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Tree Sit Statement Responding to UCSC Lawsuit Settlement
It comes as no surprise to us that the city council and CLUE have settled their lawsuit with UCSC over the campus expansion under the 2005 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). But, despite the city's capitulation and Chancellor Blumenthal's speculation that the Tree Sitters "have accomplished their goals," we will not be coming out of the trees. The city does not speak for us, nor do they speak for the Coast Redwoods, the Mountain Manzanita, Burrowing Owls, Red-legged Frogs, Bobcats, Coyotes, Gray Foxes, California Myotis or any of the other living creatures who call the exceptional habitat of North Campus their home.
The city's lawsuit was never intended to protect the unique ecosystem of North Campus that UCSC plans on destroying. The destruction of the forest was always the main issue behind us climbing into the Redwood trees at the site of the first proposed 2005 LRDP building. We look forward to working with the city and with CLUE on the legal battles that will be waged when the UC's plans are put before the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission. But we cannot rely on politicians and bureaucrats to protect the things that are truly important: clean air, clean water, animal habitats and the experience of being surrounded by the beautiful hundred-year old redwood and chaparral forest that are in danger of being destroyed forever. Those are the values that have called us into the trees, and those are things that cannot be quantified or litigated.
Though Judge Burdick ruled that the Environmental Impact Report was inadequate, the faulty studies submitted under the EIR will not be re-examined. The University has agreed to pay "normal city fees," so all the city has won is the ability to subject the University to the same laws as every other corporation operating in Santa Cruz. Having UCSC pay for their impact is not the same as having no impact on the city. The settlement is hardly a victory considering that the enrollment will still reach 19,500 by 2020 and could be even higher since there is no cap on graduate enrollment. This deal could only be seen as victorious by politicians and University bureaucrats.
It is difficult to see how paying "normal city fees" for traffic will have any actual effect on those of us sitting in miles long lines of cars all over town. It is difficult to imagine that housing 50% of the students will make a significant impact to those of us looking for housing in the $800-per-room rental market considering that UCSC says it already houses 45% of students. And, even if UCSC pays for their water usage, where will we find the water to support the increase in population that University growth will bring? The settlement is an inadequate answer to these concerns about the future of life in Santa Cruz.
A coalition of students, faculty, staff and community members have kept the Tree Sit going for the past eight months as a public show of opposition to UCSC's expansion plan. Our presence put pressure on UCSC to negotiate a deal more binding than anything the University has agreed to before, but we want more. The University has not changed its plans to destroy 120 acres of forest and add 4,500 students to this already overburdened city, so our opposition is still essential.
Let the city and University make their agreements. We are here for the forest.