UCSB Reaches Settlement with Goleta and Santa Barbara County on Student Housing

Storke Tower in the center of University of California, Santa Barbara campus (Photo: Matt Perko / courtesy)

The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), has reached two separate settlement agreements with the City of Goleta and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors regarding student housing.

The announcement for both settlements arrived on Friday afternoon through a series of joint press releases.

The University agreed to settle a lawsuit that was filed by the City of Goleta in 2021 alleging UCSB was not building student and faculty housing as provided for in UCSB’s 2010 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP). This agreement provided UCSB the opportunity to grow in a “responsible, metered manner,” from 20,000 to 25,000 students, and ensured that enrollment growth would be matched with construction of adequate on-campus housing for students.

The City alleged that the UC Regents were not meeting the terms of a 2010 settlement agreement that addressed UCSB’s growth, thereby negatively impacting the City and its residents.

In the current settlement agreement, which was approved by a majority of the City Council, UCSB commits to constructing an additional 3,500 student beds by September 1, 2029, and will pursue the housing projects originally outlined in the 2010 LRDP.

A quiet, empty street in Isla Vista (Photo: Jeff Liang)

“This commitment meets the City’s primary goal of the lawsuit, which was to ensure that UCSB was on track to build the necessary units within a set timeframe. UCSB will build housing at the Facilities Management site on the northwestern corner of the main campus and at the East Campus Infill and Redevelopment site,” the City of Goleta’s press release states.

In March 2022, a similar lawsuit was filed involving UC Berkeley. The trial court ordered UC Berkeley to cap its enrollment due to noncompliance with the California Environmental Quality Act. UC Berkeley quickly appealed this decision to the California Supreme Court, which decided not to take the appeal. However, about two weeks later, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 118, a new law that eliminated all existing University of California enrollment caps by court order.

“The impact of SB 118 on the City’s lawsuit was to render the City’s requested remedy of capping enrollment to be highly implausible to be ordered by the court. The City’s other remedy was monetary,” stated the City of Goleta.

Goleta then negotiated $2.3 million to be paid by UCSB towards two important capital improvement projects, namely the Goleta Train Depot and San Jose Creek Multipurpose Path, arguing it will benefit UCSB students and faculty.

UCSB also agreed to pay the City of Goleta $500 per student over the cap, based on a three-quarter average, in the event on-campus enrollment exceeds the cap, unless the increase is mandated by the California Legislature.

Student bicycles on the campus of UC Santa Barbara (courtesy)

Similar to the City of Goleta, the County of Santa Barbara also alleged the university had breached its 2010 LRDP agreement by not building the required housing.

This month the Regents approved a negotiated Settlement Agreement with the County of Santa Barbara which secures 3,500 new student beds (same beds from the Goleta settlement), provides $3.7 million to the County to fund community-serving projects in Isla Vista that benefit both the University and the broader communities, and provides for potential penalty payments of up to an additional $2 million should the housing not be constructed within newly prescribed timelines.

“Affordable housing is the most vexing challenge facing our County. This Agreement acknowledges that UCSB’s struggles in meeting the needs of its campus community have had a cascading impact on us all. We have forged a new chapter in actually delivering university housing and addressing impacts in Isla Vista – the home of one of the largest mass evictions in our history,” stated Second District Supervisor Laura Capps, whose district includes the community of Isla Vista neighboring the UCSB Campus.

“With the deadlines outlined in the Agreement, as well as commensurate penalties for not meeting outlined targets, I am confident the University will work to aggressively advance their housing plans, mitigate long standing impacts and be good neighbors. We look forward to continuing to partner with the University and ensure that needs of our shared constituency, the students, faculty and staff, and the surrounding community, are addressed proactively,” said Capps.

A site plan rendering for the new San Benito student residential community at UC Santa Barbara [Photo Credit © SOM | Mithun]

UCSB sent out its own press release regarding the settlements expressing its commitment to the community/

“The university is proud of its more than $2 billion direct and indirect annual contributions to the local economy.  Additional investments in capital projects that benefit our neighbors in Goleta and Santa Barbara County as well as our students, staff, and faculty are a better use of resources than legal costs,” said Chuck Haines, UC Santa Barbara’s vice chancellor and chief financial officer. “We have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the City of Goleta and with the County of Santa Barbara, including our direct contributions of more than $2 million a year in support of the Isla Vista community. We look forward to completing construction on our new on-campus student housing projects and working closely with the City and County on ways to support our local community.”

Since 2010, UCSB stated it has constructed approximately 1,500 new beds for students and is advancing on development plans for a new student housing project to meet its students’ housing needs.

San Benito, the first phase of the two-part project, includes 2,100 new student beds and is expected to be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2027; an additional 1,400 beds are projected to be completed by 2029.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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  1. It took a lawsuit from Goleta to get UCSB to even budge on doing the right thing. Hey Yang, wake up yo! But hey, there’s at least one guy here on Edhat who thinks UCSB is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and SBCC as well! Most folks disagree.

  2. Goleta was paid $8 million by UCSB for the original agreement in 2010 to help mitigate problems caused by the student increase, by fixing things around the city. Not a penny of it has yet been spent to fix those problems, 14 years later.

  3. Agreeing to “fix” the problem by 2029 is just kicking the can down the road again.

    Paying Goleta and the County funds for other projects is just transferring tax-payer funds from one bureaucratic agency to another. The tax-paying citizens pay for it but the impacts to local housing remain.

    Problem solved. Nothing to see here. Move along…

  4. It is not just UCSB that creates a burden on the local municipalities, SBCC, Westmont College, Cottage Hospital to name a few are all non-tax paying entities that create burden without payments.
    Why just pick on UCSB, at least they have been paying substantial amounts.

    • I don’t think you can say Cottage has to be wrapped up in the same argument. The others you mention, and I agree they have a problem are colleges. Teaching institutions should be responsible for the majority of their students’ housing. UCSB has been on the growth mode for a long while now under Yang. CC and UCSB are very happy bringing in all kinds of international students because, I believe, they want the money. It’s a problem.

      • Utilizing housing resources is undeniably a concern, but there are additional issues intertwined with schools, affordable housing, and non-profit organizations in general. These entities rely on city and county resources such as fire, police, roads, and schools without contributing significant property taxes, if any at all (except for minimal taxes in the case of workforce housing). Consequently, the burden of funding these essential services falls on taxpayers.

        Many municipalities address this issue by requiring Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) from such entities to help support these services. UCSB has a track record of making PILT payments, particularly to local schools that serve their workforce housing residents. It’s difficult to identify any other entity that have done so.

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