The 2021-2040 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for UC Santa Cruz projects about 10,000 more students by 2040. 

Released to the public on Jan. 7, the 2021-2040 LRDP is the guiding plan for campus growth. LRDPs are evaluated every two decades in an attempt to set an agreement between the campus and the City of Santa Cruz for resource use.

In the last 20 years, housing availability and water access have been a source of tension between the city and UCSC. As plans are made for the next 20 years, this tension still presents itself in community action and legal measures. 

Jolie Kerns, the director of physical and environmental planning at UCSC and co-author of the LRDP, believes the project furthers the university’s mission of providing higher education to as many people as it can. 

A map depicting the long range development plan's additions to campus.
Art by Joss Borys.

“The fundamental mission of our universities is teaching research and public service and providing an educational opportunity and access to all Californians,” Kerns said. “The demand for education continues to be high and our diversity of the student population continues to grow.”

PopulationBase Pop. (2018-2019)Projected Growth (2020-2040)Projected Pop. (2040-2041)
Source: UCSC 2021 Long Range Development Plan

The university is hoping to provide on-campus housing for the enrollment growth of 9,500 students, and up to 25 percent of 2200 new employees, to reduce pressure on the local housing market.

Morgan Bostic, the Advocate for the Santa Cruz City-County Task Force on UCSC Growth Plans, remains skeptical that housing goals will be met. Bostic says the university could still increase enrollment while not moving along with the construction plans. 

The Santa Cruz City-County Task Force on UCSC Growth Plans is a coalition of local officials, community members, and UCSC students aiming to secure a commitment from the university to balance enrollment growth with sustainable housing development and other services.

“We would like to see 100 percent of all the additional faculty and staff housed on campus. But these are not binding commitments. There’s no tie of the provision of housing to enrollment growth,” Bostic said. “These plans have a striking similarity to previous LRDPs that proposed roads, housing, other types of infrastructure that didn’t come to fruition. And so without a tie to enrollment, or some sort of phased component, this is not a meaningful commitment to do what they want.”

Alongside disputes surrounding housing and enrollment increases, the 2021-2040 LRDP does not clarify water access issues that have been at the center of debate between the city and UC officials. 

Water access disputes began in 1963 when the first LRDP was approved and the two parties entered a service provision contract. UCSC argues this contract accounts for all UCSC expansions, including land outside of city limits, and the city must provide the water services needed for planned projects. The most recent disagreement culminated in UCSC’s decision to sue for breach of contract last October.

The 2021-2040 LRDP includes a 240 acre plot of land outside of city limits designated for new housing developments and an academic hub for the northern campus region. This hub will provide academic resources for two of the four colleges in development to accommodate the growing student population. 

Development plans for the area will be halted if water access rights cannot be secured. The case will be seen before a Santa Cruz county superior court judge to determine whether or not the City is responsible for campus water supply. 

In a press briefing on Jan. 6, Hernandez-Jason stated the lawsuit proceedings have not progressed since it was first filed. 

Despite all of this unpredictability, Sarah Latham, vice chancellor for business and administrative services at UCSC and chair of the LRDP planning process, is optimistic about this LRDP.

“It’s impossible to fully predict university life 20 years from now. [We] need both physical and social resilience, both with our campus and with our campus as an anchor and an important part of the community and region.” Latham said, “I’m excited for what the future holds and believe this plan provides us with a solid framework for continuing to fulfill the mission of our university.”