The Sequoia Ballroom at Hotel Paradox was alive with debate at the first of three Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Community Interactive Forums on March 5. About 100 Santa Cruz community members and UC Santa Cruz staff discussed the next iteration of the LRDP, which envisions what UCSC will look like until 2040 and is in the feedback and planning stages.
The LRDP is a 20-year plan of campus growth that dictates which spaces can be used for housing, academics and recreation. The current LRDP will expire in 2020, so the LRDP committee is working to finalize the 2040 plan by spring of 2020. The first draft will be submitted for environmental impact review at the end of this school year after the committee finishes gathering feedback for use in drafting 2040 LRDP scenarios.
Community members in attendance were mostly concerned with LRDP’s planning figure of 28,000 students by 2040 and the impact this potential 50 percent increase in students will have on issues ranging from the drying San Lorenzo River to the upkeep of mountain bike paths. Most were also concerned about waning educational quality.
“If the primary goal of being there is to learn, you need to have a good learning environment and I don’t think that’s been the case for quite a while on campus,” said attendee Peg Popken, who has watched the university grow and has seen the impacts of overcrowding since she came to Santa Cruz almost 50 years ago.
The forum aimed to address this range of concerns through seven interactive stations run by UCSC staff members, where people could ask questions and give feedback about topics of interest to them. Stations were dedicated to environmental and housing topics, along with one which addressed what an LRDP is and a survey and question station.
There was also a Q&A session at the end of the event where LRDP committee co- chairs Sarah Latham, UCSC vice chancellor of Business and Administrative Services, and Kimberly Lau, literature professor and vice chair of the Academic Senate, addressed questions and accepted feedback.
“Part of my feedback was — recognize reality,” said Terry, a community member who preferred not to give his last name, as he addressed the speakers and the audience at the Q&A. “The reality, ladies and gentlemen of the campus, is that UCSC has unfortunately not been a good neighbor to Santa Cruz. […] To say, because Sacramento is ordering us, we have to take more students, we have to inflict more overpopulation on this county is not ethical, reasonable nor honest.”
Fellow attendees applauded in agreement. As Latham and Lau answered questions, they said at this point the 2040 LRDP has no specific plans in place to expand campus. The committee is using this forum to gain feedback on what’s important to the wider Santa Cruz community, which will be shared with the planning committee for various planning scenarios.
Another community member, Julie Phillips*, is most concerned about water use and the depletion of the San Lorenzo River watershed.
“We’ve been watching climate change and we’ve been watching this watershed just fall apart. It’s nice to have all this stuff,” Phillips said, gesturing to the water and other information stations, “but the watershed is really dying. […] The UC system needs to know there are geographic limits, and the limits of Santa Cruz County are real.”
Phillips has lived in Santa Cruz for 60 years and her children can no longer afford to live here because the high housing costs and overcrowding drove them out.
The LRDP committee is expected to balance the needs of UCSC and its surrounding community while also following the regents’ policies and UCSC’s mission statement as it plans the university’s future. Although it’s difficult to take these opposing sides into account, Latham said feedback is critical to the LRDP development process.
“I’d rather work at a campus that’s located in a community that is passionate,” Latham said. “Even though it means you can have tense moments or challenging conversations, it’s worth it and you grow and you learn from each other — the community can learn about aspects of UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Cruz can learn about the community.”