UCSC imagines campus 20 years from now, releases roadmap for its future and accompanying environmental review

Campus to host two online public meetings as part of a 60-day public comment period

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Interest from prospective students is at record levels, the diversity of the student population is growing, and each year the campus welcomes thousands of students who are from low-income backgrounds and who will be the first in their families to earn four-year degrees.

UC Santa Cruz has great ambitions for the coming decades, including continued advancement of its academic and research missions, expanded access to higher education for the next generation of Californians, and more on-campus housing options for students and employees.

To ensure the campus has what’s needed to see this vision through, the university for nearly four years has immersed itself in a long-range planning effort. The draft 2021 Long-Range Development Plan (LRDP) and accompanying draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) released today lays out a framework for the campus’ evolution and reflects years of collaboration with campus and community members.

The UC Santa Cruz of the future will continue to be an extraordinary natural environment where students, faculty, and staff teach, learn, research, live, and work. The campus of 20 years down the road will be more connected, functional and flexible, with facilities complementing the landscape — just as campus founders first imagined nearly 60 years ago. It is a place of resilience that advances innovation, inspires the next generation of leaders and innovators, and addresses society’s most challenging issues.

The draft 2021 Long-Range Development Plan supports this vision and provides current and future campus leaders with a framework for the still evolving campus. It identifies where students, staff and faculty could be housed and where spaces for learning and research could be created, while also imagining the infrastructure that connects everything.

Since its founding in 1965, UC Santa Cruz has been on an unprecedented trajectory, producing transformative research and scholarship that serves society while graduating more than 120,000 students who are making their own contributions locally, regionally and globally. UC Santa Cruz joined the American Association of Universities in 2019, an astonishing achievement for a university not even 60 years old, underscoring the impact and quality of the campus’ research as well as graduate and undergraduate teaching. UC Santa Cruz now shares the distinction of being the youngest member of this esteemed 65-member association and one of only four members that is also a Hispanic-serving institution.

lrdp-maps-700px.jpgAdditionally, interest from prospective students is at record levels, the diversity of the student population is growing, and each year the campus welcomes thousands of students who are from low-income backgrounds and who will be the first in their families to earn four-year degrees. Long gone are the days when only the privileged few were able to receive the quality education that UCSC provides. For the second year in a row, UC Santa Cruz was ranked in the top-five institutions nationally for student social mobility, a value that a progressive city and state can appreciate. 

“We are focused on providing a high-quality education and research environment for the next generation of leaders while also respecting and protecting the natural environment that surrounds us, which is an important part of what makes our campus special,” Chancellor Cynthia Larive said. “This plan charts an innovative, sustainable, and exciting course for our campus.”

Like a city’s general plan, a long-range development plan includes a land-use map that designates specific campus areas for different uses. The plan does not propose specific projects, and any proposed construction would need to go through a separate approval process, with some level of environmental analysis. 

Based on campus and community feedback, the draft plan: 

  • Continues to embrace and respect the original vision for the campus. 
  • Advances a compact footprint for learning, research and housing spaces. 
  • Increases the campus natural reserve, used for ecological and educational purposes, while also promoting outdoor activities, health and wellness.
  • Proposes sites for up to four new residential colleges, advancing our unique and transformative residential college-system structure, which offers students the experience of a small liberal arts college with the depth and rigor of a major research university.
  • Expands housing for 100 percent of new full-time student enrollment above 19,500.
  • Includes housing for up to 25 percent of new employees, based on demand.
  • Improves circulation on campus with a focus on alternative modes of transportation to reduce single-occupancy car trips. 

Get involved

The draft LRDP and its accompanying draft EIR are available online for public review. For the first time, the campus has prepared a community handbook as a guide to the draft EIR, providing the public with a summary of the full document. 

Comments on the draft EIR can be emailed to eircomment@ucsc.edu or mailed to:

Erika Carpenter
Senior Environmental Planner
Physical Planning, Development, and Operations
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA  95064

Though state law requires a 45-day review period, UC Santa Cruz wants to ensure the public has plenty of time to review the documents and is providing a 60-day review period for people to offer comments. The last day to provide comments is Monday, March 8, 2021.

Additionally, the campus will host two online public meetings to provide an overview of the LRDP and associated draft EIR for public comment. The meetings will be

  • 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3
  • 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 4

Information about how to participate in the meeting can be found online. All comments will be addressed in the final EIR which is expected to be released later this year. The LRDP and final EIR will then go before the UC Regents for approval, and certification, respectively. 

Involving the community from the start

UC Santa Cruz announced in 2017 that it was beginning to develop a new long-range development plan that would serve as a guide for the physical development of the campus for the next 20 years. To continue strengthening the bonds between the campus and community, UC Santa Cruz developed an extensive countywide outreach campaign to gain a wide range of perspectives. 

To ensure diverse feedback throughout the plan’s development, the campus formed a Community Advisory Group, made up of leaders from local government, the education sector, and neighborhood and community groups, some of whom have challenged the university on its long-range plans in the past. UC Santa Cruz also held public-input workshops in spring 2018; conducted an online public survey and visioning activity in fall 2018; then hosted three land-use planning workshops in fall 2019, with three more presentations on the proposed land-use map in December 2019. Three scoping sessions in advance of developing the draft EIR were held in spring 2020. 

A long-term plan

University of California policy requires each of its campuses to regularly update a long-range development plan. The exercise requires campuses to set specific parameters—a time horizon and an enrollment figure—to thoughtfully plan for the future.

Long-range development plans are sometimes mischaracterized as enrollment growth plans, said Vice Chancellor Sarah Latham, who co-chaired the LRDP committee. In reality, decisions about enrollment are driven by many ongoing and evolving factors including student demand, state funding, and campus capacity.

UC Santa Cruz’s plan will guide the campus through the next two decades and forecast what infrastructure and spaces the campus might need to serve up to 28,000 students, a figure that city and campus leaders in the 1960s had imagined the university reaching by 1990. A comprehensive plan, informed by feedback from the campus community, the general public, and the university’s large network of alumni and supporters helps current and future university leaders make good, comprehensive decisions vs. singular ones along the way.

“It’s impossible to fully predict university life 20 years from now,” Latham said. For example, the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are unknown, and they may lead to changes in the campus operation, such as increased remote work for some employees and more hybrid models of instruction. “But it is prudent that our campus produces a well-thought-out roadmap that can serve as a guide regardless of what the year 2040 brings.”

“I’m excited for what the future holds and believe this plan provides us with a solid framework for continuing to fulfill the mission of our university,” Latham said.