As Santa Cruz residents navigate the housing crisis, overcrowded classes and buses, the newest Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) planning estimate of 28,000 students by 2040 has been met with contention from students and community members alike.
After Chancellor George Blumenthal revealed the planning estimate last week, the Student Environmental Center (SEC) hosted an informational forum on Jan. 17 for students who felt frustrated with the administration’s lack of communication.
Chayla Fisher, SEC member and one of three students who serve on the LRDP planning committee, co-organized the event. She said information from the administration feels like it’s always changing, which can be frustrating for students looking to get involved.
“As students, we want to know what’s going on, where our money is going, what the plans are for future developments,” Fisher said. “We really want the administration to start being more transparent, having more events that include student opinions and student voices rather than just talking at us, saying ‘This is what’s going to happen.’”
Students were not alone in trying to understand the LRDP’s new planning estimates. The administration revealed the planning estimate to the Santa Cruz City Council the same day it was published in a campuswide email on Jan. 12. This differed from previous campus–city agreements established by the 2005 LRDP.
“When I first saw the reported increase to students, I was shocked. That represents approximately the size of some local cities,” said Santa Cruz Mayor David Terrazas. “In my opinion, that number is unattainable as a city.
The campus would need to look for other locations to accommodate that number of students in our region.” To voice the city’s and students’ concerns of overcrowding, among other issues, city council members Cynthia Mathews and Chris Krohn and Student Union Assembly President Max Jimenez sit on the LRDP committee. Jimenez said the space has opened up dialogue between the city, students and administration, though it is not without its flaws.
“At first, it was definitely not as welcoming as I wish it could’ve been,” Jimenez said. “There’s still this hierarchy where the older folks in the room feel that they know better, but at the end of the day we are the ones who are students and the ones who are going to be using what’s being built.”
The 20-person LRDP committee meets once a month and is in charge of drafting the plan itself. Members of the committee are meant to represent a range of Santa Cruz communities and convey their concerns with university growth.
According to Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham, the administration tries to use platforms such as social media and email to gather student feedback, but students still feel disconnected from the process.
“Part of it is as students, there are so many pieces of information coming at you, so many demands on your time. You’ve got to do your schoolwork, much less your other activities. […] I know it can be frustrating for people that don’t feel included,” Latham said.
Some students may have the wrong idea about the planning estimate, Latham said, mistaking it for an enrollment target.
“It’s just a testing assumption, a testing number. The whole process is getting feedback on it, doing analysis on it, identifying what that looks like,” she said. “At the end we might say, after all the testing and analysis, there’s just no physical way to do this, to mitigate the impacts, but we don’t know that yet.”
Currently, the committee has not released any complete drafts of the 2020 LRDP but plans to release a draft in summer 2018.
The planning process is open to the public, and the LRDP committee will host informational forums weekly to update and address student concerns, said LRDP committee student representative Chayla Fisher. She said students interested in making a change should take advantage of the various open forums and discussions facilitated by the community.
“With any issue like this, people always ask why they should care,” Fisher said. “They should care because even if it doesn’t impact them, it might impact their best friend, someone close to them. It’s going to impact the majority of students on this campus, and they should care about that.”