UCSC’s Blueprint

Building a university in the redwoods



When UCSC’s first LRDP was written, it projected the campus would accommodate 27,500 students in 20 colleges with 10 professional schools by 1990. Most of upper campus would be developed to house over 50 percent of students on or close to campus. Photo courtesy of UCSC Special Collections.

At UC Santa Cruz, buildings don’t haphazardly sprout up like trees.

The Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) decides where and when these buildings are developed. While not binding, it’s the guiding document that helps inform campus planners of future development. It’s re-evaluated every decade to meet the ever-changing needs of the campus.

In the 1990s, the university developed Colleges Nine and Ten. Students and community members attempted to delay the logging which encroached into “Elfland,” protesting the clearing of 150 of about 2,000 trees on the 42-acre upper-campus site and destruction of the area.

Forty-two people, including eight students, were arrested on trespassing charges during the protest. Twenty-three officers from UC Davis and UC Berkeley assisted the UCSC Police Department.

“One lesson learned is how difficult — at times futile — it can be to try and fight development,” Melissa Campos, a student during the protests, said in the collection of oral histories titled “The Unnatural History of UC Santa Cruz.”

“By the time we got involved, the mammoth wheels of the Long Range Development Plan had been in motion for months, and to try and stop the momentum of a machine like the university seldom results in success,” Campos said in the recordings.

“The Unnatural History of UC Santa Cruz,” written by a UCSC writing class and edited by writing lecturer Jeff Arnett, details the intricacies and values of Elfland. The book describes Elfland as containing “over 48 different sites ranging from dens and forts to shrines and natural wonders.” The development of the area was also under scrutiny for its proximity to Ohlone Indian archaeological sites.

Students frequently visited the area, and when the LRDP called for a portion of its destruction in the development of Colleges Nine and Ten, people tried to stop it.

“[Many] who visited it created or added new sites. There was a strong attachment by people who came to it, saw it and appreciated it,” Arnett said. “The depth of the protests demonstrated how strongly some people felt about it.”

But protests aren’t the only way that students attempted to shape UCSC’s development. Though student participation is encouraged, the LRDP’s complexity and lengthy drafting process can make it difficult for students to engage and learn about it.

“I think the majority of the student body doesn’t know what it is or what it means,” said Student Union Assembly (SUA) President Julie Foster. “There’s so much confusion about the LRDP.”

Ami Gonzalez, a second-year environmental studies major, serves as the coordinator for the Green Building Campaign, run by the Student Environmental Center. The group advocates for student involvement in the LRDP and other development decisions.

“We need more students to know about it now, so when it comes to a new LRDP, which [will] happen soon, people will know what it is,” Gonzalez said. Campus planners expect to start the next LRDP within a year.

Gonzalez and other members of the campaign host workshops to help students understand the history and context of campus development so they are prepared to be involved.

“In the last LRDP committee, only two students participated. How are you going to get a sense of student life with only two students?” Gonzalez said. “Every student is a critical thinker. They might be able to think of a better solution.”

The LRDP takes three to four years to develop, and includes various planners and stakeholders from across the campus and city. At the beginning of each LRDP drafting process, organizers reach out to SUA and the Graduate Student Association to encourage student involvement.

“A number of different parties come together in a long, laborious process,” said senior public information representative of news and media relations Guy Lasnier.

The LRDPs take years to develop, Lasnier said, and they aren’t the only documents that inform campus planners. The LRDP is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which outlines the impact potential plans could have on an area. Water usage, housing and traffic are detailed in the EIR.


A series of agreements and lawsuits with the City of Santa Cruz also limit the expansion of campus. Measure J makes sewage and water delivery and removal to new areas subject to city approval and Measure I allows the city to withhold services to the campus if the UC doesn’t fully address environmental impacts of expansion. Both passed in 2006.

Without limitations to development plans, the campus would look much different today.

The first LRDP, written in 1963, projected the campus would eventually grow to 27,500 students by 1990 and house 20 colleges and 10 professional schools, while housing at least 50 percent of the student body on or near campus.

While enrollment hasn’t reached 27,500, UC President Janet Napolitano’s recent call for UC campuses to accept more undergraduate students is a growth increase that the LRDP was created to accommodate.

The current plan was written in 2005, and calls for 19,500 graduate and undergraduate students by 2020, which is 2,220 more students than enrolled the last fall quarter. UCSC had 17,866 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in 2014.

With expansion on the horizon, students continue to try to shape campus development. Groups are actively opposing expansion into the Porter Meadows and other areas on campus that are slated for development within the next few years.