UCSB | Credit: Courtesy

As it advised it would last month, the City of Goleta filed suit against UC Santa Barbara on December 10 for failing to build sufficient housing for its enrollment, per the terms of a Long Range Development Plan Settlement Agreement reached in 2010.

The university had agreed to pace its student population growth and match increased enrollment to the housing it would build, the city stated, and by the time it went from 20,000 students to 25,000, at least 5,000 new units would have been built. Instead, university enrollment rose to the maximum number but only 1,515 units of housing were built. UCSB proposed the 4,500-bed Munger Hall to meet its obligation, but the 1.68-million-square-foot, virtually windowless dormitory faces such stiff opposition that Goleta decided to act. “As a result of UCSB’s unmitigated population growth and ongoing negative impacts on Goleta’s housing shortage, the City had no choice but to resort to litigation to compel UCSB to abide by its promise,” a press release announcing the lawsuit said.

The talks to resolve the issue had been going on for three years, the city’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover stated, but none have succeeded. The issues included a loss in hotel bed taxes as well as effects on housing in Goleta for its own workforce.

UCSB has consistently stated its enrollment numbers fall below 25,000 and has emphasized the outsized beneficial effects it provides the local economy — as much as $2.3 billion in direct and induced impacts, the university claimed. The loss in hotel bed tax was a result of having to house students long-term in hotel rooms, a situation the university attributed to pandemic-influenced indecision. The school offered to pay the tax though it was not obligated to, and Hoover indicated the issue was under discussion. Another bone of contention was the lack of information on actual student enrollment. UCSB provided those numbers for 2019 through 2021, said Hoover, and the city was analyzing them.

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