“All we have ever wanted was a legally binding commitment that they add housing before they add more students,” said Mr. Bokovoy, the president of the nonprofit and a former investment banker with a house near the campus that is worth an estimated $1.5 million. “This is about preserving Berkeley’s culture and diversity.”
The University of California system has on-campus beds for about 106,000 students, leaving roughly two out of three to compete for off-campus housing in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. In Berkeley, the university houses about 22 percent of its undergraduates, fewer than any other campus in the system.
Even though students make up more than a quarter of Berkeley’s population, the city, limited by its urban locale and attached to its low-rise aesthetic, has until recent years resisted development. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment runs about $4,000 monthly “and that’s for one that isn’t even nice,” said Ms. Master, the student government officer.
In 2005, the university projected that enrollment would be 33,450 by 2020, a number that became the basis for a long-range plan for developing the campus. But in 2017, Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods discovered that enrollment had already outstripped that estimate by 30 percent.
After the university announced a plan to convert an acre of parking into new academic space and faculty and graduate housing, Mr. Bokovoy’s group sued again, this time with the City of Berkeley. They argued that the university’s environmental impact report — which found that the additional students had no significant impacts — was inadequate.
Together, the lawsuits became the basis of a package of complex litigation over whether the university had adequately studied and mitigated the impact of its entire enrollment. Last summer, a Superior Court issued an unusual order that rolled back and capped the university’s enrollment at its 2020-21 level of 42,357 students until the school significantly expanded the environment study in its long-range growth plan.
The decision still could be reversed, but because of the order — which was left in place by the California Supreme Court last week — the university had to cut the number of students coming to campus in the fall.