Santa Cruz and UC Settle Development Plan Suit

By Richard Brenneman
Monday August 11, 2008 - 10:34:00 PM

While Berkeley has been going through a highly public confrontation over expansion of its University of California campus, a similar dispute has ended in Santa Cruz. 

Both disputes featured litigation by outraged citizens, joined by local governments worried about the impacts of growth on city citizens and services. 

And in both cases, tree-sitters took to the branches in protest of specific projects and have vowed to stay aloft, regardless of any real or prospective settlements on the ground below. 

But while city governments have signed off on both settlements—the Berkeley accord resulting in the ongoing downtown planning process still underway—citizen litigants in Berkeley aren't signing off, unlike their counterparts to the south. 

UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal hailed the settlement in a written statement Saturday as a “historic agreement” reached by the campus, the UC Board of Regents, the Santa Cruz city and county governments, the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) and 11 citizens who had signed on as individual litigants. 

Blumenthal said he expected all parties to sign off this week. 

“The agreement is good for the campus and good for Santa Cruz,” he said, allowing the university “to meet its mission of teaching, research and public service. . .and includes mutually enforceable measures to address traffic impacts, conserve water, and provide housing for new students.” 

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty hailed the agreement as a major victory for local government and the public, and praised Blumenthal for spending thousands of hours personally in negotiation with the litigants. 

“It all boils down to housing, water and traffic,” said the mayor.  

Among the terms of the settlement are: 

• The university agreed to house two-thirds of all new enrollments on campus, and “if they don’t, they have to stop growing,” Coonerty said, a feature of the settlement that is better than any previous agreement between a UC campus and its host city. “In other agreements, the university merely promises to make its best effort. Here, if they don’t, they have to stop growing.” 

• Water-use and traffic impacts had been major sore points with the city and county, in part because when the university located in the city in 1966, it received contracts that allowed them unlimited water use and no limits on traffic, the mayor said. 

In the settlement, the university agreed to cut back water use by 30 million gallons a year and to pay a water systems development surcharge for every 85,000 gallons above the reduced figure. The city will receive about $12 million in payments for water system infrastructure improvements, and another $4 million in related water use payments, he said. 

• The university also agreed to pay a traffic impact fee for each additional car trip generated up to 3,900 new trips, with the fee tripling for each new trip above the limit. The university will also pay more than $500,000 for development of alternative transit. 

• Another significant aspect of the agreement is a requirement that the university will have to submit all its applications for sewer and water services for the north campus area to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and if the university moves against LAFCO’s findings the city, county and citizen litigants are free to take legal action. 

Tim Fitzmaurice, a writing instructor at the university and a former city councilmember who is again running for that office, said he is reserving comment on the settlement until he has had more time to review the terms. 

Calls to the Santa Cruz city attorney’s office and the university’s public information office requesting copies of the settlement were not returned by the time this article was ready for posting on the Daily Planet website. 


Tree-sitters wary 

In his statement celebrating the settlement, Blumenthal said the accord would enable the campus to “proceed with construction of the important Biomedical Sciences building.” 

It was plans to build that structure at the site of an existing grove of redwoods that had sparked Santa Cruz tree-sitters to take to the branches last Nov. 7, said Jennifer Charles, media representative for the Santa Cruz tree-sitters. 

But the approach of campus police in that city has, with one notable exception, been gentler than that taken by their counterparts on the Berkeley campus, she said. 

And while the Berkeley campus won a Superior Court injunction legally barring anyone from aiding or joining in the protest in the grove west of Memorial Stadium, in Santa Cruz only six people are barred from the redwood grove, each of them by name. None of those actually occupying the branches were named, thanks to the anonymity they have been able to maintain. 

Charles had been one of those initially named, “but I won my lawsuit against the university and I am allowed to be anywhere” in the grove of redwoods on Science Hill that the protest seeks to protect, she said. 

The southern tree-sit is also of shorter duration, beginning on last Nov. 7 while the Berkeley protest was 619 days old as of Monday. 

The Santa Cruz protests have resulted in far fewer arrests than in Berkeley. “The last one I can recall was in January,” Charles said, when campus officers pepper-sprayed supporters who were trying to resupply the tree-sitters. In December, campus authorities said individuals with their faces covered by bandanas in Santa Cruz sliced tires of vehicles used by the commercial arborist firm from Watsonville hired by both campuses in their efforts to isolate the protesters. 

In Berkeley, one tree-sit supporter was arrested Thursday after he refused an order by campus police the leave the median strip dividing Piedmont Avenue west of the stadium, said Zachary Running Wolf, who was the first to take to the branches on the day of the Big Game in 2006. 


Berkeley suits 

While the litigation battles in Santa Cruz may be nearing an end, two separate tracks of legal action are underway that target Berkeley’s expansion plans. 

In the highest-profile case, lawyers for the Panoramic Hill Association, the California Oak Foundation and a group of Berkeley citizens are appealing an Alameda County Superior Court ruling that could clear the way for construction of the four-level gym and office complex the university plans for the site now occupied by the stadium grove. 

That lawsuit targets the university’s Southeast Campus Integrated Projects agenda which includes the gym, renovations and expansion of the stadium itself and an underground parking facility planned for the eastern side of Piedmont, along with other construction projects on the western side. 

(See the accompanying story, “Court Says Appeal Must Wait for Final Trial Court Judgment; Injunction in Place At Least Until Aug. 25”) 

The second suit targets the university’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

The city, originally a party to the litigation, settled, but another citizens group—Berkeleyans for a Livable University Environment—is appealing the case to the Court of Appeal. 

An argument on that case has been set for Aug. 19. Among the litigants in that action is Anne Wagley, calendar and arts editor at the Daily Planet. 


Median challenge 

Meanwhile campus police are continuing their gradual territorial expansion aimed at reducing the footprint of the Berkeley tree-sit supporters. 

After requests to City of Berkeley police and administrators asking them to evict supporters from the Piedmont Avenue median strip, campus police have begun to force them out, said Running Wolf. 

The supporters initially occupied the grove itself, until the university surrounded the site with first one, and then two chain-link fences, topped with barbed wire. 

The university then extended its perimeter, blocking off the sidewalk on the eastern side of Piedmont between International House and Maxwell Family Field. 

The move against the median follows declarations by university spokesperson Dan Mogulof charging that faculty, students and groundskeepers were tired of cleaning up feces and that police were concerned sleeping protesters might roll over from the sloping median into traffic and be hit by passing cars. 

While Berkeley police said they weren’t interested in enforcing the law that gave them authority to clear the median, they also stated on the record that “we have the authority to do what needed to be done,” Mogulof said Monday. 

But while each perimeter move put supporters farther from the tree-sitters, expanding the perimeter simply makes it easier to breach said Running Wolf, who added that “we can get in there anytime we want.”