The behemoth that is UC Berkeley squatted down on its haunches at a Clark Kerr Campus public hearing Monday night to listen to university students and residents of the city in which it resides, and got an earful on the subject of the university’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
Speaker after speaker told UC planners that while they supported campus expansion, they did not want it at the expense of Berkeley’s neighborhoods.
The LRDP is being written to guide the university’s development and growth between 2005 and 2020, and will consider increases of up to 18 percent increase in academic and support space and up to 30 percent in both student housing and parking.
The plan is being produced in conjunction with an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the state’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which mandated this week’s public hearing.
Sentiment at the four-hour Clark Kerr Campus hearing—officially a “scoping session”—was evenly divided between those concerned about UC Berkeley development’s effect on parking, traffic, and housing in the neighborhoods surrounding the campus and those concerned about its effect on the creeks and canyon areas in the hills above.
Some speakers called for a summit between UC chancellors, city representatives, and Berkeley residents to discuss coordination of campus and city development. Others sought an extension of the preliminary public comment period on the LRDP and the EIR, which is scheduled to end Oct. 10.
By law, issues raised at the session must be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report on the project.
Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring said “It’s not easy to see our community being gobbled up by this humongous growth. UCB shouldn’t work to preserve its park-like campus while using the surrounding community to spread its development.”
Carol Schemmerling of the Urban Creeks Council of California expressed her fear that “expansion (in the Strawberry Canyon area) will allow more toxins to go into the creeks.” Schemmerling suggested that the university “tear down (Memorial Stadium) and restore the original waterfall in that area.”
Schemmerling also took a swipe at the landscaping envisioned in the Chang-Lin Tien Center For Asian Studies—scheduled to be built near the Doe Library—which is being reviewed as part of the development plan. She called the proposed facility “exceptionally bland and boring. Vast lawns and little trees are appropriate for some campuses, but not for UC Berkeley.”
Juliet Lamont, environmental consultant and UC grad, said “It is the very things I learned in those programs that bring me here tonight. (The problems cited by other speakers) are the same things that were brought up in my classes; the things my professors said that development shouldn’t be doing. You should be practicing what you are preaching in your classes. UC Berkeley should not just protect the surrounding natural resources. It should enhance them.”
Other organizations and agencies represented included the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association, the Telegraph Area Association, the Willard Neighborhood Association, the UC Graduate Assembly, the Associated Students of the University of California, and the mayor’s and city manager’s offices.
Berkeley resident Corey Limbach summed up prevailing sentiment when he said that “a majority of Berkeley residents don’t want to see UC go down. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it should get bigger, either.”
Kerry O’Banion, Interim Project Director of the 2020 Long Range Development Plan, said he was “not surprised” at anything said at the hearing. “I was very encouraged that the comments were constructive, both from the residents and from the city. I think we have a lot of great ideas that we need to start working on, and I’m glad that we’re just at the beginning of the process so that we have the time to really explore all the comments.”
O’Banion said “citizens should get their written comments in by Oct. 10.”
If the project goes as planned, UC will produce their draft LRDP and EIR next spring, followed by another round of public comment before final approval.