Judge freezes UC Berkeley enrollment in judgment ordering compliance with CEQA

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In sweeping legal victory for Berkeley Neighbors, Judge rules that UC Berkeley must freeze enrollment until it complies with Environmental Law and mitigates growth impacts

(August 24, 2021) – A Berkeley neighborhood group won a sweeping legal victory that requires UC Berkeley to freeze enrollment at the same level as 2020-2021 until the campus fully identifies the impacts of increasing enrollment and proposes mitigations for the negative environmental effects on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods won the judgment against UC Berkeley on August 23. UC contended that increasing enrollment had no effects on the surrounding neighborhoods in an Environmental Impact Report(EIR) approved in May 2019.  Alameda Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman emphatically rejected UC’s argument and found that enrollment growth had major impacts on housing and displacement of existing residents and that the huge increase in students had created unacceptable levels of noise in the surrounding neighborhoods.  He also found that UC had failed to do a meaningful review of a reduced enrollment alternative as a way to reduce impacts on the community.

“The judge has vindicated our efforts to hold UC Berkeley accountable for the severe impacts on our community from its massive enrollment increases which they made without public notice or comments. UC Berkeley must now acknowledge those impacts and propose mitigation measures that will make it a better neighbor,” said Phil Bokovoy, President of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods.

Major impacts of the extra students include displacement of many low-income renters, increased homelessness, additional burden on police, fire and emergency services, and growth in trash and noise throughout neighborhoods surrounding campus.

“It’s unfortunate that UC Berkeley has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs to fight against the efforts of citizens to have them comply with the environmental laws, money that could have been used to educate and build housing for our young people.  We firmly believe that UC should not increase enrollment until it creates housing for its new students,” Bokovoy added.

The City of Berkeley and UC recently reached a settlement agreement, but the neighbors have continued to fight for stronger mitigation measures. “The City could have negotiated a much better deal for Berkeley had they waited for this judgement,” noted Bokovoy.  “As it is they sold taxpayers short with a ‘pennies on the dollar’ annual payment and no enforceable commitments to build housing and mitigate impacts.”

UC’s Board of Regents approved the Upper Hearst Development Plan and Final EIR in 2019. That plan purported to analyze proposed enrollment increases totaling 11,000 students, and claimed that the more than 33% increase would have no environmental impacts on the surrounding community. Both SBN and the City of Berkeley sued to overturn the EIR and to require UC to propose meaningful mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of growth.