When completed, Sacramento State Placer Center is expected to be a key piece of the Placer Ranch development. (Rendering courtesy of Placer Ranch, Inc.)
By Dixie Reid
In May 1951, Guy West, president of what was then Sacramento State College, ceremoniously began clearing part of the 300 acres that would be the site for the school’s J Street campus.
It was a highly anticipated and significant milestone for what would become the California State University (CSU) institution known as Sacramento State.
Now, a donation of land from entrepreneur and philanthropist Eli Broad, along with other significant contributions, will allow Sacramento State to break ground on another 300 acres, this time 28 miles away in unincorporated Placer County.
To be established there, in what planners believe will be just a few years, will be Sacramento State Placer Center, designed to serve one of the state’s fastest-growing regions.
CSU trustees on March 24 approved the creation of Sacramento State Placer Center and accepted from Broad and his company, Placer Ranch, Inc., the land gift with an appraised value of $27.4 million.
Placer Center will be the centerpiece of the 2,200-acre master-planned Placer Ranch development situated on slightly rolling land with views of the Sierra Nevada and Sutter Buttes, and sharing a three-mile border with Roseville.
The land is within Placer County’s Sunset Plan Area, which has been set aside for decades to generate job growth in the region.
The development as envisioned will become a full-service community, with office and commercial space as well as research facilities.
Placer Center initially could accommodate up to 500 full-time students, many of whom could be simultaneously enrolled through Sac State and Rocklin’s Sierra College, one of the University’s largest feeder schools.
Expansion of Placer Center would require further CSU trustee approval. Such consent, based on planned infrastructure, could allow the center eventually to become a full-service university that project leaders say could educate thousands of students annually.
“We know that unlike Southern California and the rest of the United States, the Sacramento region continues to grow in population,” said University President Robert S. Nelsen, citing the need for the center. “Sacramento State is turning away 3,000 to 4,000 students every year. Placer Center will allow us to free up space on the main campus and to accept the students who are having to go to community college and wait in line for their chance to come to Sac State.”
Buildings expected to be among those completed early in development are a Placer County crime lab and, possibly, a Sierra College transfer center. Other buildings will follow based on fundraising and public/private partnership opportunities.
“Sac State will lease space in those buildings for teaching,” said Jonathan Bowman, vice president for Administration and Business Affairs, which includes Facilities Management. “A big goal for us is that we soon have something in the works that will be a Sacramento State building.
“Nothing has ever been done for the CSU quite like what Placer Ranch has been able to do for us. It’s quite spectacular.”
The Placer County Board of Supervisors partnered with Placer Ranch, Inc. to provide the infrastructure needed for the center.
“That’s how important Placer Center is to this region,” said Holly Tiche ’89 (Business Administration - Accountancy), president of Placer Ranch, Inc.
Tiche has worked for Eli Broad since graduating from Sacramento State and has been involved since serious discussions about a Sac State off-campus center began in 2002.
“Placer County is my home,” Tiche said. “It is an honor to be able to expand access to higher education for Placer County students and those in nearby areas.”
Academically, Sac State is collaborating with Sierra College for a dual-enrollment venture to address Placer County education needs and to take advantage of the strong partnership between the two institutions.
One goal is to create a system of seamless academic support for students as they complete their community college studies and transfer to Sacramento State.
“We’re thinking about innovative ways to serve students better,” said Christine Miller, Sacramento State’s interim vice provost for Strategic Services. “Everything we’re thinking about for the Academics Affairs piece is tailor-made for that area.”
Miller cited the Placer County crime lab as a venue for real-world learning for students, who will have access there to internships and classes.
Eli Broad is a well-known champion of K-12 and higher education in California and served as a CSU trustee from 1978 until 1982. He and his wife, Edythe, made a significant mark on Sac State in 2005, when their foundation gave the University $2 million toward construction of the Athletics field house that bears their name.
They also are longtime supporters of civic development, medical research, science, and the arts. In 2015, they opened The Broad, a free, contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles.
SACRAMENTO STATE PLACER CENTER TIMELINE
Three Sacramento State presidents – Donald Gerth (1984-2003), Alexander Gonzalez (2003-15), and Robert S. Nelsen (2015-present) – and two California State University (CSU) chancellors have shepherded the creation of the Sacramento State’s Placer Center, an effort that started nearly 18 years ago:
- September 2002: President Donald Gerth and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed meet with Holly Tiche, president of Placer Ranch, Inc., to discuss a land donation for a Sac State center in unincorporated Placer County.
- February 2003: Sacramento State, Placer Ranch, and Placer County agree to a partnership for the Placer Center.
- April 2004: Sac State and Placer Ranch, Inc., sign a letter of intent.
- October 2006: President Gonzalez presents the idea to the CSU Board of Trustees, which unanimously approves the Placer Center “in concept.”
- January 2014: Sac State’s volunteer Placer advisory committee begins to offer guidance and support for regional workforce needs and academic partnerships.
- December 2014: Sac State and Sierra College sign a letter of intent to share space at Placer Ranch.
- March 2015: CSU Chancellor Timothy White tours the project site.
- July 2015: University President Nelsen tours the site.
- October 2019: Placer County Board of Supervisors approves the construction of a county crime lab at the Placer Center.
- December 2019: Supervisors unanimously approve the Placer Center project, opening the door for Placer Ranch, Inc., to donate 300 acres to the CSU.
- March 2020: The CSU Board of Trustees vote to accept the land donation for the Sacramento State Placer Center.