After years of hands-off policy, UC plans to build housing on People’s Park

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

SF Chronicle – By Matier & Ross

A year shy of its 50th anniversary, People’s Park in Berkeley may be about to get a radical makeover.

Sources say UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ will soon announce the university plans to build housing for up to 700 students on the long-disputed site of Vietnam War-era protests, which in recent years has become a haven for the homeless.

A portion of the land would also be used to build up to 100 apartments for homeless people or others needing supportive housing.

In a sign of the changing politics surrounding the once-untouchable park, Berkeley’s progressive Mayor Jesse Arreguin is backing the effort enthusiastically.

“For many decades this was the third rail of politics in Berkeley, but today I think there is a desire to look at something different,” Arreguin said.

The park has become known as a trouble spot. In June, a woman was arrested for feeding methamphetamine to a 2-year-old boy there. And last month, a UC Berkeley employee working at People’s Park was robbed, kicked and punched.

“The current condition isn’t acceptable,” Arreguin said.

The mayor said under the plan the university is contemplating, a private builder would construct the student housing and a yet-to-be-picked nonprofit would build the supportive housing. Some open space will be retained, he said.

“The details will be developed through a community process,” Arreguin said.

A draft report by a UC Berkeley student housing task force last year said the campus was 6,900 beds short of the 15,600 it needed to meet goals to house half of its undergraduates and a quarter of its graduate students.

The report identified nine sites on or near the campus that could be used for student housing — including a possible residence hall at People’s Park.

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