We, the undersigned, oppose UCSC's North Campus expansion plan in its current form and instead favor sustainable infill, smart growth, and more aggressive water conservation strategies.
Below is a copy of our outreach letter:
UCSC, already the largest UC in the 10-campus system in terms of geographic area, is planning to expand its built area by 60%, or 374 acres, into the forests north of the university's current developed boundaries. Students in Support of the Community Water Coalition (SSCWC), is a group of concerned students and community members advocating for a sustainable approach to the university's proposed North Campus growth plan. The SSCWC believes that the environmental and social costs of such a massive and poorly planned addition to an already expansive campus could largely be mitigated if certain measures were included in the plan. Smart growth and infill, water and energy efficiency, and on-campus housing are just a few ways the university could expand in a sustainable fashion. The SSCWC aims to engage students, faculty, administration, and the community at large in order to spark a renewed dialogue about the proposed expansion because the time to make changes and affect the process is now. The proposed North campus expansion will have a considerable effect on student and community life alike. The expansion plan includes the enrollment of 4,500 new students, 1,027 new faculty and staff, and will require between 120,000,000 and 150,000,000 gallons of water every year, over half of the city's remaining reserve. The City of Santa Cruz's Water Department has already determined that the proposed UCSC expansion plan will add “significant” strain to local water resources during drought years and with global climate change affecting the predictability of weather patterns, it remains to be seen what will constitute a 'normal' year in the coming decades. For example, the latest rainfall can largely be attributed to the effects of a rare El Nino Southern Oscillation, or simply “El Nino,” which produces more precipitation than usual and using data from this year may be a dangerous mistake when we should be preparing for longer, warmer, and dryer summers. It is also important to note that even with the recent storms, Santa Cruz is still far from busting out of the drought that has persisted for the last three years. Officials from both the City of Santa Cruz and the University estimate that the expansion will add 2,000 cars to the roads on campus and neighboring streets, increasing gridlock, noise pollution, and Green House Gas Emissions. The project and its deleterious effects are slated to increase campus GHG emissions by nearly 30%, a staggering number for a University that fancies itself green and environmentally conscious. Housing is an area where students are likely to be hit hard by the proposed expansion. Santa Cruz is already one of the most expensive markets in the entire nation and the addition of 4,500 more students and over 1,000 more faculty and staff will only make housing prices soar higher. During these hard times we need to be coming up with ways to make higher education more affordable, not more expensive. Furthermore, with unemployment in Santa Cruz over 12%, well above the national average, finding a job to pay for rent, books, and food, will be much harder with all the additional job seekers in town. Despite the glaring environmental and social impacts, SSCWC is not against UCSC growth. In fact SSCWC could support university expansion if it was done in a more sustainable way. While the university does mention steps toward mitigating the many concerns, there is a lot more that could be done particularly when it comes to water, traffic, and housing. Sustainable smart growth is the future and as a premier institution of higher learning, UCSC should be a part of the vanguard and set an example for other communities. Avoiding sprawl and expanding sustainably will not only be good for students and the community, but for the university as well. Sustainable expansion will lower operational costs and help attract the next generation of young minds who will be lured to UCSC for its progressivism and commitment to environmentally sound development. SSCWC encourages you to join us in our efforts on this pressing matter, together we can push the university to be the best and the most sustainable it can be. We look forward to working with you. Sincerely, Students in Support of the Community Water Coalition