The judge is freezing student registrations at UC Berkeley at the 2020-21 levels.

Masses of UC Berkeley students walk through Sather Gate in 2019. An Alameda County Superior Court judge has frozen Cal’s enrollment levels until he addresses the environmental impact of the 33.7% increase in the number of students over the past 15 years. Credit: Jef Poskanzer

An Alameda County judge ordered UC Berkeley to freeze its enrollments at the 2020-21 levels until the university rewrites a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) for a complex on Hearst Avenue that includes housing and a new university building for the Goldman School of Public Policy. The freeze will take effect in 2022-2023.

The listing freeze order comes just over a month after Judge Brad Seligman ruled UC Berkeley abused its discretion by failing to study the impacts of its 33-year enrollment increase. , 7%, or 11,285 students, from 2005 to 2020. It was just one of the shortcomings of the additional environmental impact report for what is called the Upper Hearst project, the judge ruled.

Seligman also ordered the UC Board of Regents to revoke its 2018 approval of the Upper Hearst project and to withdraw the certification from the supplemental environmental impact report. Cal needs to redo the SEIR to fix some issues, including how increased student enrollment has affected noise, accommodation and travel in Berkeley, the judge said.

The move is not only a victory for neighbors unhappy with UC Berkeley’s growth and mitigation measures, but for other communities in California struggling to cope with the impacts of the UC Berkeley campus, said Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, who filed the original lawsuit.

“This is how UC behaves in many different places – forcing its impact on communities and not doing anything about it,” Bokovoy said. “This is the first time a judge has said UC cannot continue to grow and has frozen its registrations.”

Dan Mogulof, a spokesperson for UC Berkeley, said Cal will move quickly to address the judge’s concerns so he can continue adding students.

“We are optimistic about the possibility of filing documents with the court very soon that will satisfy the judgment regarding future increases in enrollments,” Mogulof wrote in an email. “It will probably take the university between six and eight months to meet the demands of the judgment on the Upper Hearst project. We are convinced that the court will finally allow us to continue the Upper Hearst project. “

Just a few weeks ago, on July 13, Mogulof said the university was “satisfied” with the court’s findings and “did not expect this decision to have an impact on future enrollments.”

In court documents, UC Berkeley had argued that an environmental review was only needed when a building or other structure was constructed, not when the number of students on campus increased. Justice Seligman disagreed.

The Upper Hearst project would extend the footprint of the Goldman School of Public Policy. Render: UC Berkeley / Solomon Cordwell Buenz / American Campus Communities

Impact of increased enrollment for Goldman School

Berkeley officials first unveiled plans to transform the area around Hearst and La Loma avenues in 2018. The plan included a new college building for the Goldman School as well as a 150-bed faculty housing complex. . The first groundbreaking was scheduled for fall 2018.

But Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods and the City of Berkeley have filed a lawsuit, declaring the SEIR to be inadequate and not compliant with CEQA, the state’s environmental law. The city complained that the university was trying to inject huge growth in student enrollment into SEIR without examining its impacts and the costs for Berkeley to provide emergency services. In 2005, in a long-term development plan, UC Berkeley said it only anticipated an increase in student enrollments of 1,650 people by 2020. But as the state legislature cut funding for the UC system, the Regents ordered some campuses, including Cal, to add more students to make money. In 2019, UC Berkeley said enrollment increased by 11,285 students.

Berkeley sued in 2019, but dropped the lawsuit when city council voted on July 13 to strike an $ 83 million deal with UC Berkeley. Cal will pay Berkeley $ 4.1 million per year over the next 16 years for its use of city services in return for Berkeley abandoning its opposition to the new 2021 long-term development plan and report. environmental impact.

This left Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods to pursue its case against UC Berkeley.

“The city could have negotiated a much better deal for Berkeley if it had waited for this ruling,” Bokovoy wrote in a press release. “As it is, they have sold taxpayers short with an annual ‘one-on-the-dollar’ payment and no binding commitments to build housing and mitigate the impacts.”

Berkeleyside has reached out to Mayor Jesse Arreguín to comment on the city’s decision to withdraw from the trial given Judge Seligman’s ruling.

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