Final open house for People’s Park development takes place online

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On Friday, UC Berkeley Capital Strategies launched its final event in a series of open houses to showcase designs for a housing development planned for the historic site of People’s Park.

The virtual open house features an overview of the project, design updates and a “brief survey” to solicit public feedback on what community members would like to see in the final product. Rather than taking place as a single event, the open house will stay active online with the survey until April 27, after which designs and other materials will remain online, according to UC Berkeley Capital Strategies spokesperson Kyle Gibson.

“The People’s Park housing project is committed to a robust and ongoing public engagement process,” Gibson said in an email.The public engagement process helps build mutual understanding and trust between the University and the communities we serve.”

Plans for the development include a student residential building with a capacity to house 950-1,200 students, as well as a “supportive housing” building for 75-125 formerly homeless or very low-income individuals. The development will also include features commemorating the park’s legacy, according to the open house website.

During the first two open house events, UC Berkeley Capital Strategies invited members of the campus community in order to “learn about the legacy of People’s Park” as well as to solicit questions and feedback from the public.

Feedback received from the previous open houses and a series of focus groups helped inform the finalized site plan featured in this final open house, Gibson added in the email.

Not all of the feedback that has been received has been positive, however. Protesters objecting to the project attended the first two open houses to express their grievances.

“Every person I have talked to at People’s Park is unanimous that there should be no housing development on People’s Park,” said Aidan Hill, vice chair of the Berkeley Homeless Commission, in an email.

The primary objection to the development is the potential harm to the environment. Hill added that the People’s Park Committee, which was formed to advocate for the park’s preservation, has identified and suggested alternative locations for the development.

This third open house will be the last opportunity to comment on the plans until the environmental review process, which will take place near the beginning of 2021.

“At present, Berkeley has the lowest percentage of beds for undergraduate and graduate students of any campus in the UC system, despite the fact that we are situated in one of the tightest housing markets in the state,” Gibson said in the email. “In short, in order to address the student housing crisis and meet the established goals, the University must build new student housing on every site it owns in close proximity to the central campus.”

Contact Jacob Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.