The University of California Board of Regents will vote on details of UCSB’s Long Range Development Plan and the university’s system-wide retirement policy today during their final day of a bi-monthly business meeting held at UC San Francisco.
The LRDP, which details UCSB’s expansion plan to accommodate a projected 5,000 additional undergraduate students and 1,400 faculty members by the year 2025, has been unanimously approved by two committees of the Regents, but has not been taken to a vote before the full Board as of yet. Aside from voting on the LRDP, the Regents will also determine today whether to increase the percentage of employee and university contributions to retirement pension plans from 2 percent and 4 percent of paychecks, respectively, to 5 percent and 10 percent.
While the surrounding community has expressed concern about the environmental impact of the LRDP, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said the university has taken a number of measures within the last few years to ensure that the interests of Santa Barbara County, the city of Goleta and local groups are incorporated in the plan.
“Our campus has all along been working very closely with the local jurisdictions as well as with some community groups to try to address particular concerns and issues and that’s reflected in the approvals that were given to the plan by both the City Council of Goleta and the County Board,” Desruisseaux said.
Aside from containing the growing student and employee population, the LRDP, which was approved by every member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and Goleta City Council last week, also calls for an additional 1.8 million square-foot increase in academic space. Additionally, the plan aims to house 50 percent of the student population — as opposed to the current 35 percent — in university housing.
The university circulated an Environmental Impact Report to garner public feedback about the plan upon drafting the LRDP in 2008. After the initial EIR proved to be contentious within the community, the university amended its plans regarding water supply and demand, population and housing, wastewater capacity, traffic modeling and greenhouse gas emissions.
UCSB Professor Emeritus Richard Flacks has been representing Sustainable University Now in negotiations with the university regarding various aspects of the LRDP. In addition to insufficient faculty housing, Flacks said SUN is also concerned about the discrepancy between the university’s speculations of how much water the expansion will utilize and the Goleta Water District’s actual projections.
“We don’t see yet that there’s an agreement between UCSB and the Goleta Water District so we’re trying to effectively pressure the university into making sure there is that kind of agreement,” Flacks said. “Our negotiation with the university is aimed at getting a legally binding agreement between UCSB and community groups that will commit [the university] to a series of goals as the plan unfolds.”
While all UC campuses — as state agencies — are outside the jurisdictions of local governments, UCSB’s coastal location makes it vulnerable to California Coastal Commission regulations. As such, even if the LRDP is approved by the Board, it must still be certified by the Coastal Commission — a process that could take another year.
Because the city and county have no authority over the university on this matter, lawsuits have been claimed to amend past LRDPs.
However, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said the university and community groups are now making efforts to resolve disputes through negotiations. He said the waiting period before certification from the Coastal Commission will present another opportunity for UCSB and the community to further ameliorate the plan.
“We look forward to the Regents’ vote [tomorrow],” Yang said in a statement. “This is an important milestone on the path to implementing a new and visionary plan for the future of our campus. … There will be additional opportunities for community input and we anticipate changes and improvements as part of the commission’s review and approval process.”
Flacks said he condones Yang’s open-minded approach to the process and feels confident that local groups and the university will be able to come to an agreement about the plan.
“Chancellor Yang — unlike earlier chancellors — really gives a lot of public commitment to working well with the community and working well with environmental issues,” Flacks said. “We’ve had chancellors in the past who did not really believe in environmental controls, but the world has changed and Chancellor Yang knows that and he believes in that and I think that’s been a benefit to the community.”