bout 85 percent of UC Santa Cruz students report experiencing problems with overcrowding, according to SUA’s Resolution on Over Enrollment. Despite being located in a town with an evident housing crisis, UCSC is still preparing for potential increases of its student body by more than 50 percent.
The newest Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), a 20-year plan for potential campus growth dictating which spaces may be used for housing, academics and recreation, plans for an increase of the student body to about 28,000 students by 2040, about 9,000 more students than the university enrolled last fall.
The Coalition for Limiting University Expansion (CLUE), an anti-university expansion community group, hosted over 80 attendees at a meeting in the Santa Cruz Police Department Community Room on April 19. There, CLUE informed local residents about the effects the LRDP will have on the Santa Cruz community.
“Santa Cruz is a small community,” said CLUE co-chair John Aird. “It can only absorb so much of the university’s growth without fundamental and negative effects on the community at large.”
CLUE was created in 2005 by local Santa Cruz residents who were concerned about the impact UCSC’s LRDP was causing in the community. The coalition along with the city and county filed a lawsuit against the university in 2005 opposing the plans of the 2005 LRDP that predicted the enrollment of 19,500 students by 2020. Once they reached a settlement, CLUE went quiet, hosting semi-annual meetings with the city, county and chancellor to see if the negotiated agreements were being upheld.
However, when Chancellor George Blumenthal announced the proposal of the new LRDP, Aird and other CLUE members thought it was time to get active again and reach out to the community.
Speakers at the meeting discussed the effects enrollment growth will have on community and campus resources, specifically inflated housing prices, unreliable transportation and large classroom sizes. Santa Cruz City Council and CLUE board members encouraged attendees to vote “yes” on Measure U, which will appear on the June 5 ballot.
“If you vote ‘yes’ on Measure U, you are voting for no further growth of the university,” Aird said. “The basic referendum is to say effectively enough is enough, Santa Cruz itself cannot absorb more growth.”
Measure U asks voters to oppose UCSC’s LRDP. It will give the City Council sole authority to implement policies intended to limit enrollment growth and to establish infrastructure requirements, basic structure of an organization, at UCSC.
The current process gives policy authority to the LRDP planning committee made of UCSC faculty, SUA representatives and community members, among others.
The ballot measure is a symbolic gesture to show community unrest. If it is passed, the university does not have to comply as it is exempt from local jurisdiction, meaning laws created by city or county authorities.
“We think this ballot measure is premature, as voters will essentially be asked to weigh in on a campus future that is still very much on the drawing board,” Hernandez-Jason said “[…] State law prohibits any public agency from using public funds or resources in the preparation of an argument for or against a ballot measure.”
Santa Cruz residents believe Measure U will show a strong community voice against expansion.
“In terms of public relations it will put an enormous pressure on the university if 70-80 percent of Santa Cruz votes to limit university growth to 19,500,” said Chris Krohn, city council member and UCSC’s environmental studies internship director.
Community members’ goal for the ballot measure is to urge UC regents to redirect growth to other UC campuses looking to expand, such as Merced, Davis and Riverside.
“[The UC Regents] should take steps to expand the UC in communities which would welcome its presence, where housing costs are lower, water is more readily available and traffic isn’t a nightmare,” said Gillian Greensite, who has lived in Santa Cruz for 43 years.
CLUE invited Chayla Fisher, a student representative for the LRDP committee, to speak on behalf of the student body regarding the university’s lack of resources. She elaborated on capping expansion until necessary resources, such as affordable housing, are available to students.
“If they try to have 28,000 students, it is just going to exacerbate the current conditions,” Fisher said. “There is going to be more housing insecurity and homeless students.”
The campus prides itself on being focused on alleviating poverty and economic justice, but enticing low-income students to come to a university with the fourth-least affordable real estate in the world is immoral, Fisher said.
While UCSC houses one of the highest percentage of its students on campus compared to other UCs, 47 percent of UCSC students still live off campus where the average rent of a two bedroom apartment is $2,700 a month and a studio is over $1,200.
“UCSC is not thinking of students’ welfare when they try to convince them to attend a school that is located in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country with no subsidized student housing available,” said Santa Cruz resident Gillian Greensite.
UCSC union workers also share this struggle, with clerical employees averaging an annual salary of $47,300, according to UCnet. This equates to less than $4,000 a month, meaning if they resided in Santa Cruz, over 50 percent of their paycheck could go toward housing.
Students and faculty members are focused on the LRDP’s impact on resources, while many long-term residents are fearful expansion will inhibit their way of life. However, the goal is clear, Chayla Fisher said: the new LRDP needs to limit growth more strictly than the previous one.
Although each party has its own concerns and reservations on university expansion and the impact it will have on the Santa Cruz community, CLUE, City Council members, and UCSC student representatives are all working together to revise the current LRDP.
“There is a perfect storm right here,” Chris Krohn said. “People that generally do not agree with each other are currently of one mind on this issue — that the university just cannot grow.”