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Press Release: Major Legal Victory for Berkeley Neighbors Against UC Berkeley on Impacts of University Enrollment Increases on City Neighborhoods

Phil Bokovoy, President, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods,
Friday June 26, 2020 - 04:35:00 PM

A Berkeley neighborhood group won a sweeping legal victory that gives them the right to sue UC Berkeley over the impacts of enrollment increases of more than 8,000 students from 2007- 2017 that the University undertook with no notice to the city and neighbors. 

Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods won an appeals court ruling June 25. UC Berkeley contended that it only has a legal obligation to evaluate and mitigate the impacts of enrollment increases on surrounding communities when it engages in physical construction of new buildings. The First District Court of Appeal court rejected this argument. 

“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 appeals court vindicated our efforts to hold UC Berkeley accountable for the severe impacts on our community from their massive enrollment increases which they made without public notice or comments. UC Berkeley will now be required to study the environmental impacts and implement mitigation for enrollment increases,” 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 our young people. The Regents, the Legislature and alumni need to hold the UC Berkeley administration accountable,” Bokovoy added. 

UC’s Board of Regents approved a development plan in 2005 that projected an enrollment increase of 1,650 students at Berkeley through 2020, bringing the total to 33,450. But UC Berkeley approved enrollment increases in every two-semester period since 2007, without public notice or environmental review, adding 8,300 students by April 2018, a five-fold increase over the 2005 projection. Last year’s enrollment was over 43,000, an increase of nearly 12,000 above 2005 enrollment. The 2005 plan also committed UC Berkeley to add 2,500 beds for students, but as of April 2018, it had added only 700 beds, making the local housing crisis worse.