Chancellor op-ed: LRDP a blueprint for future of campus

This op-ed first ran in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Feb. 7

UC Santa Cruz has always pursued excellence and aspired to distinction — in teaching, in research, in access to education, in public service. The incredible achievements we have seen in our relatively short history have not happened by chance. Our campus sustains a clear vision for its future, shaped partly through intensive planning efforts undertaken regularly over the span of our 55 years.

A draft of our latest effort, the 2021 UC Santa Cruz Long Range Development Plan, was released last month. It reflects four years of work by campus leaders and planners, plus extensive collaboration with campus and community members. It sketches in broad strokes how our main campus and Westside Research Park might develop over the next two decades.

Long-range planning is an inexact science. Our first LRDP, undertaken in 1963, assumed we’d have 27,500 students by 1990, roughly 9,000 more than we enroll today. It described a campus with 20 residential colleges and 10 professional schools extending across the entire 2,000 acres, from the meadows at the base of campus to the redwoods in the north. We currently have 10 colleges and one professional school, in engineering. But planning efforts of this magnitude are extremely valuable. They force us to ask hard questions about what we have accomplished and what directions the university might take in the future.

The challenging part is to translate the answers to these big questions into a land-use plan, which is what the LRDP is. It designates areas on campus for specific uses, such as housing, academic or recreational areas. It does not green-light growth. It simply details where future infrastructure would go if it is eventually needed and funded. Every future project would need some level of environmental analysis and its own approval before any earth is moved.

These are exciting times for our campus. UCSC joined the Association of American Universities this past academic year, underscoring the impact and quality of our research and teaching.

Demand for a UCSC education remains at record levels, the diversity in our student ranks is growing, and we are educating an increasing number of first-generation and low-income students. We rank among the top universities in the nation for student social mobility, suggesting we are on track in our mission to provide educational opportunity and access to all Californians. Our responsibility is figuring out how we will educate the next generation while protecting what makes UCSC special. This plan does that, charting an innovative and sustainable course for our campus.

The UCSC of 2040 will be more functional and flexible. Our footprint will remain compact, with new learning, research and housing spaces clustered in our existing academic core. New paths and street designs will make us less car-dependent. Campus natural reserves will be nearly double their current size. And here’s a key point: We aim to house 100% of new student enrollment over the 19,500 students already planned for under our 2005 land-use plan. That not only lessens housing impacts in the city, but traffic, too. The plan also calls for additional employee housing. And all facilities will be integrated into the landscape, just as campus founders proposed nearly 60 years ago, highlighting our long-standing commitment to respect the campus natural environment.

The draft LRDP and the accompanying draft Environmental Impact Report are available online for review at We want your feedback. We have created a community handbook that provides a summary of the detailed draft Environmental Impact Report and technical documents. There’s a frequently asked questions webpage to help people understand the plan. The public comment period for our draft EIR extends to March 8.

This plan is a visual expression of our mission, detailing how we will advance it while stewarding the incredible land on which the university resides. Help us create a clear guide for the next 20 years.

Cynthia Larive is the chancellor of UC Santa Cruz.