California Gov. Newsom signs law thwarting bid to curb UC Berkeley enrollment over enviro argument

The school was taken to court years ago by a group called "Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods."

Updated: March 16, 2022 - 12:57pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has granted UC Berkeley an exemption from a court order requiring the state's flagship public university, to cut enrollment by 3,000 students next full due to concerns over its environmental impact.

The Democratic governor's order ends the effort started when the group "Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods" filed suit to prevent the school from expanding enrollment.

The group argued that Berkeley has not fully accounted for the environmental impact of the new faculty housing complex being built on campus, nor have it calculated the impact of adding thousands of new students to the campus.

According to the College Fix, the initial suit was filed in 2019 and affirmed by the California Supreme Court weeks ago.

The court ordered the school to freeze enrollment, citing a California law that requires extensive environmental impact studies before building projects can continue.

The educational institution argued that implementing the freeze would cost it $57 million. Because of Newsom's action, the court's decision will, effectively, no longer stand. 

"On behalf of the thousands of students who will benefit from the vote, I want to thank California’s legislators for their quick and effective response," school Chancellor Carol Christ told the Fix.

"At Berkeley we are, and will remain, committed to continuing our efforts to address a student housing crisis through new construction of below market housing. We look forward to working in close, constructive collaboration with our partners in Sacramento in order to advance our shared interest in providing California students with an exceptional experience and education."

Indeed, the state politicians in Sacramento, the state capitol, worked quickly to move the exemption legislation through the state house. It was introduced Friday and signed into law Monday by Newsom.

"I’m grateful to the Legislature for moving quickly on this critical issue – it sends a clear signal that California won't let lawsuits get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students, our future leaders and innovators," Newsom said

Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods said in response: "UC Berkeley does not have the capacity to handle more students, and more than 10 percent of current Berkeley students suffer homelessness during their education."

"In addition, more than 15 percent suffer from food insecurity. We don’t want new students to have to live in cars, campers and hotel rooms like they are in Santa Barbara," said group President Phil Bokovoy.