continued. Not everyone minded the inconvenience, however.

"La Mancha was just a cool place to live in the late '60s," says Julie Arntson Boyd, a sophomore that first year. "It was so different from Sproul Hall, and all the differences, in my opinion, were positive."

Cool or not, the dorm had trouble attracting residents — despite the above-par cuisine and comfy singles, doubles and three-bedroom suites with private or semi-private bathrooms — and resorted to an ad campaign in the Daily Bruin extolling its virtues. One student took offense. "Don't believe all that you read," wrote "Sancho Panza" in the May 29, 1970, Bruin. "UCLA students should be advised that La Mancha is hardly a 'community of students'; indeed, students are much more isolated there than at other dorms. And ... La Mancha is woefully overpriced and suffers from management that is hardly amenable to student needs."

Evidently, management never got its act together. In 1974, the "impossible dorm" stopped tilting at windmills and was transformed into its first incarnation as a hotel. The students had left the building.

2005 The Regents of the University of California