ASUC Housing Commission opposes building on People’s Park

Kayla Brown/Staff

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The ASUC Housing Commission opposed the proposed construction of student housing on People’s Park and resolved to recommend alternative construction sites in its meeting Friday afternoon.

In response to the UC Berkeley campus’s proposal to build on People’s Park, the housing commission decided to suggest alternative on- and off-campus sites in order to preserve the park for the homeless community. The commission agreed not to condemn the proposal outright but rather to urge Chancellor Carol Christ to prioritize construction on other sites before resorting to controversial sites including People’s Park.

Berkeley City Council passed a resolution Jan. 23 encouraging the campus to consider construction of student housing on four sites, including Fulton Street and Bancroft Way, University Avenue and Oxford Street, Unit 3 and the Channing Tennis Courts.

The commission also suggested building on the Upper and Lower Hearst parking sites, University Village in Albany, the Smyth-Fernwald apartment complex, Edwards Stadium and the Boalt Lot. The commission intends to draft a letter to Christ’s office detailing its alternative proposals to building on People’s Park, according to ASUC Housing Commission chair Taylor Harvey.

“I think having a longer conversation with all the constituents … needs to happen before we can even consider building on People’s Park,” Harvey said.

According to the commission, the affordable housing plan proposed by the campus would include splitting People’s Park into three sections — a park, a student housing unit and a transitional housing unit for the current homeless residents of the park. The campus’s plan, according to Harvey, aims to create a community reflecting the “original vision” for People’s Park.

Matthew Lewis, who was appointed to the ASUC Housing Commission by the Berkeley Tenants Union, expressed doubt that a community between students and the homeless population would be established by integrating student and transitional housing within the park area.

“Students are, albeit wrongfully, terrified of homeless folks, especially in People’s Park. No students are going to go into the park,” Lewis said. “The only way this site works for anything is (if) it’s all a park or there’s no park.”

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who attended the meeting, said the commission should propose “positive” alternative locations for construction, as protests against constructing on places including People’s Park or the Student Organic Garden do not “resonate” with council members and many students. He added that it would be “atrocious” for the campus to delay immediate investment in additional beds.

“There is a lot of controversy surrounding building on the Oxford Tract and People’s Park, and that could potentially delay the process of getting housing built, which is the opposite of what we want,” said ASUC Housing Commission assistant chair Helen Veazy. “Since we have these sites supported by the city … we should (consider) those first.”

Contact Sophia Brown-Heidenreich at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.