By Jackie Dever
Last July, a state Supreme Court ruling brought the Monterey Bay campus of the California State University (CSU) to the forefront of a debate over the campus expansion taking place around California.
In a case brought against the CSU Board of Trustees, the city of Marina and other cities in the area argued that CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB) should pay for off-campus effects of the campus’s proposed expansion. The court found in favor of the plaintiff.
Many, including Santa Cruz Mayor Cynthia Matthews, think that the case could set statewide precedents which would affect UCSC’s LRDP.
But CSUMB is busy sifting through the court’s decision, trying to discern its meaning.
"There is a sort of 60,000 foot view of what this thing says, and what it may or may not mean," said Steve Reed, CSUMB Interim Vice President for University Advancement, of the decision’s language.
Reed added that the court has not yet issued its writ of mandate, which will specify CSU’s responsibility in addressing impacts.
Dan Johnson, CSUMB’s vice president for administration and finance, was also unclear on how exactly the court decision’s would shape the university’s future.
"There’s no clear message," Johnson said of the court’s ruling. "We don’t know what it means yet."
In light of the often-divisive nature of campus expansion, it is likely other cases will try to establish a precedent from the decision.
"Everything we do from this point might establish precedent," Reed said. "It’s going to take the legislator to look at legislation to bring higher education institutions and other agencies into conformity with the decision."
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt believes the decision has bearing on Santa Cruz’s own struggle over expansion.
"I think it’s right on point," she said. "It said the university is responsible for mitigating all of the impacts [of development], not just on campus impacts."
And UCSC administrators acknowledge that the case may be applied to UCSC. However, according to Blumenthal it won’t affect what UCSC does.
"It was always our intention to act in compliance with the intent of that decsion. So for us it made no difference," Blumenthal said.
In Monterey the physical location of the campus increases the complexity of the issue.
CSUMB opened on the decommissioned Ford Ord army base in 1995 with an enrollment of 633 students and currently enrolls roughly 4,000 students. The campus’ Master Plan calls for Full Time Equivalent (FTE)* student population of 25,000 by 2030.
The management of Fort Ord’s transition to civilian use falls under the authority of the Fort Ord Reuse Authorization (FORA), whose governing board includes appointees by city governments surrounding the base.
CSUMB’s Environmental Impact Report found five environmental effects, which will "require FORA to improve Fort Ord’s infrastructure," according to the text of the court’s decision.
The EIR identifies actions to partially mitigate the five effects: drainage, water supply, traffic, wastewater management and fire protection.
The court’s decision explains, "FORA hopes to reach an agreement with the Trustees on their fair share of the cost of infrastructure improvements."
Johnson believes the campus EIR complies with FORA.
"FORA has its own EIR, which we believe we are in compliance with," Johnson said. "When the major impacts are traffic, we find it difficult to see the logic in transferring funds from one state agency to another."
Reed said public universities have limited funds, especially since Proposition 13 limited the property taxes from which California public schools were primarily funded. Most money for public education now comes from the state’s general fund.
Johnson added that the existence of CSUMB benefits the surrounding community, a point CSU made during the lawsuit.
"We’re a little like Santa Cruz in that the campus is [a large local] employer," Johnson said. "The campus brings benefits to the local area." *Full Time Equivalent Student refers to the number of students enrolled collectively in at least 15 units.