UCSC proposes unsustainable growth - Too much of a good thing
by Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt
Photo: Richard Stover
The University of California campus in Santa Cruz (UCSC) has bestowed
many important economic, social and cultural benefits on Santa Cruz
since its founding in the mid-1960s. However, its continued growth
threatens to completely overwhelm the community.
Under the University's last Long Range Development Plan (LRDP),
enrollment grew from about 9,000 students to almost 15,000 students.
As predicted, particularly in the City of Santa Cruz with a population
of about 56,000 people, traffic problems worsened, housing pressures
increased, and the quality of life, both on and off campus, deteriorated.
Now, the University is proposing another major increase in enrollment,
growing by 6,000 more students to a total of 21,000 by 2020. The
City of Santa Cruz is almost totally built out. It simply does not
have the capacity to absorb the University's growth.
The University recently released the Draft Environmental Impact
Report (DEIR) on the LRDP and the comment period ends January 11,
2006. The 900-page DEIR can be viewed online at http://lrdp.ucsc.edu.
The DEIR is seriously flawed and does not meet the legal requirements
of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). However, it
does document some of the major environmental impacts of the University's
growth plan, even though many of these impacts are understated.
Continued UCSC growth threatens to overwhelm Santa Cruz. Photo: Richard Stover
In this article, only a few of the DEIR findings can be briefly
o University growth will cause 10 significant and unavoidable impacts
affecting air quality, noise, hydrology, population, housing, traffic,
and water supply.
o The campus population growth, by itself, will be greater than
the total non-University growth projected for the City of Santa
Cruz by 2020.
o While the on-campus and off-campus student population currently
living in the City of Santa Cruz represents about 23% of its total
population, by 2020 it will equal over 34% of the City's population.
o At this time four city intersections operate at Level of Service
F (the worst rating) during peak hour. With the proposed University
growth, this number will shoot up to 15 intersections, and nine
will be at Level of Service F during both the morning and afternoon
o University growth will have a significant and unavoidable traffic
impact at 11 intersections.
The growth proposed under UCSCs Long Range Development Plan would destroy 120 acres of redwood and mixed evergreen forest. Photo: Richard Stover
o The University's growth will consume about 73% of the City's
remaining water supply capacity.
o Without the University's growth, the City would not have to expand
its water supply in normal rain years. With this growth, expanded
water supplies to serve future growth will be required.
o The growth proposed under the LRDP would result in the destruction
of 120 acres of redwood and mixed evergreen forests, of which 61
acres are second-growth redwoods. This represents about 13% of the
redwood forest on campus.
o About 50 acres of sensitive habitat will be destroyed as a result
of the LRDP, while 218 acres of impervious surface will be added.
If the DEIR had accurately accounted for the impacts of the University's
proposed growth, the results would be shocking enough. However,
the DEIR seriously understates the impacts and is legally inadequate.
Some of the most serious problems are the following:
o Because the DEIR does not include its assumptions regarding the
potential height of proposed new buildings, it is impossible to
evaluate the adequacy of the visual analysis.
o Many of the mitigation measures are couched in terms of "if
feasible" or "if possible," representing an inadequate
commitment to actually mitigate an impact.
o The DEIR doesn't consider the noise impacts of new construction
in the undeveloped north campus area in terms of the current noise
o The DEIR doesn't evaluate traffic impacts on Highway 1, although
it pro-jects that 25% of the campus trips will be on Highway 1.
o Traffic impacts of the University's growth are generally underestimated.
o The traffic analysis of the proposed 5,000-seat event center
is inadequate because it assumes, without justification, that all
events will be held in the evening so that none of the event traffic
will occur during weekday peak hours.
o In its evaluation of the proposed LRDP's impact on water supply,
the DEIR only evaluates on-campus growth, inappropriately ignoring
both off-campus and induced growth, which are major.
This relatively long article contains only a brief summary of the
impacts of the proposed University growth and the inadequacies of
the DEIR. The proposed growth is simply not sustainable, and the
University needs to reconsider its future growth levels, and, at
least, prepare an adequate EIR.
218 acres of impervious surface will be added to UCSC if the new Long Range Development Plan is adopted. Photo: Richard Stover
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