The University of California board of trustees has overwhelmingly approved a controversial project that would create more than 1,100 new beds for students at the site of Berkeley’s historic People’s Park. Still, at least one group is seeking to keep the park as it is said they will take legal action to try to block redevelopment.
Last week the council voted 17-1 to validate the design of the project and authorize the president of the University of California, Michael Drake, to obtain funding of approximately $312 million to finance its construction. Development contains two adjoining wings, one of 12 floors and the other of six floors; the larger of the two wings comprises 148 apartments ranging from studios to four-bedroom units which will contain a collective total of 1,113 beds. The six-story wing would have 125 beds for formerly homeless and low-income people.
In addition to giving its blessing to the entire project, the board also would have been approved the terms of a ground lease to allow Resources for Community Development, a Berkeley-based nonprofit, to build and operate the smaller of the two wings.
Still, the governing body’s vote doesn’t guarantee the project’s smooth transition to groundbreaking. For one thing, the University of California, Berkeley — which will oversee development of the student housing portion of the project — won’t innovate. unless it can provide housing and services during the construction phase for the approximately 48 homeless people who live in People’s Park. And while construction of the student housing portion could begin next year, UC Berkeley is already preparing for a year of litigation-related project delays, John Arvin, the university’s associate vice chancellor for strategies investment, at a committee meeting last week.
One group that is considering filing a lawsuit to block construction of the development is the People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group. Group member Harvey Smith said last week that the site represents the city’s political activism and radical history and that the project’s 1.7 acres of park space – which makes up most of the The site’s existing 2.8-acre footprint – doesn’t do enough to preserve its legacy. .
“They (UC Berkeley) are in favor of building student housing,” Smith says KPIX 5. “We are in favor of the construction of student accommodation. But build it in a suitable place,” he said.
Meanwhile, project advocates point to the fact that UC Berkeley houses only 23% of its students, would have the lowest percentage in the CPU system. This fall, it had no choice but to turn away 5,000 students looking for housing, a shortage that “negatively affects the student experience” and makes it more difficult to recruit professors, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, said the office of UC President Drake. said in a memorandum recommending approval of the People’s Park project.
[San Francisco Chronicle] — Matthew Niksa