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Santa Barbara County initiates lawsuit against UC Regents for lack of housing at UCSB

SB County Admin Bldg 2022.jpg
Beth Thornton
Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to initiate a lawsuit against the University of California. The County says UCSB has not kept its commitment to build student housing as enrollment increased.

On August 30, 2022, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to initiate a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California. The Board said UC Santa Barbara violated their 2010 agreement to build student housing to accommodate increases in enrollment.

“There was an agreement between the University, the UC Regents, the County of Santa Barbara and the City of Goleta to make sure that the increased enrollment would be offset with additional housing that would be constructed on the UCSB campus and there was a plan that was approved,” said Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart.

Hart’s district includes UCSB, Isla Vista, parts of Goleta and Santa Barbara. He said UCSB’s enrollment has grown from 20,000 to 25,000, but the campus has not kept up with housing and the unmet need creates a ripple effect throughout the region.

“The impacts to the local community on housing supply have been very serious and ongoing and, unfortunately, we were left with no alternative other than to file this lawsuit,” he said.

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Building a large on-campus dorm called Munger Hall is under consideration by the university administration, but the proposed design is controversial.

Hart said, over the years, the county made multiple attempts to work with the university on a timeline for new construction without success.

“There is still time for the university to come forward with a plan and a schedule that meets the needs of the community. I’m optimistic and hopeful that they will meet that obligation,” he said.

UCSB spokesperson Kiki Reyes responded to KCBX by email stating that the University and the County have a shared goal of providing more on-campus housing for students. And that the University looks forward to continued discussions and ongoing collaboration, rather than litigation.

As KCBX previously reported, UCSB is considering the construction of a dorm called Munger Hall to house up to 4,500 students, but the design is controversial and a timeline is unknown.

Supervisor Hart said the university has until later this month to communicate a plan or the lawsuit will move forward. If filed, this will be the second lawsuit against UCSB related to housing; the City of Goleta also has litigation pending.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.