UCB Takes it on the Chin, Again

By Arlene Silk, Berkeley Citizens for a Better Plan : berkeleydailyplanet – excerpt

This week UCB lost big in Court over its plans to stick two buildings at the corner of Hearst and Gayley Road (the so-called Upper Hearst Project) and use that project to legalize its on-going violation of CEQA in connection with student enrollment. To understand this lawsuit, you have to understand that there are two layers to what UCB was trying to do with its building project on that corner…

First, UCB wants to demolish the ugly (yes, we all can agree it is ugly) parking structure on the corner of Hearst and Gayley and build a large residence in its place running up to Ridge Road (where there currently is a surface parking lot). Over time, who can rent there has changed – first it was general public rental units, then, faculty housing, and now student housing – but the plan has always been for some housing that would produce income for UC. It also wants to build, down-hill from that huge residence hall a new building for the Goldman School of Public Policy. If that was all this involved, we’d have the typical fight over degrading historic resources and building yet more ugly, undistinguished structures in the midst of paradise. Given that the ugly garage was already there, this is and was always going to be a losing battle.

The second layer here, however, was the proverbial ball game and really high stakes for UC. For the last 15 years UCB has exceeded projected student enrollment by, well a lot. UCB’s projected enrollment was previously evaluated in a 2005 final Environmental Impact Report and, consequently, was lawfully allowed only up to that level under CEQA. CEQA basically requires that before a big project is undertaken, the developer/public entity, evaluate the impact of that project on the environment, vet the project and its impact in public so there can be input, and plan to mitigate any material negative environmental impacts. Here, UCB skipped the CEQA step on its increased enrollment, and so it tried to sneak it into the Upper Hearst Project. All Hell broke loose and lawsuits ensued, including suits by the City and community groups (kudos to all of them)!…(more)

Could this impact other CEQA lawsuits filed against the UC?

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