Updating UC Berkeley’s strategy for investment in facilities and infrastructure

Aerial shot of UC Berkeley campus

The Long Range Development Plan is one of our most important tools for responsible long-term campus planning. (UC Berkeley photo)

Vice Chancellor for Administration Marc Fisher and Campus Architect Wendy Hillis sent the following message to the campus community on Tuesday:

Earlier today, the campus released the draft 2021 Long Range Development Plan or LRDP. The LRDP is one of our most important tools for responsible long-term campus planning and for being a good community partner. UC Berkeley carefully plans for and considers its facility requirements relative to its budget and the needs of its faculty, students, and staff. At its core, the LRDP is a land-use plan that proposes how to best utilize areas of the campus and considers the associated facilities and infrastructure needed to support those uses.

After the campus updated its Strategic Plan in 2018, it was clear the LRDP needed an update to better align with the campus’s renewed vision and strategic priorities. In April 2019, an LRDP update initiative was launched with the support of two of the nation’s top firms that specialize in university planning. Their expertise with universities situated in dense urban areas, with limited land available for development, was essential.

A community-oriented approach for updating the LRDP was also important to campus leadership. The 2021 LRDP represents the most comprehensive, public-facing campus planning effort in UC Berkeley’s history. The plan embodies thousands of hours of participation by faculty, students, staff, and the community, including a special LRDP Community Advisory Group with representatives appointed by the Berkeley mayor and city councilmembers, and members of the local business community. Throughout the LRDP process, the campus presented regular updates to the mayor and councilmembers that represent adjacent neighborhoods and coordinated with the city’s planning staff, to solicit input and feedback.

The resulting plan is a forecast for responsible and flexible development of the UC Berkeley campus through the year 2036. The 2021 LRDP is not a mandate for growth. Over the next fifteen years, the campus expects the undergraduate student population to grow annually by only 1%, or less, a rate that is less than projected for the population of the surrounding region. It is likely that student enrollment will increase for the UC system as a whole, but the UC Regents have not designated Berkeley as a “growth” campus.

While the UC Regents and the state legislature ultimately determine enrollment, the campus has a duty to proactively plan for facilities in the long-term to meet the needs of our student body, including housing. In line with the student housing initiative we launched in 2016, the 2021 LRDP proposes thousands of beds of additional student housing capacity close to campus, without increasing the campus’s environmental footprint.

UC Berkeley has historically had more stringent sustainability goals than neighboring cities and the 2021 LRDP will push the campus to be even greener. The plan integrates sustainability policies with long-term campus planning to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit energy and water use, reduce waste, and promote alternative transportation. In addition to reaffirming our commitment to addressing the student housing crisis and acknowledging the increasing effects of climate change, the LRDP also recognizes a need to increase investment in research and instructional space to modernize facilities for new pedagogies, technologies, and seismic safety.

The 2021 LRDP is about maximizing the use of increasingly constrained land and financial resources, and optimizing investment in service of our mission and strategic priorities.

It is important to note that an LRDP does not approve specific new buildings or projects. The 2021 LRDP is a strategy for where development would take place if it is eventually funded. As future projects are developed within the LRDP framework, they would have the appropriate environmental analysis and go through the university’s approval process before any construction begins.

The campus and community are invited to join Capital Strategies for an online presentation to learn more about the 2021 LRDP. It will take place this Friday, February 26, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. You can watch live on the Berkeley Events YouTube Channel and the LRDP website. The presentation will be recorded and available afterward on the LRDP website.

On Monday, March 8, the campus will release the accompanying Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) for the LRDP. The report will be posted on the Environmental Review page of the LRDP website. The Draft EIR is an opportunity to provide feedback and the campus will provide a 45-day public review period as required by the California Environmental Quality Act to ensure the public has time to review the plan. Details on how to submit comments will be included in the Draft EIR.

The 2021 LRDP will be presented to the UC Board of Regents for approval this July.