UC Santa Cruz activists occupy trees to protest campus expansion, 2007-2008


To prevent University of California-Santa Cruz’s campus expansion and the cutting down of 120 acres of second-generation redwood trees.

Time period

7 November, 2007 to 14 December, 2008


United States

Location City/State/Province

Santa Cruz, California

Location Description

University of California, Santa Cruz campus
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 3rd segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

Segment Length

2 months 1 week


Not known


Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE)

External allies

Not known

Involvement of social elites

Not known


The University of California-Santa Cruz administration and campus police

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not known

Campaigner violence

Some of the activists involved in the protest pushed the police though not enough to lead to injury.

Repressive Violence

Police attacked protestors with pepper spray and used batons to keep the Tree Sitters’ supporters from bringing them food and water.





Group characterization

University students
university faculty
community members

Groups in 4th Segment

CLUE (exit)

Segment Length

2 months 1 week

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

0 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

4 out of 10 points

Database Narrative

In 2003, the University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC) began the process of creating a Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for the University.  The LRDP, which was revised in 2005, would destroy 120 acres of redwood forest in the University’s upper campus and add 4,500 students to the school.  Many students, faculty, staff, and Santa Cruz community members were outraged over the plan, seeing the destruction of the forest to be more than a development project; the area is home to endangered species such as the Burrowing Owl and the Red-Legged Frog.  Additionally, the increase in students on campus would strain the water supply in Santa Cruz. 

In response to the LRDP, a UCSC alum formed the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) which quickly gained support from UCSC students and faculty and community members alike.  On February 20, 2007, CLUE challenged the University and Santa Cruz County with a lawsuit seeking to end campus expansion. While the lawsuit went on, other individuals who opposed the LRDP decided to take direct action by sitting in the redwood trees.

On the morning of November 7, 2007, at 1am, twelve students from UCSC and activists from across the state joined together to hoist platforms into second-generation redwood trees where construction of a new biomedical building was slated to begin.  Using pulleys and ropes, the activists installed two prebuilt platforms into three clusters of trees.

Once two of the platforms were secured, police arrived to prevent individuals on the ground from installing a third platform and bringing food and water to the sitters in the trees.  They arrested one person. 

At 11am, 400 people, including students, alumni, and community members, gathered at the on-campus bookstore and marched to the Tree Sit site, holding signs with messages such as “Stop LRDP,” and “Long Range Resistance Starts Here,” and bringing more food to the Sitters.  Upon arriving at the redwood clusters, police pepper sprayed those who tried to get close to the trees that held the sitters.  The police formed a line around the grove and arrested five protestors.  Those still standing pushed the police lines back despite being pepper sprayed and hit with batons.  Eventually, the marchers pushed the police out of the grove, occupying the space underneath the Tree Sitters.  After taking over the area, people brought food and music and individuals began to discuss next steps for action.

The following day protestors built an encampment under the occupied trees. They set up ziplines between the platforms so that the sitters might be able to move from one tree to the other without touching the ground. 

Between November 8 and December 13 those living on the ground under the trees held dances, potlucks, movie screenings, classes, and teach-ins for visitors curious about the Tree Sit and the University’s campus expansion plans.

On December 13 the University began its winter break and those who had been living under the Tree Sitters took down the encampment, removing all trash and structures in preparation for an empty campus.

The following day, the University filed a lawsuit against the Tree Sitters and those who supported them, requesting monetary damages.  Students, alumni, faculty, and community members were named in the lawsuit.

On December 17, the University brought in construction workers with equipment to clean up the site where the encampment had been.  Thirty members of the community arrived to make sure the workers did not harm the trees or attempt to remove the Sitters.

Several days later on December 20, University police pulled a student off a rope she had been climbing in the grove and arrested her.  The University then added her name to the lawsuit.

The following day, police arrested a University professor as he tried to carry soup and tea to those in the trees.  The University added his name to the suit as well.

On December 22, students and other protestors gathered at the base of the trees and held a solstice celebration with food and music.  And on Christmas Day, December 25, University faculty and other community members brought food and tea and sang carols to the Tree Sitters.

The following month, on January 12, police attacked twenty people gathered below the Tree Sitters.  Officers used pepper-spray on the crowd and several people were injured from police beatings.  University faculty and staff responded to the violence by requesting that the administration limit the police’s usage of force on the protestors.

In response to these requests, the University administration decided to work with the activists in other ways.  On January 15, University Judicial Affairs banned two students connected to the Tree Sits from campus, not letting them return until late March.  The University required that they do 100 hours of community service and enroll in a “decision-making” workshop.  The students appealed the ruling and were not charged.

On March 10, County Judge Burdick dismissed the lawsuit against two of the protestors on first amendment speech rights and filed a preliminary injunction against the seven other defendants, forbidding them from bringing food to the sitters, sitting in the trees themselves, or placing objects in the trees.
In August the city of Santa Cruz and CLUE reached a settlement in their lawsuit.  While CLUE was able to get the University to agree to submit its campus expansion plans to an independent state body, the Local Agency Formation Commission, the agreement did not change the immediate level of environmental impact of the LRDP.  With the settlement, the Tree Sit became the last defense against construction.

On November 18, UCSC and the Tree Sitters began a mediation process in order to devise an end to the protest, and on December 10 the mediation process came to a close with the University refusing to change their expansion plan.

The following day, the sitters began removing equipment from the trees and on December 12, ninety police surrounded the grove and watched as the sitters removed the last platforms.  Police arrested one student who refused to leave the trees. 

While the Tree Sits ultimately failed, those involved in the actions refused to give up and used other means to protest the LRDP and halt construction.


This campaign was influenced by tree sits at the University of California-Berkeley (Residents in Berkeley, California, occupy trees at UC Berkeley in protest of construction project, 2006-2008) (1)


Brenneman, Richard. "Citizen Group Founder Unhappy with UC/Santa Cruz Settlement." Local News and Opinion from The Berkeley Daily Planet. 14 Aug. 2008. <http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-08-14/article/30829?headline=Citizen-Group-Founder-Unhappy-with-UC-Santa-Cruz-Settlement>.

"Comprehensive Settlement Agreement Between UCSC and CLUE." 15 Aug. 2008. <http://lrdp.ucsc.edu/settlement-agreement.pdf>.

"A Story-Line of November 7th and Supplies Wish-List : Indybay." San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center. 9 Nov. 2007. <http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2007/11/09/18459715.php>.

"Tree Sit Background and Timeline." Stop UCSC Expansion. <http://stopucsc.wordpress.com/tree-sit-background-and-timeline/>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Kylin Navarro, 12/11/2010