The City of Goleta announced its intention to sue UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 5 for damages the city has faced as a result of the university’s housing crisis. The city attributes these damages to the university violating the Long Range Development Plan — a contract developed in 2010 stating that the university must cap enrollment at 25,000 until 2025, build more dormitories for the additional 5,000 students the UC mandated that every campus enroll, and build 1,800 new units for its faculty and staff.
Since the City of Goleta originally announced its intent of litigation, the university still has not seen the lawsuit, according to UC Santa Barbara Spokesperson Andrea Estrada.
“Ultimately, the city’s goal is to ensure that UCSB’s growth does not negatively impact the City,” said Kelly Hoover, Goleta’s community relations manager. “In 2010, the City reached an agreement with UCSB to ensure that the pace of UCSB’s growth in student population would be matched by the construction of on-campus housing. While UCSB has increased student enrollment since 2010, it has not kept up pace with providing beds to its students, who end up taking up housing in Goleta. UCSB’s failure to meet its obligation to provide student housing has had the overall effect of exacerbating Goleta’s housing shortage.”
The university, however, maintains that it did not violate the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). According to Estrada, the terms of the LRDP stipulate that enrollment numbers are determined through a three-quarter average. Estrada provided the following graph showing UCSB’s enrollment numbers.
Estrada added that enrollment during fall quarter is usually higher than all other quarters, but regardless, the three-quarter average falls below 25,000.
“Fall enrollment is historically higher than winter and spring quarter enrollment. For the 2021-22 academic year, the campus is projected to fall below the LRDP’s 25,000 enrollment target, as it has every year since 2010-11,” Estrada said in a statement to the Nexus.
Estrada attributed the fall quarter housing crisis to a large number of last-minute college enrollment decisions as a result of the uncertainty around in-person instruction.
“Against the backdrop of the pandemic, for Fall Quarter 2021, UC Santa Barbara, along with most other college and university campuses in the country, experienced unprecedented enrollment indecisiveness that led to last-minute housing decisions by many. As a result, some students who had not previously secured housing were offered placement in local hotels,” Estrada said.
Estrada also addressed one of the City of Goleta’s listed damages as a result of the housing crisis: lost revenue from transient occupancy tax.
“The University will pay all transient occupancy tax on any hotel rooms in the City that it has rented for students,” Estrada said.
Estrada also said that increased enrollment is not a UCSB decision, but rather, a decision handed down from the state legislature.
“Although UC Santa Barbara houses some of its students in triple occupancy units, this practice has largely been in response to a mandate from the state of California to significantly increase resident enrollment,” Estrada said.
“Any unexpected increases in resident enrollment were attributable to requirements imposed by the State Legislature and were beyond the control of UC Santa Barbara, or even of the Regents. These increases met the University’s core public mission of educating as many Californians as possible, which created a need for the additional tripling of units.”
The university said that it wishes the City of Goleta had not brought this matter to the courts, and instead, settled it privately.
“UC Santa Barbara has been in extensive discussions with the City of Goleta over housing issues for several years. The University is surprised and deeply disappointed that the City has ended those discussions and chosen to spend public funds on expensive litigation, over ongoing collaboration,” Estrada said.
The City of Goleta, however, said that litigation became the only course of redress.
“The City is greatly concerned about the prolonged effects this negative impact on Goleta’s housing supply has on our workforce and residents. As a result, the City has been forced to seek redress through the courts so that UCSB takes meaningful steps toward meeting its obligations,” Hoover said. “To do so, the initial stages of a lawsuit require the City to file a complaint with the court, to which the University will then need to respond.”