First Case under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (The Enrollment Case) Victory in the Court of Appeal
In April 2018, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods filed suit against the UC Regents and the UC Berkeley campus for enrolling more than 6600 students (as of the Fall of 2017) that were provided for in the 2020 Long Range Development Plan and EIR, that were adopted in 2005. In June of 2020 the California Court of Appeal overturned the Alameda Superior Court and found that UC must evaluate the effects of increased enrollment under CEQA.
“The Legislature has recognized that both enrollment levels and physical development are related features of campus growth that must be mitigated” under environmental law, Justice Gordon Burns said in the 3-0 ruling. In addition, Justice Burns pointed out that environmental law doesn’t limit enrollment, but simply requires that UC Berkeley “mitigate the impacts of (its) growth and development.”
The victory in the appellate court followed a ruling in April of 2019, where the Alameda Superior Court ruled against SBN holding that the UC Regents had no duty to study the increase in enrollment under CEQA. In September 2020, the Supreme Court denied review of the case, making the judgment final and remanding the case to the Superior Court. The case is currently pending disposition based on the outcome of the second enrollment case (see below).
Second enrollment case under CEQA (The Upper Hearst Case)
In July 2021 the Alameda Superior Court ruled 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. Judge Brad Seligman 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. Following the judge’s order, in August 2021 the judge issued a ruling that 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.
In June 2019, SBN, along with the City of Berkeley, filed suit against the UC Regents and the UC Berkeley campus for their adoption of the Upper Hearst Supplemental EIR. UC claimed in the SEIR that an increase of 11,000 students would have no effects on the environment generally, nor on the environment in the City of Berkeley. We believed this was an attempt by UC to avoid paying for the mitigation of its impacts on the city and we challenged the SEIR. In addition, the SEIR adopted the Upper Hearst/Goldman School project without mitigating its impacts on the historic character of the neighborhood. While UC acknowledged the impact, they said it was unavoidable. However, the city, Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Committee and numerous residents submitted comments that pointed out the ease of making the project design more friendly to the neighborhood. UC administrators arrogantly ignored every single suggestion. You can read the Briefing and talking points prepared by the Southside Neighborhood Consortium here Talking points for Upper Hearst EIR
Unfortunately the city of Berkeley recently settled their suit against UC, accepting pennies on the dollar for UC’s impacts. Overall, the settlement does not adequately compensate the City for its costs to provide city services to UC. It’s true that the annual payment goes up from $1.8 million to $4.1 million under the agreement, but this new payment only represents 20 percent of the estimated $20.1 million of costs incurred by the City in excess of tax revenue attributable to the UC.
In addition the settlement contains not a single enforceable agreement by UC to mitigate its impacts on the city or the surrounding neighborhoods.
All documents from the Superior Court case are included in the Appeal Appendix
Upper Hearst Case