About 30 UC Santa Cruz faculty, students, community residents and members gathered at the Merrill Cultural Center on Wednesday to share their verbal and written comments regarding the Student Housing West (SHW) project draft environmental impact report.
This was one of two additional public hearings scheduled by UCSC administrators after they extended the draft environmental impact review period due to contentious debate surrounding the housing project. The review period now ends June 27.
Traci Ferdolage, associate vice chancellor of physical planning, development and operations and campus interim planner Jolie Kerns presented updates on SHW including new calculations of proposed bed costs for alternative project plans, showing costs ranging from an additional $200 million to $597 million. The currently proposed SHW project plan will cost $771 million, Ferdolage said. These estimates do not include any costs of time delay, such as rising costs or interest rate risk.
Public comments covered a multitude of concerns, from campus aesthetics to child safety. However, the public consensus was a frustration with the rushed timeline. Despite a 45-day extension to the comment period, community members feel that the university has not adequately addressed their concerns.
Second-year history of consciousness graduate student Michael
McCarrin, who is expecting a child this year, said the university’s failure to prioritize families on campus sends a hostile message.
“Many of us accepted our offers here with the idea that as students with families, we will be supported and to throw that away is a violation of what we were promised when we came here,” McCarrin said.
Participants repeatedly called for the need to consider more alternatives. Faye Crosby, distinguished professor of psychology, shared a proposed alternative that she said was not included in either of the information sessions.
Crosby, like many of the participants, emphasized the importance of transparency, accurate research and the need to continue investigating and reviewing other alternatives. Crosby was also particularly concerned about the many administrative pitfalls she has witnessed during her career.
“We’re poor as a campus so when we make decisions that may be short-sighted, they end up being much more costly in the long term,” Crosby said.
Another public hearing will be held June 7 at the Louden Nelson Community Center. The extended public review period will close on June 27 and the final EIR date was postponed from its original completion date of July. However, the details of the schedule going forward were not announced.