Focused on student success and equity, UC Santa Cruz seeks reapproval to build more housing and child-care facilities

Student Housing West offers the best route to creating more affordable housing for students and reducing housing pressure in the local community

Students on campus
The housing shortage in Santa Cruz has only grown more urgent, both because of the summer wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and the increasing number of people deciding to move to Santa Cruz because they can work remotely.

In an effort to provide students with more housing security amid an unrelenting housing crisis, UC Santa Cruz will seek reapproval for a project that will significantly increase the number of current students who are able to live on campus.

Following a detailed, 18-month evaluation of Student Housing West in the midst of legal challenges to the project, Chancellor Cynthia Larive said she is confident the project offers the most rapid and direct route to creating more housing for undergraduate students and graduate students. Housing equity is a foundation for student success, one of the campus’s highest priorities.

“We care about our students from the moment they enroll in classes and throughout their entire life,” Larive said. “The lack of housing locally and the exorbitant cost of what is available is challenging for our students, particularly those who are from low-income backgrounds.”

Key takeaways

  • Student Housing West offers the most direct route to creating much-needed affordable housing for UC Santa Cruz students.
  • The project will reduce housing pressure in the community by allowing an additional 2,000 existing students to live on campus.
  • UC Santa Cruz will be able to expand child care to serve the children of employees in addition to students.

Student Housing West, with a certified EIR, is the only viable path forward to address the urgent need for near-term, affordable and dependable student housing for the existing student population and to support the campus in closing the equity gap among students.

UC Santa Cruz is known for its transformative undergraduate educational experience that’s rooted in its residential colleges. Prior to the pandemic, UC Santa Cruz was housing about 9,300 students, more than half of its undergraduate students.

With some exceptions, most undergraduates are unable to continue living on campus during their third and fourth years. Student Housing West will offer a variety of housing accommodations and allow upper division students to continue living on campus, instead of seeking housing in the local community.

Student Housing West will allow the campus to offer more housing to its graduate students and upper-division undergraduates by building new housing units with space for more than 3,000 students. The project is spread across two sites at UC Santa Cruz.

Land at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge roads will be used to build a new housing community for students with families and a new early childhood education center that will serve the children of faculty and staff in addition to students. The site is across the street from existing employee housing, near Westlake Elementary School, and near the campus’s main entrance. If the project is approved, the campus is hoping to start construction as soon as possible.

After the new housing community is built, UC Santa Cruz will be able to tear down the aging buildings currently home to students with families so that the campus can build six new buildings that will provide housing for approximately 2,700 undergraduate students and 220 graduate students.

While nearly all UC Santa Cruz students have been learning through remote instruction since the pandemic began a year ago, campus leaders are planning to resume more in-person activities this fall.

The housing shortage in Santa Cruz has only grown more urgent, both because of the summer wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and the increasing number of people deciding to move to Santa Cruz because they can work remotely.

UC Santa Cruz will seek reapproval for the project from the UC Board of Regents during its March meeting. The project was first approved two years ago, though lawsuits prevented the campus in meeting its original timeline to build more housing.

A Santa Cruz County judge in October 2020 upheld UC’s detailed environmental review of Student Housing West. The project underwent a thorough analysis, underscoring the campus’s commitment to the environment. The judge also concluded errors were made in the process the Regents used when they approved the project.

In addition to focusing on the environment in determining where to build Student Housing West, the project itself will advance the campus’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. The project includes solar panels as well as a water recycling facility that will allow UC Santa Cruz to reuse wastewater for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets and irrigation.