A community response to UC Merced's new chancellor and its dubious 2020 LRDP

“The university used to be a ‘grazing land,,’ Chancellor Juan Muñoz said, and seeing the campus now “the word that comes to mind is ‘transformation.’

“You come up Lake (Road) or Bellevue (Road), and you see the campus. Everyone has the same reaction,” he told The Bee during a Zoom interview. “It’s sort of like coming out of the tunnel, and you see Yosemite for the first time. It emerges like the city out of a prairie.” -- Monica Velez, Merced Sun-Star, August 23, 2020


May one just say that this is a silly statement, geographically bizarre, denoting that the new chancellor of UC Merced don’t have no  clue of where he’s at. That would put him in a lengthening line of UC Merced chancellors – how they come and go! – who had no clue, no respect, and no affection for the people and the land into which they were injected like an unproven vaccine.

In 2018 alone, according to the latest county farm report, cattle and calves produced $250 million on pastures like the one the state replaced with UC space junk.

UC Merced’s FY 2019-2020 budget was $321.6 million, of which #149.6 million came from the state general fund (taxes).

And this is the San Joaquin Valley, not the Nebraska prairie.

“UC does not thrive unless Merced thrives,” Muñoz said. “Our futures are inseparable from one another, and I think people in the community understand that.”

Perhaps he actually believes what the newspaper evidently does, that the companies building the newest additions to the campus, Plenary, Webcor, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, and Johnson Controls Inc. “are all local companies that partnered together to develop the last phase of the expansion project …”

Plenary, the top investor, developer and manager of the project, is Australian. Webcor has offices in the Bay Area and LA. Skidmore, Owings is best described as a worldwide architectural firm, a perfect mate for UC. But not local. Johnson Controls Inc, boasts 2,000 locations throughout the world. They make controls that create the environment in buildings. They have offices in Milwaukee, Cork, and Shanghai, but not in Merced.

So, “UC officials” are lying as usual. It has been habitual with them since the time they claimed the project was a done deal when it was not a done deal. Is lying inherent in all academic thinking, or just here?

With that question in mind, we are posting our comment letter on the latest environmental document prepared by the UC Merced team. According to state law, these environmental impact reports go to the UC Regents for approval – another non-local agency that has proved repeatedly that it has not regard for the environment of Merced County. They behave like any other big California developers, which some of them are, but they get to spend other peoples’ money and never repay it themselves on their edifice complex. blj


San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center

P.O. Box 778

Merced, CA 95341

(209) 723-9283, ph. & fax




November 4, 2019


Via Electronic Mail



Phillip Woods

 Director of Physical & Environmental Planning 2 Physical Operations

Planning and Development University of California, Merced

 5200 North Lake Road,

 Merced, California 95343

 Email address: 2020LRDP@ucmerced.edu.


Re: 2020 LRDP




California Public Records Request


Dear Mr. Woods:




With this UC Merced 2019 Subsequent Environmental Impact Report, the UC Regents, the land-use authority, has reached a level of absurd finagling with the California Environmental Quality Act that should make them either the laughingstocks or the envy of every developer in the state. However, it is no laughing matter or enviable work to have followed this project from its first environmental documents to the present, as the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center and Protect Our Water (POW) has done. Perhaps this is the reason UC Merced failed to notify us about the comment period for the SEIR.

Below, please find a list of layers of CEQA documents for this project, which continues to cherry-pick issues, fails to get mitigation, fails to get student-population growth, fails to get funding, and fails to define its special role within UC system, and continues to update its plans to avoid its conservation commitments.  Surely, it is not the intent of CEQA to layer program EIR upon program EIR solely for the purpose of bamboozling the public and courts of law.

