Lawsuits stall plans for new housing at University of California Santa Cruz

July 2, 2019
Regents have approved plans for Student Housing West, which would add 3,000 beds at UC Santa Cruz, but 2 groups have challenged the plan on environmental grounds.

The University of California Board of Regents has approved plans for new student housing at the UC Santa Cruz campus, but because of legal challenges, it is not clear whether the projects will be allowed to move forward.

The plans for Student Housing West call for more than 3,000 new student beds on campus at two sites: the Hagar Site, near the southeast corner of the main campus and the Heller Site, on the western side of the main campus near the Heller Drive entry gate. The project also will include a new Early Education Center serving 140 children of the university's students, faculty, and staff.

The project is being led by developer Capstone Development Partners and the lead architect is HED, according to an HED news release. The Heller site would provide about 800,000 square feet of undergraduate student housing across five buildings.

Since the Regents gave the go-ahead for the housing proposals, two lawsuits have been filed to stop the projects.

The university says that although it provides housing for 9,300 students—roughly half of its student body—an urgent need remains for affordable campus housing, especially for upper-division students who otherwise would be living in the surrounding community. 

The lawsuits seeking to block the development have raised environmental concerns, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The suit brought by the East Meadow Action Committee contends that the student housing project violates state environmental law by failing to properly vet project alternatives and analyze all potential impacts.

In the other suit, Santa Cruz-based conservation group Habitat and Watershed Caretakers argues that UC Santa Cruz's environmental review inadequately analyzed project alternatives and potential environmental impacts.

The university asserts that it has conducted a thorough environmental review, and it has expressed frustration that critically needed housing is being delayed.

The university's statement:

Our students—and residents in the surrounding community—are in desperate need of safe and affordable housing. Student Housing West is our attempt to address the need for student housing head-on.

The project, which has been subject to six public hearings, held on and off campus, as well as a thorough environmental review, will significantly increase on-campus housing options, with 3,000 new beds for students. We also believe it will help relieve some pressure on the local housing market, creating more housing opportunities for community members as students move back to campus. The project will also allow us to expand our child care program to serve the children of faculty and staff, in addition to students.

Student Housing West is a win for our students and is a win for our community. For that reason, it’s frustrating to see a challenge to this vital project in the courts. 

This move will only hurt our students by resulting in unnecessary delays and increasing project costs, forestalling what we all agree we need: more housing. 
About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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