On Nov. 5, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte announced a lawsuit against UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) on the behalf of the Goleta City Council.
“I am disappointed that it has come to this because the City of Goleta has always had a good relationship with UCSB,” Perotte said in a press release. “However, the failure of UCSB to meet its obligations under the 2010 Long Range Development Plan Settlement Agreement to provide housing has made us reach a breaking point.”
The 2010 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) Mitigation Implementation and Settlement Agreement was put into place in order to mitigate the negative impact of UCSB’s increased enrollments over time.
Article 2 of the agreement says that UCSB must not enroll more than 25,000 students in any given academic year. However, UCSB’s facts and figures page indicates that 26,179 students were enrolled for the 2021-2022 school year.
According to city spokesperson Kelly Hoover, the university has also failed to report its enrollment figures to the City of Goleta since 2019 and has failed to provide a 5-year enrollment outlook as required by the Settlement Agreement.
In addition, Article 3 states that UCSB must create university housing for at least 5,000 students. Since 2010, the university has built the 1,000-bed San Joaquin Villages and the 515-bed Sierra Madre Apartments, however, this still leaves 3,485 beds needed to meet the agreement’s requirements.
The university’s current efforts to build Munger Hall, a large 4,500-person dorm, is also likely an attempt to meet the 5,000-bed requirements.
However, Mayor Perotte is skeptical that the dorm, which will finish in 2025, will not be built in time.
“UCSB’s currently proposed student housing project, Munger Hall, a 4,500-unit dorm, has recently received harsh scrutiny in the national press,” she remarked. “In light of this, we, at the City [Council], are concerned that there may be no certainty as to whether the needed student housing will be built in a reasonable time frame.”
The dorm’s announcement was met with an uproar of students and staff decrying the residence hall as unethical. Much criticism concerns how its plans for the building show no windows in any of the dorm rooms.
Additionally, Charles Munger, the man who donated $200 million to have it built, said that his donation is contingent on the university not altering any of the architecture plans at all.
The lack of windows and tight spaces led UCSB consulting architect, Dennis McFadden, to resign in protest, saying that the building’s plans are “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”
In response, hundreds of students gathered in front of UCSB’s Davidson Library on Nov. 5 to protest the construction of the dorm. Students have also created a petition against following through with the plans and it has nearly reached its 15,000 signature goal.
In a recent statement, UCSB indicates that it has no plans to cease construction of Munger Hall.
Deputy City Attorney, Winnie Cai has said that the university’s current lack of university housing also puts a strain on Goleta’s economy. Instead of students living in university housing, they are forced to live in the greater Goleta area, pushing out non-student residents and workers. Moreover, students using other Goleta resources and services adds additional pressure on an already struggling city that was hurt by COVID-19.
In response to the upcoming lawsuit, Andrea Estrada — UCSB Director of News and Media Relations — stated, “[t]he University has not seen the lawsuit yet but is deeply disappointed that the City of Goleta felt it necessary to resort to divisive litigation that forces both parties to spend public funds in this manner.” She also claimed that the increase in enrollment was due to the state’s effort to increase enrollment, as opposed to UCSB’s own choice. The University of California, as a whole, has a goal to add 20,000 students to its systems by 2030. University of California (UC) Chair of the Board of Regents, Cecilia Estolano has emphasized a need to drastically increase enrollment in order to meet the surging number of applicants to UC colleges.