2009 LRDP Series and Subsequent Amendments

2009 Long Range Development Plan (Superseded)

2013 Long Range Development Plan Amendment (Superseded)

2016 Long Range Development Plan Amendment (Superseded)

2017 Long Range Development Plan Amendment (Operational)

For related Environmental Impact Reports, please refer to Environmental Documents

2009 Environmental Impact Report and Subsequent Addenda

2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 1
2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 2
2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 3
2009 Final Environmental Impact Report (2009)
2009 Mitigation and Monitoring Program 

Addendum #2 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - North Bowl Parking Lot (2010)
Addendum #4 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS  - Phase 4 Infrastructure (2012)
Addendum #5 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - CAOB (2013)
Addendum #6 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - LRDP Amendment (2013)
Addendum #7 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - 2020 Project (2016)  and CEQA Findings - 2020 Project (2016)
Amendment #8 to the 2009 LRDP and CEQA findings (2017)
Addendum #9 to the 2009 LRDP and CEQA findings (2017)

2002 LRDP Series

2002 Long Range Development Plan

The past documents have relied on a federal Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Protection Act. Could you please direct us where the EIS, referenced in the UC Merced 2020 Project Findings (2016), is published in the Federal Registry. Even though this SEIR is a document designed to further fragment, piecemeal and obfuscate the environmental review process, bad motives do not release UCM from the duty to do another EIS.

UC Merced has also failed to provide the financial resources to ameliorate its impacts to the surrounded urban environment. We refer you to the following section of the Introduction to the SEIR:

1.0 Introduction

1.4.2 Type of CEQA Document

An LRDP is a guide to campus development. It identifies development objectives, delineates campus land uses, and estimates the new building space needed to support program expansion through the planning horizon year. The 2020 LRDP provides a guide to land and infrastructure development that could be built on the campus site to support a projected level of enrollment and employment growth through 2030. It is not an implementation plan, and its approval does not constitute a commitment to any specific project, construction schedule, or funding priority nor does it constitute a commitment by the University to enrollment growth or a certain amount of development. Further, the LRDP does not sunset, and there is no set timeframe when a new LRDP would be needed. However, for purposes of impact analysis, this SEIR assumes that the development of related facilities and housing to accommodate the projected student and faculty/staff growth would occur by 2030.

We also refer you to the following section of UC attorney James E. Holst’s letter to the state Supreme Court, September 12, 2003 re. City of Marina and Ford Ord Reuse Authority v. Board of Trustees of the California State University (Case No. S117816: Amicus Curiae Letter).

The recent example of UC’s new Merced campus is illustrative. In the CEQA process for the long range development plan (LRDP), local jurisdictions identified approximately $200 million in improvements to local roads, parks and schools that they claimed would be made necessary by the new campus development, and argued the UC was obligated to pay for those improvements under CEQA. UC rejected those demands as reflecting economic and social impacts outside the purview of CEQA, and in light of its exemption from such assessments under the California Constitution. (p.2, letter attached)

On July 31, 2006, the state Supreme Court decided against the CSU Trustees’ arguments on the limitations of CEQA and the supposed “exemption under the California Constitution.” Therefore, UC’s amicus curiae letter arguments were rejected.


NOTIFICATION:  Neither the San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center or Protect Our Water (POW) were notified about the SEIR, yet these two groups, representing the Merced public, cared enough about the environmental quality of Merced County prior to the siting of the UC Merced campus, to comment on every environmental document presented, appear at numerous local, legislative and UC Regents’ hearings, and to file five lawsuits against the UC Merced campus development plans. We brought causes of action under CEQA on water issues when the City and MID were both vying to give UC the water for nothing. We sued on destruction of wetlands when the campus construction had started “at its own risk” according to Merced Superior Court, without proper environmental permitting. As leaders in California Endangered Species and Habitat Alliance, we negotiated successfully with federal and state agencies, Merced County and UC for a smaller footprint for the campus. We were instrumental in creating the 2009 UC Merced Conservation Strategy that is mentioned but not provided in 4.2 Biological Resources Data Sources.

We have more than earned the respect denied us by this particular generation of UC Merced planners.

