The Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) ruled to delay a vote on UC Santa Cruz’s proposed Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) to their October session.
Held Wednesday morning, the four-hour forum covered topics ranging from water credits to the sustainability of the LRDP. Participants in the discussion included LAFCO commissioners, students, professors, Santa Cruz residents and UC administrators.
The LRDP is an initiative that would expand UCSC campus housing into the Upper Campus area above Colleges Nine and Ten. Plans to advance the LRDP were originally proposed at a December LAFCO meeting, while a vote on applicable water restrictions to the proposed plan occurred at the March 7 session.
Before entering the 9:30 a.m. meeting, about 100 opponents of the LRDP gathered to plan their speaking strategy. After Chancellor George Blumenthal, former mayor Ryan Coonerty and former commissioner of LAFCO Gary Patton opened the meeting, opponents discussed the Upper Campus archaeological sites of the federally unrecognized Ohlone tribe, the welfare of the endangered Ohlone tiger beetle and wild salmon and the sustainability of LRDP. A 2,751 name petition of students and faculty against the development plan was presented by UCSC anthropology profesor Anna Tsing to the commsioners.
Early in the meeting, Blumenthal offered a proposal to delay the LRDP vote of the day in exchange for looser restrictions on water usage. He detailed a policy of paying $10,000 for every 1 million gallons that UCSC runs over the 176 million gallons, in exchange for UCSC being allowed a provisional cap of 206 million gallons per year.
Micha Rahder, a UCSC anthropology graduate student, expressed concern over the proposal’s effect on the environment.
“This has more to do with the real estate interests of the UCSC administration than the educational policy side of the administration,” she said. “Despite being in a financial crisis, UCSC needs to figure out a way to raise more funds without endangering wildlife.”
LAFCO commissioner John Leopold proposed a subcommittee that would attempt to reconcile the issues raised by students and residents with the university’s plan. Leopold and Mayor Don Lane cited the threat of legal action from the UC to LAFCO as the reasoning behind the creation of the proposed subcommittee.
But former LAFCO commissioner and current legal representative of the California Wildlife Center Gary Patton felt Leopold’s proposal was too generous to the administration’s interests.
“I’m disappointed by the board’s decision to delay,” Patton said. “Leopold’s subcommittee needs to take into account third party evaluations of the project. The board needs to make a decision, and they need to decide now.”
Blumenthal said the commissioners made the right choice in delaying the LRDP vote.
“I’d rather see a delayed vote and see the board get it right then to vote quickly in haste,” Blumenthal said. “Delaying the vote was wise.”
LAFCO will reopen the LRDP plan at a public session in August, with voting held at their October meeting. To learn more about the Save Upper Campus movement, see their website at www.teachtheforest.wordpress.com