New agreement with city sets fresh tone in town-gown relations

After more than two years of negotiations and extensive community input, the city of Berkeley late Tuesday agreed to a $82 million deal with UC Berkeley that will govern the growth of the campus and set the stage for a new town-gown relationship.

The agreement will enable “a world-class education in a world-class city,” Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said in a statement.

At issue was UC Berkeley’s long range plans for new housing, student enrollment growth and other construction and development.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Chancellor Carol Christ shake hands in in front of a bookshelf

Chancellor Carol Christ (right) shook hands with Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin on Wednesday. The agreement will enable “a world-class education in a world-class city,” Arreguin said. (City of Berkeley photo)

City leaders argued that the campus’s continued growth — determined by the state and the UC regents — was placing an unfair burden on city services like police and fire, and impacting the character of neighborhoods close to campus.

The agreement, which must still be approved at a UC Board of Regents meeting next week, responds to these concerns and recognizes the importance of UC Berkeley’s contribution to the city and state, Arreguin said.

“It will enable the city to continue to provide quality city services and maintain the character of its neighborhoods while extending UC’s renowned education to the next generation of students,” he said.

Chancellor Carol Christ said she was especially pleased the settlement will allow her to make much needed progress on her plan to add 7,500 new beds for undergraduate and graduate students through the Anchor House Project and the project at People’s Park.

UC Berkeley currently provides close to 8,700 beds for some 42,000 graduate and undergraduate students, the lowest percentage of beds in the UC system, leaving many students to compete for private rental housing in the city.

“This agreement lays the foundation for a new era of city-campus collaboration and cooperation that will greatly benefit the members of our respective communities,” Christ said. “We are thrilled to have the city’s support for our efforts to address an urgent student housing crisis.”

“I am grateful for Mayor Arreguin’s efforts that have allowed us to arrive at a true win-win agreement, an outcome that is indescribably better than the prospect of costly, lengthy litigation,” she added.

As part of the agreement, city leaders pledged to drop their legal challenge of the Upper Hearst Housing Project and not challenge UC Berkeley’s plans for People’s Park and the Anchor House building. The campus will pay roughly $4 million a year for 16 years to the city of Berkeley and create a planning process that involves city leaders, among other things.

In an interview, Christ said she hoped the agreement will set a new tone for town-gown relations. Tuesday’s agreement is one of the largest financial settlements a UC campus has ever provided to a host city.

“The city and the university have grown up together,” she said. “Co-investment with the city, particularly in things that are immediately adjacent to the campus, are going to be good to the city and good to the university.”