“Subsections (b) and (c) explain which agency would have responsibility for preparing a subsequent EIR under different circumstances. A subsequent EIR must, of course, receive the same circulation and review as the previous EIR.” Title 14 (Subsequent EIR)




None of the listed documents include the comment letters and responses. 

The public cannot access the document called 2009 Final Environmental Impact Report.

Therefore, they are not legitimate environmental documents, cannot be tiered from and do not satisfy the CEQA administrative record requirement. This is a violation of the state Public Resource Code section 21167.6(e) and of the decision in Protect Our Water v. County of Merced (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 362.



There is no indication in the SEIR that Phase 2 is to be the last phase of the project, any more than that UCM is committing to a maximum student body of 15,000. The “whole of the project” is not discussed. The truth of the UC Merced project is that there is no “whole of the project.” All there is are a series of horizons decorated by environmental documents of various degrees of completion. These endless horizons violate the spirit and letter of CEQA.

The change from 815 ac. to 1,026 requires complete documentation. Where is the UC Conservation Strategy? This requires a new, not a tiered EIR, and certainly not a SEIR tiered off the 2009 LRDP, which doubles as a programmatic EIR for further tiering.

The Regents are going to vote on the Findings.  The public has to hunt and peck to find these Findings, which are not connected to the other 2020 documents. The IS and SEIR. This layering passes the threshold of complete incompetence as does the omission of public and agency comment letters and UC Merced replies. And to repeat, the public cannot access the 2009 Final Environmental Impact Report. Therefore, we ask that for these reasons that the Regents not adopt the Findings or approve the SEIR.

We further request that the MMRP be rejected for lack of any evidence of mitigation requirements of any kind have been fulfilled. Even the conservation easements acquired early in the UCM development process did not satisfy the mitigation for construction and buildout of the UCM campus to date, and therefore not for future horizons of UCM development.

The UC Regents and the State of California should not approve the LRDP Attachments because they are not a complete administrative record. Nor can they approve the 2020 design and mitigation measures for the same reason.

The Kinda-Sorta-Maybe Location of the documents.  
Record of proceedings various documents and other materials constitute the record of proceedings upon which the University bases its Findings and decisions contained herein. Most documents related to the UCM 2020 Project and CEQA analysis thereof, as well as the custodian of the administrative record, are UC Merced 2020 Project Findings Page 21 located at UC Merced, Physical and Environmental Planning, 755 Suite M, East Yosemite Avenue, Merced, CA 95340.

Contact Person: Phillip Woods, Director of Physical & Environmental Planning, phone number: (209) 349-2561 and email address: pwoods3@ucmerced.edu Addresses where a copy of the SEIR and 2020 LRDP are available: The SEIR and 2020 LRDP documents are posted on the following website link: https://planning.ucmerced.edu/2020LRDP. Also, a hard copy of the SEIR and 2020 LRDP documents can be found at the following addresses: University of California, Merced Campus Kolligian Library 5200 North Lake Road Merced, California 95343 and the UC Merced Downtown Campus Center 655 W 18th Street Merced, California 95340. Are there still documents at either the Mondo Building on Main Street or out at Castle?

