A judge has ordered the University of California–Berkeley, to freeze 2022 enrollment at the 2020 level and immediately pause an academic building and faculty housing project, citing potential negative effects on surrounding neighborhoods.
In the Aug. 24 decision, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman sided with a group of residents living near the UC–Berkeley campus. The neighbors brought the complaint in 2019, alleging that the university failed to take “significant environmental impacts” into account when developing its expansion plan, including displacement of tenants, an increase in noise and trash, an increase in traffic, and increased burdens on the City of Berkeley’s public safety services.
“The judge has vindicated our efforts to hold UC Berkeley accountable for the severe impacts on our community from its massive enrollment increases, which they made without public notice or comments,” said Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, the group that filed the suit. “UC Berkeley must now acknowledge those impacts and propose mitigation measures that will make it a better neighbor.”
Specifically, Seligman ordered that UC–Berkeley must limit its enrollment for the 2022–23 academic year to no more than that of the previous academic year, noting that the university’s report regarding the impact of the student population growth was flawed and didn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires state and local agencies to provide the public with a detailed study about potential impacts of their proposed projects.
UC–Berkeley enrolled 42,347 undergraduate and graduate students over the 2020–21 academic year, according to the university’s website.
UC–Berkeley was also ordered to halt its plan to build 150 faculty apartments, 170 parking spots, and a third academic building for the university’s Goldman School of Public Policy. It can’t proceed with the $126 million project until it fixes the deficiencies in the environmental impact report (EIR) as required by CEQA.
The City of Berkeley sued the university in 2019 over the EIR, which city officials called “shady.” The lawsuit was dropped last month, when the city council voted to approve an $82.6 million settlement, with the university paying $4.1 million each year over the next 16 years for its use of city services.
UC–Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof told local newspaper Berkeleyside that the university will act quickly to meet the court’s order so it can continue to enroll more students.
“We are optimistic that we can file documents with the court very soon that will satisfy the judgment with regard to future increases in enrollment,” Mogulof said, according to the Berkeleyside report. “It will probably take the university between six and eight months to address the requirements of the judgment with regard to the Upper Hearst project. We are confident that the court will ultimately permit us to proceed with the Upper Hearst project.”