Now we have reached the stage in environmental activism in which students are deemed as potential pollutants.
In the annals of left vs. left battles, this is one of the most fascinating.
The highly unusual order more specifically directs the university to “suspend any further increases in student enrollment at UC Berkeley, in academic years 2022-2023 and later, above the level of student enrollment in academic year 2020-21” until the university comes into full compliance with the court’s requirements.
It also instructs UC Berkeley to void its decision to move ahead with a planned public-private development project, the Upper Hearst Project, intended to create new academic space as well as faculty, postdoctoral researcher and graduate student housing.
The Aug. 23 order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, a local nonprofit group, and follows a July 9 ruling by Judge Brad Seligman concluding that an environmental impact analysis completed by the university was “legally insufficient in several respects,” including in relation to its analysis of the impacts of increased student enrollment.
Seligman wrote that Berkeley’s 2020 Long-Range Development Plan, certified in 2005, had projected that student enrollment would stabilize at around 33,450 students. Instead, he wrote, “it continued to increase and quickly exceeded those projections.”
Given the social justice activism rampant on campus, I am all for fewer students exposed to that extremely toxic environment. However, I am confident that is not the spirit in which this ruling was made.
Local citizen organizations are thrilled.
Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, the organization that filed the lawsuit, is a group of Berkeley residents who aim to “protect Berkeley’s unique quality of life,” according to its website. Phil Bokovoy, the group’s president, said the judge’s ruling is welcome news.
“We’re extremely pleased with the ruling,” Bokovoy said. “We’ve been litigating against the(UC Berkeley) for three years on the issue of enrollment increases. It will hopefully force (campus) into legally acknowledging their obligation to create housing for students that they add onto campus.”
The heart of the issue is compliance with regulations from the most dominant crushers of growth, prosperity, and freedom in California: The state’s many environmental agencies. The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, mandates that all state agencies assess how specific projects impact the environment. After conducting an initial study, the agency must prepare the environmental impact report or EIR.
The staff and administrators usually embrace the stringent environmental rules on California campuses and the politicians who govern Berkeley. However, in this case, not so much.
Under California law, universities are periodically required to prepare a long-term development plan that includes enrollment forecasts and an environmental impact study. In 2005, UC–Berkeley produced one projecting that its headcount would stabilize at about 33,500 students. Instead, the school ended up enrolling more than 42,000 by 2020, with plans to admit more still in the years to come.
The university didn’t think that welcoming more students to campus required it to perform a whole new environmental review. But a state appeals court in San Francisco disagreed in 2020, ruling that increasing enrollment counted as a “project” that needed to be evaluated under the CEQA, just like building a stadium or dorm would be.
…Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín isn’t happy with the outcome. The city already settled its own lawsuit challenging the university’s expansion plans last year, after UC-Berkeley agreed to more than double what it pays each year for its students’ use of public services like fire, police, and public transit. The deal was also contingent on the university holding enrollment growth to 1 percent per year.
“Personally, I do not think the city should stand in the way of UC making progress in addressing our housing crisis and preventing future generations of students from getting a world-class education,” Arreguín said in a statement to Berkeleyside. (The lawsuit also halts a classroom-and-apartment complex.)
Now we have reached the stage in environmental activism in which students are deemed as potential pollutants.DONATE
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