The public hearings are mandated to be a part of the public record.
Land-use issues. UC Merced is basically relying on its 2002 LRDP, from which subsequent CEQA documents are tiered. The Biological Resource Surveys in the Project Site and Vicinity February 4‐April 16, 1999 Vernal pool branchiopod surveys 1999 (10,360 acre) UC Merced / University Community Planning Area EIP Associates (1999a) were the last complete surveys done on the study area. Furthermore, they are relying on Vollmar  J. E. (ed.). 2002. Wildlife and Rare Plant Ecology of Eastern Merced County’s Vernal Pool Grasslands. Vollmar Consulting, Berkeley, CA. This book, paid for by federal EPA taxpayer funds, constitutes a baseline, but, per Vollmar’s repeated instructions at the end of each chapter, it has significant gaps requiring much more study.
But something nearly monumental has happened to the seasonal pasture grazing lands of eastern Merced County in the last 17 years in addition to the urban construction boom:  the rapid development of orchards and vineyards and the drilling of numerous deep wells. This export-led economic development has put tremendous pressure on wildlife habitat on pasturelands (disturbed or not) and on water, both surface vernal pools and swales (deep-ripped to oblivion) and groundwater (now the subject of a state mandated effort to develop a sustainable groundwater management program for the heavily over drafted region). Yet UC Merced lurches on, oblivious as ever of its surroundings. Once UC, a state agency, decided to proceed with construction “at their own risk” without proper permitting, on land that already included illegal takes going back to the municipal golf course (paid off in a corrupt way by the Packard Foundation), many large landowners followed, illegally deep-ripping in Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties and throughout the Valley floor. So, we have the spectacle of one of the foremost public research universities in the world, blazing the trail of contempt for local, state and federal environmental law and regulation, culminating in a serious attempt, aided by local congressmen, to gut the Endangered Species Act Critical Habitat Designation.
We are well aware of political corruption and harassment arising from this project and yet we are not so jaded that we don’t believe in the CEQA, NEPA, ESA, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in the state and federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts, and the California Brown and the Public Record acts, despite the repeated attempts of this famous public research university to undermine these laws and regulations.
UC Merced is designating a new land use category on campus for lands adjacent to its Natural Vernal Pool and Grasslands Reserve that would allow “a broader range of faculty research to be conducted,” i.e. more impact to natural reserve. Seasonal scientist grazing will replace seasonal cattle grazing. The Natural Reserve System converts natural resources/wildlife habitat into “living laboratories for scientific research and public/K-12 field trips.” But whereas cattle grazing has environmental utility, converting the reserve into a research commodity and educational amenity does not.
And then there is this comment in the SEIR:

