Construction of student housing on People’s Park set to begin in 2020

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Daniel Kim/File

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Chancellor Carol Christ announced Thursday the campus’s plans to build both student housing and permanent supportive housing on the long-controversial site of People’s Park, according to a campus press release.

People’s Park is owned by the UC system, and Christ stated in the press release that building there would address student housing needs and safety concerns while offering services for members of the city’s homeless population. Open space planning on the site is scheduled to begin in fall 2018, with construction beginning in fall 2020 and ending in summer 2022.

In February, the ASUC Housing Commission stated its disapproval of building on People’s Park, suggesting that Christ prioritize developing other potential housing sites first. Matthew Lewis, a member of the ASUC Housing Commission, said that while the plan is “well-intentioned,” putting a student dormitory next to permanent supportive housing would not work because “students hate and fear homeless folks.”

The park, which was the site of the 1969 “Bloody Thursday” protest, is also frequented by various people, including homeless people. In addition to student and supportive housing, the plans include establishing an open space for recreation and a memorial for the park’s history and legacy.

“The park is cleared at night; nobody sleeps in the park at night,” said campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof. “It’s not clear to any of us what portion of those people are homeless.”

According to the campus’s Housing Master Plan Task Force Report released in 2017, UC Berkeley has enough beds for 22 percent of undergraduates and 9 percent of graduate students — the lowest percentage of any campus in the UC system.

People’s Park is listed as one of nine potential locations for student housing in the task force report. Mogulof said Christ made it clear that the campus must develop all nine locations for the campus to meet its goal of doubling the number of student beds.

The campus housing planned in People’s Park will be for nonfreshman undergraduate, graduate and professional students at rates similar to those of other campus housing, according to another campus press release, with a goal of adding between 700 and 1,000 additional beds.

According to a third press release, the supportive housing, which will include between 75 and 125 apartments, will provide its residents with a permanent address, safety and support programs. The statement clarified that the university will only provide the land, not the construction or programming.

The second press release also said 10,102 UCPD-related events have been documented in People’s Park over the past five years, with 425 events in 2018 as of April.

Construction on People’s Park land, however, does not guarantee that crime rates will drop, according to Helen Veazey, incoming chair of the ASUC Housing Commission.

“Building on People’s Park is a demonstration of the university’s priority. … It’s more of them trying to get rid of People’s Park as a bed of crimes,” Veazey said. “I don’t know if building on it will eradicate crime or move it to a different area.”

Contact Andreana Chou at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AndreanaChou.