By Will Norton-Mosher
The UC regents voted unanimously in favor of approving the latest draft of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) last Thursday amid strong opposition from city and community leaders. The plan, initially drafted in 2003, would allow UC Santa Cruz to develop more than 150 acres (or 3.2 million square feet of land) for university use. Many city residents oppose the plan, including city council members and Mayor Cynthia Matthews. The Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE) says that the university hasn’t done enough to deal with the strain that the development would place on water supplies, traffic, and housing.City Councilmember and UCSC Legal Studies Lecturer Ryan Coonerty was disappointed with the lack of university and city coordination on the issue. "I think everyone on the council is in agreement about being disappointed about how the city’s concerns are addressed." Coonerty said. "There is no doubt that UCSC strains the city’s resources. One needs only to look at the high rents and traffic on Bay St. to see that."But UCSC Associate Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Irwin countered this statement, claiming that the university has spent millions of dollars in university assistance measures that helped the city complete municipal projects.Irwin also claimed that the growth plan is not a mandate for expansion, but a plan that would accommodate growth as enrollment figures grow.Though city residents are concerned about traffic and housing issues, the legal battle over the LRDP may focus on water and sewage issues. Irwin suggested that water should not be an issue. "UCSC pays for all the water it uses, but UCSC uses only about five percent of the total output from the Santa Cruz water department," Irwin said. "UCSC used only 19 percent more water than it used between 1986 and 2003, even though enrollment grew by 60 percent." As a response to the LRDP, Third District Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt wrote measures I and J, which would make the university responsible for complying with the Local Agency Formation Commission’s (LAFCo) guidelines before the city extends water and sewer service to the university. In effect, the measures would inhibit university growth if the guidelines aren’t met. They would also require the university to pay for the construction and expansion of any water supply used to serve future university growth.CLUE Co-Founder Don Stevens clarified his position. "What the city is saying is that they aren’t opposed to UCSC growth, but [CLUE] is opposed to UCSC growth if UCSC can’t take care of the negative impacts," he said. Coonerty is concerned with what he perceives as a lack of university involvement with city planning. He predicts that the LRDP may lead to lawsuits between the city and the campus. But Coonerty acknowledged that lawsuits may not be necessary, because Measures I and J, which will appear on the November ballot, could prevent the LRDP from going into action. "In November, the citizens of Santa Cruz … will have their say in what the community and university will look like in the next decade."