Additional irreversible commitments to future uses include those related to new development on the lands designated Campus Mixed Use (CMU). Development of these lands would constitute an irreversible use of these lands because once buildings or pavement are constructed, the underlying soils would no longer be available for other uses. Campus growth under the 2020 LRDP would result in the loss of approximately 100 acres of undeveloped although disturbed land, which provides some habitat value and has historically been used for grazing. As discussed in Section 4.2, Biological Resources, UC Merced would implement mitigation measures to reduce impacts to sensitive biological resources, and UC Merced has already preserved and enhanced appropriate habitat elsewhere in the vicinity of the campus. Several thousand acres of land owned or conserved by the University are and will continue to be available for grazing. Just because the agricultural land-ownership bias of the Merced County Board of Supervisors persuades them year in and year out to avoid any environmental consideration of agriculture-to-agricultural conversions is no reason why the incredibly environmentally sophisticated UC Merced should copy them.
In 2002, at UCLA, we testified that the research and retail facilities should not be on campus. The research facilities should be at the former Castle Air Force Base, a superfund site. The retail should be in downtown Merced and Atwater to keep those central commercial locations alive, rather than creating little high-end boutiques out at the campus like at UCLA. After numerous testimonies before the state Higher Education Committee, we forced UCM to open satellite sites up and down the Valley, at the Mondo Building in downtown Merced and at the former Castle Air Force Base.
SEIR is not an implementation document, no commitments, but the UC Conservation Strategy of 2009 is an implementation document and does require commitments. SEIR set up to erase these commitments? UC wants a blank check for impacting publicly owned lands to do whatever it wants and not be financially responsible and to have no responsibility to local, state and federal resource agencies for impacts.
In light of what we have discovered and present here, the Environmental Checklist is irrelevant and not worth comments. UCM hasn’t given us any evidence of successful mitigation. You have once again given up nothing but plans to make plans, some of which are old, insignificant and out-of-date plans to make plans, another constant feature of UCM environmental documents.
In conclusion, it was bad enough to listen to Keasey lie about “the children” being paraded around the Capitol in UC Merced T-shirts, one hall monitor being the chief of staff of Merced’s congressman at that time. To get Keasey to open satellite facilities, the Mondo Building in downtown Merced, and a facility at the former Castle Air Force Base. The lies at the foundation of this UC campus go back to Keasey, Atkinson, Kolligian and other land speculating regents, Bill Lyons, and local land speculators like Bob Carpenter “Mr. UC Merced,” the Bobcat, Greg Hostetler, and Mike Gallo, local politicians and their staffs.
The environment in document is exclusively the on-campus environment, no concern about impact on surroundings. But UC hasn’t fulfilled its compensatory mitigation measures yet, in some cases paying in lieu fees to Army Corps for lack of land or commitment to perpetual conservation easements.
We support the No Project Alternative.
Pursuant to our public rights under the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.) and the California Constitution, as amended by passage of Prop 59 on November 3, 2004, we are writing to request to review the originals of the following documents:
2009 LRDP Series and Subsequent Amendments
2009 Long Range Development Plan (Superseded)
2013 Long Range Development Plan Amendment ( Superseded)
2016 Long Range Development Plan Amendment (Superseded)
2017 Long Range Development Plan Amendment (Operational)
For related Environmental Impact Reports, please refer to Environmental Documents
2009 Environmental Impact Report and Subsequent Addenda
2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 1
2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 2
2009 Draft Environmental Impact Report - Volume 3
2009 Final Environmental Impact Report (2009)
2009 Mitigation and Monitoring Program 
Addendum #2 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - North Bowl Parking Lot (2010)
Addendum #4 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS  - Phase 4 Infrastructure (2012)
Addendum #5 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - CAOB (2013)
Addendum #6 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - LRDP Amendment (2013)
Addendum #7 to the 2009 LRDP EIR-EIS - 2020 Project (2016)  and CEQA Findings - 2020 Project (2016)
Amendment #8 to the 2009 LRDP and CEQA findings (2017)
Addendum #9 to the 2009 LRDP and CEQA findings (2017)
2002 LRDP Series
2002 Long Range Development Plan.
and supporting data and referenced material.
With regard to any documents that may be withheld, we request
compliance with Government Code section 6255 by providing a
written reply (1) identifying the type or nature of the record, or
portion thereof, being withheld, and (2) demonstrating that the
record in question is exempt under the express provisions of the
PRA, or that, on the facts of the particular case, the public interest
served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public
interest served by disclosure of the record.
Also, before taking any action that might result in charges for
reimbursement (i.e., fees established by statute or the “direct cost” of copying of
documents or electronic formatted data), we request that you provide an
estimate of the costs involved.1 Initially we would like an opportunity to make an
appointment and review the file in your offices. We will then be able to
determine whether we would like copies of any of the documents.
Please feel free to contact us regarding the above at 209-723-9283. We look forward to hearing from you.
Govt. Code, § 6253, subd. (b); North County Parents Organization For
Children With Special Needs v. Department of Education (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th
144, 146-148 (holding that charges under PRA are statutorily limited to fees
established by statute, and “direct cost” of providing requested copies, and that no
charge may be levied under PRA for any other purpose).
Finally, we have performed our due diligence by going through the documents providing and trying to find the documents that are missing. We went to a public hearing at which only two documents without copies and none of the other documents associated with this SEIR were available. We asked at that meeting if any other documents were available and were told that none were available except on the web. Today, we went to the location where the documents were supposed to be made available to the public and we were given one document to inspect at the site. No copy was provided.
Please find attached a series of our letters concerning the numerous UC Merced Planning and Environmental Documents, which we request be included the Final SEIR.

Very truly yours,

Cc: Protect Our Water protectourwater@sbcglobal.net

      Central Valley Safe Environment Network cvsen@sbcglobal.net

      Other Interested Parties

Next week we will provide the material in our appendices