EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series looking at UC Berkeley’s long range expansion plans. Part I of this special report (Daily Planet, Sept. 19-22) provided an introduction to UC Berkeley’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan process and focused on potential transportation impacts and how they could be avoided or mitigated.
The pace of UC Berkeley expansion may accelerate during the next two decades, as the new 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) being prepared by the university could allow for more growth than the current 1990-2005 Plan.
While a list of projects assembled by the city for the current 1990-2005 LRDP Fiscal Impact Study includes non-residential projects (including parking) with a total of about 1.4 million gross square feet of space, the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the 2020 LRDP estimates that up to 2.2 million square feet of academic and support space could be built under the new LRDP—not including space for parking.
While the 1990-2005 LRDP did not plan for increased student enrollment, the 2020 LRDP NOP states that the student body enrolled during the fall and spring semesters could increase by 1,650 students.
The 1990-2005 LRDP planned for a net increase of about 1,000 parking spaces. About half of that parking was intended for student housing that was not built. The 1990-2005 LRDP called for a tiny net increase in commuter parking (only ten spaces) on the campus and in adjacent areas.
The 2020 NOP allows for a net increase of 2,300 spaces on top of an increase of 690 spaces at the Underhill site in the Southside, which have been approved but not built. The NOP does not specify whether this parking would be for residents of UC housing or for commuters, but it appears likely that almost all of it would be for commuters.
In response to the publication of the NOP, Berkeley residents have raised a number of concerns about the university’s future plans and have suggested actions that the university could take to address those concerns.
Last Tuesday, City Council voted to refer to city staff a list of some 20 comments assembled by Councilmember Dona Spring.
These comments raise a wide range of issues related to UC’s impacts on the community and their planned expansion and to the Environmental Impact Report that UC will prepare for the 2020 LRDP. Many of the issues raised by those comments are addressed below or were addressed in the first part of this report.
Whenever the university buys or leases property, the city loses the property tax revenue since the university is exempt from property taxes.
The university owns a lot of property in areas adjacent to the central campus. UC’s New Century Plan, published earlier this year, includes a Project Portfolio, which includes brief descriptions of projects that could be built on some of these UC-owned sites.
The university has been quick to point out that these descriptions are conceptual; no firm decisions have been made on how specific properties will be developed.
The New Century Plan, together with the Strategic Academic Plan published in June 2002, provide a policy framework for the new 2020 Long Range Development Plan which is now being prepared.
The university’s June 2002 Strategic Academic Plan calls for UC to establish a new “Office of Real Estate.” Part of its charge would be “identifying and pursuing strategic land acquisitions, particularly on the blocks adjacent to campus and, for housing, along major transit corridors.”
The more UC relies on acquiring new property for expansion rather than developing land it already owns, the greater will be the fiscal impact on the city in the form of lost revenues.
Another fiscal impact is increased demand for city services.
On November 12, 2002, the Berkeley City Council authorized the expenditure of $50,000 to fund a UC Berkeley Fiscal Impact Study. A consulting firm, Economic and Planning Systems, has been hired to do the study and work is underway.
The city hopes to get updated information that can be used “to obtain appropriate and adequate compensation from UCB for services the city provides to the campus and its off-campus facilities”. On Aug. 29, Berkeley’s City Manager, Weldon Rucker sent a letter to UC Vice Chancellor Horace Mitchell requesting specific information.
Information sought includes:
• Current counts of students, faculty and staff, along with summer and extension program participants.
• Data on where students, staff and faculty live.
• Information about the status of 1990 LRDP projects.
• Information about projects planned under the 2020 LRDP including data about “potential/planned acquisitions of land by project.”
• A list of UC-owned and leased properties.
• Data related to the public services demands of the UC related population.
From 1990 through 2002, the university paid a total of close to $7.1 million to the city in mitigation payments. These payments are the result of an agreement signed by UC and the city in 1990.
$914,000 was paid for a fire truck and most of the other payments were for fire and sewer services. The average annual payment was about $544,000.
More housing for students
The LRDP EIR’s Notice of Preparation estimates that a maximum of 2,600 beds of housing could be added by 2020. This would include up to 200 “family-suitable units” for faculty, staff or visiting scholars.
The Student Housing Development Program outlined in the 1990-2005 LRDP called for between 2,350 and 3,410 new student beds in addition to 915 beds that were already under development as of 1988. Very little of the housing not already under development in 1988 was built.
As part of the Underhill Area Master Plan, 120 beds have been built recently at College and Durant in the Southside and an additional 1,100 beds are now under construction. Since 1988, there has been a net increase of about 1,500 in the number of single students housed in dorms, cooperatives, fraternities and sororities.
The university’s dorms, combined with fraternities, sororities and co-ops, currently house a little less than one-third of the university’s students. If the university builds the maximum amount of housing estimated by the NOP, that percentage will increase to around 38 percent since the additional beds would exceed the maximum number of additional students being planned for.
UC’s New Century Plan and their Strategic Academic Plan call for UC to provide two years of housing to entering freshmen who desire it, one year of housing to entering transfer students and one year to entering graduate students.
The heavy student demand for private housing in Berkeley has resulted in high rents for apartments near campus. A substantial increase in housing should have a positive impact, but a sizable majority of students will continue to have to hunt for apartments on the private housing market.
UC dorms are not cheap places to live. Academic year rents range from $8,695 for a bed in a triple room in one of the high rise dorms to as much as $12,735 for a single room in a suite in the foothill or Clark Kerr Campus dorms.
Construction of new UC housing currently underway in the Southside has led to complaints by area residents about noise, blocked sidewalks and loss of on-street parking spaces. All the additional construction envisioned by the New Century Plan and by the LRDP’s NOP has led concerned residents to call on UC to change its construction practices.
Nearby residents have voiced concerns about construction that has been starting as early as 7 a.m. They would like construction to begin no earlier than 8 a.m.
They are also very concerned about construction workers taking up on-street parking spaces. They have proposed that construction workers should be given strong incentives to carpool to work and should be provided with remote parking with shuttle service to the construction sites.
The closure of public sidewalks bordering UC construction site and placement of construction office trailers on public streets also causes problems for area residents. Residents would like UC to take steps to minimize closure of public streets and sidewalks and the loss of on-street parking.
Residential Permit Parking
Construction workers should not be able to park in residential areas near construction sites without getting parking tickets since areas around campus have Residential Permit Parking (RPP) zones where non-residents without permits are not allowed to park for more than two hours.
But residents complain that RPP is not adequately enforced, allowing construction workers and other visitors and commuters to UC to use on-street parking spaces as a free alternative to paying for parking in area parking lots and structures.
One proposed solution: Ask UC to pay for RPP parking enforcement as an LRDP mitigation.
Other Impacts and Proposed Solutions
Concerns have also raised about development-related impacts on the watershed. Will more pollutants end up in local creeks as a result of development? Open space advocates want Strawberry Canyon and Claremont Canyon protected from development and have suggested that UC commit to creating more community open space.
Other specific concerns about the EIR process include:
• Ensuring that the cumulative impacts of various UC projects and plans are assessed.
• Addressing the impacts of UC extension and summer programs.
As the next wave of long range planning gets underway at UC, it raises important questions.
Will the city and its elected leaders respond effectively to ensure that potential detrimental impacts that could adversely affect quality of life in Berkeley are kept to a minimum?
Will the university take the city’s concerns seriously and adjust their plans and offer adequate and constructive mitigations to address those concerns?