The Struggle Against Expansion

1284

Students, faculty and community members met to discuss their opposition to UC Santa Cruz’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) on Jan. 22.

The meeting was held by Santa Cruz Forest Keepers (SCFK), a group of students and community members concerned with awareness of environmental issues. The first meeting, which was held at the Louden Nelson Community Center, is part of a larger ongoing series.

Labeled “Save Upper Campus,” the event brought attendees together to “share inspiration, make connections and coordinate plans of action” to oppose the development of Upper Campus, according to an event description posted on IndyBay.com.

“This is more than an activist struggle,” said a member of the group who requested to be referred to as Cat. “This is not a compromise. We do not want any development whatsoever.”

The LRDP is a continually updated roadmap for development, expansion and construction at UCSC, and has guided all new additions to the campus since it first opened in 1965. The current LRDP dates back to 2005, and concentrates new construction in the Upper Campus forest above Colleges Nine and Ten.

This proposed construction would clear 240 acres of forest to add new residential colleges, classrooms, research facilities and other buildings. If completed, the construction would allow UCSC to accommodate a total of 19,500 students and faculty, up from the current 16,750.

The UCSC administration said the construction is necessary to keep pace with increased demand from California’s growing high school population, and to ensure UCSC retains its spot as a top-tier research university.

The opposition to the LRDP is based largely on environmental concerns.

Some Santa Cruz Forest Keepers (SCFK) members believe the upper campus forest is not an acceptable location for any development project. Moreover, they believe the impacts of the project will contradict UCSC’s portrayal of the plan as sustainable and environmentally sensitive.

Mars, a single parent and member of the group, is strongly against expansion even though she has never been a UCSC student.

“Many alternative options exist that could satisfy the university’s wishes for enrollment and program growth, while preventing further destruction of delicate and irreplaceable campus ecosystems and the unique educational environment they offer,” Mars said. “We encourage creative solutions involving the democratic participation of the campus and Santa Cruz communities.”

Some of Mars’ alternatives include a better use of existing campus facilities. She also urged the administration to reconsider the feasibility of  accommodating such a large enrollment increase at UCSC.

The discussion began with an outline of the LRDP as well as a rundown of the university’s history with previous LRDPs. The expansion proposed in the current LRDP would use an additional 152 million gallons of water per year from Santa Cruz’s already limited water supply. The issue of increased water usage has been a major point of opposition to the LRDP in the past.

Plans to move forward with construction outlined in the LRDP are stalled. The university is currently awaiting the city’s approval to revise its Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which assesses potential impacts of the plan, including its effects on traffic, water usage and the Upper Campus ecosystem. Without an approved EIR, the university will not be given the go-ahead by the Local Agency Formation (LAFCO) for extended water service to Upper Campus.

After discussing the specifics of the LRDP, SCFK members broke off into individual sections, each tasked with ongoing responsibilities. Sections focused on objectives ranging from campus outreach  to forest walks.

Elena Staley, the campus outreach leader, led a mini discussion about various approaches to outreach such as tabling and powerpoints. The group was composed of around 4 to 5 people, each expressing a desire to play a part in spreading awareness about the LRDP and engaging the university population about such an issue.

“It’s inspiring to see people have the energy and desire to give time to this issue,” Staley said. “You helped confirm for me the importance of what we’re doing together.”

For more information  on how to get involved, visit saveuppercampus.org