September 29, 2022
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Santa Barbara County to join Goleta in suing UCSB over lack of housing

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The county of Santa Barbara will sue UC Santa Barbara over allegations that the university failed to comply with its long-term plan to provide enough housing for its students.

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Aug. 30 in closed session to initiate litigation against the Regents of the University of California, alleging UCSB violated to build the required housing for its students, faculty and staff.

The decision came after UCSB faced an unprecedented housing crunch during the 2021-2022 school year. The city of Goleta is also suing the university for not building enough dorms, which Goleta says violates the university’s promise in 2010 to build enough housing to accommodate its enrollment growth.

The county has a tolling agreement with UCSB in which the parties agreed that no legal proceedings would be instituted between them while they attempted to resolve their dispute without litigation, according to Assistant County Executive Officer Teri Maus-Nisich. The agreement ends on Sept. 28, and litigation will be filed Sept. 29.

UCSB, in an emailed statement to the Business Times, said it “has been involved in extensive good-faith discussions with the county over student housing since experiencing significant and unanticipated undergraduate enrollment increases several years ago at the behest of the state of California.”

UCSB and Santa Barbara County “have a shared goal of providing more on-campus housing for our students,” the university’s statement said.

UCSB also pointed to “recently completed projects that created an additional 1,500 student housing beds.”

“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the county and are hopeful that any lawsuit does not result in needless and expensive litigation, instead of ongoing collaboration,” the statement said.

The 2010-2025 UCSB Long Range Development Plan Mitigation Implementation and Settlement Agreement between UCSB, the county of Santa Barbara and city of Goleta, signed by the UC Regents, provided the university the “opportunity to grow in a responsible, metered manner, from 20,000 to 25,000 students, and ensured that the growth would occur matched with constructing on campus housing for students,” Supervisor Gregg Hart said in a statement on behalf of the Board of Supervisors at the Aug. 30 meeting.

The agreement addressed the impacts that the anticipated growth of up to 5,000 students, more than 330 additional faculty and 1,400 additional staff would have on the surrounding community, Hart said.

“While every opportunity has been afforded to the university to complete the construction, to date UCSB has failed to construct all of the beds needed,” Hart said. “Despite ongoing requests for the timelines related to the construction of the housing, it’s apparent that the required beds will not be in place prior to 2025, when the agreement expires.”

Hart said that “litigation was the only path remaining” since UCSB still does not have a solid timeline for when more housing will come online.

Last year, UCSB drew attention after a housing project ran into some opposition for its unusual design. Munger Hall, designed and partially funded by billionaire Charlie Munger, would be an 11-story residential building located on the UCSB campus. The university plans to have it open in 2025, but it has drawn staunch opposition due to factors including its lack of exterior windows in most rooms.