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Judge Orders UC Berkeley To Freeze Campus Enrollment

BERKELEY (CBS SF/BCN/KPIX) -- The student population of UC Berkeley has grown wildly over the past 15 years, causing a severe housing shortage in the surrounding neighborhoods and now, a court is holding the university responsible for its enrollment decisions.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge has ordered UC Berkeley to freeze campus enrollment at the 2020-21 level in response to a dispute with neighbors over its plans to expand.

Judge Brad Seligman found that rising enrollment has affected neighboring housing, causing displacement, and creating unacceptable noise. Seligman also found the university failed at reviewing a reduction in enrollment to improve the surrounding neighborhoods.

"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 organization that sued Cal.

Wednesday was the first day of classes and the walkways were jammed with people. Apparently, so were the classrooms.

"My morning class today: I walked in, seats were all full, people were on the floor and I was like, dang, where am I going to sit?" said Cal student Brian Moreno.

Between 2005 and 2020, the university added 11,000 students—a 30 percent increase—but added little, if any, new housing. The mad scramble for a room has turned former single family neighborhoods into suburban dorms for the university, with landlords renting to up to 10 people in a house.

"Most of the students that live in this neighborhood are either from out of state or from wealthy families and they have displaced lower income tenants," said Bokovoy.

The judge ruled the school must conduct an Environmental Impact Study and mitigate any negative affects of enrollment hikes.

"We strongly feel the best mitigation measure is that the university, every time they add a student, they add a bed," said Bokovoy.

Bokovoy's group said additional students displace low-income neighbors, increase homelessness, place an added burden on first responders and increase trash and noise in nearby communities.

"We firmly believe that UC should not increase enrollment until it creates housing for its new students," Bokovoy added.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the school has filed additional documentation with the court to justify its plans.

"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 in a statement. "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."

The project will create new housing and academic space for the Goldman School of Public Policy.

"We are confident that the court will ultimately permit us to proceed with the" project, he said.

In a separate but related legal matter, the city of Berkeley and the university recently agreed to a roughly $83 million settlement over the impact of the university on the city.

The university will pay millions each year to the city for the impact on public services such as fire and others and projects for residents near the university, Berkeley officials said last month when a tentative agreement was reached. UC regents later approved the agreement.

The university was also sued in 2019 by the City of Berkeley over the cost of city services for the added students. But the case was recently settled when Cal agreed to pay the city 5 million dollars annually for the next 16 years. Meanwhile, there are plans to increase housing near the campus, including on the current site of People's Park, which drew a protest on campus Wednesday.

"They say, 'Oh, we need housing,' but why do they need housing?" said student Amanda Hill. "It's because they are over enrolling. We are far past our carrying capacity."

John Ramos contributed to this report.

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