UCSB Deal Quiets Critics of Growth : Education: The school agrees to improve roads and contribute to affordable housing. In exchange, opponents of campus expansion will back off.


A precedent-setting agreement between the UC Santa Barbara campus and its neighbors may help establish a pattern of future “town and gown” relations for campuses that are located in environmentally sensitive communities.

Under terms of a contract between UCSB’s administration, the city and county of Santa Barbara and three citizens groups, the school will contribute to an affordable housing fund, improve roads near the campus and take other steps to “enhance the quality of life” in the largely student community of Isla Vista, adjacent to the campus.

In return, the groups have agreed not to mount a legal challenge to UCSB enrollment and building plans. The school plans to increase its enrollment from the present 18,000 to 20,000 by the year 2005 and wants to build 1.2 million square feet of new academic buildings and other campus facilities--about a 60% increase in total campus square footage.


Similar campus-community deals have been struck at both UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

But the UCSB agreement, which is expected to be approved by the UC Board of Regents at a meeting in Riverside on Thursday and Friday, is the first to address the issue of affordable housing.

“I believe it’s the first time UC has agreed to build affordable housing anywhere in the state,” said John Patton, director of resource management for Santa Barbara County.

The UCSB agreement also is more detailed than the other plans, all of which were formulated to deal with concerns over campus growth.

Part of the agreement calls for the school to contribute to a fund that will help nonprofit groups build affordable housing for campus staff. Under the plan, the school will contribute a set amount--starting at $50 and eventually increasing to $137--for each new student or faculty housing unit built by the university. For example, if 100 units were built, the school would set aside $5,000.

The university’s contribution eventually will provide enough money for 50 to 75 new housing units, according to Patton.

“That’s not a large number,” Patton said, “but it’s the most we could get.”

The contract also requires UCSB to spend more than $3 million to improve roadways and intersections on and near the campus.


UCSB also has agreed to abandon plans to build 50 units of faculty housing on West Campus Bluffs, one of the few remaining open space areas near the campus.

As the UC system has wrestled with the problem of expanding its eight general campuses to accommodate larger enrollments in recent years, it has encountered opposition from environmentalists and others.

Once seen as entirely beneficial to local communities, UC campuses now are viewed with ambivalence by many local officials.

“The university is a great asset to the community, of course,” said Santa Barbara Mayor Sheila Lodge. “It is the largest employer in the area and it greatly enhances our local cultural life. But the university is also the largest single factor influencing growth, and growth is not that popular in Santa Barbara.”

The relationship between the campus and the city and county of Santa Barbara (the campus is in the Goleta Valley, outside the city limits) has been touchy since protests by students and non-students led to the burning of a Bank of America branch, and students and non-students battled sheriff’s deputies in a series of confrontations 20 years ago.

The area’s severe water shortage, continuing air quality problems and increasing traffic congestion have made UC Santa Barbara less popular with some local citizens. And the school’s practice of continually exceeding agreed-to enrollment limits also heightened tensions.


“They would agree to an enrollment cap, and then blow right past it before the ink was dry,” said county Supervisor Bill Wallace, in whose district the campus is located.

When the UC Board of Regents last September approved a long-range campus plan that would raise enrollment to 20,000 but did little to offset the impact of the additional students, the city, county and several local planning and environmental organizations united in protest.

“None of us around here could live with that,” Wallace said.

UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Barbara S. Uehling and her statewide bosses in Oakland, realizing they faced determined opposition to their growth plans, decided to move to the negotiating table.

Several campus sources speculated that the decision was partly due to the fact that UC President David P. Gardner, a former UCSB assistant chancellor, understands the region’s slow-growth sentiment.

After several months of negotiations that Wallace characterized as “very arduous and not very friendly for a long time,” the parties have agreed on the unique contract.

The most ambitious, if least specific, part of the agreement calls on UCSB to improve the quality of life in Isla Vista, where 10,000 of the university’s 18,000 students live.


Ever since the clashes two decades ago, relations between the campus and Isla Vista have been shaky.

In 1970, a special UC commission recommended that UCSB recognize Isla Vista as “an integral part of the university community” and take steps to improve living conditions there.

But “after awhile, they put it on the back burner,” Supervisor Wallace said. “For the most part, they’ve been pretty neglectful.”

Now the university has agreed to help the community in efforts to improve police and fire service, provide more public transportation, reduce noise and congestion and many other worthy goals. However, so far no UC funds have been pledged to the task and many who live in Isla Vista are skeptical that many improvements will be made.

“That sounds nice on paper, but it’s already so awful here that what we really need is a rollback in campus enrollment,” said Laura Price, a director of the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District. “We’re packed in here like rats.

Under the agreement, if enrollment threatens to exceed 20,000, the campus administration must take immediate steps to bring it back to that figure.


Lee Marking, governmental relations coordinator for the campus, called this a “self-executing mechanism--we not only have to put the gun to our head but we have to pull the trigger.”

Also lurking in the background is the threat that the city, the county, the citizens’ groups or the California Coastal Commission might sue the university if the enrollment cap is exceeded.

While some city and county officials are not entirely happy with the contract, they say that it is a big improvement over the long-range plan the regents adopted last September.

The agreement marks another milestone along the path that the UC system has traveled in becoming less authoritarian and more cooperative with the communities where its campuses are located.

“I think finally the regents are realizing these campuses are not empires unto themselves,” Wallace said.