On Friday morning, incoming UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ addressed the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, or BCC, at the Bancroft Hotel about campus student housing concerns.
During the first part of her scheduled talk, Christ, who also chairs UC Berkeley’s Housing Master Plan Task Force, provided a brief overview of a task force report issued in January, which details various site proposals for additional campus housing both on and near campus as well as other university-owned property.
“The city of Berkeley and University of California, Berkeley have to be partners,” Christ said to the chamber. “I’m excited at the prospect of working together.”
Christ described the campus housing issue as both “urgent” and “desperate.” The campus’s goals include guaranteeing two years of campus housing to undergraduate students, one year for entering transfers and one year of campus housing to graduate students, according to Christ.
“(Christ was) very thoughtful, practical in her comments and earnest in wanting to get things done,” said Daryl Ross, owner of Bancroft Hotel and member of BCC.
One proposed housing site Christ focused on was the controversial Oxford Tract, which includes research facilities for the College of Natural Resources and a community garden. Christ told the chamber that the Oxford Tract site was the most “appealing of all sites in terms of capacity,” but acknowledged that the site was very complex. Christ noted there was a group of students organizing against development in favor of maintaining the campus’s open and green space.
“We do believe that student housing is incredibly important — we have a housing crisis,” said Joshua Arnold, a doctoral candidate in the environmental science, policy and management department. “(But) we don’t think we should be in the position to sacrifice teaching space for housing.”
During the second part of the talk, Christ fielded questions from audience members, including questions about the possibility of using municipal bonds to finance campus housing. Christ responded positively to idea of using municipal bonds, noting the university’s current inability to add debt capacity.
Victoria Fierce, co-founder of East Bay Forward and an attendee of the talk, also expressed interest in the bond idea, noting that some of the biggest barriers to student housing in the local area and across the state were a lack of funds and local neighborhood opposition.
Later, Christ addressed the controversy of developing student housing on People’s Park. She told audience members that she believed the campus has a responsibility to work to help the homeless population, noting a personal belief that “it doesn’t speak well (that) people without food and shelter (are) constantly in view” near the campus.
Christ’s talk was the first of this year’s Sunrise Speaker Series, a quarterly event organized by BCC, according to Kirsten MacDonald, chief executive officer of BCC. MacDonald said Christ was chosen because she was looking to get feedback from businesses and the community on the UC Berkeley housing report.