UC Santa Cruz originally built its 42-trailer Camper Park in the ‘80s to address a housing shortage. Now, in the midst of a new housing crisis, the university has zoned the park’s land for a future construction project and left some trailers vacant since last year.
“There’s always been this vague threat surrounding the trailer park,” said UCSC environmental studies alumna Eliana Willis, who lived in the park for more than two years. “People have always known this land is slated for development and that the trailer park is not as valued by the university as it is by the students.”
That “vague threat” is UCSC’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), approved in 2006 by the UC Board of Regents. The LRDP aims to build new facilities so the university can serve 19,500 students — 1,632 more than the fall 2015 population — by 2020. The Camper Park, tucked above Kresge College, is on land that is set to be built upon.
“There is not an established timeline for [the Camper Park’s development], or a definitively planned project,” said Sue Matthews, the Colleges, Housing and Educational Services associate vice chancellor, in an email. “However, the park does sit on land that can, and likely will, someday be developed.”
According to the LRDP, the plan isn’t “a mandate for growth or a detailed implementation plan for development,” which is why specific expansion projects don’t have a timeline.
“Most of the residents think that the LRDP itself is inherently flawed,” Willis said. “It’s not just about the trailer park, it’s about Upper Campus. And it’s also about the city of Santa Cruz and the effect that adding thousands of more students would have.”
However, UCSC’s director of news and media relations Scott Hernandez-Jason said in an email that students shouldn’t assume thousands of new undergraduates will be added to UCSC by 2020. Next year UCSC plans to enroll about 300 more students, as mandated by the UC.
“The LRDP is like a city and county general plan,” Hernandez-Jason said. “It designates areas for certain types of use or open space, but in and of itself, it does not mandate growth.”
But another trailer park resident, who goes by Pachamama, feels there needs to be more discussion between students and administration about the LRDP and the Camper Park.
“I don’t feel it’s sustainable to have these decisions — whether they are large scale like the LRDP, or they’re smaller scale with just what happens between administration and the trailer park,” she said. “There needs to be a conversation in order for both parties to understand what the fuck is happening.”
Yet, “parkies,” who easily save $6,000 or more a year living at the park instead of the dorms, remain troubled with the lack of concrete details surrounding the LRDP and worry the recent removal of three trailers has something to do with the looming construction project.
“We’ve had some trailers removed due to what were said to be structural issues with the trailers,” Eliana Willis said. “But there have been problems in the ways that those removals and processes were conducted that kind of make us worry whether there’s a connection between getting rid of trailers and the ultimate removal of the trailer park.”
Last fall, assistant director of housing, Catherine Green, announced during a meeting with parkies that the campground would have 39 trailers, instead of the normal 42, without saying why. Green directed City on a Hill Press to UCSC’s news and media department when asked to comment.
Sue Matthews said in an email that no new trailers were allowed due to lack of staff.
“The personnel who used to provide the new trailer inspection no longer worked for the university, so we needed to identify a new process,” Matthews said.
“Every time we talked to the assistant of affiliated residential housing director of housing, Catherine Green, about this, she would just say, ‘That’s the policy, no new trailers,’ and not really give us any information on why that was the case,” Willis said.
When Willis emailed inquiries to Matthews and director of housing Dave Keller, she said Keller didn’t reply, and Matthews said new trailers could come in.
“So, it was kind of strange that there was this disconnect between the residents and our immediate staff who’s responsible,” Willis said.
Since last fall, a trailer has been moved in to bring up the total amount to 40, and residents hope that the park will soon return to its 42-trailer capacity.
“It’s important to get those two spots filled,” resident Pachamama said. “For me, personally, it would make the community feel whole again.”