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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county


UCSC growth stresses carrying capacity of County

by Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt

UCSC growth has an enormous impact on Santa Cruz. The current university proposal to expand enrollment by 6000 students (to 21,000) seriously threatens the quality of life of the community. Photo: Richard Stover

 

University growth has an enormous impact on Santa Cruz, and the current proposal to expand enrollment by 6000 students (to 21,000) seriously threatens the quality of life of the community.

Growth under the existing plan has overtaxed the local street system and increased pressure on the housing stock. The streets providing access to the campus are already highly congested, leading to some frustrated neighbors calling for a new environmentally-devastating road through the Pogonip park.

According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) completed on the current Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), an increase of 6000 students would result in a total population impact of over 16,000 additional people due to new staff, faculty, etc. Given the fact that the City of Santa Cruz is over 95% built out, there is little question that the recent university growth has already had an inflationary impact on housing prices even without this projected growth.

The proposed increase in the campus community of another 16,000 people would overwhelm the transportation network, increase housing prices even further, undermine the City's already difficult water planning efforts, and decrease already limited landfill space.

The University seems to think that big growth is necessary, but when it comes to universities, bigger is not necessarily better. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, and Brown all have undergraduate populations of less than 6000 students, which has not seemed to hinder academic programs or research at any of these institutions.

Undergraduate enrollment, by itself, currently makes up almost 5% of the Santa Cruz County's population, the second largest percent of any UC campus's ratio to county size. In addition, university students compose over 20% of the population in the City of Santa Cruz. These percentages would increase significantly under the proposed Plan.

At this point, the University administration expects to approve the draft LRDP in December and start the EIR process in January 2005 followed by the release of the draft EIR in September of 2005.

Opposition to the draft Plan is growing. A community group has formed to urge the University to reconsider the proposed enrollment increases. Over 130 letters were sent to the Acting Chancellor questioning the draft LRDP, and students submitted over 600 postcards requesting, among other things, that the proposed enrollment increases be reconsidered.

Like it or not, there is a limit to the carrying capacity of the community. Many of us believe we have reached it. What is needed is legislation that will require that UC campuses not exceed 5% of the host county's population unless they are subject to local land use planning. UCSC insists that they want to work with the community to mitigate problems caused by university growth. Such legislation would give them the vehicle to do so.

 

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