The City of Berkeley and the University of California (UC) are at odds over a 15-year land use plan adopted earlier this year. The city contends that the UC plan burdens city-funded services and does not protect city desires regarding off-campus development. University officials defend the plan, saying that the school benefits the community in many ways and that the plan guarantees UC consultation with the city for any off-campus project.
In February, the city filed a lawsuit over the Long Range Development Plan. The two sides are negotiating. In the meantime, UC is moving ahead with plan implementation - and the city is taking steps to increase revenue it gets from the university.
“The City of Berkeley does not oppose all new development by the university,” Mayor Tom Bates said earlier this year. “However, this community must have a meaningful say in how, when and where new growth occurs - particularly development that takes places off the campus. And we must be compensated fairly for the city services we provide.”
Bates's comments prompted this response from UC: “The university is sympathetic to the financial challenges facing the city and, as a member of this community, the campus wants to enhance the city's neighborhoods. That is why the campus offered to increase significantly its direct annual payments to the city, earmarking funds for city services and neighborhood improvements. Unfortunately, city officials rejected our offer.”
The UC Board of Regents adopted the 2020 Long Range Development Plan in January, after a two-year planning process. The plan proposes to accommodate up to 4,000 additional students and 2,800 additional workers. The plan calls for:
o 2.2 million square feet of space for academic and support programs, an increase of 18%. About half of this space would be built off-campus.
o 2,600 new beds of student housing, a 32% increase. The housing would be built in numerous areas within walking distance or within a 20-minute transit ride of campus.
o 2,300 additional parking spaces, a 30% increase. Five hundreds of these spaces would be deferred until after 2020 if a bus rapid transit project along Telegraph Avenue gets under way by 2010.
Since adoption of the plan, the university has started preliminary work on the Chang-Lin Tien Center for East Asian Studies, details of which UC rolled into the long-range plan. The university has also started construction on a replacement for Stanley Hall, which UC demolished last year. The new building will provide space for bioscience facilities. Preliminary work also is under way for a new information technology center. Later this year, UC hopes to begin construction of the first off-campus project since LRDP adoption - a child-care center. That project will test the LRDP's design principles for fitting university development into the community, said Kerry O'Banion, project manager for the long-range plan.
The long-range plan is similar to a city's general plan, O'Banion explained. “It's a framework that gives us a set of principles and guidelines to work from,” he said. The details of, and environmental review for, specific projects will be handled as the university addresses individual projects in the future.
The regents adopted the previous long-range plan for the Berkeley campus during the late 1980s. The new plan differs in several ways.
“The main point is that it's much more explicitly tied to the academic plan,” O'Banion said of the 2020 plan. “The objectives in the long-range plan you can tie directly to the academic goals.”
Additionally, the new plan contains a number of sustainable design features that attempt to reduce operating and maintenance costs; provides guidelines for where certain types of buildings should go; has design guidelines; and places a stronger emphasis on redevelopment.
“It's a built-out environment. Every piece of land has a use of some kind on it,” O'Banion said. For new buildings and facilities, campus planners are eyeing places that are underused, obsolete or seismically questionable, he added.
However, the fact that the city and campus are already intensely developed is a factor that underlies the city's concerns. The city's issues with the plan can be divided in three primary areas, said Cisco DeVries, the mayor's chief of staff.
First, the city needs to have more meaningful input into what development occurs off-campus. Under state law, the university can build just about anything it wants. The LRDP is “vague” about what will get built off-campus, DeVries said.
The second issue is parking. Adding 2,300 parking spaces will only further congest Berkeley's famously jammed streets, city officials contend.
The third issue is money, specifically fees for municipal services that the city provides. City officials say the city provides $13.5 million worth of services to UC every year, a tab that will increase by $2 million annually under the LRDP. The city's lawsuit argues, “The university does not commit under the LRDP to pay for the impacts on city services used by the university or to lessen those impacts through effective mitigation.”
“For example,” added DeVries, “we provide the entirety of the university's fire protection and ambulance services. We essentially provide a fire department for a community of 50,000 people at no charge.”
University officials have indicated they are willing to talk about the issue, but the two sides appear to be getting only farther apart. In March, the City Council decided to pursue a 10% tax on UC parking fees. University officials contend such a levy would violate the state constitution's prohibition against taxing state agencies.
In April, the City Council voted to more than triple the sewer service fees charged to UC, which are currently at $450,000 a year. UC officials responded that the city's fee methodology was flawed and that there is another year left on a 1990 agreement regarding sewer fees.
There is one other money issue: Paying for new facilities. Housing and parking generate enough revenue to pay for themselves, according to O'Banion, but everything else relies on a combination of campus funds, state funds, and donations. The Legislative Analyst's Office has recommended not funding LRDP projects until UC justifies the need. The LRDP supposedly provides for 4,000 additional students, yet UC Berkeley has already added those students with existing facilities, according to the LAO. “Therefore, it is unclear why 2.2 million gross square feet of buildings would be needed to accommodate enrollment,” the LAO reported.
University officials say the system's oldest campus needs continual updating and additions to maintain its place as one of the world's top research centers.
Kerry O'Banion, University of California, Berkeley, Facilities Services, (510) 643-3362.
Cisco DeVries, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates's office, (510) 981-7103.
Long Range Development Plan: www.cp.berkeley.edu/LRDP_2020final.htm.