The city of Berkeley, Calif., has filed a lawsuit that could delay construction of 150 faculty apartments by the University of California at Berkeley — but not because the city opposes the project, say elected officials.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city is seeking “a commitment from UC to pay its fair share, not to stop the Upper Hearst project,” says Berkeley Vice Mayor Susan Wengraf.
“The University’s exempt status from property taxes and various other taxes and fees makes it critical that the City and University work together to plan for the University’s population growth in a way that preserves our ability to maintain their safety," Wengraf says.
The project, which was approved last month by the University of California regents, also includes a building for the Goldman School of Public Policy. It would cover a large sloped lot on the northeast edge of campus that now is occupied by a parking garage.
UC Berkeley already pays $2.1 million a year to the city in impact fees, an amount agreed to in 2005 as part of a legal settlement. At the time, plans called for the university enrollment to level out at 33,450 students by 2020 — 9,000 below the number now enrolled.
The lawsuit caught the university by surprise, says UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof. The two sides were in negotiations over revising the impact fees, and Mogulof says the university had proposed increasing them by 30 percent, in proportion to the student growth beyond what was anticipated in 2005.
“We’re very confident that we will prevail in court but ... (the lawsuit) is likely to delay university efforts to build urgently needed housing and needlessly waste both city and campus resources on litigation,” Mogulof says.
The city has conducted a study that it says puts a $21 million price tag on the municipal services that result from the presence of the university and its students and staff. According to Mogulof, that’s roughly the amount now being sought by the city in fees — 10 times the current amount.