By Zev Vernon-Lapow
In the ongoing tug-of-war over campus expansion, city residents are flexing their muscles with a landslide victory of legislation designed to limit university growth in last week’s election. Local voters approved Measures I and J by 76 percent and 80 percent respectively.
The UC Santa Cruz administration is responding by filing a lawsuit that would nullify the vote.
According to Campus Spokesperson Jim Burns, the city did not follow the state’s environmental guidelines when writing the contested ballot initiatives and did not give the university adequate notice.
However, according to UCSC alumnus Don Stevens, the co-founder of the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE), the university is just acting like a poor sport.
"They’re making a mockery of democracy," Stevens said.
The UCSC administration stands firm in its interpretation that the initiatives contradict the city’s contractual agreements with the university.
"The university continues to believe that these measures were placed on the ballot in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act and that they breach an existing contract between the city and the University of California," Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal wrote in a press release.
Measures I and J passed with an overwhelming level of support. Measure I stops the city from providing services to the university until the university mitigates the effects of growth. Measure J stops the city council from extending water service to the expanded university without a public vote of approval. Together they could limit the university’s ability to expand, if the university’s counter lawsuit fails.
The public sentiment behind the success of Measures I and J seems to reflect a desire to protect the natural resources at UCSC and also retain quality of life in Santa Cruz.
Lawyer and UCSC alumnus Bill Davis is working with CLUE on a lawsuit that would force the university to re-write the Environmental Impact Report of the proposed Long Range Development Plan. Davis, a member of UCSC’s pioneer class, has fond memories of his time at UCSC and wants to protect the environment on-campus.
"We love the university, we’re just really concerned about its direction and its impact on the environment," he said.
The lawsuit that Davis is working on is one of many being filed back and forth by members of the city and the university.
Overall, there has been a level of distrust among all acting parties. According to Blumenthal, the initiatives will not help the dialogue.
"These ballot measures will only serve to inhibit the ability of the city and the university to work together," Blumenthal said.
Stevens does not agree with this statement. He believes that the university had already ruined the relationship with its past actions.
"Blumenthal is asleep at the wheel if he thinks the ballot initiative is a blow to town-university relations," Stevens said.
Some worry that the city and university will not be able to compromise about expansion. Stevens thinks that the final decision about expansion will be made in the California Supreme Court.
"I just think the university is dead-set on what it wants to do," Stevens said. "It will not change course without the courts intervening."