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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

UCSC proposes unsustainable growth - Too much of a good thing

by Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt


Photo: Richard Stover
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

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.


Photo: Richard Stover
Continued UCSC growth threatens to overwhelm Santa Cruz. Photo: Richard Stover

In this article, only a few of the DEIR findings can be briefly outlined:

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 peaks.

o University growth will have a significant and unavoidable traffic impact at 11 intersections.


Photo: Richard Stover
The growth proposed under UCSC’s 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 levels.

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.


Photo: Richard Stover
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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