UC Berkeley has hired an architecture firm and a supportive housing developer to initiate the transformation of People’s Park into a housing complex that will serve homeless community members. The construction is set to begin in two years and will be completed by 2023, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.
Mogulof said in an email that the campus enlisted the services of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, or LMSA, and Resources for Community Development, or RCD, which currently operates 14 affordable housing properties in Berkeley. Half of the complex is planned to be supportive housing and the other half will be student housing, which will be developed by campus.
Before construction begins, UC Berkeley plans to “launch an extensive public comment and public engagement process,” according to Mogulof.
“(These opportunities for public comment will) provide members of the campus and surrounding community an opportunity to learn about the project, provide feedback, and present ideas,” Mogulof said in an email.
RCD executive director Dan Sawislak said in an email that RCD will meet with campus officials to discuss the overall plan, assemble a development team and assess the project’s financial feasibility.
Sawislak added that the current plan will include 75 to 100 units of supportive affordable housing reserved for homeless community members. To better serve their needs and interests, Sawislak said RCD will work to determine the different types of households that will live in the new housing complex.
District 7 Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson, whose district encompasses People’s Park, is a proponent of the project because it will provide housing to homeless community members.
“The most effective way to respond to the homelessness crisis is supportive housing for the homeless,” Robinson said in an email. “Berkeley needs this resource, Southside especially. I’m glad the campus is moving quickly to make this vision a reality.”
Sawislak said in an email that this project provides the city with an opportunity to address homelessness. He added that People’s Park embodies values such as “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” all of which, he said, will be continued through the project.
According to the campus website’s frequently asked questions page, the project will be primarily funded through public sources, donors and foundations — with no direct cost to UC Berkeley. The page also states that the park currently “attracts crime” and the project will help “combat crime.”
Opponents to the project include District 2 Berkeley Homeless Commission member Aidan Hill. Hill said that People’s Park should not be interfered with as it would negatively affect poor people and community members of color.
They added that open, green space should be preserved.
“(People’s Park) is the only open space in District 7,” Hill said. “We don’t want a building to go up. We want the trees and open space and the memories.”