All five Santa Barbara County Supervisors unanimously voted to sue UC Santa Barbara on Aug. 30 for allegedly violating the 2o10 Long Range Development Plan. The contractual agreement stipulates that UCSB must provide bed spaces equaling enrollment increases, requiring at least 5,000 additional bed spaces by 2025.

The board of supervisors’ decision follows months of attempted mediation between the two parties. 

The imminent litigation is one of two the university faces as a result of their alleged lack of housing. The first lawsuit began on Dec. 10, 2021 when the City of Goleta alleged damages that impacted the city as a result of UCSB’s housing shortfall.

UCSB media relations manager Kiki Reyes told the Nexus in response to the lawsuit that the university has been involved in “extensive good-faith discussions” with the county related to student housing, and that the university hopes the lawsuit does not result in expensive and unnecessary litigation.

“The University remains committed to building more affordable on-campus housing for our students, in addition to the recently completed projects that created an additional 1500 student housing beds,” Reyes said in an email statement to the Nexus. “We look forward to continuing our discussions with the County and are hopeful that any lawsuit does not result in needless and expensive litigation, instead of ongoing collaboration.”

The vote, held during a closed-session meeting on Aug. 30, marks an escalation in the pressure local governments have been putting on the university. Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart — who represents Isla Vista on the board — gave a statement on the board’s behalf, expressing discontent with UCSB for failing to deliver the required housing for students and staffs.

“The county and UCSB have enjoyed a long-standing relationship of working collaboratively to address the needs of a shared constituency,” Hart said at the meeting. “Unfortunately, at this time, very simply UCSB has breached the [Long Range Development Plan (LRDP)] by failing to provide the required housing of its students, faculty and staff.”

According to Hart, the board of supervisors will hold UCSB to its agreements with the county and keep them accountable for their inaction.

“The County of Santa Barbara will remain steadfast in its ongoing assertions to UCSB to build the required housing and fulfill the terms of the agreement in order to provide for the needs of the students and reduce impacts to the surrounding communities,” he said.

Hart added that litigation was a last resort in ensuring UCSB provides adequate housing for its students. 

“While every opportunity has been afforded to the university of completing the construction, to date UCSB has failed to construct all the beds needed,” he said. “Litigation was the only path remaining to compel UCSB to act upon their obligation.”

Hart told the Nexus in July that the County was determined to hold UCSB to its housing requirements, and praised the approval of the Ocean Road housing project.

“Discussions between the University and the County about critically needed affordable student housing development are continuing and I am hopeful these conversations will lead to demonstrable progress on this issue in the very near future,” Hart said in a July 7 email statement. 

That progress never materialized, Hart told the Nexus following his litigation announcement.

“Unfortunately, it is now very clear the required housing UCSB promised will not be built during the 15 year term of the agreement,” he said in an Aug. 31 statement to the Nexus. “This unfortunate reality left us no option other than to litigate the matter.”

Reyes told the Nexus in July that UCSB would not be out of line with the LRDP should it deliver the additional student housing after the 2025 deadline. 

UCSB Principal Planner of Campus Planning & Design Shari Hammond said in an email statement to the Nexus on July 5 that the LRDP was only a planning document with a 2025 horizon, and that there was no action the university could take that would violate it so long as it remains within basic development guidelines such as building height requirements.

For years, Munger Hall has been slated to open by 2025, helping fulfill the university’s obligation to deliver 5,000 bed spaces by the LRDP deadline. However, in July the Nexus reported that the university’s timeline for the project, an estimated 40-month construction period, would leave the dormitory unlikely to be completed until the summer of 2026. 

“Despite ongoing request for a timeline related to construction of the housing, it’s apparent that the required beds will not be in place prior to 2025 when the agreement expires,” Hart said.

That date may be even further off as the environmental impact report, expected at the start of summer has yet to be released by the university, as of Aug. 8 — a crucial step needed to take Munger Hall to the next phase of development.


Mark Alfred
Mark Alfred (he/him) was the University News Editor for the 2022-23 school year.