Berkeley Citizens for a Better Plan, or BC4BP, filed a California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents over UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP, on Aug. 19.
The LRDP outlines strategies for how campus plans to address shortages in student housing and improve transportation and infrastructure between now and the 2036-37 academic year.
According to BC4BP’s attorney Leila Moncharsh, UC Berkeley failed to adequately address key environmental concerns, such as detailed measures of exhaust and greenhouse gases that would be released through the addition of housing units, from its Environmental Impact Report, or EIR.
“We like our quality of life in Berkeley; we don’t want it to be degraded,” Moncharsh said. “We’re going to do our very best for the community in Berkeley and for the city, and actually for the university as well, to try to come up with a better plan.”
Moncharsh noted that campus’s EIR appeared “hurried,” adding that the normal process, which involves creating an EIR for an LRDP and then proposing development projects, was abridged, with campus instead proposing its LRDP and projects at the same time.
The Board of Regents issued a “statement of overriding considerations,” which provides reasoning for why a project’s environmental impacts might be overlooked in light of economic, social, technological or other benefits.
“That document is only used when you’ve got a negative impact you really can’t correct, and you didn’t have any feasible alternatives — not for this,” Moncharsh said. “The court will likely order a whole new EIR because of this statement of considerations since it shows you’re cutting corners.”
Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said campus attorneys have yet to assess the claims and cannot comment at this point in time.
According to the UC Berkeley LRDP website, the plan integrates sustainable measures to reduce waste and emissions while optimizing the use of campus’s available land and funds to create student housing.
“The LRDP has been approved by the Regents and accepted by the City of Berkeley,” Mogulof said in an email. “We have no intention of re-starting a process that began three years ago. Over the course of that three-year process the public had many opportunities to present ideas, comments and requests.”
Moncharsh said CEQA lawsuits often take one year or longer to appear before a judge, and construction normally does not begin until the lawsuit is decided.
In the meantime, BC4BP will continue working with campus and other cities with similar difficulties to arrive at a satisfactory solution for everyone, according to Moncharsh.
“You’re not going to see the bulldozers coming in any time soon,” Moncharsh said.