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UCR to Study Suburbia

UCR Center Will Look at Intersection of Growth and Environment

(May 9, 2002)

A $100,000 gift will kick off the planning process for an academic center at the University of California, Riverside that will help fast-growing suburban areas – such as Riverside and San Bernardino counties – balance the influx of new people with the need to protect the natural environment.

Ali Sahabi, president of the SE Corporation, gave the gift in honor of Edward J. Blakely, a UCR graduate who was dean of the Urban and Regional Planning School at the University of Southern California when Sahabi earned his master’s degree. The SE Corporation is managing the construction of the 543-acre Dos Lagos development in Corona.

“Ed Blakely is among the most distinguished urban social scientists in the world,” said Gary Dymski, an associate dean in the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences who will lead the planning effort for the proposal. “While a student at USC, Ali Sahabi was inspired by Ed’s teaching and his vision as a leader. We are delighted to help him honor a mentor.”

Blakely, who was on the faculty at UC Berkeley, is now dean of the Milano School of Policy at the New School University in New York City.

A center for sustainable suburban development, if funded and approved, would gather researchers to take on the challenge of understanding how humans interact with nature and with each other in suburban areas. “There have been a number of very important centers of urban studies around the United States; but few if any centers have examined the social, ecological and economic challenges of suburban communities,” Dymski said. “The establishment of this center reflects a desire by UCR to engage the policy challenges of the Inland Empire.”

Dymski noted that Sahabi’s gift is especially timely because UCR has developed campus-wide expertise in the challenges of preserving species and natural environments in areas with expanding human populations. “A center to study suburban development could synergize much of the work in social sciences and humanities at UCR,” Dymski said.

“UCR can achieve global prominence, in part, by taking advantage of the aspects of our region that are globally important. That means looking around ourselves and honestly assessing what this university can bring to the larger community.”

He said a conference in Spring, 2003 would be a critical part of the planning for the new center, which would then be submitted for formal academic review campus.

Dymski praised Sahabi’s vision for the future, including aspects of his Dos Lagos development plan that allows substantial amounts of open space in and among the housing, retail and recreational development.

“Here is this relatively young developer whose Corona development attempts to combine the values of human community and sustainable environment,” Dymski said. “I’m excited by the prospect of working with that vision.”

A private reception to honor Ali Sahabi will be held Friday, May 10 at the University Village Conference Center.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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